Those who attended A Dinner with Elvis received a belated Valentine’s treat.
The event, held Friday night at American Legion Post 71, was originally scheduled for Valentine’s Day but was postponed because of inclement weather. The event was sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary.
Around 150 audience members clapped and cheered while some couples got up and danced to the music and gyrations of Elvis tribute artist Russell Schneider, who rolled out oldies such as Love Me, Johnny Be Good, Runaway, Don’t, The Wonder of You, Separate Ways and Blue Hawaii.
He even steered away from the norm a little by singing several songs “Elvis style,” such as Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash, He Stopped Loving Her Today by George Jones, and It’s Only Make Believe and Hello Darling by Conway Twitty.
Schneider worked the audience a lot, going back and forth between them and the stage. He handed out the traditional Elvis scarves and kisses on the cheek to the women and greeted male friends with a handshake.
“Don’t expect me to just stand up there on the stage and perform,” he said. “I don’t pretend to be Elvis – I just try to pay tribute to a great artist and have a little fun at the same time. Life’s too short not to have fun.”
Schneider, athletic director and head football coach at Fox Creek High School, said he kind of “fell into” the Elvis thing around 2000.
“It happened by accident really,” he said. “I sang an Elvis song at a faculty event at Greensboro High School and they all thought I was lip-synching. I was saying, ‘No, no I was really singing.’ After that, I said to myself, ‘Hey, maybe I can do something with this.’ I knew a few Elvis tribute artists, like Jeff Barnes and Steve Chappell, so it just kind of worked into this.”
Schneider said he considers it mostly a hobby, but he has performed in a few notable places.
“I performed two years in a row at the Ladies Football Clinic at Clemson University,” he said. “There’s a lot of pictures on YouTube—one of me giving a scarf to Gov. (Nikki) Haley and one with me sitting in Clemson University football coach Dabo Swinney’s lap.”
Linda Smiley with the auxiliary said the profits from the show will be divided between a donation to the post for having it, the auxiliary budget, hospitalized veterans and Palmetto Girls State.
“This is our second such Valentine’s fundraiser,” she said. “Russell came last year and everyone loved him. So, he is back by popular demand this year.”
The fundraiser usually falls in line with Valentine’s week being recognized as a National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans, she said.
Other activities and fundraisers throughout the year for the auxiliary include taking a birthday cake to the VA hospital once a month, the Americanism Contest in March, American Education Week in November, Palmetto Girls State, and a pancake breakfast. Money from the poppies fundraiser during Memorial Day weekend goes to hospitalized and active duty veterans.
Joyce Quinn, a seamstress from Aiken, makes Schneider’s scarves and was present in the audience. Schneider introduced her during the show. Her daughter, Carolyn Nichols, said her family met Schneider through attending Elvis shows.
“He’s a great guy,” she said.
Bille Hunter of Martinez was celebrating her birthday and said the show was a treat.
“He’s very personal and very entertaining. He has a way of bringing the group into the performance,” she said.
When asked about it from a man’s perspective, her husband, Bob, replied, “I already went and bought my ticket for next year, if that tells you anything.”