Pillow Talking’s Interview with Entertainers and Master Impersonators, THE EDWARDS TWINS (ANTHONY & EDWARD)
Someday Productions LLC and Pillow Talking are thrilled to present the following exclusive interview with the Edwards twins.
Pillow Talking had the opportunity to speak on the telephone with Anthony Edwards of the inimitable Edwards Twins, master impersonators of countless beloved celebrities. Interviewing Anthony was a real treat – this fascinating, generous, and warm man put such smiles on our faces. We look very forward not only to seeing him perform with his identical twin brother, Eddie, at The Palace Theatre in Danbury, CT, but also to meeting them both. We hope you enjoy the interview as much as we did in conducting it!
PT: We are so excited to have the opportunity to speak with you today, but also to see you perform at the Palace Theatre in Danbury [CT] on December 12!
AE: We love doing The Palace. We love the theatre, we love the people. It is just a joy to be there.
PT: So tell us, what are your earliest recollections of celebrities – who were your early influences?
AE: Well, our Uncle Jack worked for Sonny & Cher, Laugh-In, and a ton of others. We were born in Burbank, California and we hung out at the CBS studio where they taped The Carol Burnett Show, and NBC where they taped Laugh-In. That was our backyard.
We had this uncanny ability for doing [celebrity] impressions. It started out as child’s play. People were amazed that we were so young but we were able to get down their voices, being only about 6, 7, 8 [years old]. We began to get involved with singing, acting, and professional makeup. We started dressing up to look like these people.
AE: I did Sonny and Eddie did Cher. Eddie did Carol Burnett, I did Tim Conway –and we would reenact verbatim, word-for-word the Mama and Eunice skits [from The Carol Burnett Show]. We also did Vincent Price, Goldie Hawn, Ruth Buzzi. We would do all these impressions – the actors thought we were the cutest things so we continued; the attention was just so great.
Then we started getting into Johnny Mathis, Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, Elton John. But we were never interested in sounding like ourselves. And we ended up getting such attention by the actual stars. Back then there was no karaoke – so we were inventive. The musicians at Sonny & Cher and The Carol Burnett Show would tape our songs like, “I Got You Babe.” We would do shows at our house and invite the writers of the shows over.
PT: Wow! That’s amazing! Did you ever have formal training in the arts?
AE: We had no training until we were about ten. Then we had voice lessons, acting lesson, makeup lessons. We started really learning about the business.
PT: So when did you actually start professionally in show business?
AE: Professionally, we started at 19.
PT: What and where were your first gigs?
AE: I did Neil Diamond and Eddie did Bette Midler. We did mainly clubs. It was a big thing – there was really only Rich Little [doing impressions] but he didn’t look like them. People were amazed that we looked and sounded like them.
PT: Now that you brought up Rich Little, we wanted to ask about other comics who have done impersonations — like Frank Gorshin, Robin Williams…but there doesn’t seem to be that many anymore. Do you agree?
AE: Let me first say that some famous actors come and see us perform in LA or Long Island. And a lot of them started out doing impressions – comics like Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams and well-known actors like Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis. You would be amazed at how many of them started doing impressions. They sounded sensational; they are so talented.
Now today, the best of what you can see is on Saturday Night Live – it’s impersonation, not necessarily music. But then there’s Jimmy Fallon; he does a segment where you spin a wheel and sing as artists like Sinatra, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Perry Como.
So impersonators – they’re still out there. And young people love it so much. It’s just a different generation. It’s done differently. But the people out there doing it – they don’t know how to market themselves.
Even older actors. There were female impersonators before they became successful actors. Jimmy Cagney was a female impersonator.
And Broadway musicals capitalize on drag. Shows like Kinky Boots.
And Joseph Gordon Levitt! He was recently on TV doing an impersonation of Janet Jackson, lip syncing, dancing. Talk about talent! This kid has more talent in him than just about anyone out there now. He’s a phenomenal entertainer all around. You can see it on YouTube. Then he did this dance thing with Tony Danza.
PT: We’ll have to check them out! So more about you and Eddie. What was it like growing up as identical twins?
AE: To this day, we are closer than anybody. When we were young, too–up until we hit 15. Then we literally did everything we could do to be opposite. We were finding ourselves. We went our separate ways for a few years. After Carol Burnett, our dear friend, came to see me in Toronto in a show, she asked, “Where’s your brother?” I said that he was doing La Cage – he was doing his own thing. So she said, “He can’t! That is the stupidest decision he could ever make!”
Then she was starting her new show, Carol & Company and she invited Eddie to do an opening scene. It was the perfect time to talk to Eddie. While everybody was waiting, the producer of the show came and told everyone when Carol Burnett walked out, not even to make eye contact with her, but Eddie was snickering. So Carol came out and went crazy when she saw him. They were talking and talking and the producer and director were furious.
Carol Burnett told Eddie, “Combine your act with your brother. You’re not going to make it by yourself.” So…he came to his senses…Thank God Carol talked sense into him. Now we realize the power of the whole twin thing. It really is a twin show. It is just that our gimmick is impersonation. And this is not a drag show. It is an identical twin show.
PT: It’s a variety show.
AE: Exactly! It’s a variety show. That’s the reason why we are categorically the number one impersonation show in the country.
Not only do we look and sound exactly like everyone, but everybody we do endorses us – that’s rare in this business.
The biggest compliment we get is that the show isn’t long enough! It really is a Las Vegas [style] variety show. We own five homes in Vegas. When we are not with our show, we’re doing Legends in Concert and La Cage. But we’re on the road 300 days a year.
PT: Did you come from a family of artists?
AE: Our grandfather played with Eddie Arnold, Sons of the Pioneers, and he played with Elvis. Other than him, no one else has talent or is in the business.
PT: Has your family supported yours and your brother’s involvement in show business?
AE: Yes, our family has supported us 100%.
PT: What were you like as children? We know you loved to perform and the attention you received. Were you class clowns?
AE: We actually were not. But we knew at an early age what we were put on earth to do. And we hated school – we knew someday we would be traveling the world so we made the best of it. In school we got the leads in all of the dramas. There was a class called “media” – we wrote productions and starred in them. That was my favorite class. I was heavily involved in that.
We would figure out all of our classes to include choir, piano, guitar, voice, acting. We would do impressions of our teachers. We would do impressions of actors in famous movies.
But we were bullied. At every school – in Burbank, and then when we went to live with our father in Tucson [Arizona]. We were beaten up, spit on, every single day. The kids would see us in commercials, movies – and they were jealous. They would call us “fags,” “queer,” brutal stuff. But we learned to rise above it. Every school it was the same thing, though, but we had to grin and bear it.
PT: How early did it begin?
AE: It started in junior high – seventh grade. We were just so different. Because of the commercials and movies – we were so serious. We grew up in the business – we had to behave like adults.
PT: So, let’s throw you a curve. Do you ever have a problem with who gets top billing?
AE: No. In fact, I have always been a person who never wanted my own show. I enjoyed being one of several acts. I never wanted to be the star. After the shows, I don’t even come out. I don’t want to be told how fantastic I am. But my brother – he’s the opposite. I usually give him all of the glory.
PT: Who was born first?
AE: I was.
AE: It’s all about what is popular. Eddie has been doing Lady Gaga for the last two years and it’s going over like gangbusters. And we had the honor of going back to our high school in Tucson, Arizona. Our choir teacher there was such a huge part of our lives – the teacher who took over for her asked us to come in and perform in their 1,000-seat theater. We did it on one condition, though – we said that the dancers, choir, and jazz band had to be integrated into our show. There were 200 in the choir, 100 in the band, and 75 dancers. I tell you, these kids were on cloud nine. It was a full-fledged Las Vegas show. Kids were brought out of their shells. When they were in the show they were totally changed.
It was so surreal. It was literally sold out. We got a standing ovation. It was such an amazing thing. It still hasn’t really hit me, the impact we had on those kids.
PT: When was this?
AE: Three months ago at Rincon High School in Tucson, Arizona.
PT: Can you tell us, what is your process for creating characters?
AE: Sure. First it’s the voice. If we can’t nail the voice one hundred percent, we won’t do the impersonation. It takes a good year to get it right. Then we do the tracks and we rehearse with them; if it sounds good, then it’s the costume, the wigs, prosthetics, dentures, and we apply it all. Then we address the mannerisms. We rehearse about three months before we go on stage with [a new character]. It is a good two-year process. And its thousands spent on all this. Thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. It’s three-thousand alone just for the dentures. Wigs? It is about eight thousand to have a decent wig made. And for someone like Elton John, it costs about fifteen thousand for a decent jacket. For Andrea Bocelli, that’s easy. It’s just a tux. But the wig makes the whole look.
Sometimes we’ve put in all the money, rehearsed, and it just didn’t work. So we just ditched it. But if we can find out what the problem is, we work it out…
AE: For me, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles. You just can’t go on stage looking like a white guy dressing up as a black man. You’ll look ridiculous and everyone will be against you. We tried it out in the Bahamas, where 90% of the people there are of color and we got approval. Never got any negative feedback.
When I do the characters, I go right from Stevie Wonder to Ray Charles. Ray Charles is probably the most difficult. I can’t wear a wig. He took me the most time; the most difficult character to do. But now when I do him, it brings the house down. Right before the audience I transform from Stevie Wonder to Ray Charles. The audience gasps. I just turn around and I’m Ray Charles.
PT: Wow! Will we get to see them next week?
AE: Unfortunately, no. This is a holiday variety show. But it’s not all holiday songs. Some of it is celebrities singing hits. We’ll sing songs from their new albums.
PT: So another curve…If you could magically trade places for a day with any of the celebrities you impersonate, out of all of the people you do, who would you be?
AE: I would probably say Elton John.
AE: Because everybody loves Elton John. Everybody knows him. They know Elton probably more so than Andrea Bocelli, Stevie Wonder, and Ray Charles. Elton’s very approachable. So charismatic. Most people have grown up with his music.
AE: Sure. Barbra Streisand. And the reason is because Barbra is his favorite character; people go crazy over her. They can’t believe a guy can sing so close to her. And Barbra is an icon – everything she puts out is a hit.
And I have a funny story. Billy Joel’s manager had called me and wanted to play a joke on Elton John when they were performing together. He asked me to dress up as him and he put me in the front row. When Billy Joel and Elton John came out, Elton John lost it on the stage. He sang the whole concert to me, he shook my hand.
Eddie also is personal friends with Bette Midler, Cher, Celine Dion – he talks to them frequently.
PT: Have you ever been mistaken for anyone?
AE: As impersonators, we are dead ringers for celebrities from their eras. Like Billy Joel – I do him when he was in his prime. The Ray Bans, the goatee. I do Neil Diamond in the era of the eighties/nineties. With the long hair. I do Stevie Wonder in the eighties – with the long braids. We really wouldn’t do some as they are now that they are older. People want to remember stars when they were in their prime.
PT: Can you tell us what is in your future?
AE: Well, we just got a phenomenal offer. At the end of the month we are going to the famous Vitello’s Restaurant. It was bought by a multi-millionaire. It’s in Studio City [CA] – all the stars go there to eat. The restaurant is downstairs and there’s a theatre upstairs. So, the owner saw our show in LA – and now he wants us there exclusively for a long period of time.
We are going at the end of the month for three days. Then in February and March; if it works out, we will be there exclusively for a year or as much as five years.
We are probably not going to do much traveling now. We are going back to our roots. That’s where all of the producers, television, and movies are. It is a chance for us to be in one place rather than all over.
Eddie and I are getting tired of the road. It’s taking its toll on us. It is very difficult. We travel in two gigantic vans with sound equipment, baby grand piano, costumes, back drops. It takes us six hours to set up and six hours to break down.
PT: What a great opportunity! So tell us, what kind of artists do you think you would be if you weren’t doing impersonations?
AE: I would say entertainers. Or actors – actors who sing. Or actors who can do impersonations. When you have more talents as an actor, there are more opportunities. People see certain actors and will write them into TV shows or movies.
PT: That’s how Ray Romano got started.
AE: Exactly. We are hoping a huge company like Cinemax, HBO, or Showtime will come to do a documentary on us. Or a big filmmaker. There are more opportunities in California – specifically in Studio City – like with Warner Bros.
PT: Can you tell us what you like doing outside of performing?
AE: I study theology. Ever since I was twelve. There is nothing worse than when a person asks why you believe the way you do and you really don’t know. I always want to know the right answer. To understand the Bible…you need to know when it was written and to whom it was written to –Hebrew, Greek, the first century. People don’t know how to interpret the Bible the way it was meant to be. Many people today – there is ignorance in their teaching – I didn’t want to be in that camp.
And Eddie – he spends most of his time decompressing. Watching videos, spending time with friends.
The thing is, it’s just us. No agents or managers. It really is a three-hundred-sixty-five-day-a-year job. We work on Thanksgiving, Christmas. We just keep going ahead, working all the time. When we are not doing a show, we are booking, doing contracts, reaching out to theatres, making tracks, rehearsing characters. We live and breathe the show.
But it is about having great relationships. This business is about great relationships. It isn’t just about how good a product is. You need great relationships then the product will sell itself.
PT: That’s why this is called show business not show art.
PT: So if you (and if you can speak for Eddie) each could sum up yourselves and/or your careers in word, what would it be?
PT: Thank you!!! You’ve been incredible…and no less than extraordinary!
For more information see the twin’s Official Website