Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mistaken Identity

New Orleans' French Quarter at night seems best represented by black and white photographs (if you exclude the colorful neon signs of Bourbon Street).

However, photo-graphing New Orleans at night required some skillful maneu-vering. Setting up a tripod without creating an obstacle for the Quarter's foot traffic was a challenge. It involved finding a suitable location in the street or on a sidewalk, taking the photo, and quickly moving out of the way of oncoming foot or motor traffic. The whole operation started more than a couple of pleasant (fortunate-ly) conversa-tions as people followed the line of the camera to see what I saw or found some humor in the camera and tripod positions in doorways or near traffic in the street.

The photos shown here were taken within three blocks of St. Louis Cathedral on two different evenings. I was more interested in the lighting of the scenes than in their location, so while you scroll through the gallery, I want to relate some stories about Identity.

Several years ago, on one of our first visits to the Quarter, we went to Olivier’s for dinner. We were greeted by the maitre d’ at this very formal, quintessentially New Orleans Creole restaurant, but after the greeting this gentleman seemed a bit perplexed. After a pause of probably five seconds—a delay which seemed longer because even this brief break in this gentleman’s competent execution of his role was unexpected.

He then asked, “Excuse me, but are you Jack Kemp?”

Now it was my turn to pause. Being mistaken for the former quarterback of the Buffalo Bills, congressman from New York, and HUD Secretary was a bit of a jolt. Before I could give much thought to seeing how far this mistaken identity could take me, I replied that I was not.

Interestingly enough, I don’t think he believed me, but he did not press the question further, and we all returned to our roles of host and guest of Olivier’s.

Fast forward to the present and our stop at the Visitor Information Center in the Quarter. We were talking with one of the staff members, when another one of the staff glanced over at me and, during a break in the conversation, interjected this comment: “You look a lot like that Mission Impossible guy.”

Believing that she did not mean Tom Cruise, I said, “You mean Peter Graves?”

“Yes, that’s who you look like,” she quickly replied.

“Well, thank you,” I answered.

Several minutes later as we were leaving the Center, that same person paused in her conversa-tion with another visitor to bid us a farewell with, “Take care, Peter.”

Then, a couple of days later, we were in a restaurant that required us to go up to a counter to place our order. After ordering, I turned to leave,and the counter person said, “Y’know, you look a lot like that guy from Airplane.”

“Leslie Nielsen?”

“Yeah, that’s the guy,” he responded. (I couldn’t help but think that he thought I looked like Leslie Nielsen from the back.)

“Thanks,” I said, “I thought he was really funny in that movie and Naked Gun.

And then there was the “combo mistaken identity.” Just a couple of weeks ago, we’re walking up Canal Street and a woman approached us and then stopped. She stared at us and asked, “What’s your name?”

Without identifying ourselves (I could feel some type of con coming on), we learned that we looked like a couple she had known a few years ago in the course of her work.

Although she was hard to convince, we parted after assuring her that our last name did not begin with a “T” and that we had not worked in the oil industry.

The reason for this "Y'know-who-you-look-like" phenomenon being localized in New Orleans remains a mystery. I may have to consult with Dr. Mark Sloan* on this matter.

*Dick Van Dyke, another silver-haired TV personality, played a physician who was a consultant to the police in "Diagnosis Murder".

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