Impersonator to perform at birthday party fit for a king

In a collar the size of cherubim wings and a jumpsuit with enough shiny metal studs to attract wise men from every direction, Elvis impersonator Tony Aversa pays homage to the King.

The king of rock ‘n’ roll, that is.

On Saturday, Aversa will be throwing his first birthday celebration in Lawrence for Elvis Presley, who would have been 72 on Monday.

“His spirit touches me every day – and that is not a pitch,” said Aversa, 56, wearing a $2,500 red jumpsuit. “I loved him. I genuinely loved him.”

For the last decade, Aversa has performed on Elvis’ birthday, Jan. 8, or the Saturday night that precedes it to honor the singer.

And this time around, there will be plenty of room available at the inn – or in this case, a reception hall.

“I’ve had a lot of different things, but I’ve never had a concert like this,” said Steve Meseraull, owner of Steve’s Place at 31st and Louisiana streets, site of the $5 admission show. “He said it’s going to be like a Las Vegas show. I’m anxious to see it.”

Aversa, who recently moved to Lawrence from Sarasota, Fla., makes from $300 to $1,000 a show.

Staff and residents of Casa Mora Rehabilitation and Extended Care for the elderly in Bradenton, Fla., remember Aversa, who once volunteered eight shows in a two-year period.

The very mention of his name sent staff into a frenzy.

“We miss him terribly,” said activities worker Sandy Sarazin.

“He actually was the joy of the week for my residents,” said chaplain Don Cahill.

Aversa played 84 gigs nationwide last year. He and his wife, Connie, moved to Lawrence last summer to be closer to Connie’s son, who was enrolled at Kansas University.

At 56, the car salesman said he finds it more appropriate to impersonate the 1970s Las Vegas-era Elvis, who died at age 42 in 1977.

“I don’t think you could pull off 19 years old,” said Connie, his wife of nine years.