One of the weirder phenoms of this world, to me, is all the look-alikes who pass themselves off as famous people. I have an old bandmate who looks like Carlos Santana and he has played in front of 50,000 people in Sun Devil Stadium, more than once, accompanying the ASU marching band, doing Santana songs at halftime. Many, if not most, of the people in the bleachers are convinced he is the real Santana and after thunderous applause (Mike is a very good guitar player) the crowd clamores after him to get an autograph, and, or, to touch him. He told me it is a strange sensation, having that much power for being someone who you aren't.
When Kathy and I were on the Rock & Roll Retirement Home tour last Saturday, our guide, Charlotte, told us they had a resident celebrity, who came out of an elevator just as we were going up to the second floor.
"He was in the 'Our Gang' movies as Freckles," she told us proudly. He carried himself well and is apparently 98 years old.
When I asked him if I could take his picture he agreed and was gracious and when I asked him about being Freckles in the "Our Gang" flicks he quickly added that he was in the silent versions which have all been lost.
Oh, how convenient.
I flashed back to working at New Times in the eighties when a news report in the Republic claimed a bagger at one of the local grocery stores was, in fact Buckwheat from the "Our Gang" series and several TV news stations did stories on him. Then another guy, back east, claimed to be Buckwheat as well, and I realized there are probably quite a few Buckwheats—and Freckles— passing themselves off as members of a very porous cast of characters in a long-running show.
Another time a New Times reporter came in the office and told me that Hank Ketchum, the creator of the comic strip, Dennis the Menace, is a homeless person living in Phoenix and the reporter had a drawing of Dennis that the down-on-his-luck cartoonist had done to prove it. Being a cartoonist myself, I quickly saw that it was not the real deal. Homeless Hank claimed the syndicate had robbed him of all his royalties and he was forced to live on the streets of Phoenix, Arizona. Unfortunately, when our editor did a little research he easily found the real Hank Ketchum who told us this bum imposter (literally!) was causing him all sorts of problems. The real Hank Ketchum was living on a lake in Switzerland and was very much alive and receiving ample royalties for his cartoons.
On another occasion, one of my New Times amigos came in the offices, upstairs in the San Carlos Hotel, and said Glenn Fry of the Eagles was downstairs drinking in the bar. Being a big fan, I ran down there, only to discover some hippy guy with long hair who sort-of looked like Glenn Fry, but not quite. Anyway, I didn't bust him and besides, he was holding court at the bar and, of course, everyone was buying him drinks and fawning over him.
Probably the most bizarre encounter with one of these taken-identity people was when I was a drummer in a Country band in Tucson playing the VFW circuit in the 1970s. We were told in hushed and reverent tones by the wait staff of the VFW that was just outside the gate at Davis Monthan Air Base, that one of the women who came into the bar regularly was actually Ronald Reagan's first wife, Jane Wyman. Well, there was a decent resemblance, but REALLY, she's hanging out in Tucson in a VFW? To this day I don't know if it was the real Jane Wyman or not (although a quick search shows that the real Jane Wyman had a home in Palm Springs!), but then, that is the thin line of believability all these Taken-Identity people play on.
"Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant."