Schwarzenegger imitators see big business in the big guy

Saturday, November 8, 2003

— That big, square jaw is finally paying off for Lyndall Grant.

The 49-year-old landscaping designer from San Mateo found sporadic work in recent years impersonating Arnold Schwarzenegger, but business is booming now that the "Terminator" star has been elected governor of California.

Grant has doubled his hourly rate to $400 (minimum of two hours). And instead of playing the Austrian-born muscleman once or twice a month for parties, he is doing it three or four times a week -- sometimes twice a night.

He puts on the "Terminator" dark glasses, leather jacket and scowl mostly for corporate parties and grand openings. Recently, he received requests to tape a message for an 89-year-old woman's birthday and make an appearance at a wedding.

"I guess people want Arnold's blessing," Grant said.

Work for Grant and other Schwarzenegger impersonators has boomed since California voters recalled Gov. Gray Davis last month and elected the action star.

Josh Thompson, a skinny 29-year-old from Pasadena, has become such an expert at imitating Schwarzenegger's Teutonic accent that he has found work with a number of Southern California radio stations. He even managed to pull hoaxes on several national radio and TV shows who thought he was the real thing.

Thompson earns a few hundred dollars for each radio appearance.

"I don't slander Arnold," said Thompson, who describes himself as a supporter of the actor-governor. "Even when the groping stuff came out, I tried to handle it very well because I didn't want Arnold to lose."

Thompson perfected his mimicry over the past year by listening to Schwarzenegger's audio commentary on the DVD for "Conan the Barbarian."

Thompson said the key to sounding like the governor was the phrase "all that stuff," a common Schwarzenegger phrase tacked on to the end of his sentences. As in: "I visited the farmers and the small companies, big companies, bankers and all that stuff."

For Grant, the voice comes easy.

"I stick my tongue in the top of my mouth and already have a deep voice," he said.

"All I have to do is stumble on my words a little bit."