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K-Nine is the ‘Dog’ of the SCV

Kevin Gilger, of Castaic, is ‘arresting’ as Dog the Bounty Hunter

Posted: December 4, 2010 10:55 p.m.
Updated: December 5, 2010 4:30 a.m.
Kevin “K-Nine” Gilger poses alongside an image of Duane “Dog” Chapman from the A&E television series “Dog the Bounty Hunter” at Gilger’s home in Castaic. Kevin “K-Nine” Gilger poses alongside an image of Duane “Dog” Chapman from the A&E television series “Dog the Bounty Hunter” at Gilger’s home in Castaic.
Kevin “K-Nine” Gilger poses alongside an image of Duane “Dog” Chapman from the A&E television series “Dog the Bounty Hunter” at Gilger’s home in Castaic.
Donna, left, and Kevin “K-Nine” Gilger play with their chihuahuas Teency (in foreground) and Pinch in the lobby of All Locked Up Self Storage in Castaic. Donna, left, and Kevin “K-Nine” Gilger play with their chihuahuas Teency (in foreground) and Pinch in the lobby of All Locked Up Self Storage in Castaic.
Donna, left, and Kevin “K-Nine” Gilger play with their chihuahuas Teency (in foreground) and Pinch in the lobby of All Locked Up Self Storage in Castaic.
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“Dog! Dog!”

Ever since he died his hair blonde that fateful day in 2007, Kevin Gilger, of Castaic, has been mistaken for Duane Chapman, also known as Dog the Bounty Hunter, who has a popular reality television show on A&E.

Gilger turned his resemblance to Chapman into a full-fledged career as K-Nine, celebrity  impersonator. K-Nine has been spotted all over Los Angeles, “arresting” unsuspecting partygoers, businesspeople and celebrities such as comedian Judy Tenuta, as well as appearing at ribbon cuttings for new businesses.

Dog spotting
“I’m the most photographed man in the Santa Clarita Valley,” Gilger said proudly. “People talk to me as if I’m him; they don’t even ask me. I have so much fun.”

There are downsides to pseudo-fame, however, as Gilger’s wife of 31 years, Donna, pointed out.

“Men bark at him; women grab him. They want to feel him and kiss him,” Donna Gilger said. “We can’t go to the movies or shopping without people coming up to us. Kevin will say, ‘I’m not who you think I am.’ They’ll say, ‘Dog, why are you lying to me?’ or ‘Are you going to arrest me?’”

Transforming into Dog
A natural (nonsteroid-using) bodybuilder for the last decade or so, Gilger used to be a redhead, but the hair color didn’t perform well under harsh stage lights.

“Caucasian males don’t look as cut as Latinos or guys with dark skin, but when you dye your hair blonde, it makes your head look smaller and your body look bigger,” Gilger said.

Once he did, even though his hair was short, people started telling Gilger he looked just like Dog the Bounty Hunter.
That came as a surprise to his wife. “I didn’t see it. I see Kevin, I don’t see anyone else,” Donna Gilger said.

The phenomenon reached a crescendo when the Gilgers went to Walmart for a book signing by Chapman in 2007. As soon as Gilger got out of the car, the crowd started chasing him, saying, “Look, Dog cut his hair!”

It didn‘t help that Donna Gilger, with her wild platinum and black long hair, flashy nails and jewelry, shared a natural likeness with Beth Chapman, wife of the real Dog the Bounty Hunter. “I’ve looked like this for many years. I was a character myself long before I knew who Beth was,” Donna Gilger said.

The Gilgers beat a hasty retreat, but an idea began to form. Gilger got hair extensions, matching tattoos and professional head shots, and then he started approaching talent agencies as a Dog the Bounty Hunter impersonator.

Eventually, Gilger got picked up by L.A. Casting, expanded into acting and started receiving requests for personal appearances and scoring the occasional film or television gig. 

He recently wrapped “Bamboo Shark,” appearing as Dog and a commercial for The Bank of Norway as Spicy the Wrestler.

“As an actor, I get cast as the wrestler, bad boy, biker or aging musician,” Gilger said.

Still, Dog will always be his bread and butter, even when it’s not intentional.

Shortly after getting hair extensions, the Gilgers went to dinner at a Los Angeles Wokcano on Halloween.

Unbeknownst to the couple, there was a costume contest happening simultaneously at the restaurant.

“The owner came up to us, tapped me on the arm, and said ‘You guys won.’ We hadn’t even entered,” Gilger said with a laugh. “The prize was $1,000.”

The cost of fame
Getting into “Dog” mode isn’t cheap, said Gilger.

“These are the Mercedes Benz of hair extensions,” Gilger said, tugging on his long blonde locks. “They’re like cocaine.
They cost $600 to $700 an ounce.”

Then there’s the black button-up shirts adorned with silver graphics at $100 a pop, the ornate leather cowboy boots, the dark sunglasses and residual bling.

“It cost me about $10,000 to get going with this,” Gilger said.

Fortunately, Gilger gets paid at the rate of $500 per hour (with a two-hour minimum) for appearances. He’s also shared a day job with Donna Gilger, managing All Locked Up Storage in Castaic, for the last 16 years.

“I help him get ready for appearances, but this is mostly my area and ‘Dog’ is his area,” Donna Gilger said. “If he doesn’t have a ‘bodyguard’ to go with him during an ‘arrest,’ I’ll go with him.”

According to Kevin Gilger, becoming “K-Nine” has elevated the storage business, especially when his likeness appears in All Locked Up’s local ads.

“The phone rang off the hook. Some people came in to get photos and meet me. It transferred into big sales,” Gilger said. “That’s what happens when you have a guy that looks like Dog. He’s just got a vast base of fans.”

A surreal life
While the look came easy, it took about two years before Kevin Gilger felt truly comfortable emulating Dog’s mannerisms. Now, it’s second nature. A little hand gesture here, the folded arms there.

Now he’s such a natural, people often chase Gilger down on the highway with their cell phone cameras, hoping to get a shot.

“They think they’re going to take a picture worth thousands for the tabloids,” Gilger said.

During an impersonator’s convention in Florida, Gilger “arrested” a newscaster on live television. When it was announced that he would appear at a nearby BB King’s nightclub, more than 1,000 people awaited his arrival.

“It was so surreal,” Gilger said.

Gilger has made friends with fellow celebrity look-alikes, who impersonate everyone from Sarah Palin and Barack Obama to Johnny Depp and Pamela Anderson.

“The guy who plays Johnny Depp looks so much like him, my friends don’t want me to bring their wives around him,” Gilger said. “It’s crazy, but we’re serious about what we do. We live these characters 24/7.”

Especially when meeting the real deal. Gilger went to Duane Chapman’s book signing in Northridge this August with a signed headshot that said, “To Dog, from a very grateful look-alike.”

When approached by his doppelganger, Chapman did a double take, then extended his hand. 

“He said, ‘I want some DNA on this boy before he leaves,’” Gilger recalled. “I asked him, ‘How about a two-Dog episode?’”

So how did K-Nine rate compared to the original? Gilger felt he more than held his own.

“We’re  both 58 years old, but I take better care of myself. Dog still smokes and gets too much sun. People think I’m younger, but I’m actually four months older,” Gilger said. “A lot of people think I look more like Dog than Dog.”

For more information on booking K-Nine, visit www.dogtheimpersonator.com or call (661) 294-0110.

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