"We like to think of ourselves as either burlesque-plus or theater-minus," explains Elvis' Birthday Fight Club (we'll go by EBFC from here on) founder-promoter-participant Jared Davis, who is bringing his creation to Highlandtown's Creative Alliance at the Patterson for the second straight year.
"Fight Club basically is almost exactly what it sounds like," he continues, aware that an event of this nature requires a good amount of explanation. "Some people compare it to professional wrestling, but it's slightly different than that. In professional wrestling, they make some pretense that it might actually be real. We make no such pretense."
Instead, Davis says, EBFC celebrates the art of outlandish costumes and outrageous burlesque by pitting natural enemies against each other — an early battle had a chicken vanquishing Colonel Sanders, for example — and staging burlesque skits and the occasional trivia contest between bouts. Surely, this is the sort of thing Elvis would have loved to watch, if only he could have torn himself away from the peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches.
The term "Fight Club," of course, became famous as the name of a 1999 movie from director David Fincher, in which Brad Pitt and Edward Norton take turns beating each other senseless (they really don't, but you'll have to watch the movie to understand why). And as in the movie, the EBFC follows rules.
"There are three rules for Fight Club," Davis explains. "Everybody knows the first two: you don't talk about Fight Club, and you don't talk about Fight Club. The third is, 'If this is your first time at Elvis Birthday Fight Club, then you must drink.' In the movie, you must fight, but we don't want to invite that type of audience participation."
Davis, who works as a scenic designer and painter for Arlington County, Va., when he's not doing the Elvis thing, says the idea for EBFC came not in a fevered dream or during a drunken stupor, but from a Halloween party he and his wife throw every year. Many of the costumes, he notes, were extraordinary, and a good time was always being had.
"We were tearing the set down for the Halloween party when we thought, 'We ought to do a show like this.' So we had this date to do a show on Jan. 8, and we said, 'Huh. What's on Jan. 8?' We realized it was Elvis' birthday, so we said, 'What we should do is make an Elvis birthday cockfight.' Then we thought, 'We gotta make it bigger than that.'"
And so they did. But why combine it with a burlesque show?
Davis says it seemed like a good idea at the time.
"My entry to burlesque was always trying to get burlesque performers to perform in front of scenery," he says. EBFC has afforded him the opportunity to realize his dream.
As befits the secretive nature of Fight Club, Davis is loath to reveal many details — including the combatants. The show includes about 10 performers, ranging in age from about 26 to 50. Previous combatants Godzilla and Bridezilla will not be present, as they recently wed and now have a child.
Elvis, though long dead, will definitely show up — but only to offer running commentary, not to fight. His co-host will be Washington's own Kittie Glitter. And unlike in professional wrestling, it's doubtful any chairs will be thrown during the show.
"We've had an insurance issue with that," Davis says. "It depends on how soft the chairs are at the venue."
If you go
The Elvis' Birthday Fight Club will be unleashed on the Creative Alliance at the Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave., at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $15-$20. Information: 410-276-1651 or creativealliance.org.