Off Limits

Image is everything.

Wild West adventurer turned entertainer William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody was no stranger to the spotlight. He knew how to please a crowd, and, true to form, so does Buffalo Bill lookalike Lance Michaels -- even if it took Michaels six or seven takes to nail a plug for CBS's The Early Show at the Colorado History Museum on Tuesday. Decked out in his award-winning purple silk shirt, tall black boots and wide-brimmed hat, Michaels cut a remarkable figure as he spoke his lines in front of the museum's current exhibit on Cody. "Before I ride off in the mornings, I wake up to what's happening on The Early Show," he drawled for the final take, pulling his gun and then adding, much to the production crew's dismay, "Yeeee-haw!"

The shoot was one of about a dozen around town that will be used in coming weeks, says Danielle Dascalos of News4, CBS's Denver affiliate. "The show is really drawing an audience in Denver," she adds. That means that soon Denverites, as well as other Bryant Gumbel-loving fans, will be able to catch early-morning glimpses of High Tea at the Brown Palace, rhinos and seals at the Denver Zoo, tigers at Ocean Journey, the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center, and the How the West Was Sung Singers at the Buckhorn Exchange, as well as Buffalo Bill.

Michaels isn't Colorado's only Buffalo Bill lookalike, of course. "At any given time, you can probably find about a half a dozen who are really professional and have authentic costumes," says Lynn Bronikowski, who does public relations for the Buckhorn Exchange. The restaurant, where Buffalo Bill enjoyed many a glass of apple juice and rye -- a cocktail that's still on the menu, although bourbon has been substituted for the rye -- hosts a yearly bash in late February to celebrate Cody's birthday, for which lookalikes from all over the country convene in costume. "If someone wants a Buffalo Bill lookalike, I can probably find them one," Bronikowski adds.

And not just any old lookalike, either. As with Elvis impersonators, Buffalo Bill lookalikes are grouped according to age. "We have the old Buffalo Bill -- that's Colonel Al Huffman," says Bronikowski. "Then there's Lance, who is the young Buffalo Bill, and we have Stan, who is the middle-aged Buffalo Bill. Buffalo Bill is the Elvis of the 1800s, and the Buckhorn Exchange is kind of the Graceland of Buffalo Bill."

Bronikowski isn't joking. On Tuesday, the Buckhorn hosted a lunch for the CBS crew, Michaels and a number of other folksy folks who were trying to get on camera -- or into a few Buffalo Bill Cocktails.

So take that, Wellington Webb: It may not be the world-class image you want Denver to project, but at least the The Early Show's ratings aren't world-class, either.

Yeeee-haw!

 
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