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Judy Thorburn

06/05/05 Celebrity Lookalikes

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Judy Thorburn

Dead Ringers Bring Life to the 5th Annual Celebrity Impersonator Convention

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DEAD RINGERS BRING LIFE TO THE 5TH ANNUAL CELEBRITY IMPERSONATOR CONVENTION
By Judy Thorburn
Photos By Stephen Thorburn

If you happen to be in Las Vegas during May 29 through May 31 and thought you saw an extraordinary amount of famous faces pass you by as you were walking through a casino, most likely you were right.  My guess is you weren’t the only one who did a “double” take.  And yes, those words couldn’t be more fitting since odds are you didn’t see the real thing.  I’d bet those famous faces belonged to some of the celebrity doubles, or rather impersonators who were in town for Elyse Del Francia-Goodwin’s 5th Annual Celebrity Impersonator Convention, which like last year, was held at the Imperial Palace.

Hundreds of look-alikes from all over the United States and even some from as far away as the U.K. came to mingle with each other, go to lectures, and show off their “stuff” to managers, agents, talent buyers and the media, hoping that these potential contacts would further a career built around looking and acting like a famous personality.

One of the main events was the Afternoon Showcase of Talent (and brunch) that took place on Tuesday, May 31 inside the Legend’s Showroom at the Imperial Place.  Over fifty performers with recognizable faces of well known personalities from stage, screen, TV and even politics were given their moment on stage to make an impression and be considered for future bookings.

Lyndall Grant as Arnold Schwartzenegger gave an introductory speech not only looking, but sounding, just like the former Mr. Universe body builder, turned action film superstar, now California governor.  Peter Grant and Richard Halpern, two Austin Powers  portrayers shared the hosting duties and supplied the vocal, off stage intros of impersonating acts such as Conan O’Brien, Neil Diamond, Whitney Houston, Howard Stern, David Letterman, Ozzy and Kelly Osbourne, Judy Garland, Bon Jovi, Britney Spears, Tom Jones, Dean Martin, Shania Twain, Jay Leno, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, and Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers just to name a few. In fact there was not only one, but also numerous President Bushes – I believe four, who looked so much like George dubya it was if  uou were seeing a  set of quadruplets. Other famous faces with more than one clone represented were the likes of Willie Nelson, Rodney Dangerfield, Tina Turner, and Elvis (who even had a female, not exactly a clone, version).

From my point of view, the highlight was Tuesday’s closing evening’s barbeque and karaoke event at “Legends in Concert” creator John Stuart’s beautiful sprawling ranch estate, where I got to mingle with some of the celebrity imposters when they weren’t munching on some burgers, chatting with fellow attendees, or having some fun showing off on the stage.  The outdoor party, which happened to take place on a beautiful, balmy Las Vegas night that wasn’t too hot, thank goodness, also allowed me the chance to get some great photo opportunities with some of the attendees who showed up at the ranch.  Below is just a sample of the Celebrity Impersonators in attendance, with a few words about the look-alikes with whom I shared some conversation.



Avis Ellis as Tina Turner
Avis wasn't the only Tina impersonator. But as a copycat who performed at the afternoon showcase singing "Simply The Best" she had Ms. Turner's moves down pat.


Bob Gill as Waylan Jennings
Bob, from Toronto, Canada, told me that after seeing Waylan Jennings in a movie called "Nashville Rebel" 25 years ago, he has been a fan. He loves his music and started to perform as him in a music tribute show 3 years ago.


Brent Mendenhall as George W. Bush
Kansas City based Mendenhall is recognized for his uncanny resemblance to the President and has appeared as the Commander And Chief's double in TV, films, corporate meetings and political gatherings.


David Pires as Woody Allen
David has been impersonating the comedic actor/playwright since the early 90's. He is also an actor who played the young Woody Allen in the movie "Mr. Saturday Night".


Deborah Smith Ford as Trinity
Deborah is an actress whose resume includes 20+ movies and various TV commercials. Her resemblance to the character "Trinity" played by Carrie Anne Moss in the Matrix Trilogy movies, made it a natural for Deborah to act as her double, for which she won an international award.


Diana Rice as Cyndi Lauper
Everything about Diana brings to mind this 80's pop icon. She looks, sings, and even speaks like Cyndi for whom she has been portraying since 1985.


Jim Spence as W.C Fields
Jim has been a W.C.Fields impersonator for 20 years and is also a professional magician. For 12 years he worked at the Hollywood Casino impersonating Fields. In the past, he had also joined forces with a Mae West lookalike for a stand-up comedy act.


Joseph Manuella as Robert De Niro
That face says it all. Is there any doubt as to why this actor and dead ringer for De Niro has been his stand in for films such as "The Fan" and "Great Expectations"?


Julie Sheppard as Judy Garland
Julie has won numerous awards for her off Broadway one woman show called "Julie, Julie, Julie" (ala Judy, Judy, Judy) portraying Judy Garland. She took the show to L.A. where it was renamed "A Night in the Life". Looks, voice and the essence of the late Diva is what Julie evokes in her act.


Lyndall Grant as Arnold Schwartzenegger
He's baaack! Lyndall that is, as the Terminator and present Calleefornia governor. At last year's convention, he made news by marrying a Shania Twain impersonator in a special ceremony. He has returned this year to show he still has what it takes when the real thing isn't available.


Marion Deaton as Willie Nelson
He is just starting out  as a Willie Nelson lookalike. This is his first convention where he is hoping to attract attention with talent agents for bookings.  Here's wishing him success.


Michael J. Coldiron as Dean Martin
Of all of Martin's lookalikes I have seen, I think this guy looks the most like Dino in his heyday. I am sure he would drink to that!


Peter Grant as Austin Powers
Yeah Baby! Peter was one of two Austin Powers co-hosts at the afternoon talent showcase. He also hosted the karaoke at John Stuart's Legend's Ranch.


Robert Ensler as Bobby Darin
Robert is also a Dean Martin impersonator. I told him that he bears a stronger resemblance to Bobby Darin, another late singer that he portrays, and he decided to listen my advice and take on Darin's persona.


Roy Hammock as Willie Nelson
Roy is a Las Vegas local who has been trying to make a lasting impression as the country singer.


Sandy Anderson as Dolly Parton and Marty Edwards as Kenny Rogers
It's amazing how much these two look and sound like the originals. Both have performed in celebrity tribute shows alone, and 4 years ago they joined up, did a gig, and since, have performed as a duo on a regular basis.


Stewart Brodian as Howard Stern
When you look like the "King of all Media", you might as well take advantage of the opportunity to make a career out of it. New Jersey born Stewart has been making the rounds as Howard for about 12 years.


Tom Sage as Neil Diamond
 Blue eyed Pennsylvania resident, Tom Sage has been performing as Neil Diamond since 1968. He told me the only downside he has in portraying Neil is that it's a pain having to wear brown contact lenses in order to look more like the singer. In May he took his tribute show called "The Neil Diamond Story" featuring Tom Sage to Germany and plans on bringing it back in September.

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