Our Interview With Mike Hot-Pence
President Donald Trump impersonators are in high demand right now. From Alec Baldwin to John Di Domenico, all comers angle to embody the out-sized personality of our imminently imitable 45th president. Nailing Vice President Mike Pence’s subtler traits, though, has proved difficult. Saturday Night Live’s Beck Bennett attempted Pence’s smooth-talking “America’s Stepdad!” last October, but has stood out more for his turns as Putin.
Glen Pannell, on the other hand, is sui generis among a much smaller pack of Pence impersonators. Not only does he resemble the Veep, but he does it while raising money for causes Pence might find anathema. A 52-year-old New York City graphic designer known as Mike Hot-Pence, Pannell gallivants around Times Square and other locales raising money for national charities such as the Trevor Project, a hotline for LGBTQ youth.
Recently profiled by GQ, Pannell dishes to IM on how he became Mike Hot-Pence, what he has in common with Pence, and why a President Pence scares him more than a President Trump.
IM: How did all this get started?
GP: People started telling me I looked like Mike Pence. My sister was the first one to point it out. She called me and said, “I have something terrible to tell you. Please don’t get mad at me.” Friends and coworkers started telling me that I looked like Mike Pence. I really didn’t think anything about it. I agree with them. But I wasn’t going to do anything about it.
Early in October, a friend messaged me on Facebook and said that I should dress as Mike Pence for Halloween. That idea didn’t appeal to me. What is a Mike Pence costume? It’s a conservative suit and tie. I wanted to do something a little bit more creative. A couple of friends and I have a longstanding tradition of going out in New York City on Halloween in costume. We always try to one-up each other. I didn’t want people to take it as a message of support [for Pence]. I started thinking of all the women having to deal with all the sexy costumes they’ve been forced to dress up in through the years. Sexy waitress. Sexy flight attendant. What would Sexy Mike Pence look like? When I said “Sexy Mike Pence” aloud, that made me laugh. So I knew I was on to something.
I put on my most conservative jacket and tie, and found a pair of short shorts that I still own from the 1980s, and dressed up and looked in the mirror and knew that was my costume.
IM: How did it go over?
GP: It was a big hit in Greenwich Village. I put pictures up on Facebook, and got a lot of likes. I thought that was going to be the end of it. Not long later, there was a disturbance in the force. The election happened. I was very distraught after the election. Very concerned. Feeling very helpless. Spending a lot of time in front of my computer. Reading my Facebook news feed. After a couple of weeks, I thought, “If I don’t get out of my apartment to do something, I might never leave.” So I got back into costume, went down to Times Square, and started collecting for people I thought might be vulnerable under a Trump-Pence administration. The first weekend I collected for Planned Parenthood and Natural Resources Defense Council. And then I got out and collected for the Trevor Project and for International Refugees Assistance Project. Those are the four nonprofits that I’ve focused on.
IM: How much money have you raised so far?
GP: Over $13,000 since December 3rd. I’ve done it in Manhattan, Washington D.C., and Chicago. I also have an online presence at a site called Crowdrise.
IM: Do you feel like you know Mike Pence better now from inhabiting his mental space for so long?
GP: I don’t know if it’s taught me anything about Mike Pence, but I’ve certainly done my research. In fact, the organizations I’m raising money for were all based on his positions while in office. Personally, we have a lot of things in common, I was surprised to find. I’m the youngest of five in an Irish Roman Catholic family, and he’s the youngest of six in an Irish Roman Catholic family. His parents were both Democrats, and my parents were both Republicans, and we both wound up on opposite sides of things. He’s a few years older than me, I’m 52. I think that’s where the similarities end.
IM: Are you planning to take your fundraising act on the road anytime soon?
GP: I do have a full-time job. I’m not making money from this. So the trips are all on my own dime. The travel, the hotel. But I believe in the causes I’m raising money for. I am going to come to Indianapolis in the next few weeks. I have family in Lafayette.
IM: You have family in Lafayette? Were you born there?
GP: No, I was born in Long Island. But years ago, I worked as an actor at the IRT.
IM: What do you make of Pence so far?
GP: He scares me. I think he’s much more focused and much more passionate than Donald Trump, and that makes him more dangerous. I’m actually much more afraid of a Pence presidency than a Trump presidency. I honestly don’t think Donald Trump cares about Planned Parenthood or marriage equality, but I do think Mike Pence does.
Pannell is planning a stop in Indianapolis near the Circle on Pence’s birthday on June 7.