For you, the dress code is casual.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Making of a Legend: Tagish Elvis is Born

Tagish Elvis
Originally uploaded by scribecalledsteff.

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This is a “to the best of my recollection” posting. It's been 10 years, after all.

Due to the enormous number of frivolous lawsuits launched by Elvis Aaron Presley (formerly Gilbert N.), there should be a lot more documentation available online to substantiate what I’ve got to say here, but sadly almost all the links are several years old and broken. The man made international headlines in the late '90s after a bizarre string of legal cases, not long after I returned to my home in Vancouver.

* * *

Meet Tagish Elvis.

Until the '90s, Tagish Elvis was just another guy, Gilbert N., who had an affinity for bingo and karaoke. He just got by, living off his proceeds from selling tacky tourist items, the most popular of which were his sponge-painted goldpans, which are probably hanging on walls all over Germany as I type.

* * *

I loved living in the Yukon, but as poet Robert Service once said, the winters there envelope you with "a silence that bludgeons you dumb." It's an incredibly beautiful and mystical place to live, but even today it is a cruel and violent land.

There are those who succumb to those bitter cold and dark winter nights, who lose their tether to reality. They adopt the quirky mannerisms of the lonely and the lost.

* * *

And then there are those like Gilbert.

In the late '80s, Gil had found a stockpile of discarded telephone poles that he learned were up for grabs for the public. He took the countless poles and made himself a log cabin out of them. This was not abnormal behaviour in the North, where the packrat mentality is a holdover from the days of the Goldrush, when a little extra scavenging could mean your ability to survive those bitter winters of legend.

Some will tell you that it was the fire in the hearth on those endlessly, brutally cold Yukon nights that made Gil what he became: insan--err, Elvis.

And if asked, they will tell you that Gil's mental instability is most likely thanks to all the toxic chemicals those telephone poles were treated with. All those long cold nights where the cabin would be heated up nice and toasty by fires in the hearth, all those chemicals in the log walls off-gassing into his environs, toxins wafting around that rustic room as he bent over his goldpans, stamping out art that he felt would be his legacy.

People would talk at times about those who’d visited Gil’s home, who'd testify it smelled funny, whether he might've used some of those toxic poles for firewood and ingested those fumes directly.

* * *

Elvis, though, will tell you his mind was fucked long before this. It was the FBI. Or the CIA.

There was no cocaine, no toilet, no naked King, no untimely death. No, the government had realized in the '70s the power that Elvis had over the American people, but knowing he could be useful to them, They decided not to kill him, not like with John Lennon and Jim Morrison, who They found were no longer of use, just trouble.

No, They reprogrammed The King for the good of The People. According to Elvis, They thought, “Where can we send this powerful mofo that he’ll be out of the way?”

Canada, naturally. Not just Canada, though. Way-the-fuck-out-there Canada, some 2,800 kilometres north of the American border, to that isolated community of Tagish, 30 kilometres from the capital of Whitehorse in the Yukon, surrounded by trees and silence. As isolated as it really gets.

* * *

And we all know what happens in those isolated places: Close encounters of the third kind. And The King was no exception. Everyone loves royalty, even the little green men.

It was around '90 that Elvis reports his first alien visitation. On that first encounter, they took the King for a galactic spin.

The cosmic critters told him how the American government was interfering with his destiny. That Elvis didn’t have to go back to his life as it was in the days of Graceland. No, they said he had to forge a new life here, in the wild, but he needed to be The King. He was Elvis.

The Man couldn’t take it away from The King. He had to be strong, yo.

* * *

Enter the Caddy festooned with epoxy-crusted angels. Enter the gone-Native Elvis jumpers. Enter the ducktail, the shades. The monotone-mumble-drawl he sputters at you with. Enter the vanity license plates that read simply, "ELVIS."

* * *

When Elvis came into town, the locals didn't call him Gil. Not anymore. No, they addressed him as Elvis, and sometimes more rightfully as The King. When he'd saunter down the street, goldpans in hand, they'd mutter about "That crazy fuck," but to his face, they feigned the respect he so longed for.

* * *

Sadly, morphing into The King didn’t have the effect he thought it might have on his wife. In fact, she liked it better when he was reprogrammed. She decided to split.

Elvis didn’t take kindly to this and tried to shoot his wife dead when she tried leaving him in the mid-’90s. He claimed she was just another pawn of that scheming American government. She survived that night, but the Epic of Tagish Elvis was just getting started.

That fateful night, a responding RCMP officer on the scene suggested The King should “seek some help.”

Enraged at this assertion of insanity, Elvis then sued the government, suggesting he was the victim of defamation, collusion, and harrassment.

Elvis continued in this vein over the next several years, suing the government at his leisure, his legal briefs maxing out at over 400 pages most of the time--filled with wild accounts of his abductions, the conspiracy of his reprogramming, citations of their inability to protect him from the constantly meddlesome aliens, the Canadian government's collusion with the American government in trying to obscure his true identity from The People, and so on.

* * *

The last real news on Tagish Elvis came when his last attempt to sue the government for defamation and collusion was dismissed. They King was found without sufficient evidence. The courts fined him $10 for “wasting everyone’s time” and he was thereafter forbidden from launching any more laughable legal claims.

I don't know where he is today, whether he's still huffing chemicals in his cozy cabin, churning out his garish goldpans and faux dreamcatchers... but I'd lay my money on exactly that. The crazy shit never goes away in the North. It's bred in the bones.

* * *

Had I known he’d become such a legendary weird character in my life, I might’ve taken more time to learn more about Tagish Elvis back then, but there were a lot of freaks in that town, and I always thought the Mad Trapper had the trump card.

Sadly, there are a lot of gaps in my knowledge of The King. I'm proud that I held one of his mammoth legal briefs in my hand. The table lives still, in the dungeon of WhippedBoy's home, where he lives with his wife. It is being guarded as the sacred artifact that it is, and despite my better taste, I will one day restore the Sponge Table and it shall have a sacred spot in my home.