How to Make $250,000 a Year by Fooling People into Thinking You’re Famous

Celebrity Look-alike: MJ and Alan from The Hangover
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Thaddeus Kalinoski was down on his luck after splitting up with his wife and losing his job.

He stopped shaving and started gaining weight. But Kalinoski’s sad story soon turned positive when he looked in the mirror one day and realized he bore a striking resemblance to Alan from the movie The Hangover, a character played by Zach Galifianakis.

You remember Alan — the bearded, pot-bellied guy who carries around an unidentified baby for parts of the original 2009 comedy.

At first, Kalinoski was just getting a kick out of pretending to be Alan in Atlantic City. But after a trip to Las Vegas, Kalinoski realized he could make ridiculously good money around $250,000 a year — by posing for pictures, attending special events and hanging out with people while pretending to be Alan.

“At first, when I started this, it was a way of getting my head clear, and I thought it would be a short term thing,” he told the Daily Mail. “I never imagined it would become a kind of second career. However, now it is my life and no two days are the same.”

He can make $1,000 per event just by pretending to be Alan at bars, bachelorette parties and other private celebrations.

“Becoming Alan has changed my life forever, I now live the life in Las Vegas partying round the clock and all because I look like a guy from a film,” Kalinoski said.

OK — so we can’t all wake up one day looking like a celebrity or popular movie character. But if you looked like an actor or singer, would you take a chance on a new career pretending to be someone you’re not?

“Thank You Very Much”: Make a Living as Elvis

Of course, some people get a little help looking like a celebrity.

Like Bob McArthur, a 46-year-old former radio DJ who now makes a living as an Elvis impersonator. He also does Neil Diamond, the Blues Brothers and occasionally, Santa Claus.

Elvis is McArthur’s bread and butter, though. He’s been playing the cultural icon since 2002, when he left an 11-year career in radio.

He started fooling around with karaoke and quickly realized he had the voice for Elvis. Now he does four to five shows a week, including weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, singing telegrams, corporate events and more.

Depending on the length of the event, McArthur charges between $200 and $2,000. He still DJs and he’s ordained, so he can perform entire wedding ceremonies as Elvis and then handle the music at the reception.

He also performs at senior centers for older adults, which are some of his favorite gigs.

“I totally become the character when I dress up,” he said. “I usually perform an hour a day and make some decent money at it, and I bring a lot of joy to people. At nursing homes, I see people that never come out of their rooms. But when they hear Elvis is gonna be here, they come. I’ve seen people get out of their wheelchairs and start boogieing around.”

Channel Your Inner Elvis

His advice to people looking to get into the impersonation business? Make sure your heart is in it, and don’t skimp.

McArthur says he spends money to buy exact replica costumes, and he always gives the people what they want — hit songs, signature catchphrases and a warm personality.

“You have to have a good voice,” he said. “It’s important to look like him too, or do your best to try to look like him. Be realistic about it.”

Times Square: Your New Office?

You may have loved Mickey Mouse as a kid. But would you consider dressing up like Mickey to make money?

Some people making their living dressed up as famous TV and movie characters. They spend all day, every day in Times Square taking pictures with tourists visiting New York City, dressing up as Cookie Monster, Spiderman, Spongebob and pretty much any other popular character imaginable.

While they can’t ask you for money directly, they can accept tips and most make their living this way.

If you’re really brave, you could try making your living like Robert Burck, aka The Naked Cowboy. You guessed it — he often makes $100 an hour wearing a cowboy hat, boots, guitar and tighty-whities.

Don’t live in New York City? The local possibilities are endless. With your weekends, consider becoming a clown or Disney princess and making yourself available for birthday parties and other events.

Your Turn: Would you dress up as a celebrity or popular character for cash?

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Sarah Kuta is an education reporter in Boulder, Colo., with a penchant for weekend thrifting, furniture refurbishment and good deals. Find her on Twitter: @sarahkuta.