Asian Elvis Has Left the Building
So, after all that hype about my portraying an "Asian Elvis Impersonator" on a Spike TV show, I wound up on the proverbial cutting room floor.
I spent most of a column here on Asian Connections about it. You may have seen it, or at least saw the photo of me, in full Elvis-in-Las Vegas regalia, next to a beautiful blonde gal in a skimpy bikini. Or of me, in slightly truncated regalia (minus the high-top wig) with Bob Einstein, creator and star of the show, Super Dave's Spike-Tacular, and his buddy Larry (Curb Your Enthusiasm) David, who was also doing a cameo on the episode.
I almost wrote a newspaper or magazine piece on the experience. Fortunately, none of the publications I pitched fell for it. It would have been a disaster. I did write it up in my radio column in the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as on this site.
A week before the date the episode as scheduled to air, I decided to double-check. The only contact info I had was that of Super Dave himself, so I rang Einstein's number. He called back, sounding upset and frustrated, and told me that, after reviewing the footage, they'd cut me out of the show. I was puzzled, but far from upset. After all, I may have caused it.
Back when we shot the final scene, which was improvised to include a paintball shooting of the Asian Elvis, I was directed to act as though I had been shot, and to take a fall. I did, and, once I got home, regretted doing the scene. I called Einstein to let him know.
When he asked why, I told him that my brother, Barry, had been a homicide victim, by gunfire, in 1972, and that, even though his show was clearly a farcical comedy, and it was a paintball shooting, I felt uncomfortable about being depicted, on national TV, getting shot.
He assured me that it'd be edited so that it'd be clear that it was a paintball assault, and I wouldn't be seen falling. A few days later, he called, saying the episode was "f---- hysterical and I'm my own worst critic!"
That was in August. By November, things had changed. He said that the show didn't work with the ending they had, and their only solution was to cut Elvis out entirely. I was fine, he said repeatedly. If the show is renewed, he'd try and get me back in there. If not as Elvis, then maybe as an AsianConnections columnist; who knows?
Anyway, I'm fine with it. Besides the troublesome ending, I was ambivalent about looking so goofy in that bright red jumpsuit, the fright wig, and the silver high heels. I had anticipated cringing my way through the half hour. Now, I don't have to worry about it.
Or do I? As one person on Facebook wrote, the video will inevitably show up online.
AsianConnections columnist Ben Fong-Torres is a true Renaissance man. The former Rolling Stone writer and editor is also an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, writes the radio column in the San Francisco Chronicle, and is the author of eight books, including The Rice Room: Growing Up Chinese American.