The Pretenders

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Meet the Maestro

Mark Steiner is the owner and founder of Gig Salad, a huge national broker of (among other things) impersonators and tribute acts. And he lives right here in 417-land.

You’ve probably heard of or read about Mark Steiner. The 417-land entertainment kingpin has grown his talent agency, Steiner Entertainment, into a concert and entertainment juggernaut with reach far beyond 417-land.

But you may not be as familiar with Gig Salad, which is Steiner’s online brokerage site for all things entertainment (url: gigsalad.com). How it works is simple: For a fee, freelance entertainers or agents can be listed in a number of categories. Then, people looking for acts, be it a cover band for an office party or a birthday party clown, can come and shop, with a direct line to the entertainer.

A big part of the Gig Salad mix are celebrity entertainers and tribute bands, which Steiner calls “unique to all other categories.” “It really is a community; these people socialize and work together in a way that other groups don’t,” Steiner says. “To make a living being someone else is sort of a quirky thing.”

So what’s hot and popular in the impersonation game? We asked Mark, and he shared some dish from inside the industry:

✫ Presidents are a huge part of the business, although Barack Obama impersonators aren’t as in-demand as George W. Bush was during his presidency. Steiner says this is probably due to the fact that Obama simply isn’t as funny as Bush, as well as the fact that many corporate clients—those most likely to hire a top-dollar impersonator for a big gig—aren’t as keen on Obama as they were Bush, at least not in the recent economy.

✫ Perhaps the most surprising (but convincing) impersonator he’s worked with? Dog the Bounty Hunter.

✫ One surprisingly common impersonation gig over the last few years: Captain Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp’s character from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. “What kid wouldn’t want Captain Jack Sparrow at his or her birthday party?”
✫ People will go to great lengths to get a convincing look, even plastic surgery and prosthetics.

✫ Good celebrities to impersonate have a combination of distinctive looks or personalities, immense popularity, and an intangible star quality that’s hard to define (you see it in the number of, say, Cher impersonators).

All of these acts are listed under the Springfield section on Mark Steiner's website, gigsalad.com.

Wendy as Sarah Palin (Camdenton)

Frank Lloyd Roberts as Leonardo DiCaprio (Smithville)

There's an Arnold Schwarzenegger

Ozzy Osbourne (St. Louis)

Bill and George's Excellent Adventure (George Bush and Bill Clinton)

Lots of Elvises, lots of Santas

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