Jewish World ReviewJune 6, 2000 / 3 Sivan, 5760
Steven who? A close
encounter of mistaken
AT FIRST GLANCE, the case of the
Steven-Spielberg's-nephew-imitator seems like a
once-in-a-million-years kind of thing.
The case has unfolded in Fairfax City, Va. A
student at a private high school there -- a student
known as Jonathan Taylor Spielberg -- pleaded
guilty this month to one count of forgery.
This fellow was known to students and teachers as
the nephew of filmmaker Steven Spielberg.
Jonathan Spielberg applied to the school in 1998,
and showed up for classes driving a blue BMW
with the license plate "SPLBERG." He reportedly
handed out money to fellow students; he said he
had transferred from the Beverly Hills Private
School for Actors.
However, it turns out that there is no such acting
school -- and that Jonathan Taylor Spielberg is not
really Steven Spielberg's nephew. In fact, he is not
even high-school aged. Young Mr. Spielberg is
really Anoushirvan D. Fakhran (or at least he was,
until he legally changed his name to Jonathan Taylor
Spielberg in 1997). He is not from Beverly Hills,
but from Iran. And he is 27 years old.
This all came to light when school officials made a
call to Steven Spielberg's office in California, and
found out that Spielberg had no nephew by the
name of Jonathan Taylor Spielberg -- and certainly
had no nephew who hailed from Iran.
Now . . . as was mentioned at the beginning of this
column, you would think this is a bit unusual -- a
man going around passing himself off as a relative
of Steven Spielberg.
But in fact I have a friend who gets mistaken for
Steven Spielberg all the time. He doesn't do
anything to make this happen -- but there is nothing
he can do to stop it.
He'll call me and say, "It happened again," and I'll
know what's coming.
It only happens when he wears a baseball cap;
without the baseball cap, he bears only a slight
resemblance to Steven Spielberg.
With the baseball cap, though, there is an
undeniable similarity. Evidently Spielberg wears
baseball caps a lot when he is directing films -- and
people have seen photos of him in the cap.
So my friend -- a mild-mannered sort who would
never lie about anything -- is constantly being
treated as if he is Steven Spielberg. And when he
says that he really isn't Spielberg, people take that
as proof that he is Spielberg.
It will happen in prestigious New York restaurants;
there will be a one-hour wait for tables, and he will
walk in and the maitre d' will look at him and escort
him right to a table (even though he's wearing a
baseball cap in the restaurant). "We're honored to
have you with us," the maitre d' will say. When my
friend will say, "I'm not who you think I am," the
maitre d' will wink.
My friend will check into a hotel under his real
name -- what other name is he going to use? -- and
when the bellman will take him to his room, the
bellman will say: "Your secret is safe with me."
He will go to more casual restaurants, and the
proprietors will ask him to sign the wall. When he
will say, "Believe me, you don't want me to sign
your wall," they will get all huffy. So Mr. Big Shot
Steven Spielberg is too important to sign our wall.
At plays, the cast members will come out after the
performance, look longingly into his eyes, and
thank him for coming.
What's nice is that we live in an age in which a
Steven Spielberg lookalike can be treated in such a
way. Guys who look like Tom Cruise -- and there
aren't many of them -- have always had an easy
path through life. But guys who look like Steven
Spielberg -- well, there are entire suburbs full of
guys who look like Steven Spielberg. (Although not
anywhere near as much as my friend does -- with
the baseball cap, it's pretty uncanny.)
In an earlier age of celebrity -- say, the Clark
Gable-Cary Grant age -- most Americans would
know what Gable or Grant looked like, but few
would know what Darryl F. Zanuck looked like.
Today, though, an immensely talented filmmaker
and studio head can be as recognizable as a movie
star. This is good; Spielberg didn't get where he is
because of his looks, and it's nice that he is
recognizable because of his talent, not because of
pretty teeth or a dimple in his chin.
With this news out of Virginia, I have suggested to
my friend that he get his nephew involved in the act.
The private-school guy from Iran wasn't related to
anyone of note; at least my friend's nephew has an
uncle who people refuse to believe isn't Steven
Spielberg. He can probably get into Harvard on
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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