Victor Trevino Jr. has a job for which image and appearance are of paramount importance, but, as he is quick to make clear, in his off-hours, he’s just Victor Trevino. That might seem like an odd thing for a person to point out, but Trevino works in an industry that might engender precipitous slides into delusional behavior, and he wants to reiterate that though he has a tremendous amount of respect and fondness for the main tenets and parameters of his job, when the workday is done, he takes the uniform off. And Trevino’s uniform, like a cop’s or firefighter’s, is as iconic as it is expensive, and it conveys the expectation of authority in a similar fashion. But as a far as I know, no cop has ever had Swarovski crystals sewn into the lapels of his work shirt.
Trevino has a suit with cuffs and lapels sewn with Swarovski crystals because he makes his living performing a tribute to Elvis Presley, and Elvis had lapels and cuffs sewn with Swarovski crystals, part of a custom-made, gold lamé Nudie Cohn suit. Trevino’s own custom-made version doesn’t have the real gold leaf (nor the $20,000 price tag), but it’s a pretty convincing replica nevertheless, which sort of describes Trevino’s career doing Elvis’ show. Trevino has been performing as Elvis for over a decade now. His version has earned the approval of Elvis Presley Enterprises and Graceland and taken him all over the world. He went from local and national contests to playing the main rooms at the Flamingo and Harrah’s in Las Vegas, and in November and December, he’ll return to the strip for a main room run at the vaunted Tropicana. It’s an enviable resumé, and it’s a career Trevino never intended to have.
It started when Trevino was 19, waiting tables at a Saltgrass Steakhouse in Fossil Creek and working on a photography degree at University of North Texas, when a customer told him he would make a good Elvis impersonator. A 2003 graduate of Boswell High School, Trevino had acting experience in his high school’s drama department, and he played the titular character in a Scott Theater production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat during his senior year.
“I loved performing,” he said, “whether it was acting or singing. I just knew I wanted some career in some sort of art field.”
One night at work, he waited on a woman named Cathy Rogers. Roger’s father, as she told Trevino, had booked the animal performers for The Ed Sullivan Show because he ran a circus, which she inherited after his passing.
“But she also had a lookalike department,” Trevino said. “She had, like, a Robin Williams, an Elizabeth Taylor, and she could also get dancing bears for you if you wanted.”
She asked what else he did besides serving rib-eyes, and, being fresh off his Dreamcoat role, he said acting.
“I heeded her advice,” Trevino said. “I thought about it because she said you can make a career [doing Elvis songs], and it can help you travel and see the world. I was living at home. I was in college and hated it.”
Using singing and dancing as a vehicle for world travel held a lot of appeal for him.
Trevino liked rockabilly a lot, and he always had an appreciation for Elvis as a famous-person icon, but it wasn’t music he actively listened to.
“I always thought he was cool when I was a little kid,” Trevino said. “He had cool hair, he sang songs everybody liked, he wore a cape, but I liked all those ’90s R&B hits and bangers.”
But he dived deep into the King’s catalog and caught on quick.
“At first, I was only into the Sun Records and early RCA stuff,” Trevino said, “but the more I studied him, the more I realized how he not only changed music but that he changed the world.”
Trevino has a near encyclopedic grasp of Elvis’ history, and that knowledge finds its way into his performances. While a lot of Elvis impersonators fill the gaps between songs with the stereotypical “Thankyou, thankyaverymuch,” Trevino says his stage banter is decidedly more educational: “In between songs, I don’t act like Elvis. I talk about Elvis. I talk about the history of his music.”
No matter what Trevino talks about while he’s on stage, though, he has to at least look like a historically accurate King of Rock ’n’ Roll.
“You gotta get the good stuff,” he said. “We’re talking professional-made jumpsuits, jackets, footwear, jewelry. … A well-made, custom gabardine jumpsuit will cost someone anywhere between $1,350 and $5,000, depending on the model and how complicated the design and stone places will be.”
Of course, spending a decade in any one field gives you a lot of perspective, and Trevino knows he will not have to spend that costume budget forever — he has a current side gig in a honkytonk cover band called The Texas Trouble — but he sees an exit in four or five years.
“I would love to get into [show] production … or maybe I’ll get into country music more,” he said. “I don’t care to be famous, but just to maybe inspire people or have a positive effect on [them] is worth it to me.”
But until Victor Trevino’s Elvis tribute leaves the proverbial building for good, however, he’ll be ready to show off that crystal-studded jacket. After all, it’s part of the job.
One Night with the King, Starring Victor Trevino Jr.
7:30pm Sat at Downtown Cowtown at the Isis Theater, 2401 N Main St, FW. $32. 817-808-6390.