At 11 a.m. yesterday, the limousine pulled up and the five principal members of promoter Danny O'Day's "Rock and Roll Heaven" rushed into the auditorium towels shielding their newly-restuctured faces from interested onlookers.
It was hot in Building 4 on the Southeastern Fairgrounds, and the white stucco smelled of sweat. It was due to grow hotter still when the NBC camera crew from "America Alive" turned on the kliegs, but for the moment, the troupers who form the spearhead of clone rock were only happy to be out from underneath the bandages that had swaddled their faces for the last month.
"We'd go out to dinner with the masks on, and people thought we'd come to rob 'em or something" exclaimed Mona Caywood-Moore, who underwent plastic surgery last month to make herself into a look-alike of the late Janis Joplin.
The bandages had been removed only minutes before in a downtown Atlanta hotel room. Two and a half weeks earlier Caywood-Moore and four others had undergone surgery to make their faces into replicas of deceased rock stars. Marc Hazebrouck (who portrays the late Jim Croce), Duke O'Connell (who portrays the late Doors star Jim Morrison) and the male and female Elvis Presleys (Jesse Bolt and his girlfriend Erin Rhyne) were trying out eyes of O'Day.
While there is a lot to see at the Southeastern Fair - greased pig contests, stuntman Joie Chitwood's auto thrills show and the real Elvis Presley's real first limousine - "Rock and Roll Heaven" is the headline act.
"It'll be a nonstop review of peoples deceased heroes," O'Day had crowed earlier.
As the "America Alive" crew set up it was clear that O'Day was nervous, alternately clacking chewing gum and smoking Winstons. He had a lot of money invested - no exact figures, just "too much, but worth every dime." And he had things on his mind. The 41 shows in 17 days at the fair is only the first part of a scheme that includes movies, Las Vegas and a European tour. And then, too, Caywood-Moore, for all her howling voice and irrepressible gestures, didn't really look that much like Janis Joplin - although that was only because, O'Day hastened to reassure, only half her plastic surgery had been completed.
"They all resemble the people they portray," O'Day explained, "except her. She looked like David Bowie, but she had such a voice - I couldn't resist."
In contrast to the laconic Bolt and the silent Rhyne, Caywood-Moore was bouncing around in a Joplin-like feather boa, proclaiming, "Well, I never said I wasn't weird." She still has to have her nose straightened and broadened: even then, she'll be a thin replica of the heavyset Joplin.
The prospect of more surgery didn't faze her though: "It wasn't so bad. I was so drugged out." Still, her appearance was drawing clucks.
"I can put in pimples," said O'Day thoughtfully, alluding to Joplin's coarse complexion. "Anything but gain weight," retorted Caywood-Moore. "I've been fat all my life."
She would really kind of like to have a straight nose, she said, fingering it carefully: "If somebody else is paying for it - it's fine with me. I'll have a perfect nose - look at it as a foot in the door."
She grinned and theatrically fluffed her boa and floated away.
If Caywood-Moore is the least successful of O'Day's clone army, then Jesse Bolt is the most. Which is fortunate because he is the star of the show, doing the first half in tight black leather - Elvis circa 1968 - the second half in right white leather - Elvis circa 1973. Bolt has spent the last two years studying Elvis; his mannerisms are carefully plotted and well executed, and he sounds somewhat like Elvis.
Bolt is also very nearly as laconic as the late king of rock 'n' roll. "I think of my performance as a tribute to him," he said, and the 'h' was capitalized. Bolt shook his head. "It's a shame he had to die."
Bolt had been an Elvis impersonator for a few years before he met up with O'Day and went under the plastic surgeon's knife, and he reiterated the claim all the performers make - that they are actors, that the surgery serves as the ultimate makeup.
For Erin Rhyne - "my lady," Bolt introduced her - it was a little different. She tried to cope with the hordes of callers who wanted Bolt to be Elvis for them and tried to understand. One day she made the mistake of saying she'd give anything to understand. She made the statement in front of Danny O'Day.
"I said, 'How much would you give?'" O'Day explained, a gleam in his eye. She cut off her long brown hair and dyed it black, had her angular face filled in, and now she's the female Elvis. She said she hoped to "be Elvis for the men, giving them that part of Elvis" - handing out scarves and generally playing out that part of Elvis' sensuality.
O'Day was pacing all around trying to stay cool in a beige suit and aviator glasses, despite the fact that the NBC cameras were ready to roll. He said he was satisfied with the surgeon's work - between the extremes of Caywood-Moore and Bolt, Rhyne doesn't look like Elvis, but she does look like she could be Elvis' sister. O'Connell passes reasonably for Morrison, but Hazebrouck looks more like a sadened Groucho Marx than Jim Croce.
O'Day still won't name the surgeon. "We lost three surgeons in a week," he said, "the fourth said he'd do it. He doesn't care about his achievement - he achieved his check which incidentally wasn't a check. He wanted cash in advance." O'Day grinned apologetically. "You realize the predicament."
The cameras rolled and Janet Langhart of "America Alive" began the questioning. Building 4 took on a slightly surreal quality; a man dressed as Bozo the Clown wandered in off the midway.One woman turned and said of Langhart, "Did you know she used to be Julie Christie? That was before her operation. Who would you like to be?"
"Katharine Hepburn, I think," an older woman replied, "Yourself?"
Meanwhile, Langhart was questioning the Presleys, Bolt and Rhyne, both attired in matching black leather. "Can you quiver the top lip? Like Elvis?" she asked. "No ma'am, they stitched that in," Bolt said, straight-faced.
The miracle of communication by satellite unfolded, and Dr. Joyce Brothers asked questions from New York. O'Day began to make frantic notes on a legal pad, flashing them at his "clones." Caywood-Moore finally picked up on his frenetic pointing and snapped back at Brothers, "Sure it's commercial - like selling psychiatry or anything else. It's six of one, half dozen of the other, honey."
The taping was over, and Caywood-Moore grunted, "Hero worship, huh? Co-hostess worship, I'd say, ha ha."
It was over, at least for the afternoon. Duke O'Connell/Jim Morrison sat quietly off to the side drinking Atlanta's special drink - Coca-Cola - in an effort to beat the heat. The Laurel, Md., native has been playing rock 'n' roll for 15 years, and learned Doors' songs as they came out of the radio back home in Maryland.
"Sure, we're very close. I've been with Danny six years, most of the others at least two. We're a big family," said O'Connell. He thinks, after all those hard-scrabble years on the road, that clone rock just might be his big break: "I'm very excited. Besides, it's not the weirdest thing I've ever done."
"Well . . . me and Danny used to do the Groovy Booby . . ." McDonnell looked hesitantly at O'Day, who nodded.
"Danny and I used to come out as the Booby Sisters, in drag and on roller skates. Then we'd do a strip-tease."
"And there were the pest control commercials I did for radio. They had guys who did frogs and things. I was into crickets." He obliged with cricket noises and laughed.
"This is great, it's great," O'Day exulted. "Rock and Roll Heaven" looked at him and collectively smiled; he smiled back benevolently.
O'Day has the power to make people believe, and that coupled with the American belief in the intrinsic romance of living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is going to produce money, critical acclaim and at the very least, a trip to Europe. So Norm fervently believes.
Norm is Norm the Bodyguard. Norm packs a 50-inch chest and 19-inch biceps on a 5-foot-8 frame, and "anything Mr. O'Day tells me to do, I do." Some people came banging on Bolt's door the other night in Albany, Ga., but Norm straightened things out.
Norm thinks "Rock 'N' Roll Heaven" is great too; and Norm has never been to Europe. "He looks just like Elvis," Norm said reverently of Bolt. "And Erin - I'd be the first one to run up there and give her a kiss."
"Look, I'll write a book too - just like Elvis' bodyguards.
"you wait and see."