Monday, January 16, 2012


If the mourning for North Korean despot’s Kim Jong Il’s death was largely staged, there was at least one man who genuinely grieved his passing; and that was his look-alike, Kim Young-sik. For years Kim had perfected the wave and the bouffant hairdo, and his close resemblance to Dear Leader led to TV appearances in Japan, a part in a South Korean movie and even a spot in a Middle East chocolate commercial.

Kim was dedicated to his art. He permed his hair every three months, and even went on a diet when the late leader lost weight following a 2008 stroke. Now he says it feels as if a part of himself has died. It is time to hang up the Elton John glasses and go back to being Kim Young-Sik again, engraver of Oriental seals in his little shop in Seoul.

You can pirate books. You can pirate films. You can pirate Gucci handbags. It seems you can also pirate people. 

photograph: Paul Smith/Mark Fox

A company called A-List Lookalikes in London specialises in providing inexpensive imitations of famous people for public events. People just like Kim, in fact. They say the most requested celebrity doubles are Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley - who are both dead, so perhaps Dear Leader II should not throw out the olive green leisure suits just yet.

The latest demand is for faux Kate Middletons - if you’re in London and you see the latest Princess Bride waving to you from inside Buckingham Palace don’t get too excited - it could be just a lady called Louise Lyn hard at work.

UK Big Brother contestant Chantelle Houghton also worked briefly and unsuccessfully as a Paris Hilton look-alike, earning the nickname "Paris Travelodge."

Steve Sires, a dead ringer of Microsoft’s Bill Gates came to public attention when he attempted to trademark "Microsortof", and subsequently got roles acting in Microsoft commercials.

But the oddest job in the business has to be doubling for Callum Best. Callum makes a living by being the son of Manchester United football legend George Best, and is paid to attend lots of parties. But you can get sick of that; so Callum sometimes hires a double to go partying when he’s suffering from overwork. Imagine; there is a living to be made looking like someone no one recognizes. It’s a strange world.

But being someone’s double isn’t easy; competition is fierce and always has been. In the twenties Charlie Chaplin went into a Charlie Chaplin look-alike competition and didn’t even make it to the finals.

third place

Today, competition is probably still fiercest in Hollywood. But it's not face look-alikes that are in demand, but body doubles. I don’t want to disappoint you, guys, but that was not Natalie Portman’s butt in the thong in 'Your Highness.' They were not Isla’s breasts in Wedding Crashers. They were not Julia Robert’s thighs in the opening scenes of Pretty Woman.

They may though have belonged to Alisa Hensley, a blonde blue-eyed American beauty who was named one of the 20 Most Fit Women of All-Time by Muscle & Fitness magazine and is one of a handful of women making a very good living keeping the gifts God gave them in perfect order. 

Alisa has body doubled for Charlize Theron, Cameron Diaz and Nicole Kidman. But she’s not just a pretty butt. She is also one of Hollywood’s most decorated stunt performers, as well.

But sometimes doubling is not entertainment and big bucks; it can be deadly serious.

Stalin employed no less than four look-alikes to mislead potential assassins. They were badly needed; there were two attempts on his life at Yalta alone.

"you don't even look like him."

Just before D-Day ME Clifton James - who looked uncannily like British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery - was sent to Gibraltar and Morroco to try and deceive the Germans about the location of the upcoming invasion, talking loudly in hotels and restaurants about bogus plans. James had lost his right hand middle finger so he wasn’t the full Monty. The Brits provided him with a prosthesis for his right hand.

His exploits were recorded in a film I was Monty’s Double in 1958. He played himself in the movie along side Cecil Parker and John Mills.

Hollywood ran with this idea in the 1993 film 'DAVE', about a look-alike who is hired by the White House to impersonate the President. At first he is cover for the President's extra marital curriculum, but then panicked staffers keep him on after the President suffers a stroke and is left in a coma. The impostor then discovers and helps take down corrupt officials in the government, (far-fetched, I know), including the President that he is pretending to be ...

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