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For Clearwater's faux Elton John, Saturday night's all right for partying

Rus Anderson bought the tux Elton John wore during his 1984 performance at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Special to the Times

Rus Anderson bought the tux Elton John wore during his 1984 performance at London’s Wembley Stadium.

In this tough economy, what we all need is a distraction — say, a guy wearing Coke-bottle glasses, platform shoes and a feather boa who sings Crocodile Rock.

On Saturday, Rus Anderson will be that guy during Rocket Man: The Elton John Experience.

During his solo show at My Place restaurant in Indian Rocks Beach, the 29-year-old will play piano and sing four decades of E.J.'s hits, from Tiny Dancer and Pinball Wizard to Can You Feel the Love Tonight? and the 1997 remake of Candle in the Wind. He'll also dress the part with several costume changes, including the tuxedo John wore during a 1984 performance at London's Wembley Stadium, which Anderson bought on eBay for a few thousand dollars.

"If I had to do one thing to impersonate Elton John, it would be the gap between the teeth," said Anderson of Clearwater. His wife, part-time makeup artist Somali Rose, will help Anderson get into character.

Anderson and Rose came up with the idea for a public tribute show in the winter. Anderson, a full-time musician, was already performing at several beach venues with an act that included a sprinkling of Elton John covers. He had also been hired to perform all-E.J. sets at private parties and wedding receptions, so he knew there was demand for an Elton John impersonator in Tampa Bay. His only other public Elton John show took place at My Place in May.

"My phone blows up twice a day at least with Elvis impersonators calling me. Sinatra, guys like that," said Eric Larson, the restaurant's general manager. But Anderson's performance was a rare treat for his customers. "People that don't even like Elton John, like myself, frankly, enjoy the show."

According to Anderson, there's a reason why Elton John impressionists are rare.

"The vocals are really hard," Anderson said. "I was lucky that I have same range as he does, and I love his music enough to be fanatical about it."

Anderson's fandom started early, when he was a toddler growing up in Glasgow, Scotland. The young sci-fi lover was drawn to John's space-themed single Rocket Man and quickly became hooked on all the singer's albums.

Although Anderson has never been to a live E.J. concert — he tried once, but it got canceled — only a few degrees of separation come between him and the star. On Oct. 30, Anderson will headline a fundraiser for Orlando Lunch Around the World, a chapter of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, at the Orlando Science Center.

Anderson's dream is to meet the real Elton John in person. For now, though, he's content to share the song man's music with Tampa Bay.

"I just think people deserve more around here. They need shows, and they need some excitement," Anderson said. "It's tough times for America, and when something like this comes along, it gives people an escape for a while. That's what my job is, and I get to have a good time doing it."

If you go

Rocket Man: The Elton John Experience

Showtimes are Saturday at 8 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. at My Place, 213 Gulf Blvd., Indian Rocks Beach. All ages. Tickets are $10 for one show or $15 for both. Order at rocketmanshow.com. For more info, call (727) 637-4191.

For Clearwater's faux Elton John, Saturday night's all right for partying 08/27/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 27, 2009 8:42pm]
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