By Jim Hagerty
While David Pyle dons a look similar to the hundreds of Elvis Presley impersonators in Las Vegas, his act is a unique departure from traditional song and dance.
Pyle has the hip-swivel and facial expressions down, and looks enough like Presley to draw double-takes from most passersby.
His shtick, however, gives him away.
Billed as “Green E-The Environmental Elvis,” Pyle is a former standup comedian who realized the importance of environmental conservation years ago. In 1994, he incorporated it into his act, which continues to champion his lifestyle.
A vegetarian, Pyle rides his bicycle throughout Chicago and rarely drives a car. The Douglas-area resident of Bronzeville even pedals from his home to Robert Morris University (Ill.), where he’s also an English and communications instructor.
What makes him truly different? For starters, Green E’s parodies are a perfect fit. Songs like “Don’t Waste Fuel” (“Don’t be Cruel”), “Are You Recycling Tonight” (“Are You Lonesome Tonight”) are as organic as they are funny. Each tune encapsulates Pyle’s message: “Saving the planet, one song at a time.”
A product of the 1970s, Pyle, 43, was barely capable of environmentally-responsible inferences. Although he heard, “Turn off the lights when you leave the room” and “Don’t leave the television set on if you’re not watching it,” the messages were largely associated with minimizing the size of electric bills. Today, he says, people are aware of the true meaning of conservationism.
“Today’s audiences are refreshingly cognizant of environmental issues,” Pyle said. “Caring for the environment has become part of our culture. Technology, such as hybrid cars, has created more opportunities, and given the opportunity, people will do the right thing.”
As for the visual aspect of his act, Pyle said the King’s music did not die with the artist and still resonates today with millions of fans, including children. The slicked pompadour, jewel-studded leisure suit and signature sideburns is a marketing juggernaut ingrained into American culture decades ago.
“(It) sells itself,” Pyle added, speaking of the image of Elvis.
Pyle said the life and death of Elvis mirrors mankind’s treatment of Earth. Presley’s drug use and over-consumption of riches, Pyle said, is much like the manmade infestations and collective strip-mining done in the name of industry.
“So many environmental tragedies in the world—the depleting ozone layer, a boozing sea captain and thousands of overflowing landfills, not to mention the extended use of environmentally-harmful products,” Pyle said, “could have been prevented. It doesn’t take much to improve the environment we live in.”
Pyle, as Green E, performs across the country at festivals, schools and special events. Each show lasts approximately 45 minutes.
More information about Green E-The Environmental Elvis is at greenelvis.com.
From the May 19-25, 2010 issue