When Ronald and Nancy Reagan moved into the White House last year, two Californians who bear a striking resemblance to the First Family embarked on part-time jobs as celebrity lookalikes.
Now, television viewers in Japan can watch commercials starring a woman who looks like Nancy Reagan recommending to her husband, tired after a long day in the Oval Office, a Japanese curative called Elekiban. Playing the First Lady is JoAnn Johnson, a San Francisco housewife who describes Elekiban as an adhesive bandage with a small magnet in the middle that the Japanese believe draws the iron from the body and is therapeutic. ("It's probably a placebo," she laughs, "but they tell me everybody in Japan uses them.")
And car buyers in Sacramento are sold Toyotas on television commercials starring presidential lookalike David Becker -- in real life, a security guard at Los Angeles airport.
"I've never had so much fun," says Johnson, who, in addition to the Japanese commercial, has spent the last year modeling in fashion shows (she's a size 8 to Nancy's size 6) and appearing on talk shows. Becker has also made the talk show circuit and his chief executive's mien has graced condominium openings in San Diego, conventions and other events whose organizers book lookalikes through Ron Smith Productions in Los Angeles.
The novelty turned chilling for a moment last spring when Reagan was shot.
"I thought, 'That could have been me.'" says Johnson. But the fun continued, though neither Johnson nor Becker, lifelong Democrats, shows any signs of changing parties in deference to their good fortune.