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King for a Day

updated 09/14/1992 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/14/1992 01:00AM

THE TEMPERATURE IS IN THE MID-80s, cool for Texas, but Elvis is burning up in his black jumpsuit. This isn't the young Elvis. Nor is it the large Elvis. This is the Republican Elvis, on a comeback mission from the GOP. Standing at the city limits of Corsicana, Tex., one late August day, he is prepared to hound and dog Bill Clinton's bus tour of the state. "The King supports the President," says Elvis, whose Don't Be Fooled tour, funded by the state Republican committee, hands out baloney sandwiches as additional commentary on Clinton.

Waiting by the highway for Clinton's bus to arrive—the Democrat is running late—Elvis sweats and frets. "At least I'm on time," the King says. "And I've been dead for 15 years." True to the ethic of his craft, he insists that, Presley-wise, he is definitely the genuine article. "Know how you can tell?" he asks, pushing out a hand full of faux diamond rings. "This ring has the word Elvis on it. But just call me E. We don't have to be formal about these things." E is very proud of his costume—"I did it all," he says—and of the authentically snug fit. (Doughnuts, he says, help him stay rounded.)

In spite of the King, Clinton draws a crowd of 3,000 in Corsicana, Elvis only two dozen carloads of autograph seekers. An unscientific count of honks shows Elvis helping the Bush-Quayle ticket with the pickup and truck-driver vote. When a Democratic diehard flips Elvis's Bush poster the bird, E says, "I've got to learn not to take it personally." The shenanigan ends in an Athens, Tex., Dairy Queen where E laps up ice cream while signing autographs. "I'm the Junk Food King," he says. Future foolery, says GOP organizer Mark Sanders, may have Roy Orbison or Jim Morrison haunting Clinton.

E will not easily forget the counter-Clinton escapade, which was planned for two days but lasted little more than one. Pressed for personal details, E claims that he has to "kind of stay anonymous." In fact, he bears a striking likeness to Victor Solimine, 42, a government employee from Pflugerville, outside Austin. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from campaigning for any candidate, so he is understandably cagey. "I didn't violate it," he says. "Elvis did."

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