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From Saddam to the big screen?
"Life can be strange.Two brother grew up side by side on Whidbey Island. One became the chief of police in the island's biggest city. The other makes $3,000 a day impersonating Saddam Hussien.But this fall, Richard Perez - known locally as Rick Barge - is giving up the Saddam gig to move to New York and learn to do some serious acting at the school that trained Harvey Keitel and Alec Baldwin.Meanwhile, his more serious brother, Tony Barge, will continue to fight crime as the Oak Harbor chief of police.Perez graduated from Oak Harbor High School in 1971. He admits he had his infamous days in Oak Harbor when he was younger. He probably set some sort of record by being fired from the same car dealership three times in a row.But since those days, Perez said he's cleaned up his act, changed his name and has found big success in the Hollywood scene. He's even met some pretty famous people.Perez's career as a Saddam Hussien-look-alike began in the early 1990s when Hussien was in the international spotlight for invading Kuwait. Perez said he was playing basketball with some guys in Los Angeles who started calling him Saddam because he resembles the Iraqi leader.Instead of getting mad, Perez decided to make some money off his face. He contacted Ron Smith's Celebrity Look-Alike, a Hollywood agency, and quickly got work as a Saddam impersonator for advertising, parties and events.His biggest job was for a millionaire Texas oilman who flew him to a 10,000-acre ranch outside of San Antonio as a practical joke on General Norm Schwarzkopf.Perez said Schwarzkopf, who was leading the nation's war against Saddam Hussien, was at the party to give a speech to an audience of Texas big-wigs, including Ross Perot.Dressed like Hussien, Perez snuck up behind Schwarzkopf at the end of the speech and surprised the famous general. He got a big laugh when he whipped out a white handkerchief and pleaded mercy before running away to hide.But for some reason, Perez says he wants more out of his career than just putting on a beret and buffooning as an Iraqi dictator at cocktail parties.So Perez - who currently lives in Bellingham - recently got himself a famous New York agent, he said, and the agent got him an interview at the prestigious New York Actors Conservancy, which teaches method acting.There's great demand in the industry for my middle-Mediterranean, Arabic look, he said.While he hasn't been accepted into the school, Perez is so certain he will be that he's moving out to New York this fall. He plans to take small acting jobs to work his way through the school.Movies, that's the plan, he said. I want to be in feature films and commercials, both here and abroad. Have passport, will travel,It's undoubtedly an ambitious plan. But Perez, like Saddam Hussien himself, has always been a big dreamer. "