LOS ANGELES (AP) — Impressionist Steve Bridges, who used prosthetics and wigs to turn into presidents and laughs to make a living, was found dead at his home, his manager said Monday. He was 48.
Bridges returned from China on Feb. 23 and complained to friends of “super jet lag,” manager Randy Nolen said.
Bridges’ maid found the comic dead about 9:30 a.m. Saturday in his Los Angeles home, Nolen said.
It appeared that he died of natural causes, but an autopsy will be conducted, said Craig Harvey, chief of operations for the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.
Bridges’ George W. Bush impression made him a regular on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and earned him an invitation to the White House in 2003.
In 2006, Bridges joined Bush in a comic routine at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington, D.C., and at a Ford’s Theatre benefit.
Nolen said Bush called Bridges’ brother, Phillip, on Monday and offered condolences.
“Steve was not only a funny man, but a kind and decent human being. My heartfelt sympathies go out to his parents, his siblings, and his entire family,” Bush told The Associated Press through spokesman Freddy Ford.
“We had a great 10-year run,” Nolen said. “He went to the White House, the Oval Office, toured with Barbra Streisand and was a regular on the ‘Tonight Show’ for almost eight years.”
Bridges became Barack Obama, Bill Clinton or Bush for his most popular shows.
The makeup and prosthetics used for Bush and Clinton were designed by Kevin Haney, who won an Academy Award for aging Dan Aykroyd in “Driving Miss Daisy.” Obama was done by Kazu Tsuji, who designed Jim Carrey’s Grinch in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
Mari Enyart was Bridges’ makeup artist.
“From the neck up, everything but his teeth was covered in a prosthetic piece of some sort,” Nolen said about the impersonations of presidents. “It was as extensive, as good and as complicated as anything you would see in a motion picture.”
It took nearly four hours to apply the Obama makeup and nearly three hours to do Bush and Clinton. Close attention was paid to age marks and freckles on his hands because they were so visible, especially if a skit was being filmed.
Bridges had been scheduled to do three free shows on March 13, 14 and 15 for the Indian Wells Rotary Club to help raise money for students who wanted to go to college. Because of the time it took to get ready, he was going to be a different president each night.
Sometimes, Bridges would do shows without makeup that were titled “Steve As Steve” and showcased his 200 voices — from Bill O’Reilly to Rush Limbaugh to Tom Brokaw and all the presidents from Kennedy to Obama, Nolen said.
Born in Dallas, Bridges loved football and was a big Cowboys fan.
“He was courteous, kind, soft-spoken, reserved and respectful. He loved being on stage. He was a master at ad-libbing and improv comedy,” Nolen said.
Bridges is survived by his parents, Thomas and Margaret Bridges, brothers Phillip and Jon, and sister Elizabeth Bridges.
A service will likely be held in the next few days near the family’s Northern California home, with a memorial service to follow in Los Angeles.