Why Can't Barack Obama Speak English?

Um, because that's not him.

Puisseaux hasn't ditched the doppelganger hustle, though. In fact he has turned up the gas, trying to find work outside América TeVé. When he is offered a ride in a car, the first place he wants to go is a hair salon where he has an appointment to trim his budding 'fro back into "The Obama." He is getting head shots made, and he has auditioned at a talent agency that specializes in look-alikes: Famous Faces, in Fort Lauderdale.

"Isn't he so amazing?" gushes Mickey Anderson, a scout at the agency. "He's very good as far as looks, although he has a bit of a Hispanic accent."

She lists the types of gigs he might get: "Corporate events, award banquets, political luncheons."

On the campaign trail: Faux-bama and his Miami New Times Secret Service.
C. Stiles
On the campaign trail: Faux-bama and his Miami New Times Secret Service.
Shaking hands at Miami International Airport's Versailles restaurant.
C. Stiles
Shaking hands at Miami International Airport's Versailles restaurant.

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"I know this is money," Puisseaux says, squeezing his face at the cheeks. "I need to make as much as I can before November 4."

His mood swings to optimism a few days later when he travels to an appointment with another talent agency, One Source Talent in Aventura. As the name implies, it's a mass supplier of low-level actors and singers, the sort of place that threatens to cancel prospective clients' appointments if they show up wearing flip-flops.

Puisseaux casually arrives 10 minutes late for a group audition, straggling in alongside an aspiring reggaeton heartthrob and a child actress. As a catty talent wrangler looks up his booking, a misunderstanding arises because of Puisseaux's poor English. Soon he's indignant, asking for the name of a supervisor with whom he spoke earlier. "That was a national call center," the wrangler haughtily declares. "I'm Amber. And you're done. You're not auditioning today."

Puisseaux spins on his feet and walks out as one of the receptionists chides, "Fake-ass Barack Obama!"

But outside in the parking lot, Puisseaux is relieved. "I'm happy that happened, so I don't have to spend my time," he says. "I don't need that."

Then he utters what might be described as the Tao of Faux-bama: "Everything in my life, I want it to come to me. I don't want anything complicated. I want 'You impersonate Obama for me, how much do you want, here's $300, thank you.'" (Miami New Times paid him $250 for a photo shoot and the excursion through the airport and mall — after he requested $1,000.)

For Puisseaux, much hinges on the results tallied on Election Day. His acting career at América TeVé will likely be finished if Obama loses. And, Puisseaux fears, so might his maintenance job. "They don't say that," he says of the possibility that he might be fired, "but I think so."

(His maintenance boss, Jose Gonzalez, chuckles at the notion: "Nobody has said a word about that to me.")

Conversely, if Obama becomes president, Puisseaux foresees an entirely new realm of possibility opening. Even while stricken by self-pity, he harbors an outlandish dream, ripped from the plot of the 1993 movie Dave: that he might be hired as a decoy for President Obama. "Maybe the Secret Service calls me to come do dangerous work protecting my country. They give me a lot of money and give me an award," he riffs, pinning an imaginary medal on his chest. "I'll be a hero to the country. That's the American dream, man!"


Back at Dolphin Mall, Obama has shaken the crowds and now stands in the parking lot, suit jacket off, shirt sleeves rolled up, smoking a Marlboro. He looks ragged and a bit exhausted.

An older Cuban woman, Sylvia Casas, is walking by with her grown son Saul and her granddaughter when her heart appears to momentarily stop. She approaches cautiously, and her eyes tear up as she explains to the smoking man: "I'm a citizen just yesterday, to vote for you. You touch my soul."

After a couple of photos, she skips off, her step lively. Saul Casas seems skeptical, but he doesn't say anything to kill his mom's buzz. "Barack Obama!" she screams to the sky, hopping like a woman 50 years younger. "I love you!"

Why is one of the most important people in the world holding court by a Honda Civic flanked by a scruffy entourage of four? At this moment, it doesn't matter. Sylvia Casas wants to believe.

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