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Reviving the ‘80s: Tao’s celebrity look-alike contest

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Can someone pass T-800 a tissue?
Photo: Bill Hughes

On Thursday, Tao gave away $15,000 to the best ’80s celebrity look-alikes. When the club asked me to serve as the evening’s celebrity judge—“celebrity” in the absolute loosest sense of the word—I jumped at the chance. First, because I love judging people (in non-moral contexts), and second, because I’d heard that club contests are rigged, and I wanted to find out for myself.

Turns out they’re legit. At least, this one was.

Over 65 look-alikes entered the field dressed as icons like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Rick James and Cher, but none of those celebs, in my mind, truly exemplify the ’80s. Their careers were longer, spilling over into the ’70s and ’90s, too.

'80s Celebrity Look-Alike Contest at Tao

Same goes for Indiana Jones, who called Tao beforehand, in character, to ask if he could bring in his whip. When he arrived, Jones filled out his application by Zippo light, which won him some points, but not enough to eclipse his non-resemblance to Harrison Ford. He looked like Harry Anderson from Night Court; should have come as Judge Harold T. Stone.

I was less impressed by the guy who showed up in blackface saying he was Sho’nuff from the 1985 movie Shogun of Harlem. And was Sho’nuff the slightest bit embarrassed when requesting a contest application form from Tao’s Jillian, who’s black? Course he wasn’t.

We let Sho’nuff compete, but we had to draw the line at Austin Powers; his first movie didn’t come out till ’97.

Inside Tao’s Opium Room, Pee-wee Herman had an impromptu dance battle against one of the Rick Jameses, as the Terminator (T-800) watched from afar, unflinching.

Using four criteria (resemblance, ’80s-ness, audience reaction, sexiness), the other judges and I narrowed the field down to six. I fought against Pam Anderson (too ’90s) and Robert De Niro (not ’80s-specific enough), but eventually buckled. I couldn’t deny Pam’s sexiness or De Niro’s striking resemblance and strong audience reaction.

The finalists—Pam, Bobby, Pee-wee, Whitney Houston, Terminator and Rodney Dangerfield—took to the main stage and the audience made its decision clear: De Niro would walk away with the big check. I’d have picked Pee-wee, but I respect the democratic process. Which is just one of the many reasons Tao should invite me back to judge their next girl-on-girl kissing contest ...

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