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But when the crew returned from the tumultuous journey, Puisseaux resigned. "As soon as we got back," Romay says, "he said, 'I don't want to go out as Obama anymore. I'll work maintenance full-time.' "
They reached a compromise. Instead of taking his act outside, Puisseaux would now work only on the Apprentice spoof and other in-house sketches. Puisseaux was pleased.
Sometimes I think my life is worse because I look like Obama," laments Puisseaux, holed up on a Monday afternoon in his and Hortensia's small but immaculate one-bedroom apartment.
Puisseaux is prone to pendulum-like mood swings. And yesterday, his Escort ground to a smoky halt and was towed to a mechanic. This minor disaster, preventing him from reporting to work, has propelled him into an unforgiving assessment of his life.
He's broke, misses his kids, and is stressed by his acting career. Strangely, he's taken to comparing the progress of his life to that of Sen. Obama. "Barack Obama has his life under control," he says. "He went to Harvard. He's a lawyer. He's rich. When he goes home to Illinois, he goes to a big house and hugs his kids. He's a smart man. He's a great man.
"Not me," Puisseaux concludes.
His kids watch Pellizcame Que Estoy Soñando at the home of a neighboring family with outlaw cable in Havana, and Puisseaux has become something of a Superstar Dad among kids in their neighborhood. But their inflated opinion only makes Puisseaux feel shame at his three years without a visit and his inability to send more money home. "They see me on TV, and they think 'Whoa!' They think I'm living the high life. Are my kids proud of me? They tell me yes. But I don't agree. I'm supposed to do more for them."
Puisseaux hasn't ditched the doppelgänger hustle. In fact, he's only turned up the gas, trying to find work outside of América TeVe. When he's 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's getting headshots made, and he's auditioned at a talent agency, Famous Faces in Fort Lauderdale, that specializes in look-alikes.
"Isn't he so amazing?" gushes Mickey Anderson, 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."
"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 ten 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 declares haughtily. "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. I don't need that."
And he utters what might be described as the Tao of Fauxbama: "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.' "
Which is exactly how things went for New Times. Puisseaux charged $350 for three appearances, insisting at the last one that he is paid cash instead of by check.
For Puisseaux, much hinges on the results tallied on Election Day. His acting career will likely be finished if Obama loses. 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!"
But Puisseaux doesn't worry about how it will come together. While walking south on Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale, he says he figures it will just work out. "I just live my life," he says, as cars slow nearby. "I do not plan."
A wake of astonishment follows Puisseaux through Miami International Airport on a windy Friday, 27 days before Election Day. A few bystanders wonder aloud: Why is Obama traveling with only one Secret Service agent? The whole airport is locked down by other agents, reassures a journalist flanking the entourage.