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Don Wrege of Boulder, Colo., an Ozzy Osbourne look-alike, grips a beer in one hand and a stuffed dove in the other Sunday at the Imperial Palace. Wrege is joined by Tom Sadge of Pittston, Pa., as Neil Diamond, Sharon Owens of Los Angeles as Barbra Streisand, and Kileen Kapri of Las Vegas as Britney Spears at the Second Annual Celebrity Impersonators Convention, which runs through today.
Photo by K.M. Cannon.

Celebrity look-alikes Gray Sabatini as Jacqueline Onassis and Melody Knighton as Lucille Ball pose with Steve Ostrow as Michael Richards, Kramer from TV's "Seinfeld" show. Many of the 60 to 70 look-alikes at the three-day convention earn a living impersonating celebrities.
Photo by K.M. Cannon.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002
Copyright Las Vegas Review-Journal

CELEBRITY IMPERSONATORS: Impostors cause double takes

Convention brings some familiar faces together in Vegas


When the guy who looked like President Bush walked into the room and squinted, the guy who looked like Rodney Dangerfield sought him out so he could tell him a dirty joke. It was funny, and they both laughed.

Bush and Dangerfield, played respectively by Brent Mendenhall and William Peterson, ran across each other Sunday night at the Imperial Palace. The two are in town as part of the Second Annual Celebrity Impersonators Convention, a three-day event that ends today.

Snoop Dog, the rapper, and pop star Britney Spears ate together in a crowded meeting room on the hotel's fifth floor.

Willie Nelson snacked on chicken wings, Sophia Loren and Dolly Parton hugged like old friends, and two Michael Jacksons posed for pictures while the packed room became warmer as the evening progressed.

"You know how it is with Michael Jackson," one of them said, wiping sweat from his heavily made-up face. "I'm afraid my nose is going to fall off."

Many of the 60 to 70 look-alikes in attendance earn a living impersonating celebrities at corporate parties or other events. Some said they got into the business almost by accident.

"This guy came up to me and said, `I can make you a lot of money,'" said John Allen, a Sean Connery impersonator who has been in the business about four years. "I say, `What do I have to do.' He says, `Show up at Donald Trump's and throw a guy in the pool.' From then on, it's been great."

Allen said he worked as a sculptor for more than 20 years in Florida, when his obvious resemblance to the original James Bond landed him in the spotlight.

Allen said he has doubled for Connery in commercials and earns a good living.

Don Wrege does not earn a good living looking like Ozzy Osbourne, despite the heavy metal icon's recent popularity because of his hit show on MTV.

"It sounded like a giggle to me," said Wrege, who works for a Boulder, Colo., Internet company. "I'm just hoping I can find a Sandra Bullock look-alike or something. That's about as close as I'm ever going to get to the real thing."

For years, Wrege said, he had been told his long, straight hair made him look a lot like Osbourne. But it wasn't until about 2 1/2 weeks ago that he decided to see what would happen if he intentionally set out to impersonate the rock star.

He paid his optometrist $15 to tint his glasses blue, had his hair cut a little shorter, and bought a black trench coat and a couple of gold crosses to hang from his neck.

Then, as a gag, he put pictures of himself on the Internet at

That's when Elyse Del Francia called.

Del Francia is a Palm Springs, Calif., talent agent who counts more than 650 celebrity look-alikes as her clients. She organized the convention.

"We're trying to become more professional in our approach to the industry," she said.

She said the convention was created to bring impersonators and agents together, with the goal of becoming more like the long-established Screen Actors Guild, the actors' union.

As she spoke, one of the most important men in the industry worked the room, scouting for talent.

"I'm here to see if there's someone we can develop," said John Stuart, creator and producer of "Legends in Concert." The show has been at the Imperial Palace since 1983 and is billed as the longest running independently produced show in town.

"Legends," which features celebrity impersonators, has shows all over the country. It is the ultimate gig, according to those at the convention.

Sunday night, the look-alikes got the opportunity to perform on the "Legends" stage as Stuart watched and critiqued their performances.

After doing a brief impression of Osbourne, Wrege was seen leaving the showroom through a side door. He never found his Sandra Bullock look-alike, but the woman with him looked a lot like Wynona Judd.

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