The lanky man has the security detail, the prominent ears and the U.S. flag pin, but substitute teacher Larry Graves is no Barack Obama. He's a professional look-alike. Graves and the president have something else in common, too: a frantic schedule leading up to the inauguration.
"It's definitely a busy time," the Obama look-alike said in an interview. "Between the campaign season and the inauguration, it's been prime time. Barack Obama is a respectable guy. People want to have him at their parties."
"Are you fired up?" Graves shouted in mock-Obama voice. He worked the crowd, flanked by two other actors dressed as Secret Service members, shaking hands and posing for cellphone pictures.
It's been a busy four years for the Montgomery Village, Md., resident, who realized during the 2008 primary campaign that he had a peculiar resemblance to the Illinois senator who was running against Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. He submitted a photo to a management company called Cast of Thousands and has since been augmenting his income as a substitute art teacher by appearing as Obama.
Graves' preparation goes beyond a physical resemblance and a nice suit decorated with the flag pin. He adds makeup, darkens his eyebrows and lips, adds a prosthetic mole to the side of his nose and even dusts a little white paint into his hair.
"I find people want to believe, and so they go along with it. And there are other people who want to judge and say, 'Oh, he's not Barack.' "
Graves stresses that he's not an Obama impersonator but strictly a lookalike, though he tries his best to mimic the president's manner and speech.
"That voice, that voice -- Barack has a very distinctive voice. He has a very loud voice, a very distinctive vocal pattern, and I have to really think about conserving and using (it)."
Graves once traveled to Hong Kong to film a commercial for Kentucky Fried Chicken. In the ad, "Obama" delivered a speech when an enormous sandwich landed on his head. It was later deemed controversial and pulled off the air, according to Graves' manager, Jan Kearney.
Graves said that he has also fended off the occasional drunken diatribe from people at events.
At home, things are less posh than Obama's White House digs and presidential motorcades. Graves lives with his six dogs in a modest town house and drives a Toyota Corolla to his engagements.
Graves, who will turn 58 on Wednesday, enjoys the work: "I am glad to be in this country, and glad to be an American. And to be able to, in some small way, relay that to people, it's an honor, it really is. It's fun, but it's an honor."
Graves says he hasn't met the real Obama, but would like to challenge him to some one-on-one basketball.
"I think I could take him," Graves said. "He better practice."
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