That's My Bush, Isn't It?


Timothy Bottoms, we hardly knew ye. From Sin City, Reason contributor Greg Beato reports on Steve Bridges, America's most number-onest George W. Bush impersonator. A few of the article's many highlights:

Upon [makeup] completion, Steve Bridges is to George W. Bush what the canals in front of the Venetian are to the actual canals in Venice: The likeness is not exact, but it's a pretty spectacular simulation just the same. Because Bush's face is essentially piggybacking on Bridges' face, the resulting mug is a little oversized. And from some angles, Bridges has the plasticky, oddly tinted look of an aging movie star who's had too much work done. But from across a room, or even closer, when Bridges assumes that familiar dusty drawl and starts cupping and pushing his hands in an effort to shepherd wayward thought fragments into something like a complete sentence, he does Bush as well as Bush does, maybe even better. The strong, crooked beak and untended eyebrows? That hardscrabble, are-you-shittin'-me squint? They're all there…

Republican officials are distancing themselves from their leader and Bush's approval rating has hit an all-time low. But at the Venetian, his facsimile is the most popular man in the building… "Can we get a photo of you all together?" asks a photographer for a trade publication. There's a moment of indecision about how best to set up this shot; then Bridges gets presidential. "How about right here?" he says, pointing to the wall, and the executives nod vigorously, like it's the smartest thing anyone's ever said…

In February 2003, just a few weeks before the invasion of Iraq, Nolen and Bridges received an invitation to the Oval Office. "It was surreal," says Bridges. "We were giddy as schoolchildren." Bush said he appreciated the humorous-but-polite tone of Bridges' portrayal, and even invited him to do some fishing in Crawford. "He also gave us some advice," said Nolen. "He said we should be careful about how we use this, because in the wrong hands, there was a chance it could be used against the best interests of Americans."…

One person who has yet to succumb to Bridges' charm, however, is fellow fake president Martin Sheen. Last year, Bridges was asked to appear at a charity benefit in Beverly Hills. "The people who were organizing it were trying to get Martin Sheen to come out and make an appearance with Steve," Evan Davis recalled. "They were asking me if I could write some lines that Sheen could say about Steve's impression of the president. But then they called back and said, 'Martin Sheen will not be seen on the same stage with someone who even looks like Bush.' "

Full article.

The Sheens, by the way, seem to be hostile to all presidential impersonators. As this Suck interview reveals, the set of Hot Shots: Part Deux was a boiling cauldron due to Charlie Sheen's hatred and jealousy of Saddam Hussein portrayer Jerry Haleva.

Beato's article is a fascinating look at the way makeup effects and specialization have transformed the once humble market for politician impersonators, with a squad of specialists helping Bridges pull off the best Bush possible (comparisons to the real Bush doing the same thing are fully milked). But I was most fascinated by the anodyne quality of the content in the impersonation, which is strictly for fans of the prez:

Bridges offers an apolitical Bush, which, while it may be unintentional, is a stroke of political genius. Divorced from actual experience, the president's charm goes on the offensive again. Campaign-trail Bush re-emerges, and it's 1999 in America, a return to the peace and prosperity of that era.

Of course, 1999 was the last goddamn great good year, but there's something more at work here. We're in a period of non-satirical satire. The Scary Movie and other Movie franchises are the leading examples. The parodies of popular genres in those pictures aren't even parodies at all: Drained of any critical or subversive reading, they're just highlight reels, allowing fans to relive all the stuff they liked in the original. I think parody only works when the parodist really hates and wants to damage the subject, but that's just me.

Meanwhile, what happened to all the Saddam doubles? Or the Saddam radio parodist?