Behind the scenes photos by Franz Mahr, Words by Zeke Leeds,
Here to kill your post-holiday lull and to lure you out of your winter hibernation is the annual Elvis’ Birthday Fight Club. While the show’s title might leave you seeking clarification as to what exactly this is all about, one look at past years review and photos of the event make it abundantly apparent, even if you’re like me and haven’t attended the show previously, that this flight club contains all the offensiveness and splendor of MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch paired alongside the lurid pleasure of a burlesque show. And it’s all hosted by the King—the bloated with blown-out hair and mile long side-burns, jumpsuited fat Elvis.
To prepare for this weekends shows I spoke with Jei Spatola, aka Kittie Glitter, who has been a vital part of the Elvis’ Birthday Fight Club since its inception.
For Jei it all began with hosting burlesques around D.C. “I’ve been hosting burlesque shows in DC area since 2003. I was with a group called Lobster Boy, The Lobster Boy Review. It was actually the first burlesque show in D.C., the first burlesque and vaudeville sideshow in D.C. There was one other person around the same time. I can’t remember her name… Kitty Victorian. She’s gone now; it doesn’t matter.” And it doesn’t matter because there is certainly nothing else like this. Although there may be other fight clubs, I don’t know. After all, we all know what the rules of fight club are. Still this is the only event that where, as Jei put it, “There’s always a lower bar to go to and we strive for it every year.” Now there a maxim fit for the truly subversive and daring.
How did the Elvis’ Birthday Fight Club come about?
We wanted to do something for Elvis’ birthday. It really had to do with the calendar honestly, we wanted to do something not just in April, like one time a year, we wanted to do more. So what’s another time we could do? The original idea was to have some kind of kinky event in the middle of summer and eventually morphed into an Elvis’ Birthday Fight Club.
Obviously, that’s the only natural place you could’ve ended up.
I think that Jared when he said it was gonna be a kinky thing thought it was gonna be around his [Elvis Presley’s] death day, in August. Sorry, around his death day. But it’s been a long time.
The show is like a mixture of a burlesque show with all the spectacle of the WWE. Am I right?
Pretty much. You’ve done your research. Basically, it’s six choreographed, blistering fights between people and/or things you’ve always wanted to see fight each other.
Do you have any favorite past fights?
Yes! Martha Stewart verses the Swedish Chef. That was particularly fun. And that was one I wrote and it’s always weird when you do these pitch meetings. Sometimes people are like ‘YEAH!’ then there are a couple people like, ‘Umm.’ And that was one I really had to fight for and even when the date was getting closer there were a couple people like, ‘I don’t think people are going to know who this is.’ So it was a little nerve-racking and really exciting when they went out to the box, which is how they start—they go out to the cage and we have a shadow outline of their figure and we kind of give hints with music going on at the same time: whatever music would pertain to that fight character and then we’ll start describing things like, “Division: heavy weight. Stance: whatever.” When the music came on for the Swedish Chef someone in the back of the theater yelled: “THE FUCKING SWEDISH CHEF!” It made me so happy.
Another favorite, and a favorite for audience as well—this is one of the opposition situations where we were not sure if this would work or people would lose their minds because we can be a little offensive, sometimes…all the time, in every show we do something that’s ridiculously offensive. It was Diane Rehm verses Stephen Hawking. And that was another one where—they didn’t guess Stephen Hawking—but when the Diane Rehm music started playing they didn’t hear anything else that we said. They were standing up and cheering and freaking out. They loved it! And that was Andrew who wrote that one and once again he fought for it and it worked!
But it’s not that you’re aiming to offend. You’re aiming to be subversive.
Every once in a while we’re aiming to offend. Just a little. Like last year we had teams, two teams, it was the first year we’d done this. It was the Flying Spaghetti Monster with Baby Jesus, and they were fighting the captains of calamity, Captain Crunch and Captain Kirk. Captain Crunch killed Jesus with a giant rock. And then we pushed the rock back and said, “Oh, has it been three days already?” Then he used—even to explain this, I’m not surprised people were offended by this one, but it was so good. He had a penis shaped spurt gun that he pulled out of the covers and started shooting the audience with what we told them was holy pee.
Impressive. Do you think with you guys having set the bar so high in the past, and with the world becoming more liberal and open, in some respects, do you think it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to do your thing?
We manage to raise/lower the bar every year. Just when we think it’s getting more difficult to be subversive someone comes up with something. There’s a couple of things this year…unfortunately, I can’t tell you them. Poor photographer. He was so bummed out when I told him, he was gonna take a picture, and I was like, “Hey, just so you know, the whole roster is completely secret, and so your pictures need to not depict any of them in the room. Consider it an artistic challenge.”
That’s great. I bet he loved that.
He was just like, ‘Ooookay.’
Who is it that makes-up the loyal fans of the Elvis’ Fight Club tradition?
A lot of people that go to burlesque shows come. Strangely enough, we have a very strong bear presence. The bears like us, which is great. We even had a fight a couple years ago that was bear verses bear. We had a panda bear verses a guy named Dave Moretti who played Papa Bear in John Waters’ A Dirty Shame. We don’t fuck around.