What's the difference

Look-alikes are typically hired for meet-and-greets for photos and usually don't serve as entertainment beyond the fun of having them in the room. Many good look-alikes can impersonate the speaking voice of their celebrity, but often just with characteristic snippets — “I'll be baaaack,” for example. Impersonators, on the other hand, should sound and act like the legends they are copying, and are typically available for both meet-and-greets and tribute acts. Elvis and The Rat Pack are among the most popular tribute artists requested from Kristy Royle, owner of Royal Talent (www.royaltalent.com), which books entertainers in Las Vegas and across the country.

THEME IT

Match your look-alikes and impersonators to the goals of the event. For a competition-focused event, consider having Muhammad Ali, top gun Tom Cruise, Donald Trump, and Tiger Woods join your cocktail reception. If you've got a comedy night, how about hiring three or four Groucho Marx look-alikes to greet your attendees, plus Laurel and Hardy and W.C. Fields?

ONE FOR THE MONEY

Pricing is likely to reflect quality and demand. One Elvis may be a third the price of another, but before you buy a bargain, make sure that he can carry the show. Both may sport jumpsuits and rhinestones, but who's got the right hip gyrations and a perfect rendition of “Blue Suede Shoes”? In the contract, get the specific name of the entertainer you have hired.

NO OLD PHOTOS!

When you view pictures or videos of your entertainers, be sure to ask how recently the images were taken. Also, definitely confirm that the impersonator is not lip-syncing. A real impersonator has the look and sound of the celebrity.

FROM MISS PIGGY TO RICHARD NIXON

If it's a voice impersonator you're after, master Rich Little is still plying his trade. With more than 160 voices at his command and a reputation that precedes him, the comedian is a good bet, especially with the older set. Visit his Web site, www.richlittle.com, to hear samples of the voices, see his schedule, and get booking information.

SANTA NEEDED

Entertainers that fall outside the domain of many talent agencies have a home online at gigmasters.com. The site is a resource for a range of hard-to-find characters, such as Santas, mimes, unicyclists, bagpipers, auctioneers, and stilt walkers, as well as traditional music and comedy acts and impersonators. Buyers can read customer reviews, find out how many times an act has been booked through the system, and complete a request for a price quote, with bids returned in 24 hours.




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IMPERSONATOR

(noun) 1. one who mimics the appearance or manner of a person for the purpose of entertainment