If you watch the Bills games on television or go to the games yourself, no doubt you have seen End Zone Elvis. He has been around since the glory years.
End Zone Elvis was born before a Buffalo Bills-Miami Dolphins game in 1992. It was early October, and the Bills were heading for their third straight Super Bowl appearance.
John Lang was trying his best to catch the eyes of network television cameramen covering the game as they scanned the stadium in search of Buffalo’s more zealous fanatics. Lang knew he was in for a ferocious face-off, so he jumped into action.
“I bet a friend of mine a box of cigars to see if I could get on TV,” Lang recalled. “I had a guitar around the house and painted it white, put “Squish the Fish” on it. My wife painted sideburns and some chest hair on me and there I was.”
It didn’t hurt that the 30-year-old Lang vaguely resembled Elvis Presley.
Today at 54, Lang still entertains as End Zone Elvis. He arrives at his parking spot at 8 a.m. in game days so he can set up a sound system for about 50 friends from Lockport who go to the games.
A toastmaster, Lang also loves to play rugby. In the ’80s, he moved to Missoula, Mont., to play rugby for the Missoula Maggots. He visits his favorite western town often to referee rugby games, and he’s managed to referee a Maggot game in his Elvis garb. Lang lives in Lockport with his wife, Therese, daughter, Abbey and son, Johnathan.
People Talk: You’ve grown older as Elvis.
John Lang: When I first started doing it, I was a young guy in 1992. Now I’m kind of the old guy, a lot of the guys my age are not going anymore. It’s their kids who I’m tailgating with now. It’s funny. I thought I would kind of stop doing it when it was embarrassing my kids, but now I realize how much fun it is when I embarrass my kids. I’m not about to stop.
I remember one game I was walking in with my daughter, and she did want to walk with me so she was about 10 yards behind. Somebody came up and told her how lucky it was to be hanging around with me. She was all excited when she got on TV.
PT: Your guitars must take a beating.
JL: I try not to beat them up too badly. They get damaged against the walls. Typically I sand them down and repaint them every week. What I put on them usually has to do with the team we play, something topical in the news, politics or whatever.
PT: What is your greatest moment as Elvis?
JL: Doing commercials for Howell Motors, ESPN and CBS was a lot of fun, the comeback game was super awesome and being in the ESPN “30 for 30” special was great, too.
PT: How do you get your guitar in?
JL: I was going through the administrative gates, but last year I went through a different gate and from what I was told, I am exempt because I was in the NFL Hall of Fame. I got grandfathered in to bring my guitar.
PT: Does Elvis wear thermal underwear in the winter?
JL: My suit is made of the finest polyester. It’s freezing cold in the winter. It’s sweaty and horrible in the summer. So yes I wear Vortex underneath. I layer up.
PT: Have you met (Elvis impersonator) Terry Buchwald?
JL: Yes. He’s a great guy. People think he’s me, and I’m him. So he gets asked all the time. I get asked all the time.
PT: Were there any other characters when you started?
JL: Not really. There was a shaven head guy who painted a buffalo on his head. There was another guy who dressed in big hairy clothing who had a big buffalo hat on.
PT: Maybe he was from Missoula.
JL: There are some great characters in Missoula about one generation from the settlers. I have an uncle who lives out there. There’s still a lot of pioneering spirit in that town. I love it. I hope to move out there and retire some day. I always tell my wife that’s my dream job. I want to be mayor of Missoula.