LOS ANGELES, March 23 (JTA) — Jerry Haleva, Hollywood’s favorite Saddam Hussein double, firmly denies that he spoke over Baghdad television on the opening day of the war. “I would never wear such ugly glasses,” he protests. Haleva bears a striking resemblance to the Iraqi dictator, especially when he strides into a diplomatic reception complete with beret and full uniform. “Only in America could a nice Sephardic boy get paid to make fun of Saddam,” he marvels. Haleva is a pro-Israeli activist who serves on the national executive board of AIPAC and chaired the Jewish federation of Sacramento, Calif. In his daytime job, he is a successful business and industry lobbyist in the California state capital. As an actor, his film career took off with the first Persian Gulf war; he has played you-know-who in “Hot Shots,” “Hot Shots! Part Deux,” “Mafia!” “The Big Lebowski” and last year’s HBO mockumentary “Live From Baghdad.” Working a convention in full regalia a few years ago, he ran into former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. The two men shook hands and Haleva used the photo in his firm’s marketing brochure with the caption, “If we can make this happen, how hard can your issue be?” Showing no political favoritism, he has also posed with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Haleva’s most recent gig was three months ago, when he interrupted a speech by George Shultz, breaking up both the meeting and the former secretary of state. The busy lobbyist, who at 56 is 10 years younger than Saddam, has put his other persona on hold during the Iraq war. “This is too serious a time for America and Israel to trivialize the situation,” he says. But after the war? “As an actor, I hope Saddam goes into exile and my career extends,” Haleva says. “But as an American, I hope I get to do his epitaph.”
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