Tracey Bell has to cast her mind back a long way to remember a time before she became a performer.
“I was a shy little kid. I didn’t talk until I was three, but I never stopped after that,” chuckled Bell, a celebrity impersonator who will entertain patrons at the Silver Screen costume gala for Langley Lodge and Langley Hospice Society on Saturday, Oct. 18.
“I was producing shows in my basement by the time I was five.
“I directed the girl next door who was a year older, but I also starred.
“I was a real promoter. I dragged people into the seats — moms and neighbours.”
By the time she reached high school, Bell was doing a few celebrity impressions for her friends — Judy Garland as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, with her purse standing in for Toto.
“Whatever got a laugh, I’d keep going with it.”
She impersonated singer Nana Mouskouri and, at the urging of a friend, sang Happy Birthday as Marilyn Monroe.
“I had dark hair and a unibrow. I didn’t think I looked like Marilyn,” she recalled with a laugh.
But her gift for bringing famous women to life was apparent, and her calling to be on stage cut short her university education.
She finished three years of a sociology degree before dropping out, dumped her med school boyfriend and began performing full time.
Using the club where she had started out as a coat check girl as a springboard, Bell stepped onto the stage to try her act on an audience not made up entirely of friends, family or classmates.
“I did Liza and Cher. I also did whatever was hip,” she recalled.
It was the ’80s, so she performed Katrina and the Waves’ Walking on Sunshine, Montego Bay by Amazulu and Spirit in the Sky by Doctor and the Medics.
There was even a time, some years later, when she hung from the ceiling of the Chateau Whistler (without a safety harness) and performed as Nicole Kidman’s character Satine from Moulin Rouge. For that role, she studied her moves with a fried from Cirque du Soleil.
But the bit never really took off, so she abandoned it.
More recently, she tried out a Lady Gaga routine to see how that would fly with audiences.
A crowd’s reaction is what determines whether a character stays in Bell’s repertoire. And what goes.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, it’s the classic divas — Cher, Liza, Celine, Dolly, Marilyn, Madonna and Tina — who have never let her down. And it is these characters she’ll bring out to play at the Oct. 18 gala.
As the tribute to the stars of the silver screen begins, Bell will do a walkabout as Marilyn Monroe and pose for photos. Later, she will perform her ‘best of’ act — a 45-minute show in which she incorporates eight divas.
“I have a formula, worked out over the years,” said Bell, who this spring will mark three decades in show business.
“I really include the audience and get them up on stage, dancing and kicking their legs out to New York, New York.”
Corporate events remain Bell’s bread and butter, but she’s always delighted when she can be part of an event with a greater cause.
“I’m so grateful to be able to do charity stuff,” she said. It’s so fulfilling.”
The Silver Screen gala to benefit Langley Lodge and Langley Hospice Society takes place at the Cascades Casino and Convention Centre at 20393 Fraser Hwy. in Langley City.
For those still in need of a costume, Hallowville Manor, located at 20568 56 Ave. is donating all proceeds of costume rentals for the Silver Screen Gala to the Langley Hospice and Langley Lodge. Tickets to the gala are $125 each.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, click here or call 604-530-1115 or 604-880-6752.