"Jailhouse Rock" takes on fresh meaning when the Mad Art crew throws itself an Elvis-themed birthday party in the former 3rd District police station, complete with cellblock.
Artist/policeman Ron Buechele, artist Tracy Varley, Potato Eaters artist-collective ringleader Andrea Avery and their gang are celebrating the second anniversary of the 1937 marble-lined cop shop's conversion to a swank art gallery. They're going whole-hog with the Elvis theme, planning an evening of art, games, eats and music nearly as cheesy as Graceland itself.
Guests will be able to play "Pin the Pelvis on the Elvis" and enter raffles for black-velvet artwork and busts of Elvis decorated by artists. Drag queens dressed as nurses will circulate, distributing candy shaped like the King's favorite snack -- pills. There'll be ice sculptures of the gyrating rocker, a puppet show, the reading of an epic Elvis poem by Rosa Arenas and a roving airbrush operator painting sideburns directly onto faces.
You can get your photo taken with an Elvis imitator or use a photo booth with available Elvis props, including sunglasses, sideburns and wigs. Snacks will include grilled peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches and jelly doughnuts, and you can drink like Elvis' mother at the cash bar.
DJs Randall Roberts (of the Riverfront Times) and Thomas Crone spin their version of Elvis music (may we suggest Public Enemy's "Fight the Power," which includes the line "Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me."). Then the Dave Alans Band takes the stage, followed by a new configuration calling itself the Slowly but Surelys, featuring Jenna Bauer, Bob Reuter and Robin Allen. At 10 p.m., headliner Johnny Harra Jr. and his Silverbird Band bring down the house. The 26-year-old Harra is a second-generation Elvis impersonator who'll be incarnating the "'50s Elvis," he says, which means "sportcoat, shirt, guitar and shaky leg."
The party is also a one-night-only art show, with most pieces priced at less than $200. Apron collector Avery says she's "enthralled with Priscilla Presley's hairdo in the wedding photos," so she's creating an apron printed with the Presleys' wedding photos on the front and photos of Elvis with various other women on the back ("Suspicious Minds" is embroidered on the pockets). Catherine Cathers, creator of the popular "clit cozies" seen at the last Venus Envy show, is working on Elvis EveryWhere, underwear emblazoned with song lyrics. Sarah Carmody has photographed women dressed as the King, and Christopher Gustave and Buechele are collaborating on a piece that compares Elvis and Jesus. Caroline Huth is assembling a shrine to the rhinestoned one in a jail cell.
The transformation of Mad Art from ancient, dingy police station to cultured-yet-funky gallery is something to behold. Buechele and Varley spend every spare minute working on walls, floors and so on, and it's wild to think that the tastefully appointed main gallery was once a garage for squad cars, the workshop was an evidence locker, the basement studio was a shooting range and the plant-filled storage/gallery spaces were once the Soulard hoosegow.
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