Bette Midler thinks he’s divine, Cher thinks he’s strong enough and Barbra Streisand invited him to be her paparazzi decoy double on tour. That’s how fabulous a master female impersonator Eddie Edwards is.
“I had no idea I could make a living doing this,” Edwards, half of the critically hailed Vegas impersonators The Edwards Twins, told me this week, laughing. “My brother Anthony and I started doing this when we were six years old. I had an uncanny ability to mimic people, so my mom would have contests in front of the television. We mimicked people we saw on TV, like Carol Burnett.”
In fact, it was Carol Burnett (no relation to me) who told the Edwards Twins they should create their own act.
Burnett had seen Eddie perform in 1984 in the La Cage aux Folles floorshow at the Riviera in Vegas (where it closed in 2007). “Carol came to see the show in Vegas, and she’d already seen my brother performing in Toronto, and she told us, ‘You need to put together your own show.’ That’s how we got our start.”
Their Celebrities on Stage impersonation act was a huge success. Now, 25 years later, the Edwards Twins continue to headline in Vegas and regularly tour the world, including two nights at Montreal’s Corona Theatre on July 29 and 30.
Anthony handles all the male impersonations — including Stevie Wonder, Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck — while Eddie impersonates all the divas, including Cher, Midler, Streisand, Liza Minnelli and Lady Gaga.
“I did the girls because I had the higher-pitched voice,” the openly gay Eddie explains. “With impressions, you have to be able to sing. A man trying to sing like a woman can destroy your voice, so I got voice lessons.”
Growing up, Eddie reveals, “People pretty much knew that I was gay. I came out of the closet when I was 14 because I didn’t want to live a lie, even though I was born into a deeply religious family. But religion didn’t make sense to me — I mean, why would God make me as I am and then disapprove of me? It didn’t make any sense.”
Edwards says he did not encounter any homophobia headlining in Vegas, which, while it has few gay bars, certainly ranks as one of the gayest cities on the planet. “I have never denied that I am gay and I’m very proud to be a gay man, though I’ve never had a boyfriend or husband because I am married to my career.”
Kind of like the divas he impersonates.
“I’ve met Barbra and Bette and Cher — they’ve all seen our show and were all absolutely amazed that I can work the stage and sound exactly like them!
“When Cher’s manager put photos of me dressed as Cher up in Cher’s gift shop at Caesar’s Palace, she came down to see the photos. Then I was invited to meet her backstage, and Cher was amazed the Edwards Twins sound exactly like Sonny and Cher. So she endorsed our show.”
When Bette Midler met Eddie Edwards, she exclaimed, “But you don’t look like a female impersonator!”
As for Streisand, Edwards says, “I put together photos and a DVD and left it at one of her concerts. The next morning her promoter called me and said Streisand thought I looked more like her than she did, and would I want to tour with her as her double to throw off the paparazzi? I was under contract in the Bahamas at the time, so I couldn’t do it.”
Edwards reveals that he and his brother will make a surprise impromptu public appearance during Montreal’s gay Divers/Cité Festival this week in Montreal’s gay village to help promote their two-nighter at the Corona Theatre (“Anthony will be Elton and I’ll go as Babs!”).
“You know, I really do feel more special, more beautiful, when I’m in costume,” Edwards says. “Everybody makes up an imaginary place where they feel better than [they do] in their ordinary lives. When I’m onstage I enter a fantasy land. I always dreamed about being Cher or Streisand. And now I feel much more secure and in my element when I’m dressed in wigs and sequins onstage than when I’m dressed regular [as a man] on the street.”