LOS ANGELES — The most popular Saddam Hussein impersonator in Hollywood is putting his act on hold. A Sephardic Jew and pro-Israel activist, Jerry Haleva told the Los Angeles Times this week that the country was not in the mood for such antics.
“We have a lot of brave people in harm’s way over there, many of whom have already made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “Making fun of Saddam Hussein in a situation like that is the least of our priorities.”
Haleva bears a striking resemblance to the Iraqi dictator, especially when he strides into a diplomatic reception complete with beret and full uniform.
“Only in America could a nice Sephardic boy get paid to make fun of Saddam,” said Haleva, who serves on the national executive board of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and chaired the Jewish federation of Sacramento, Calif.
By day, he is a successful business and industry lobbyist in the California state capital.
As an actor, his film career took off with the first Persian Gulf war; he has played you-know-who in “Hot Shots,” “Hot Shots! Part Deux,” “Mafia!” “The Big Lebowski” and last year’s HBO mockumentary “Live From Baghdad.”
Working a convention in full regalia a few years ago, he ran into former prime minister Shimon Peres. The two men shook hands and Haleva used the photo in his firm’s marketing brochure with the caption, “If we can make this happen, how hard can your issue be?”
Showing no political favoritism, he has also posed with Prime Minister Sharon.
Haleva’s most recent gig was three months ago, when he interrupted a speech by George Shultz, breaking up both the meeting and the former secretary of state.
But these days, Haleva told the Los Angeles Times, he is not returning calls from television news crews. He is also reportedly downplaying his Hussein act in updated marketing materials.
“What I do has always been in good fun,” he told the newspaper. “But some things are no longer funny. My physical resemblance to Saddam may well be one of them.”