By SUSAN MELLISH
WESTERVILLE, Ohio — Mike Albert has always been a cut-up; a person who loves center stage; an entertainer.
This former Carroll County native attended auctions with his parents and was entranced by the auctioneer running the show. Is it any wonder he gravitated toward this profession?
“As an auctioneer, I have a captive audience who hangs on my every word. I can crack a few jokes, make people laugh, sell some items and make money at the same time. What a great job,” Albert explained.
His career behind the podium began in the 70s, but it was 1989 when his life got, well, “all shook up.”
“As an auctioneer who sells property, I’m required to have a Realtor’s license,” Albert explained. “Our Realtors’ association in Columbus had a Halloween party in 1989, and I decided to go as Elvis Presley.”
Mike’s wife, Wendy, donned a poodle skirt, saddle shoes and went as “The King’s” number one fan.
“I won the best character costume award, and when I went on stage to accept my prize, the man emceeing the event said, ‘If you are really Elvis, let’s hear you sing.'”
Little did that emcee know Albert actually could sing — loved to — and had been singing in his church and school choirs since he was a kid.
“I had brought a tape of Elvis songs, where it plays the music but no words are sung, just in case someone wanted me to sing. So I asked the DJ at the party to put in my tape, and I sang Teddy Bear and Don’t Be Cruel.”
Albert was a hit, and he had a great time performing, but after that evening, he thought his Elvis days were over.
Christmas rolled around and a Realtor friend gave Albert a call. Seems this friend was in charge of booking the entertainment at his Realtors associations’ Christmas party.
“So, my buddy said to me, ‘Can I hire you to do your Elvis thing at the Christmas party?’ To which I replied, ‘What Elvis thing?'”
Turns out Albert’s Halloween performance was the talk of the town.
“When my friend told me he had $300 budgeted to pay for the party’s entertainment, I said, ‘I’ll do it!’ From that show, I booked two more shows, and from that show, I booked a few more,” Albert explained.
“Next thing you know, I have a second career performing Elvis tribute shows.”
And what a career. Albert is still a very active auctioneer, but his Elvis show takes up just as much time.
A typical week in late August found Albert doing a real estate auction in Ohio on Tuesday, another on Thursday, boarding a plane heading to Wisconsin on Friday, doing two Elvis tribute shows at a Wisconsin county fair on Saturday, and then getting back on a plane Saturday night so he would be home in time to conduct an estate sale in Columbus Sunday afternoon.
“Fortunately, I have a very strong voice which can take days of selling and hours of singing without causing me too many problems,” Albert stated.
He also has a great deal of energy to keep up such a pace. To understand just how far Mike Albert’s Elvis show has come consider this — he acts as his own booking agent in Ohio, but also has agents in Florida and California.
The demand for his Elvis tribute show required he put together a seven-piece Big “E” Band to emulate the sound Elvis’ band had in Vegas and on tours.
Albert sang with a full orchestra and choreographed dancers for the Miss Tennessee beauty pageant — twice.
He has toured Australia, New Zealand and Europe with the Jordinaire’s, Elvis’ actual back-up vocal group from 1956 to 1970.
Albert put on concerts in Germany with J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet as his back-up (they also sang with Elvis from 1971 until 1977) and he has played Vegas with the Imperial Quartet (Elvis’ back-up vocal group from 1966 until 1971).
And, oh yes, Albert has been on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
With about 60 Elvis gigs already booked for 2010 (some in Ohio; others in Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to name a few) anyone wanting to hire Albert needs to call at least six months in advance of the desired date. His calendar for 2011 is already pretty full.
“I get very busy in August because it is the month when Elvis died,” Albert explained. “I also book quite a few shows in January and February around Elvis’ birthday.”
The length of Albert’s Elvis tribute performance varies.
“Sometimes I do two 45 minute shows or just one hour long set, and I do multiple costume changes during each show.”
Albert has 10 authentic costumes custom-made for him that duplicate those actually worn by Elvis.
“I do the ‘Jump Suit 70s Elvis’,” Albert explained, though he has done a 50s Elvis and a GI blues Elvis before.
Yes, Albert dons a wig in order to complete his Elvis transformation, and no, he has never done an auction wearing the wig.
“I keep these two occupations separate, though I do have auction customers who, out of curiosity, come to see me perform as Elvis. And I have people who originally met me at my Elvis act; when they find out I auctioneer, make a point of coming to one of my sales.”
Albert loves being both an auctioneer and doing his Elvis show because of the impact both jobs can have.
“Elvis has some really neat songs, like How Great Thou Art, where people get caught up emotionally. When you look out at your audience and you see people crying, it makes an impression.”
Albert explained, “There was a woman who had seen Elvis perform live 47 times. She had zero desire to see an Elvis act like mine. Well, her friends convinced her to come to one of my shows.”
Albert continued, “She came up to me after the show with tears in her eyes to tell me I was the closest thing to the real deal she’d ever seen. She said watching me perform brought back some wonderful memories, and she wanted to thank me for that.”
Albert cherishes these moments. “When you realize people paid, maybe $30 to see your show, you have a responsibility to perform and give them their money’s worth.”
He feels the same way about his auctioneering career.
“Once you are an auctioneer, it is hard to get out of the business because it is such a great job. I love getting a sale, love seeing the crowd; love anticipating the start of the sale. It’s the same rush I get from waiting for the curtain to go up at one of my Elvis shows. And when something sells for a really strong price and the seller is excited — it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Like performing as Elvis, Albert feels auctioneering comes with an important responsibility.
“I want the seller to get as much as possible for what they have entrusted me to sell. I want the buyers to have a good time and go home happy. I value people and the time they are giving me so I can get the job done.”
For those interested in getting a sneak peek at Albert’s The Ultimate Tribute Show, log onto www.youtube.com and search “Mike Albert Elvis.” Several videos are now online.
For those interested in seeing Mike Albert’s Elvis tribute show live, you’re in luck, as he will be playing several Ohio venues in the upcoming months — see below for details.
Visit Albert’s official Web site, www.mikealbertsings.com, for updated information on these performances.
For those interested in seeing Albert in action auctioneering, visit his Web site at www.mikealbertauctioneer.com.
The Ultimate Tribute Show
– Sept. 26, Hebron, Ohio, Hebron Music and Arts Festival, Evans Park, 8 p.m.
– Oct. 23, Columbus, Ohio, Aladdin Shrine, 3850 Stelzer Road. Benefit for Charity Newsies of Columbus. More information soon.
– Oct. 24, Van Wert, Ohio, Niswonger Performing Arts Center, 10700 state Route 118 South, 7:30 p.m. Ticket information soon.
– Nov. 6, Newark, Ohio, Elk’s Lodge, 73 N. Third St. Elvis Dinner Dance to benefit the Davis-Shai House expansion project. Buffet dinner at 6 p.m., concert at 7:30 p.m. (Albert only — no band). For tickets call 740-788-9670 or visit Davis Shai House, 301 Central Parkway, Heath, Ohio.
– Nov. 20, Canton, Ohio, Canton Palace, 605 Market Ave., 7:30 p.m. For tickets call 330-454-8172. Visit www.cantonpalacetheatre.org.