"This is not Halloween!" she says, so angrily and with so much scorn that she's now completely out of her Joan Rivers character. An irate Cher impersonator joins in. Several other celebrity impersonators encircle me, all mad, all screaming. It's starting to get ugly; very, very ugly.
"We take this very seriously and don't want people to make fun of us!" hollers a Carmen Miranda impersonator who says the blond wig I'm wearing discredits not only Austin Powers but also celebrity impersonators in general.
"A real Austin Powers impersonator would never wear a wig like that! I don't think the real Mike Myers would appreciate what you're doing!" the convention's director barks.
Pointing to the faux Joan Rivers and speaking through clenched teeth, the director says, "She spends a lot of money on her outfit." And then she adds the coup de grâce: "As the director of this convention, I'm telling you to take off that wig! I want you to go into the bathroom and take off that wig right now!"
Dropping my half-Chinese Austin Powers accent, I futilely try to defend myself. But what choice do I have? These guys are pros. I'm the idiot for making a poor wig choice, and it certainly doesn't lend credibility that my dreadlocks are stuffed underneath the rug, making Austin Powers look like he has a medium-size brain tumor. My ploy of going undercover at the fourth annual Vegas Celebrity Impersonators Convention has gone wrong, horribly wrong. I've been outed, if you will, as an imposter impersonator!
And it hurts; it really, really hurts!
Let's backtrack to a happier time: I'm at a ranch near Las Vegas for the big, convention-opening barbecue for those who resemble the famous. If this were a party attended by the real celebrities being portrayed, it would be the best ever. Heaping food onto paper plates are the likes of Kenny Rogers, Ozzy Osbourne, Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Prince, and three Shania Twains, as a Britney Spears doppelgänger and Madonna re-create their famous MTV kiss. Seinfeld's Kramer mingles amongst several Marilyn Monroes, a paunchy Ponch from CHiPS, and me, posing undercover as a third-rate Austin Powers. Everyone schmoozes in character.
"SHUT YOUR PIE HOLE!" screams fake Chris Farley, who looks like he's about to pop a facial blood vessel. The Farley impersonator, who works in the mortgage industry, is dead-on. Farley is Farley. He's only been Farley-impersonating for a few months, giving in after years of being told he looks just like the late funnyman.
"I just memorized the few key lines," he confesses, adding in a touching moment of complete fan appreciation, "I'd just like to meet some of his family and tell them I thought he was really funny and a great guy."
Controversy has greatly decreased the number of Michael Jacksons and Martha Stewarts in attendance; strife in a real celebrity's life directly affects the careers of those who impersonate.
"Who's the most famous celebrity impersonator here?" I ask an Elvis impersonator.
"I am!" interrupts Clonan the overactive Conan O'Brien impersonator, shaking his red-haired head. "I got the most TV credits."
He hands me a copy of his résumé, and I question him on his role in the Howard Stern movie Private Parts.
"You know the part where AC/DC is in concert?" he asks, nodding enthusiastically. "I was in the crowd scene!"
He then adds, "I'm going to be on The Tonight Show next Monday!"
I ask Clonan, whose day job is in hotel/restaurant management, if he's nervous. "Not at this point in the game," he replies confidently, and with good reason. Rather than being "officially" booked on the program, Clonan plans to get on by sitting in the Tonight Show audience.
"Have you ever met the real Conan O'Brien?"
"He knows who I am," Clonan assures me with the intensity of Rupert Pupkin from The King of Comedy.
Making my way toward the alcohol, I move further into my Austin Powers character (the alcohol helps) and hang with Snoop Dogg, who's been on MTV, being, well, Snoop Dogg. Snoop's cousin/ manager is funny as hell.
"Is that Cher?" he asks, pointing to a 6-foot-3 transvestite Cher.
"That's a man, baby!" I reply in my third-rate Austin Powers accent as a Liz Taylor impersonator points to the back of my head.
"That's Austin Powers with a big brain tumor," she says. "Have you got a big brain tumor, darling?"
"Shag-a-delic, baby, it's malignant!" I slur.
"Hey Tiger," a fake Rodney Dangerfield says to Snoop's cousin, who cracks up at being mistaken as a Tiger Woods impersonator: "He called me Tiger! That's the second time he's done that."
"I'm about ready, man, for a martini," cries a faux Sean Connery, taking me off guard with a thick, East Coast accent. He says he travels the world working at big James Bond events.
"The first job I ever did, I beat up some guy and threw him into Donald Trump's pool," Connery states. "I grew up and became James Bond." He smiles and with a boyish twinkle in his eye adds, "And then, there's the Bond girls!"
The Country Music Channel is working the party, coaxing impersonators in front of its cameras. I decide to use the podium of mock-celebrity to spout my political views, à la Susan Sarandon.
"Who do we have here?" asks the CMC cameraman. "Why, it's Austin Powers!"
"Yeeeeeah baby! It would be really shag-a-delic if we brought our troops home from Iraq! George Bush out of the White House would be simply groooooovy!" I say and, turning the volume up to level 11, proclaim, "Free Mumia, baby!"
Amid stunned silence, the crew immediately turns off the camera lights.
It doesn't go any better with a camera crew that's following around a Madonna impersonator for the real Madonna's Truth or Dare documentary sequel. Jumping in front of the cameras, I act like an Austin Powers impersonator who just can't get his catchphrases right.