POSTED ON MAY 30, 2012:
Graceland Meets Great Wall ... In Broken Arrow?
Local "Elvis" inspired by God, not the gaudy
Over the years Tulsa has gradually begun to embrace a quirky sense of pride, with its obscure landmarks emblazoning t-shirts and a growing list of new destinations infused with whimsy. But don't rest on your laurels just yet, Tulsanites. There is something delightfully "weird" just east of the metro in Broken Arrow.
Delicious Asian cuisine in an all-you-can-eat setting is combined with the classic, lovable kitsch of Elvis Presley. Experiencing "Eggrolls and Elvis" at the Golden Buffet, 1600 W. Kenosha St., Thursday nights at 7pm, is something you need to mark off your universal to-do list of randomly delightful activities. No one can deny the hedonistic beauty of a scrumptious Chinese buffet. And no one can deny the infectious croon and hypnotizing gyrations of The King.
One product of the cultural obsession with Elvis is the Elvis impersonator, ubiquitous in places like Vegas, but not something you see every day in Tulsa. Still isn't. But a Broken Arrow Chinese buffet is changing that with a free performance for lucky guests on Thursday nights. There is one caveat: the man who takes the stage is NOT an impersonator. He never claims to be Elvis. He asserts that he is in fact the long-lost twin brother that allegedly died at birth.
"That's the thing about legends," says James Lang, local Elvis impersonator extraordinaire, "it ain't necessarily true -- but it oughta be."
James Lang is the man behind the rhinestone jumpsuit that illuminates the small, makeshift stage in the Golden Buffet restaurant. He is a storyteller and entertainer who elaborates jovially about his "mission from God" and the path that led him to that stage.
"I traveled the country for 14 years spreading the gospel," said Lang, "but this was before I knew my true identity."
Full of tongue-in-cheek twists and turns, Lang described a childhood beginning as an orphan dropped on the front porch in Tupelo, then ended up in the care of a fine Amish family in Oklahoma. He lived his life unaware of the pop culture phenom of "Elvis the Pelvis" in the sheltered community. It was not until his mother's last words informed him of his true identity: he was the long-lost twin brother to Elvis Presley.
If you look closely, you can almost see it -- something in the eyes, maybe the jaw line.
"But my voice is about an octave lower," said Lang.
In front of you is a prototype of an unsullied Elvis. "With clean living -- none of the drugs or alcohol -- this is the result," said Lang, "although I have had a few of those famous peanut butter and banana sandwiches in my day."
But how one ends up performing live in a somewhat obscure Chinese buffet in Broken Arrow, OK has got to be an interesting anecdote. This Presley impresario's wondrous tales do not disappoint. He has a cavalcade of obscure yet terribly impressive experiences that many would designate as bucket-list worthy.
"I wrestled Hulk Hogan back in '82," said Lang, "Back then I was known as The Gentleman James Fontaine."
He explained that the match was goofed up by the ref. Footage later uncovered showed that "Hulk never pinned" The Gentleman down, and Lang even said with a chuckle, "Hulk had hair back then."
Dabbling in Elvis acts, the occasional old-style wrestling gig and a long stint in the restaurant biz, the true crimson thread throughout Lang's story is outreach -- helping those in need with the uplifting words of the gospel and lending a helping hand. He is an ordained minister to this day, which means that couples can call on him to shake up their nuptials, for example. But he can also belt out some good ol' Southern hymns, an area he has in common with Elvis.
"I don't go for that fashionable, money-serving religion," said Lang, "It's about doing good where you are. You won't see me with all that gaudy jewelry. The only gold I wear is around my finger and it is more important to me than anything."
Lang and his wife, a musician who sometimes helps out with some vocals, frequented the Golden Buffet for years. During this time, he learned more about the owner's unique story -- about her success as a restaurateur and her quest to bring her children back to America. Lang saw a chance.
"I thought not only would it do her good to help bring in business, it would do me good to get to perform," said Lang, "and there's nothing like it. I make the audience part of my show and I do not lip sync. I sometimes change up the words a little just so people know."
He has performed everywhere from "a beauty salon to a high-rise," Lang said, and has even done a few pro bono performances at local nursing homes. He is available for weddings, birthdays and any time you need to slip some blue suede shoes onto your special occasion.
If you are one of those people who collect odd experiences like some folks collect stamps, then Elvis and Eggrolls may just become a new Thursday night tradition. Not only does one get to enjoy a show by the premier Elvis-styled performer in Tulsa, but you get the buffet too -- which is filled with some of the best Chinese buffet fare in the area. Golden Buffet has the goods, from tasty fried rice and lo mein, sweet and sour this-and-that and stir-fried mixtures of fresh favorites. It is worth the drive, if for anything, for the novelty and the sublime absurdity of it all. So save room for the soft-serve ice cream, sit back with a few friends and behold a Broken Arrow legend-in-the-making.
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