Elvis sighting! Roark rides the Presley wave
Sitting in rush hour is plenty of fun for James Roark, especially when he's blaring his favorite tune, "Jailhouse Rock" on the car stereo. As the local embodiment of Elvis Presley, Roark relishes the attention lavished on him– and on "Michelle," his 1958 Red Cadillac.
"It never fails to turn heads," says Elvis. "People love to blow their horns or to wave."
Dedicated to "being" Elvis, Roark appears to play his alter-ego whether he's washing dishes at Sweetbones or on the road for one of his occasional lip-synch gigs. He drives that sweet ride, doesn't mind donning jumpsuits, and of course he maintains the King's jet-black pompadour coiffeur complete with mutton chop sideburns.
Despite all this, Roark– soon to be a grandfather– has no plans to move to Graceland or Vegas. "I'd never leave Charlottesville. If you've spent any time here, you always come back," he says.
While Roark has been Charlottesville's #1 Elvis for about a decade, he admits that his love for the King started at a young age. "Before I had the looks, I had the moves," he modestly explains.
Being the King is not easy when you're living in an era of pop and hip-hop. "Seriously, is anything sacred?" asks Rourke, half in jest, adding incredulously, "I heard a different version of Kenny Roger's 'The Gambler' with some hip-hop guy." The add-in was the famous rapper Coolio, but Roark doesn't claim to be a music expert: "I try to stay on top of things," he says, "but it must just be a generation thing."
While Roark's admiration for the rock legend is a constant commitment, he isn't so wacky to believe that the King lives. The legend lasts, Roark says, "because Elvis is in the hearts of those who loved him."
Roark even goes so far as to evince a paternalistic interest in the King's offspring: "Lisa Marie is doing well by working on her music to straighten out," he says approvingly.
Loving the limelight, Roark likes reminding folks of a golden musical age, "When you think rock 'n' roll, think the King."
How can we forget the King, when we have Elvis James Rourke to remind us how much fun pretending can be? "I love Charlottesville because everybody seems to know of me," Roark confides. "My reputation precedes me."
What brought you here? I've been here my whole life– UVA hospital brought me into the world.
What's worst about living here? The constantly rising rent
Favorite hangout? Seems all my favorite hangouts are closing. My house, now that Max is closed.
Most overrated virtue? Don't put off tomorrow what you can do today.
What would people be surprised to know about you? I've been married five times.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Nothing. I like myself the way I am.
What accomplishment are you proudest of? My popularity in Charlottesville, because when I was growing up, everyone picked on me.
What do people find most annoying about you? I have a funny laugh, and that I base my life on a character.
Whom do you admire? (tough one here) Elvis! He came from nothing, and people still know him.
Favorite poem? The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe
What subject causes you to rant? People with no common sense
What thrills you about life in the 21st century? Computers
What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? The degree to which people rely on machines and not their own brains
What do you drive? A red '58 Cadillac and an '88 Saab
What's in your car CD/tape player right now? Elvis
What's your next journey? Winston-Salem for a July 4 gig
What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? I spent a night in jail when I was 18 for stealing a car with two friends.
What do you regret? I'm not sorry for anything.
Favorite comfort food: Ice cream sundaes
What's always in your refrigerator? Nothing. I work at restaurants, so I get a lot of free meals.
Must see T.V.? History Channel documentaries and the WB show Charmed
Favorite cartoon? Superman
Describe a perfect day: A breezy day spent fishing
Walter Mitty fantasy: Living in a world without money where everyone just helps each other. Maybe in a barter society like the Old West.
Who'd play you in the movie? Kurt Russell
Most embarrassing moment: Showing up to one of my lip-synch gigs with music on a cassette, and there was only a CD player available
Best advice you ever got: You only need three things in life: 1) roof over your head, 2) food in your belly, 3) clothes on your back
Favorite bumper sticker: My other car is a broomstick.