Abe Lincoln Impersonator Lance Mack greeted delegates at CivicFest at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Sunday evening.

Carlos Gonzalez, The Star Tribune

Having a blast living in the past

  • Article by: RICHARD MERYHEW
  • Star Tribune
  • September 2, 2008 - 8:23 PM
If Lance Mack has his way, Abe Lincoln will appear at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul this week. ¶ Honest. ¶ "If the RNC wants me, Lord knows, I'm there," said the 59-year-old Lincoln impersonator from Marion, Iowa. "I'd just love to wander around on the floor." ¶ In recent days, the lanky, 6-foot-5 Lincoln look-alike has been positively presidential at the CivicFest celebration at the Minneapolis Convention Center, shaking hands with visitors, posing for photos with kids and babies, and tipping his black stove-pipe hat to everyone who passes by.

But his goal this week is to win credentials for a bigger stage -- the RNC at the Xcel Energy Center.

"What I need, like any actor, is one big break," he said.

Mack's passion for playing Lincoln began 18 years ago while he was teaching German at the University of Michigan.

When his wife, Maureen, told her bearded spouse that he'd be a dead ringer for the nation's 16th president if he got rid of his moustache, Mack shaved his upper lip. Not long after, he showed up at a Civil War reenactment and found that almost everyone greeted him as "Mr. Lincoln" or "Mr. President."

Mack was so convincing that organizers invited him back the next year "and I got paid. It was pretty cool," he said.

Over the past 18 years Mack has paid the bills by working as a teacher, a coffee shop manager, a legal assistant for a law firm and now as a call center representative in Iowa, where he lives with his wife and son, Daryn, 21.

"I've had an eclectic career," he said.

But his real joy comes when he dons the stove-pipe hat and black frock suit.

For $500 an appearance, Mack recites bits of Lincoln's great speeches and uses the Great Emancipator's "own words" to entertain and educate students and history buffs from Iowa to China.

"It's just such fun to bring Abraham Lincoln to life and kiss babies and do all the good politician stuff," he said.

"Abraham Lincoln is the quintessential American story. He was poor, he was self-educated and he reached the highest office in the land."

Mack's ultimate dream, he said, is to hit Broadway with a one-act play. He sees winning credentials for the RNC as a way to help make that happen.

He's contacted party officials and notified representatives of John McCain's campaign. He's still waiting to hear back.

"I always admired him when I studied history," Mack said of Lincoln. "But I never had any idea it would come to this."

Richard Meryhew • 612-673-4425

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