08/24/14 — 'Blue Suede' kickoff for United Way

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'Blue Suede' kickoff for United Way

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on August 24, 2014 1:50 AM

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United Way board chairman Brian Taylor, left, presents an Elvis bobblehead doll to Kirk Keller and the Woo Woo girls, who were winners of the Elvis impersonator competition.

A firecracker exploded at United Way of Wayne County's kickoff concert Friday at the Paramount Theatre. And not the kind you usually see in the sky on July 4th either.

This particular sparkler was Ann Minkler, 63, a diehard Elvis fan for as long as she can remember. Anytime she hears an Elvis song, she just goes wild -- and that's how she earned the nickname "Firecracker" several years ago.

Ms. Minkler was just one member of the enthusiastic crowd who gathered at the Paramount Theater not only to enjoy their favorite singer's reincarnation, but to support the local community organization as well.

The concert featured not only internationally famous Elvis tribute artist Stephen Freeman, but also four of Goldsboro's own "Elvi," as they call themselves. That list included Geoff Hulse, Julie Beck, Wayne Alley and Kirk Keller.

Freeman had just started his part of the show when Ms. Minkler, who was sitting in the front row, stood up with a red rose for him. Freeman recognized her from the past two shows she had attended, and hesitantly went into the audience with her. The two danced, and Freeman gave her several kisses.

"I forgot how many times he kissed me," Ms. Minkler said. "It was so much fun. Tonight I did everything I could except get on stage with him."

Ms. Minkler has always been an Elvis fan, but didn't get to see much of him on TV when she was growing up because her father wouldn't let her watch him. But when her father was out of town on trips, her mother let her watch Elvis on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

"My favorite Elvis song is 'Lawdy, Lawdy Miss Clawdy.' "That's when I get really wild," she said laughing.

It was Mollie Musgrave's first time seeing Freeman. The 22-year-old grew up listening to Elvis with her father, and the two have seen many, many Elvis impersonators.

During the show, Miss Musgrave caught one of several small teddy bears Freeman tossed into the audience. But she had to fight another fan to get it. She said it's going into the Elvis shrine she has in one corner of her room.

Before Freeman, a North Carolina Elvis tribute artist, came out for his two-hour performance with his Echoes of a Legend Band, the audience was treated to a show by Goldsboro's own Elvises.

Hulse came out first, telling the audience, "It's amazing we're allowed on stage."

He dedicated his first song to a beautiful girl in his family and began singing "Hound Dog," during which one of his dogs, Roxy, joined him on stage.

Before the concert, Hulse said he was both excited and nervous about the show. He said he didn't know he was going to be in the show, though, until he read it in the newspaper.

"I was reading the paper and thought that would be fun and was glad they were doing it," he said. "Then I looked down and saw my name in the article. Even though I was surprised I was in the show, they knew they had me."

Hulse performed in a red smoking jacket, complete with blue suede shoes.

"I do it because it's fun, and it's for the community," he said.

After Hulse's performance, a huge penguin came out dancing. It was actually Miss Beck. Hulse asked her why she was dressed as a penguin, and she said she was auditioning for "Happy Feet Three."

Hulse told her auditions were at another theater and she quickly changed into her Elvis costume -- jeans, black top, a black wig, sunglasses and a black leather jacket -- to sing "Teddy Bear" to Hulse.

Before the show, Miss Beck said she'd been practicing her song everywhere, in her car, while teaching her GED class and at work.

She was extremely nervous about getting out on stage because, as she put it, "I can't even carry a tune in a bucket.

"But I know it's for a good cause, getting people to come out and raising money for United Way, which goes back out into the community."

Decked out in typical Elvis early 1960s style, a black shirt, black pants, white shoes and a colorful jacket and sporting a red guitar, which he didn't know how to play, Alley performed three Elvis songs -- "Good Luck Charm," "All Shook Up" and "Loving You," which he forgot most of the words to and substituted whatever came to mind, like Scooby Doo and Babalu.

Before the show, Alley said he wanted to perform because of United Way -- even though he was more than a little nervous.

"United Way is such an important part of our community and does such wonderful work here," he said. "Its agencies are helping people and saving lives."

As an older Las Vegas Elvis, Keller donned the typical white jumpsuit and cape. He was accompanied by the barefooted Woo Woo Girls, which were actually four men in black and gray dresses, two in blonde wigs and two in black wigs -- all sporting five-o'clock shadows.

Keller sang "C.C. Rider."

Before going out on stage, Keller said he was a little nervous.

"But that keeps you sharp," he said. "Most of the stuff I say on stage is stuff I think of right then, mostly improv. You have to act with the moment."

Keller said he liked impersonating Elvis because it was raising money for a good cause.

During the kickoff, it was announced that United Way's frontrunners, groups and businesses that hold their campaigns before the fundraising officially begins to set the pace for others, had raised $201,305, which is 18 percent of the total goal of $1,150,400, to help improve 4,026 lives.

This year's campaign ends Dec. 17.