His Bizarre 1970s Plan Involved Elvis, Plastic Surgery

'Rolling Stone' has the story of 'rogue '70s promoter' Danny O'Day
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2022 5:05 PM CST
One Man Tried to Recreate Rock Stars With Plastic Surgery
Elvis Presley performs in Providence, R.I., on May 23, 1977.   (AP Photo, File)

(Newser) – If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Danny O'Day is ... well, he was in a category all his own. In a lengthy piece for Rolling Stone, David Browne digs into the "rogue '70s promoter," who decided to try to make a living by putting cover artists on stage—with faces surgically altered to look something like the late singer they were mimicking. O'Day's first foray into the world of tribute acts came in 1977, when he met Dennis Wise, who sounded close enough to Elvis that O'Day convinced him to go under the knife and have his nose, cheeks, and lips made to look more like the King's. O'Day made sure there was fanfare around it—Wise recalls exiting the plastic surgeon's clinic in a wheelchair to find "100 people from the press all over the world taking pictures."

O'Day landed him a week-long gig in Florida for an eye-popping $15,000 (roughly $60,000 today), but the professional relationship soured after Wise said he never got paid and sued. So O'Day moved on: to "Rock and Roll Heaven," a tour he dreamed up that would feature not just an Elvis, but Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jim Croce, too. The four singers he found also got surgery (it was said to have cost O'Day $500,000, though Browne also notes the surgeries were less invasive than what Wise experienced) and press, but the audience didn't materialize and a planned Vegas run allegedly fell apart over O'Day's unwillingness to let "the Vegas casino establishment" take the reins of the show. These days, O'Day (who died in 2003) is "the smallest of footnotes in pop history books," but he was also remarkably prescient, writes Browne: "Long before Las Vegas residencies, biopics, and massive publishing buyout deals, O’Day imagined a world in which classic-rock nostalgia would be a lucrative business." (Read the full story, which has plenty of photos.)

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