Saturday, August 09, 2008

Column: Your face may be almost famous


Do you ever get the sense that society would be better off if it weren’t so hard for people to find a celebrity who looked like them? Yes, me too. It’s enough to make you miss the days, back in the ’70s, when it was very easy to find a celebrity you resembled: Ernest Borgnine.

But somewhere along the line that changed, and it seems like there are no longer any celebrities who look like real people. For some reason Hollywood has determined that we want our celebrities to be so unnaturally attractive that, if they ever happened to run into us, the viewing public, they would assume we were trolls and rub our wizened faces for good luck.

Fortunately, someone is doing something about this situation. The Web site Myheritage.com has developed an online program to show us that, no matter how plain we may think we look, somewhere out there we all have a celebrity doppelganger — that famous person for whom we might be mistaken, even if only in twilight by drunken people.

Granted, I had reservations before I tried it. For one thing, the only celebrity I’ve ever been told I look like is Fozzie Bear, who is (A) a bear and (B) not even a real bear. Still, I steeled myself and uploaded my photo. Things didn’t start off well, though, unless you consider it a good sign that the program failed to find anything it could identify as a human face. (I started to think maybe I’d be better off trying to find a Web site that could identify the brand of tire I most resembled.)

Finally, though, it spat out my celebrity look-alikes, with the closest match being … Elvis! Unfortunately it was Elvis Costello, and it wasn’t even “Alison”-era angry-young-man Costello — it was old, scraggly, collaborate-with-Burt-Bacharach Costello. On the plus side, I do own all his albums, which is more than I can say about Ernest Borgnine.

The other matches were a little more palatable, though — they included Roy Scheider and, probably the best of the bunch, Aidan Quinn (who I have it on good authority once played Brad Pitt’s less attractive brother). Of course, it would be nice if their pictures on the site didn’t look like they were taken by paparazzi immediately after a car crash; I was starting to worry that if I kept clicking through my gallery of look-alikes I would eventually get to the Nick Nolte mug shot.

Then, just when I started to think the whole experiment might not be completely demoralizing, who pops up but … Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit. For those of you not up on your Turkish prime ministers, Bulent Ecevit looks sort of like a cross between Groucho Marx and Hitler. And not in a good way. On the plus side, though, I figure if Eastern Bloc politicians can now be counted as celebrities, that seriously lowers the attractiveness curve — even Gabby Hayes would be beautiful people under that scenario.

Of course, there’s no denying the whole concept is incredibly superficial. What would really be helpful is a Web site that matches up your personality to that of a famous celebrity. For instance, if you put in a list of your personality traits and it spat out a picture of Mel Gibson, you would know it’s probably time to make a public apology.

I should mention, though, that my visit to Myheritage.com wasn’t all bad news. When I uploaded my wife’s picture, the program popped up both Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz, so you know what that means. Yes, that my wife may secretly be Latino, but also that when she agreed to marry me I definitely got the better end of that deal.

On the other hand, I bet my looks will come in handy if we’re ever looking to get a good table in Istanbul.

CNC Managing Editor Peter Chianca is on hiatus until September; this column first appeared in 2006. To receive At Large by e-mail, write to info@chianca-at-large.com, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”

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