Melvis Kwok died a few days ago, which I know because a rather supercilious New York Times, having reported on the Elvis impersonator in 2010, decided to do a quiet Sunday obituary. The man who took up the title of the Cat King, Elvis’ Chinese nickname, Kwok was a consummate busker, parading the neon lit streets of Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong district with serenity and surrealism. Kwok began impersonating Elvis in 1977, the very year the King died. What electric thing passed through the screen, over the many miles between Memphis and Hong Kong? Who knows how a king survives? Of that first encounter via the documentary “Elvis: That’s The Way It is”, Kwok said “I cried for a long time.”
This connection, born in tears, played out in lights and sequins, guitars and strangled renditions of It’s Now Or Never is special. As Arthur Miller writes, attention must be paid. It is that strange link between collector and collection, between celebrity and fan, between obsession and obsessed. There are moments when a human being, hidden from the world by his ordinariness-obscured by the simple and transparent fact that he has two eyes, two arms, two legs, and a beating heart, just like everyone else-when such a person becomes a glittering, golden thing. Such was the rise of Elvis, that shining sun. Such was the life of Kwok Lam-Sang, who orbited him and reflected his light. Who might we orbit? When might we rise?