People used to tell Jesse Bolt that he looked like Elvis Presley. Then he answered an ad in a Nashville newspaper and became an Elvis impersonator. Last week Bolt took the big step. The 31-year-old North Carolina native underwent surgery to look just like Elvis Presley. And he joined Miami promoter Danny O'Day's "clone army" - five individuals who all went through plastic surgery last week to look like The Doors' late lead singer Jim Morrison, the late Texas wailer Janis Joplin, the late folk singer Jim Croce.
And finally there is Erin Rhyne, Bolt's girl friend, who underwent the surgery to look like a femalte version of Elvis.
The bandages come off Sept. 1 in Atlanta, where "Rock and Roll Heaven" plays 41 dates in 17 days at the Southeast Fair. "It'll be a non-stop review of people's deceased heroes," promoter O'day said last week. The concert will be featured on NBC's "America Alive" that week, between the Scottish games from California and Masters and Johnson on a discussion of teen-age pregnancy, according to an NBC spokesman.
"An outrageous thing came along, and I jumped on it," said Mona Caywood-Moore, the 27-year-old Californian who hoped to be another Janis Joplin. "It's not like I'm gonna come out and my mother won't know me.
"People think it's morbid , or something - I'm having the time of my life. I never laughed so hard. It's so less morbid than women who have breast enlargements - get a little built up for the magazines. And I've been in more pain having braces put on my teeth," she said.
Duke O'Cornnell, who will portray Jim Morrison, was learning Doors songs from the radio back in Laurel, Md., and to him, it's only a role. "I don't think I'm really Jim Morrison - all the people in this are very balanced mentally. It's just unprecedented - people think you're strange."
"We never mock the performers we call each other by our names - it's not that far-out, only different. Believe me, I've been in show business 15 years, and this is not the strangest thing anybody's ever asked me to do."
O'Connell sees himself as bringing back '60s music, which he said was "more enlightening, more creative" than music today. "We wanted to do deceased rock stars - people who couldn't do it themselves," he said. "We're going to play the characters as authentically as possible." Asked about the famous incident in Miami where Morrison exposed himself on-stage, O'Connell said, "Oh-no - we'd never do anything like that."
For Mare Hazebrouck, the Jim Croce look-alike: "It's a leg up on a better job. The goal of most artists is to do their own songs. But it's hard to get that commercial edge you need. My philosophy now is, 'If there's a need, fill it.' And bring back '60s - they were definitely a better time, and the '50s have been beat into the ground."
"The plastic surgery is the ultimate make-up," Hazebrouck said, "and we always have our talent to fall back on."
Erin Rhyne has a tough acting job ahead - she's the female Elvis. For Rhyne, the decision to become a female Presley came about because her boyfriend was Jesse Bolt. They would get telephone calls at night from Bolt/Elvis fans, "and Jesse would have to be Elvis. Eventually, there got to be less of Jesse Bolt that I loved, and more of Elvis."
She tried to understand, she said. "Then one day I said I'd give anything to understand, and there was Danny O'Day saying 'Anything?'" She said she hopes to satisfy Elvis fans, "giving them scarves and being Elvis for them."
O'Day is proud of them all. He books acts into nightclubs all over the country, he says, and all the performers have worked with him before as singers. The group had its origin in a club act. O'Day put together a few years ago called The Copycats.
"They were very good," O'Day says, "but something was missing. I realized you had to give people something to look at."
Thus Rock and Roll Heaven. O'Day also had more love for the '60s than the '70s. "I have two teenage kids, and I take them to concerts and I see people stomping chickens and the message if 'Tear the mothers' heads off,' or something. I want to take it back to the '60s, including the prices" - which he said will be about $5 a ticket.
At least one person isn't so proud of the "clone army" as O'Day - the plastic surgeon who did the work. O'Day won't divulge his name - anonymity is part of the deal. "Nobody can speak to th surgeon - we had four cancel on us before we found one who would do it. I guess a woman would feel a little strange going to the same guy for a breast enlargement, say."
Until their clone debut, the performers are in California considering film deals, O'Day says, and studying performances of whom they will portray. And, at least for Jesse Bolt, that's the key.
"I don't think I'm Elvis, you understand - I'm an actor," Bolt says. "It's like Paul Newman in 'Bullitt' - he doesn't walk around thinking he's 'Bullitt' all the time."
There is a pause. Steve McQueen starred in "Bullitt." "Well, it's like Steve McQueen then, you understand."