MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Managers of Elvis Presley's Graceland anointed their first "Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist" on Friday night, ending a worldwide search for a Presley pretender to wear their official crown.
The new make-believe King is Shawn Klush, a 38-year-old Elvis impersonator from Pittston, Pa.
"It's unbelievable," he said of his win. "It's an overwhelming experience, and it couldn't be in a better place."
He was chosen at a concert hall in downtown Memphis in the championship round of a series of tribute contest held around the world.
Klush won $5,000, a $5,000 shopping trip to Graceland's souvenir shops, $3,000 toward a new Elvis jumpsuit and other prizes. The biggest prize, however, was the "Ultimate Elvis" title, a first in the world of Elvis impersonators.
Presley died at Graceland, his former Memphis residence, on Aug. 16, 1977, and the tribute artist contest was part of a weeklong string of concerts, dances and memorials focused on the 30th anniversary of his death.
The contest is a big change for Graceland managers who have had little to do with Elvis impersonators over the years, generally regarding them with a mixture of resigned bemusement and outright disgust.
That attitude changed this year, and a series of preliminary tribute artist contest, begun in March, were held around the world to send 24 finalists to Memphis. A qualifying round in Memphis on Sunday cut the list of finalists to 10.
Elvis Presley Enterprises, which runs the $40-million-a-year worldwide business in all things Elvis, opened Presley's Graceland to public tours in 1982 and the famous white-columned house now draws almost 600,000 visitors a year.