Prince of imitators
FOR Americans, Byron Deverich was the affordable Prince Charles.
The Potts Point man, pictured below, impersonated the prince professionally over five years in the 1980s, leading him to travel across the US and develop an affinity with the man he was sending up.
Deverich and his distinctive jug ears were raised in Kings Cross by an American father. He moved to the US soon after finishing school.
Impersonator ... Byron Deverich. Photo: Edwina Pickles
While working as a doorman at the Pier Sixty-Six hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, soon after Charles's engagement to Diana, guests started making comparisons. His workmates urged him to enter a lookalike contest being sponsored by a radio station.
''Three people turned up - one guy had a moustache,'' he said. In a tweed hat and coat, he was victorious and began life as a royal impressionist.
One gig had him play Charles the groom in a mock royal wedding at a Florida nightclub, where he wed a Diana impersonator in front of 1500 people.
He was briefly struck by the absurdity of his new line of work.
''Then I realised it was such a big industry; lookalikes were enormous then,'' he said.
Deverich signed with Ron Smith Celebrity Lookalikes on Hollywood Boulevard and moved to Los Angeles. The legendary agent had more than 2000 impersonators on his books: Ronald Reagans, Clint Eastwoods and many Tom Sellecks.
''You're the best Prince Charles I've ever seen,'' Smith told him.
After the royal wedding in 1981, Americans were transfixed by pomp and ceremony and he was booked four nights a week.
He did gigs from California to New Orleans and was hired to appear at parties alongside bona fide celebrities, such as a cash-strapped Mickey Rooney, and in car dealership commercials and B-movies.
''The affordable Prince Charles is just as British and sports ears just as big as the high-priced Charles,'' an advertisement for a celebrity polo benefit in Florida read.
By the time he moved back to Australia permanently in the late 1980s, Prince Charles's public image had waned and so did Deverich's bookings.
Deverich says a life studying Charles has made him admire the prince's principled environmentalism and perhaps even understand him, too. He recalls standing in the middle of a crowded party, dressed in one of Charles's trademark kilts.
''[I was] totally alone, just thinking 'how hard a job is this?' '' he said. ''To have to talk to people you have no interest in talking to and be amusing with them. I felt for him at that moment.''