Burnin’ love 

Trouble with the annual Ypsilanti Elvisfest and the firing of the event’s director have at least one impersonator — er, tribute artist — all shook up.

Sherman Arnold, a popular local impersonator, says he’s boycotting the fest he co-founded because he’s angered by what he claims is poor management, and the firing of 2002 festival director Laura Barnes.

In October 2002, Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. (EPE) told all Elvis festivals across the country that they could no longer use Elvis’ name or likeness. Arnold then took it upon himself to notify Neal Rubin of the Detroit News of the situation, and Rubin wrote an article about the dustup (which included several nasty jabs at the King). Rubin’s article, along with similar pieces published across the country, generated angry letters to Graceland, and just mere weeks later, the EPE reversed its decision.

However, the board of the Ypsi Elvisfest, which is held each July, was none too happy with the publicity, and, according to Barnes, she was fired for “leaking” allegedly confidential information to the media. Barnes admits to forwarding a copy of the EPE letter to Rubin when he contacted her, but says the missive was already floating around the Internet and had been the subject of other stories.

Barnes feels she did nothing wrong, and is disappointed by the decision. “I find it amusing that I was fired from a job I was never even paid for,” she says of the volunteer position.

Arnold says if he hadn’t contacted Rubin, the EPE might not have reversed its decision, and notes the irony that he will not appear at the very festival he co-founded. “If it wasn’t for me, there wouldn’t even be an Elvis festival in Ypsi,” he says.

Obviously, Arnold and Barnes were involved because of their affection for all things Elvis. Which is why festival organizers should heed some advice proffered by the King himself: “Don’t be cruel to a love that’s true.”

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