Everyone has a dream. A vision to live a life of abundance and doing what they were “meant” to do. However, what happens when reality slaps you in the face and says you’re not quite good enough and you just don’t have what it takes? It’s a hard pill to swallow and some see this as a challenge to prove others wrong, and others give up before they even had a chance to make their mark.
Almost, Almost Famous takes a snapshot look into the public and private lives of Texan rockabilly musician Lance Lipinsky as Jerry Lee Lewis, Las Vegas-based R & B singer Bobby Brooks as Jackie Wilson and the “Elvis from Orlando” Ted Torres on their “Class of ’59” cross country road tour. There are small mentions of Bill Culp, as Big Bopper and Jeff Giles, as Buddy Holly, but they were not the main focus of the documentary. Along for the wildest ride, you also get to meet their tour manager Marty Kramer, who may look like just another roadie, but he has helped launched the artists’ careers and rubbed elbows with some of the biggest and brightest stars from Burton Cummings to Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The entertainment business may seem filled with glitz and glamour, but it’s also filled with disappointment and often destruction of close family and romantic relationships. It’s hard for many artists to know where their character ends and their own identity begins. They lose themselves in the roles they are showing to the world. This often leads to a distorted sense of self and burn-out.
Sadly, tribute artists are now really a dime a dozen and it is estimated by Marty that with over 85,000 Elvis impersonators, only 500 get employed. This is shocking because of the amount of unexplored talent that are cast aside simply because they may not be the preferred image of what others expect or don’t market themselves as well as someone else in the industry. All that make-up to turn back the hands of time and countless hours of perfecting the Elvis-do or the cans of hairspray to get the perfect Bill Haley kiss curl get washed out, just like many of their careers.
On a brighter side, there are moments that show the incredible appreciation and devotion that fans bring to their lives, which make the struggles worth while. Those simple times when you see the joy in someone’s eyes as they are reliving their precious youth through such a poignant era like the 1950’s. There is also an incredible story shared about Bobby Brooks that you actually need to watch to believe.
No matter what people say, it is always hard to walk in someone else’s shoes. For many of these talented tribute artists that are showcased, fame and fortune is limited. There is always someone younger, smarter, and with the right connections that will take the #1 spot. The desire to develop their own careers outside of their idols in the long-term is a true balancing act. In reality, all the passion in the world doesn’t mean a lot, if you cannot pay your rent.
Almost Almost Famous opens in Toronto at Carlton Cinemas on Dec. 7 and Bloor Hot Docs – December 14 & 17 (Two Nights Only). The film will appear on Video On Demand outlets at a later date and is scheduled for broadcast Sunday Dec 16 at 9pm ET & PT on the CBC documentary Channel.