October 2004



"I was looking for something very American," says photographer MARY ELLEN MARK, "and I found it in Las Vegas." Specifically, Mark found it at the celebrity‑impersonators convention at the Imperial Palace Hotel, the subject of her contribution to the "America" portfolio (page 150). "There's so much emphasis today on everything celebrity. If some celebrity's being stalked, it makes headlines. So I found it interesting that people could actually make a living out of looking and acting like somebody else," says Mark, who recently published Twins (Aperture), a book about identical twins. "The attention you gave them was very important," she says, "much different from when you're working with an actual celebrity, where you have to hope you get the time and that they like you."

Seven visionary photographers on what’s defining us now


Mary Ellen Mark


The Imperial Palace Hotel in Las Vegas has made a reputation by having floor‑show performers and casino dealers who look exactly like cele­brities . So the Imperial Palace was the perfect place for a celebrity‑look‑alike convention.  The first night of the convention was surreal. I waited for the bus that was taking everyone to a par­ty on a ranch. Suddenly, a myriad of famous-looking people appeared at the bus stop –“Robert DeNiro,” "Rodney Dangerfield,” "Whoopi Goldberg," etcetera. At first I felt like an outsider because I didn't look like anybody except myself. But when they heard I was from Esquire, I was suddenly treated like a celebrity.

The next two days were filled with events. "Cher," "Jack Nicholson," "Prince," "Michael Jackson," "Liza Minnelli," and many others attended lectures, met agents, learned cosmetic tips, had brunch, went swimming. I photographed "Prince" getting ready for an event in his bubble bath.  The highlight of the weekend was a talent showcase featuring "Marilyn Monroe," two "Elvis Presley”s, "Shania Twain," "Conan O'Brien," and others. Late in the day, a very arrogant "George W. Bush" arrived. He got very angry when I photographed him with "Conan O'Brien," who was making fun of him.  Later that evening, "Shania Twain" and "Arnold Schwarzenegger" got married. "George w. Bush" was one of the best men.

John Allen as Sean Connery, Kelly Hohman as Cher, and Jack English as Jack Nicholson.

Don Rugg as Ozzy Osbourne.

Richard DeFonzo as Liza Minnelli and Bruce Christensen as Conan O’Brien.

Joseph Manuella as Robert DeNiro.

Alex Curvello as Prince.