by Mia O’Neill
Capital News Service
On inauguration weekend, there were two Mike Pences in the nation’s capital.
One celebrated his swearing-in as the new vice president with supporters at three official inaugural balls.
The other didn’t wear pants.
Meet the vice president’s doppelganger, Mike Hot-Pence, who’s been using his uncanny resemblance to the new veep to raise money for charity and progressive causes.
“I got the idea to go out to Times Square, and to collect money for causes and for communities that I think will be vulnerable in the next couple of years,” the New York City graphic designer told Capital News Service.
A day after the Trump-Pence inauguration, Hot-Pence partied with guests at the Unity Ball in Washington’s Chinatown, one of a number of “anti-inauguration balls” aimed at protesting the new administration. (He also spoke on behalf of Planned Parenthood, one of several charities to which event proceeds went.)
In real life, Mike Hot-Pence is Glen Pannell. He only realized he looked like the former Indiana governor when his sister pointed it out to him last summer, shortly after Pence was announced as Donald Trump’s running-mate.
“She called me on the phone and she said, ‘I have something terrible to tell you,’” said Pannell, 51. “She said, ‘Please don’t be mad. But you look exactly like Mike Pence.’”
Others began to notice the resemblance as well. In October, a friend posted on his Facebook wall, asking if he was going to dress up as Pence for Halloween.
He initially had some misgivings.
“I didn’t want to have a bunch of frat bros fist-bumping me and telling me, ‘Go Pence!’” he said.
But Pannell agreed to go as Pence, with a twist. Instead of formal slacks to complement his Pence-to-a-T blazer and tie, he pulled on a pair of blue short-shorts he’d worn for high school gym class.
“I put them on and I looked in the mirror, and I just cracked up. And I said, this is it,” Pannell recalled.
Though he got a lot of attention for his costume that night, Pannell said he didn’t think too much about it afterward – until the election. “That was just devastating to me,” Pannell said. “It was like getting hit by a train.”
As he recovered from the shock of Trump’s victory, he remembered the reaction to his Pence costume, and thought maybe there was some good he could do with it.
Since early December, Pannell has been going to Times Square dressed as a pantsless Pence, collecting money for charities and progressive causes such as Planned Parenthood, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the International Refugee Assistance Project and The Trevor Project, which runs crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.
His campaign has amassed more than 2,500 followers on Twitter and raised more than $11,000 overall, both from in-person and online donations. (He regularly posts updates of his progress on Twitter and YouTube, as well as confirmation of charities’ receipts of his donations, for transparency purposes.) He also has been featured in Esquire, The Washington Post, People and even Teen Vogue.
Julian Fleisher, a New-York-based jazz and pop singer and longtime friend, said he recently had Pannell make an appearance at one of his concerts as Mike Hot-Pence.
“He just lit the crowd on fire,” Fleisher said.
Pannell’s celebrity status was on full display at the Unity Ball (which was hosted by Scorpio Entertainment and raised money for Bread for the City and Capital Pride, in addition to Planned Parenthood.) Just seconds after he joined the party, throngs of guests hurried up to him, asking for selfies.
Despite his growing popularity, Pannell said he’d gotten more attention on his trip to Washington than he usually gets in Times Square.
“There are a lot of costumed characters in Times Square. I’d say 99 percent of the people there just pass me by,” he laughed.
Still, he said he’s always touched when people do stop, especially when they share their stories.
When Pannell was collecting for Planned Parenthood, one woman told him about how the organization had saved her life after a botched operation in the 1970s.
Another woman told him she lived in Mike Pence’s new neighborhood. “She said, ‘We’re keeping an eye on him. We’ve all got our rainbow flags out,’” he said.
Pannell, who is gay, said the real Mike Pence’s views on LGBTQ people, reproductive rights for women and climate change, among others, is what scares him.
But Pannell said he sees hope in the resistance to the Trump administration. And he plans to continue his charitable gig for the foreseeable future.
“It’s people that are lifting me up – the people who are donating to me and telling me their stories, (and) taking me out of the dark place that I was in after the election,” he said. “So even when I’m out there for three or four hours, I’m not tired at all. I’m actually completely energized. It’s great.”