Donald Trump’s election was a dark time for many New York City residents, but Glen Pannell found a way to lighten it a little. Every week, the 52-year-old graphic designer dresses up as a sexy likeness of Vice President Mike Pence, goes to Times Square, and, as “Mike Hot-Pence,” collects money for causes he believes are threatened by the current administration.
Pannell says that the shtick started when friends encouraged him to dress up as Pence as a joke last October. “I thought, well, women have had to deal for decades with walking into a costume shop and having the options be sexy waitress, or sexy flight attendant, or sexy Pocahontas, so I thought what would sexy Mike Pence look like?” he says. “That just made me giggle, saying the words ‘sexy Mike Pence.’”
After the election, the joke wasn’t so funny anymore. “I was in a dark place in the weeks after,” he says. “I kind of felt like I was walking around in a daze, and I knew that I wanted to respond some way but I couldn’t figure out how.”
The answer was to put the Pence costume back on. Since December, Pannell has raised almost $15,000 for organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the International Refugee Assistance Project, and the National Resources Defense Council. Mike Hot-Pence has now been featured in GQ, the Huffington Post, and the Washington Post and travels regularly to fundraise at various events around the country.
This weekend, Pannell will be in Washington for the Capital Pride Festival, where he will raise money for a cause near to his heart: The Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to at-risk LGBTQ youth. Though Pannell says he is a “proud gay man” today, he grew up closeted on Long Island. He says he recently visited a Trevor Project call center in New York, where a representative told him the organization has gotten more calls since the election, often from young people who now regret coming out.
“It really made me sad,” Pannell says, choking up a bit. “For kids to have the courage to come out and to live their truth when they’re 14, 15, 16, and then to have this election make them want to go back into the closet just killed me.”
In the past few months, Pannell has been working the protest circuit in DC, attending the Women’s March, as well as the Tax Day March and the People’s Climate March. He’s familiar with the city, particularly the theater scene–Pannell has acted in productions of both Coriolanus and Wallenstein at Shakespeare Theatre Company and has also done shows at Signature Theatre and Rep Stage.
Now he says he feels like an important part of Washington each time he comes back. “It’s especially fun for me to go down now, based on what I’m doing, because now I feel like kind of an insider rather than an outsider.”
Mike Hot-Pence will collect donations at Pride and Shine, an all-day Pride party hosted by Urbana on Saturday, June 10.