When documentary film maker John Paget (Almost Elvis, Alcatraz Reunion) packed his gear for a trip to LaCrosse, Wisconsin to film the regional qualifier for the title of King of the Elvis Impersonators, he couldn’t have imagined how events would conspire to hijack the project.
To be fair, nobody could have predicted that time would literally slide into eternity within the viewfinder as contestant Larry Haas delivered the performance of a lifetime- to the audience and cameras- only to expire on stage literally moments after setting his microphone down for the last time.
The riveting (and very different) film that grew out of his tragic on-stage death does more than shine a light on the passion of these performers and their audiences: it informs a deeper understanding of what makes them real and good.
Fair warning to those who enjoy dismissing Elvis impersonation in general: Larry Has Left The Building will wipe the condescending smirk right off the face of even the most jaded impersonation critic. However, by the time Larry Haas hits the stage for the very last time, the audience is likely to have a somewhat different perspective on things in general. (Can any film hope to do more?)
Indeed, Larry Haas has left the building.
Hall of Fame Induction Speech
Among the most difficult things to do- in any walk of life- is to follow in the footsteps
of a legendary father. Few thrive in dad’s shadow. Fewer still excel. And almost no
one goes forward to eclipse dads’ legacy.
But Ron Jones did.
Oh, he may not agree, out of love and respect for his parents, but there is little doubt
that Ron Jones eclipsed the legend of his famous father and, in doing so, changed
the sport of limited and unlimited hydroplane racing forever.
Ron Jones didn’t make it easy for himself. He brought innovations to the sport that
were so ahead of their time that wide spread skepticism would be his constant
partner through his early years. In fact, as many fans know, innovations like the Ron
Jones cabover picklefork design had to be proven superior in the limited ranks long
before we ever saw them dominate in the unlimited class.
Pushing the design envelope took bold thinking. And, as any true fan of the sport
knows, acceptance of innovation does not come easy in this highly innovative sport.
It is just one of the many ironies that endears us all to boat racing.
Throughout his career, Ron Jones painted with a big brush. Among his many firsts,
the cabover picklefork is the most obvious and enduring. Featuring advanced
aerodynamic profiles, wide afterplanes and superior weight distribution, these
designs improved cornering immensely. At the same time, the design locked the hull
into the aerodynamic flow, resulting in greater speeds and improved driver safety.
Ron also pioneered the extensive use of honeycomb aluminum construction in the
1970 PAY N PAK, the horizontal stabilizer wing, composite technologies in hull
construction, asymmetrical hull layouts, and the advanced sponson designs used- in
one form or another- by every contender in the sport since 1987.
When history lists the many achievements of Ron Jones, they should all be
underscored by noting his relentless, life long commitment to making unlimited
hydroplanes safer- not just faster.. In this regard, Ron Jones is a true visionary,
pioneering, for example, the impact resistant enclosed cockpit which is now
mandated by the APBA. This concept alone has been credited for saving many drivers
Although he has retired from the sport, today you can still find Ron running the
bandsaw and consulting on the design of the replica 1955 Miss Thriftway, currently
being constructed on Vashon Island. As always, his ideas will make his fathers
famous design corner better, ride smoother, and be safer.
Dad would be proud of his work.