De Alba on Skipper 

By Entertainer David de Alba*

  To see Richard Skipper perform his 'live' impressions of such stars as Carol Channing, Judy Garland, and even Ethel Merman, is a unique experience not to be missed.   He performs primarily on the East Coast and Canada, but just this year he made his West Coast debut at San Francisco's Plush Room.   His vocal and acting talents are so good that it's easy to forget that it's actually a man doing an impersonation on stage.   Richard recently won the 2000 MAC Award & 1998 Backstage Bistro Award for Outstanding Achievement in Impersonation.   I met Richard through the Internet last year and now that I have launched my new Interview Celebrity Page I invited him to be part of that prestigious group of entertainers.   To my delight he accepted.   Ladies and gentlemen of Cyberspace, I present the talented Richard Skipper!

Richard as Carol Channing

David:  Richard dear, where were you born and where did you spend most of your youth?

Richard:  I was born in Conway, South Carolina.   I lived there until I moved to New York at the age of 18.   I had never been away from home before, I'd never flown, I didn't know anyone in New York, but I knew that I belonged in the theater and that was my call to go away.

David:  Did you have a "drag mother" or a mentor that helped you get started in the field of 'live' entertainment and female impersonation?

Richard:  If I were to call anyone this, it would probably be a woman by the name of Leola Harlow, who passed away a couple of years ago.   When I first started performing in piano bars in New York and everyone was interested in getting me started in impersonation, Leola was the one that actually designed my first costume and gave me my very first 'look' as Carol Channing.

David:  Were your friends and family supportive of your choice of profession?

Richard:  No.   My family was not excited about me going into the theater at all.   It had nothing to do with impersonation.   They weren't happy about me going into the field of performing in any capacity.   When I came to New York I came on my own with absolutely no support from any of my family with the exception of my Grandmother.   She really wanted me to go after my dreams.   I lost her unfortunately a few years ago.   It was a horrible loss.   I really wanted to have the support of my family and friends, but I think I spent the first 10 years of my life in New York doing everything to prove to my family that I could do it, that I would make it happen.   Eventually I came to the realization that why I do what I do is because I actually love doing it.   That's first and foremost.   My goal is always to give an audience the best experience they can possibly have.   I'm always very aware of going on stage and entertaining my audience.   I've always considered myself an entertainer rather than a performer.   I actually draw a distinction between the two.

Carol Channing with 
 Richard as Carol

David:  Were you nervous the first time that the real Carol Channing was in the audience seeing you portray her?

Richard:  I was nervous until I walked into the room where she was.   Once I came out and she embraced me I knew that I was home free and that all of the work that I had done had been worth it.   I did go with the idea that evening however that if she didn't like what I was doing that I would never do it again.   I was very grateful and still am that she showed me her support.   There are very few performers who impersonate someone that get the actual endorsement of the people they're impersonating.   I'm very fortunate and lucky with that.

David:  Who makes your authentic costumes?   Oh...and by the way, do you have a personal hairdresser who styles your wigs?

Richard:  I've worked with various designers.   Believe it or not, most of my things come right off the rack.   There's a place that I go to in New York called Elle Belle and I've been very fortunate to find some really good things there.   As a matter of fact I just bought a new red gown that is very similar in nature to the red gown that Carol wore in Hello Dolly.   It's the same color and it has the same applique but it's a contemporary dress, so it works out just perfect.   As far as my personal hairdresser, I use a lady by the name of Magalie, or Maggie.   She's with Barry Hendrickson's Bitz-n-Pieces here in New York.   Maggie actually did Carol Channing's wigs for many years, so I'm very fortunate that she also does mine.

David:  I understand that you use 'live' musicians in your act.   Do any of them travel with you, and what instruments do you usually have in your band?

Richard:  Yes, I do.   I have charts for piano, bass, drums, and saxophone.   In some situations I'm able to bring my own musical director along.   Because of budgetary restrictions, 9 times out of 10 I'm not able to do that, so I work with house musicians or people that they provide along the way.

David:  You have worked as part of a revue and as a soloist in concert form.   Which do you prefer, and why?

Richard:  I always enjoy the freedom of doing my own show where I'm more in control.   I also find that when I'm in a revue show, (and I do love doing revues and working with other performers), I find that I'm more exhausted than if I'd done a full show.   I think the reason for that is because I have less time to prove myself and I really have to work harder.   I put in a lot of energy and normally when I do a guest spot it averages between 15 and 25 minutes, and I come off more exhausted than when I do my full show, which is an hour and a half to two hours, depending on whether I'm working in a cabaret or theater setting.

Richard as Judy Garland 
 "Blackglama Fur"
Photo by Eric Stephen Jacobs

David:  Are there any particular Carol Channing and Judy Garland songs you favour and that you most often include in your act?

Richard:  With Carol Channing of course, I love doing Hello Dolly, Before the Parade Passes By, Little Girl From Little Rock, and Diamonds Are a Girls Best Friend.   I would consider those her four signature songs.   One of the songs that I do when I do my New York version is My Personal Property, which is a song all about New York City, from the movie version of Sweet Charity.   Even though it's a song that Carol Channing has never sung to my knowledge, it's a song that I love doing as her.

With Judy Garland, my all time favorite song to perform is The Man That Got Away.   Also, Almost Like Being In Love/This Can't Be Love and the medley You Made Me Love You, For Me and My Gal, and The Trolley Song; just absolutely love doing those songs.

David:  Do you have any hobbies or interests that occupy your time when you are not performing?   How about any pets?

Richard:  As far as hobbies are concerned, that's an interesting question because I really consider my work a hobby; the excitement of getting up each day pursuing the work.   I get almost as much satisfaction out of the pursuit of the work as I do in the work itself.   Each time I get a booking, a new gig, whatever, I feel that I've made a major accomplishment in my life and career.

I do have two pets.   I have Chip, who is a Yorkie, and I have Gladys who is a Calico Cat.   I love animals.   I've always loved animals, grew up on a farm in South Carolina and have been surrounded by animals all my life and I love having them around.

David:  Is performing your only means of income these days or do you have a secondary or "fallback" skill or profession?

Richard:  This is it!   I made a real commitment to myself a couple of years ago and "knock on wood" I've been able to make a living at this, still not at the level that I want to be but it's coming.   2000 for me has been an incredible break-thru year as far as work is concerned and what I've accomplished.

Richard as himself

David:  Most people think that professional Female Impersonators lead a bizarre personal life.   Except for the travel and odd work hours, "It Ain't Necessarily So".   How would you describe your own off-stage life style.

Richard:  I'm very involved in the close knit cabaret community in New York, and as a result of that a lot of my "spare time" is out seeing cabaret shows.   I'm also very involved in fund raising and do a lot of benefits.   My partner Danny and I have an incredible support system of friends of all different persuasions and backgrounds so we spend a lot of time with our friends.   I love to travel.   When I'm on the road it becomes almost a working vacation for me because I'm away from the pursuit of work.   I really like to take the time to explore whatever town I'm appearing in and get to know the people there.

David:  Just between you, me, and the Good Fairy, do you have a special wish or goal for the future?

Richard:  Number one, to take my show to Broadway, the ultimate goal of where I want to go.   I'd like to be a household name, to be able to take what I do into the mainstream and to be accepted just as Dame Edna has been for years.   It's exciting to know that that's a possibility.   I want to be able to work consistently, to go from town to town and be able to work when I want to, where I want to, and how I want to.   To me that would be the ultimate goal.

David, thanks a lot.   I'm glad to be a part of this.   I'm very impressed with the work that you've done on your Web Site and the support that you've shown other performers, and it is well appreciated, I hope you realize that.   Have a great 2001, the real Millenium.    Richard

Visit Richard's Web Site at

You can e-mail Richard Skipper at

NOTE: Picture of "Richard as Carol Channing" by Devon Cass.

* Cuban/American entertainer David de Alba (also known as "Heri, Hairstylist of the Stars") is known for his live singing impressions as a concert artist since 1965.   He has worked at the world famous Finocchio Club of San Francisco (USA) for many years.   Visit the award winning Web Site "David de Alba’s Theatrical Arts & Tributes" at and you can e-mail him c/o