BOONE LIFE: Elvis impersonator enjoys performing, living in Columbia

Monday, June 8, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 4:08 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Elvis impersonator and Columbia resident Mario Manzini performs at the Eagles club in California, Mo., on April 24. Manzini, a Bronx, N.Y., native has lived and worked in Columbia for more than 25 years. In addition to his Elvis shows, Manzini does magic shows for kids and has traveled the globe as an escape artist.

Columbia resident Mario Manzini is definitely not a garden-variety Elvis impersonator. With a low voice and an unmistakable Bronx accent, Manzini has a life story from which movies are made.  

Manzini, 45, was born and raised in New York City. Around the age of 5, he saw a TV special on Harry Houdini and knew he wanted to be an escape artist. Later on, watching Elvis made the same impression. Needless to say, his parents were not thrilled — “they wanted me to have a regular job" — so Manzini ran away and joined the circus as an escape artist.


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Along the way, he owned several businesses in Manhattan, including six pinball arcades in the Times Square area. He performed all over the world, met luminaries such as Frank Sinatra and daredevil Evel Knievel and gained notoriety by escaping from a straitjacket in 8.5 seconds. After a stint in Connecticut, Manzini moved to Columbia because he loved the feel of the town and its central location for his shows, many of which are performed throughout Missouri and in neighboring states.

Manzini says it was Elvis’ voice “like an angel” that impressed him most, and his 2 1/2 hour “Tribute to Elvis” show includes more than 60 of the King’s songs. Manzini is also an ordained minister and can perform Elvis wedding ceremonies upon demand. Naturally, he’s visited Graceland — about six times.

Manzini’s company, Mario Manzini Entertainment, often performs with local charities and fundraisers as a way to give back to causes he supports. Although Manzini says Columbia is bigger and more built up than when he arrived 25 years ago, he appreciates the people and the small-town feel.

“This is where I want to live. I love it here.” 

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Victoria Halterman June 8, 2009 | 10:56 p.m.

I've seen Mario Manzini in action on several occassions. He is truly a man of many talents and very gifted. He taught me to never be afraid on the stage, always smile and talk to the people and you will win them over. Good advice.

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Jim Kinney June 9, 2009 | 9:06 a.m.

I am a performer from Waterloo Ia. I met Mario almost three years ago. When we worked together at the National Dairy Cattle Congress in Waterloo. Mario always the professional on stage. had the crowd going every time he hit the stage.But back stage you couldn't find a nicer more caring person always wanting every one to do well at what ever you were doing. It was kind of hard to go on stage and do your show when Mario was watching, because when ever you looked at him you would start laughing. at something he had done back stage earlier. I always had fun when I worked with him. He would get done with his escape act then run back and come back as ELVIS even though he didn't have to, that when you know he loves what he doe's. We keep in contact threw E mail and phone. Fair board members if your reading this get him on your list you will not be disappointed. He should have his own show. I'm proud to call him my friend.

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