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 Elvis impersonator's shot at Graceland started at a VFW in Largo

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charmainejensenvoisine

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PostSubject: Elvis impersonator's shot at Graceland started at a VFW in Largo   Wed Jul 02, 2008 11:23 am



By Piper Castillo, Times Staff Writer
In print: Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Steve Roberti, father of two, became Elvis on Aug. 26, 2006.

It happened at the VFW hall at Sabala Plaza in Largo. He wore a homemade red jumpsuit, and his first song was All Right Momma.

"I was scared to death, but toward the end of the first half, when four women threw their bras on the stage, I became much looser,'' Roberti, 37, recalled. "I started playing at the post once or twice every month, and it took off from there."

Over the past two years, Roberti has filled his closet with studded jump suits, capes and puffy-sleeved shirts, and has learned to play the guitar.

He's also received recognition for his portrayal of the King. In January, he won the "I'll Remember You,'' Elvis Presley tribute competition in Live Oak. The win catapulted him to the international leg of the contest, Best of the Best Elvis Tribute Artists in Memphis, home to Presley's Graceland mansion, later this summer.

Roberti said he owes it all to the vets in Largo.

"I've been in VFWs around the country, and this one is the most family oriented of them all,'' said Roberti, a former paramedic and Army veteran.

The kudos are mutual.

"We've got lots of events, but one you cannot miss is Elvis," said John Smith, the post's canteen manager. "We are so proud of Steve, and even as he gets more well-known, he always donates his time to veteran events."

On Friday, the post will hold its Independence Day gathering. Roberti will perform after the barbecue.

"On the Fourth, we keep it casual,'' said Smith. "It'll feel like a family gathering. And of course, Steve will be there. He's family."

VFW Post 10094, which moved to Largo six years ago from Indian Rocks Beach, has 427 members. And although VFWs around the country have seen a decline in members due to aging World War II vets, that's not the case in Largo.

"The organization is seeing younger soldiers joining now, after they serve in Iraq or Afghanistan,'' said James Orndoff, the post's commander.

Roberti and his wife, Shelby, are part of this younger group.

"I spent most of my military service in California, but Shelby served in Iraq during Desert Storm,'' said Roberti. "We originally joined the VFW for the camaraderie. Little did we know all this would come from that decision.''

Source: http://www.tampabay.com/features/humaninterest/article654686.ece
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