02/08/06 — Presley impersonators have a Czech mate

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Presley impersonators have a Czech mate

By Turner Walston
Published in News on February 8, 2006 1:47 PM

Elvis "left the building" nearly 30 years ago. But a Czech counterpart is in Goldsboro tonight.

Vlád'a Lichnovsky has portrayed Elvis Presley for eight years. As "Czech Elvis," he has performed in eight countries.

"Nobody in my country has done this," Lichnovsky, 33, says. "I am the first to do Elvis."

But he became The King by accident.

On a trip to the United States in 1998, Lichnovsky stopped by Graceland, Presley's estate. At the time, it was just another tour stop.

"It was by mistake," he says. "I didn't know too much. I knew that Elvis was in Graceland. It was, to me, the same as the Grand Canyon or Sears Tower in Chicago. It was an interesting thing.

"I went to Graceland and bought the 'Elvis glasses,'" he says. "When I came back, I decided to do a little show for friends."

"There were 50 people at the first show," Lichnovsky said. "It was a small restaurant." Since then, his audiences have grown to as much as 10,000.

Lichnovsky was not a fan of Presley's for much of his life. He wasn't allowed to be.

"I'm from the country where everything was forbidden until the revolution," he says, referring to the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989.

"I was 18 when times changed. I heard Elvis' music but didn't know what he looked like. I wasn't a big fan. It was impossible."

Czech people were not allowed to listen to American music, eat American food, or buy American products. The revolution changed that.

"Especially after the revolution, everything American was very popular, because the people were hungry."

Years later, Lichnovsky picked up the dark sunglasses at Graceland, and his life changed.

Success from that first show eight years ago led Lichnovsky to study Elvis' life. He watched concert videos to master The King's mannerisms.

"I needed to see, 'How did he do it?'" he says.

Lichnovsky's show is a replica of Presley's later years in Las Vegas.

"I'm trying to do it the way Elvis did when he was older," he says. "Some people say Elvis was just Elvis when he was young, and then was just a caricature of himself in a jumpsuit, but I don't think so."

Lichnovsky first learned to speak English while working as an au pair in England in his early 20s. Since then, he had not needed to use the language until starting his current act. He has performed in Slovakia, Germany, Austria, England, Croatia and the U.S.

"We played a big show in Prague," he says. "There were fans from England and Scotland that had flown to Prague just to see my show."

Lichnovsky says there is only one problem with his portrayal of The King: He's left-handed.

"I always said, I'm just his picture in the mirror."

Lichnovsky and the Elvis Presley Revival Band will perform at Lane Tree Golf Club tonight at 7 p.m. Admission for the show is $12.