In The Know

For Trump impersonators, 2016 bid is risky business

Donald Trump’s leap from the business world into the political sphere has proven to be both a boom and a bust for one group deeply invested in his every move: impersonators.

“As soon as he announced, my phone exploded” says John Di Domenico, who’s been dubbed “the best Donald Trump impersonator in political comedy.”

Friends, family, industry insiders and more told Di Domenico — who’s been playing the high-profile business mogul since Trump’s NBC reality competition, “The Apprentice,” premiered in 2004 — that he was “set at least for the next two years.” The reality has been a bit different since Trump announced his GOP White House bid back in June.

{mosads}“I would say there’s been a bump,” Di Domenico says, “but conversely, I was thinking why isn’t the work coming in like a torrent? And the only thing I was thinking was, it has to do with the fact that doing corporate work, which is primarily what I do, the fact that he declared as a Republican, I already lost half my corporate audience.”

While Di Domenico’s phone still rings with requests for Trump-style roasts, radio call-ins, voiceover work and parties, “A lot of companies — Republican, Democrat or whatever — don’t like to do anything political.”

Tim Beasley has been donning a variety of amber-colored wigs to impersonate Trump for more than a decade. Companies, Beasley says, “may not want to align themselves with [Trump], thinking he may be just a little too radical.”

“And they’ll always have a disclaimer that says, ‘These views are not necessarily ours,’ kind of thing,” the 63-year-old Virginia native says. But, Beasley says, the presidential hopeful “lends himself to instant recognition for a character for fun.”

“Everything I’ve ever been hired for as Trump has been fun stuff,” Beasley explains.

Robert Ensler says he started gearing up for a flood of work when Trump was floating the idea of entering the 2016 race earlier this year. “I built a new website. I started growing my hair out so I’m not using a wig anymore, it’s my real hair.”

Ensler, who also impersonates legendary singer Dean Martin and has been appearing as The Donald since 1987, says it’s crossed his mind that a more political Trump might actually negatively impact business, including his set of wheels, which doubles as an advertisement for his line of work. “My license plate for Nevada used to be ‘Sinatra,’ and I now have ‘Trump.’

“So I’m a target driving around,” Ensler exclaims with a laugh.

Whether business starts soaring or nosediving, Trump’s impersonators say they’ll be ready to emulate the controversy-stirring tycoon. “At this point, he can do no wrong, it seems,” Beasley says. “It’s funny, that’s the magic of the man to begin with — he’s got that presence.”

Di Domenico, who’s based out of Las Vegas, says he may have to tweak his act. As Trump the businessman, the 52-year-old entertainer says he’d enter an event and say, “’Listen, your company’s doing fantastic…two million dollars in sales…next year, it’s gonna be huge! I’m going to buy your company.’ And then I’d roast a bunch of the executives.”

But these days, “It’s political, and I think that’s actually going to change things. And I might have to shift more into the political arena, which I was doing during the last election cycle.”

And while the impersonators who spoke with ITK come from different ends of the political spectrum, they all agree who they’ll be voting for if Trump wins the Republican nomination.

“A vote for Donald is a vote for me,” says Ensler.

“If it’s Trump, I have to vote for him,” Di Domenico, an independent who once worked in the late Sen. Arlen Specter’s (D-Pa.) district office, says with a big chuckle. “I have no choice! I have to stay employed. I’m a performer — I’m not ashamed to do anything to keep the work from coming in.”

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