Mike on America

Elvis: Still "Taking Care Of Business"

Elvis Presley

He was larger than life (in more ways that one)--and even now, 30 years after his death, Elvis Presley is still making money--for his heirs and for a lot of other people who loved him.

Butch and Kim Polston of Charlestown, Indiana are two of them. Theirs is a story of their love for 'The King', and their love for each other. In a basement workroom of a retired Army munitions factory in this small southern Indiana town--about a half hour north of Louisville--Butch and Kim, their son, and four or five others do their jobs to the strains of 'Hound Dog', 'Blue Suede Shoes' and 'Jailhouse Rock'. You can't actually hear those tunes, but you can 'feel' them. Why? Because Elvis is alive! Sort of.

'This one is called the 'Gypsy Suit'. He actually designed it after an Indian totem pole.'

It's the way Butch Polston starts his 'tour' of Elvis Presley's jumpsuits. The ones that clothe mannequins standing in a small room down the hall from the sewing machines. These aren't actually Elvis' suits--but they are---'exact' replicas. 'Exact' because Butch and Kim, the 'B' and 'K' of B&K Enterprises, replicate them from the actual design patterns given to them by the designers who made Elvis' wardrobe, it all started after his 1968 comeback special. B&K the only company with a license to make these replicas signed by Elvis Presley Enterprises.

This all started 27 years ago. A few years after Presley's death. Butch was a big fan---Kim was his young wife, and first love. What would you like if you could have one thing of Elvis'? Kim asked Butch. One of those suits he answered.

So the young couple--Butch working two jobs--made a couple--just for fun--just as display pieces--just as tributes to Elvis. They took them with them to the first 'gathering' of Elvis fans in Memphis a few years after his death. Long story short--one of the few 'Elvis Tribute Artists' of the time--impersonators--saw them..wanted to buy them---for $500 each! A new business was born.

Back then there were only 10 or 12 guys making a living 'doing' Elvis--today--there's an estimated 50,000 around the world. The suits B&K make go everywhere and are custom made to fit anyone--short, tall fat or fatter (FYI--Elvis' original 'pattern' called for a 42 each chest, 33 inch waist and 33 inch inseam).

They range in price from 15-hundred to 6000 dollars--and have been seen on the stage and in movies. The business has weathered slow times, and Kim's cancer--a specially signed 'Elvis belt' signed by the cast of '3000 Miles to Graceland' brightened her life when she needed it most. And while they can and will make other costumes--90 plus percent of their business is in dressing 'The King'---all of them.

TCB baby--TCB.

Questions?  Comments?  mikeonamerica@nbcuni.com