This Elvis ain’t no hound dog
BY REBECCA SUSMARSKI email@example.com July 27, 2012 11:02AM
Ron Tutor, who has an Elvis act, poses at Jeanne Downey's home in Oak Forest, IL on Friday June 1, 2012. He will participate in a show for the St. Damian's Women's Club later this month. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 28, 2012 6:00AM
Although his family and friends know Ron Tutor as a father, grandfather and hardworking business owner, the rest of the world might know him better as “a Hunk of Burning Love.”
The 70-year-old Elvis Presley impersonator is a local legend who sings at benefits for veterans, and does gigs for country clubs, weddings and restaurants. He also has performed three charity shows for the women’s club of St. Damian Church in Oak Forest.
Despite his time in the spotlight, Tutor remains a down-to-earth person with a humble disposition.
A father of two and grandfather of three, the Oak Forest man enjoys chatting with family and friends when he is not baby-sitting his granddaughter.
“This is the guy everybody loves,” said Jeanne Downey, the women’s club president and a longtime friend of Tutor. “I don’t know anybody that knows him that does not like him.”
Tutor, born in Water Valley, Miss., moved to Illinois with his family when he was 12 but never completely lost his Southern accent nor his love of Elvis’ music.
“If you’re from that area down there, you’re already into the history of Graceland and Elvis and all of that,” Tutor said.
Tutor spent three years in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division before attending the American Beauty School in downtown Chicago. He then took over the family hairstyling business, moving to Oak Forest in 1975 to open a shop. He has owned and operated Salon Studios in Orland Park for 50 years.
Tutor’s career as Elvis began when Salon Studios hosted a Halloween party and Tutor dressed as “the King” for the occasion. A woman at the party asked if he would perform at the Miss Illinois Teen Pageant, an event her daughter was organizing at the Doubletree Hotel in Alsip.
In the 10 years that followed, Tutor gained more bookings, two Elvis costumes and many fans.
“After the first show he did for St. Damian’s three years ago, people were stopping me on the street and asking, ‘Is he going to do another show?’ So he did the second show,” Downey said. “People tell me what songs they would like him to sing.”
Others have recognized Tutor’s talents. He placed second in the Palos Heights Elvis Contest, third in the Riverbowl Competition in Indiana and 10th in the 2012 Portage Elvis Tribute Artist competition.
Tutor’s amiable nature shone through at the Palos Heights Elvis Contest, when Tutor helped another Elvis sing “Teddy Bear” because the other Elvis could not remember the lyrics. That competitor won first place, and Tutor took second.
“All the Elvises that I’ve met are the nicest guys,” Tutor said. “There’s not a thing where they’re jealous of you. ... If you’re an Elvis and they know it, they’ll have you sing with them. It’s amazing.”
Asked whether women had ever thrown bras at him while he performed, Tutor recalled the night he sang for the St. Damian Women’s Club for the first time.
“I said, ‘You know, ladies and gentlemen, I did a show last week and a lot of women were throwing their underwear. ... I want you to control yourselves. That includes you too, sir,’ and I pointed at this guy,” Tutor said. “Well, everybody started laughing because I didn’t know the man was one of the priests at St. Damian’s.”
The good-humored priest and most other audience members probably did not know that a “jack of all trades” existed beneath the Elvis wig and sunglasses.
Tutor not only sews in his spare time — he fastened additional blue and red gems to his Elvis jumpsuit himself — but he also helps friends with home repairs.
“He helps people when sometimes he’s not able to,” Downey said, reflecting on a time Tutor and his son helped her with kitchen improvements. “He is very generous with his time.”
Tutor also writes books, including children’s stories.
“I just read one to my granddaughter the other day and she said, ‘Grandpa, that’s boring,’ ” Tutor said with a laugh.
If is writing is underappreciated, his efforts to keep the memory of Elvis alive certainly are not.
“I know four different Elvis impersonators, and he’s the best one by far,” Downey said. “Once he puts on that Elvis wig, he turns into Elvis.”
But Tutor said his popular impersonations only reveal how much the world remembers a very complex and greatly talented star.
“I don’t think people hold the drug thing against him,” Tutor said. “I think he was a real good person, was very polite ... and they loved his singing.”