A June wedding

IN A CITY WIDELY considered to be the nauseating epicenter of nerd lifestyle and latte-dah society, here came cab driver David Vernon Groh to set things straight. Last Saturday night, his Redtop taxi parked outside, Groh was waiting at the bar in Lowell's in Pike Place Market. He was preparing to perform the marriage of Wendy and Squirrel—the second couple the Universal Life Church minister would wed who were not in jail. They had not yet decided, though, where to the hold the ceremony, which was just minutes away. Groh, a dance instructor and former waiter, nervously studied the clock. The couple was late, but the minister, decked out in Elvis white, was ready. His standard matrimonial garb includes an ivory-jeweled jacket with ear-high collar and slinky matching pants. He sported gold-rimmed shades, a dyed pompadour, and a small garden of leis around his neck. As a man of the cloth, Groh is a package deal: the cab-driving, dance-instructing, Elvis-impersonating, minister King of weddings—in bars or behind them. "The thing about jail weddings," says the lanky, King-sized Groh, 36, whose middle name is Elvis' father's name, "is that people are always on time."

With marital power since January—"You go to the Universal Life Web site, click on minister, and in three minutes you are one," Groh says—two of his four Elvis weddings have been performed for jail inmates, one facing a homicide charge. "As part of my ministry, I'm supposed to counsel the couple beforehand," he says. "In that case, they insisted they wanted to get married even though the guy was looking at 27 years in prison." So Pastor Elvis, the bride, and her entourage took up positions on one side of the visiting-room window, with the groom on the other side, ear to the glass. They said their vows. "You may now smile at the bride," Groh told the inmate. Then the guards took him away. "Well, I don't think they'll fight much," Groh says.

This all started, appropriately, at a Halloween party a couple years back when Groh dressed up like Elvis. He also had to drive his cab that night and noticed that, with the King behind the wheel, passengers tended to tip more. He began to don rented Elvis garments regularly and eventually invested more than $500 for the real thing, purchased from the Elvis dealership in Graceland. He tried to keep his split personality secret from the cab company, since drivers are supposed to be clad in dark pants and light-blue shirts. When a couple passengers called Redtop to thank Elvis for a fun ride, the boss called Groh in and made a deal: If a city inspector complained, he'd have to bear the consequences. (One did later, but merely grinned.) "He's the perfect boss for me," says Groh. "His name is, no kidding, Rick Nelson."

Applause rang out as Wendy Benoit, 30, a Market vegetable-stand vendor, entered the bar on the run. Her friends hugged her for showing up for her own wedding. On her heels was roommate and husband-to-be Stephan (Squirrel) Metcalf, 28, a pipe fitter. They have a child, Keegan Spitfire Metcalf, 2 1/2, whose footprints are tattooed on his mother's tummy. "We've been together for years," says Wendy, "and just decided, heck, let's get married. Our whole crowd, we're spontaneous."

Groh led the wide-eyed couple to a bar table, unfolding a briefcase and removing a sheaf of papers and a marriage license. Wendy and Squirrel—a nickname from childhood—began inking the contracts to live happily ever after. Someone kidded the groom, asking if he noticed he'd just signed a prenuptial agreement. "I hope so," Metcalf said, "Wendy's got all the money." Within a few minutes, they'd decided to wed under the Market clock. The bar quickly emptied downstairs, everyone regrouping at Rachel the Market Pig. Pastor Elvis, in the King's voice, made it short and sweet—Do you? They did. Sitting on Rachel, Wendy and Squirrel capped their answers with a shot of whiskey apiece. Elvis pronounced them husband and wife, and about two dozen friends, relatives, and several passersby cheered wildly. Wendy beamed, a contented bride. "We originally hoped to be wed skydiving over Vegas with seven Elvi," she said. "But I think we'll remember this just as well." Their minister stood nearby. "Need a ride, anyone?" he said.

randerson@seattleweekly.com

 
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