March 12, 2001

TV impersonators raise significant questions

Josh Renaud

There's usually some pretty funny television shows on late at night. One of my favorites is called "Your Big Break." It offers contestants a chance to dress up as their favorite music stars and perform one of their songs. The audience then chooses the best performance and the winner gets a cash prize.

Last weekend I had come home late from work on Saturday night (or Sunday morning, depending on your point of view). For some reason, when I work late, I find I want to wind down before actually going to sleep, either by reading a book or watching television. I flipped through some channels and found "Your Big Break" and decided to watch for a few minutes.

At one point in the show, a former contestant gave a testimonial, explaining how his "big break" had come when an agent from Las Vegas saw his performance and offered to get him a regular gig in the gambling mecca.

"Now I make lots of money and I love my job!" the man exclaimed.

Watching the contestants transform themselves into such stars as John Lennon and Donnie Osmond reminded me of an event in the summer of 1999. To kick of Welcome Week that year, UMSL brought in an Elton John impersonator called "Even Stephen."

No offense to the planners of that event, but at the time, I thought it was pretty silly. I enjoy listening to old songs as much as the next guy. Heck, listening to bands cover lots of oldies tunes can be pretty enjoyable. But the idea of watching one man pretend to be the flamboyant Elton John just didn't seem appealing to me.

Now from what I heard, the folks who attended had a good time, and I'm glad they did. But all these memories got me thinking. Why do these people want to spend their lives mimicking someone else?

My personality drives me to seek recognition. I have an innate desire to make a name for myself. And it's just impossible for me to imagine that someone could be content taking advantage of another person's popularity in order to make a living.

But as I thought about more, I realized that everyone has tried to be like somebody else. That's what our culture does when it idolizes sports figures, movies stars and, yes, music stars. We have heroes, role models, and figureheads that we want to be like.

There are certain people who have qualities or characteristics that make them worth emulating. In my own life, I realized, I am trying to follow the example of Jesus Christ. Adherents to other religious faiths follow the teachings of others.

Maybe the idea behind "Your Big Break" isn't that far-fetched, after all. I think the larger question is, who are you going to mimic? I don't know about you, but I think I'll stick with Jesus over Elton John any day of the week.

This article was reprinted with permission from The Current.

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