A Case Of Mistaken Identity

ALICE STEINBACH

November 19, 1990|By ALICE STEINBACH

IT HAPPENED THREE WEEKS AGO,as I was entering the lobby of a posh Washington hotel, one known to be frequented by celebrities visiting the nation's capital.

"You Sally Field?" a Korean waiter asked me as I stood near the elevator. "You star in 'Smokey and the Bandit?' With Burt Reynolds? Could I have autograph please?" He held out a hotel menu for me to sign.

The man was obsessed. He would not take no for an answer. And no amount of whipping out my driver's license or showing him my press card could convince him otherwise. So I signed his menu: "To Kim. With best wishes from Sally Field."

Maybe I'm imagining it, but people often seem to think I look like someone else.

For instance, there was the time a few years ago when I interviewed Phyllis George and her husband, John Y. Brown, then governor of Kentucky. She became obsessed with the idea that I was a twin to Carrie Rozelle, wife of the former National Football League commissioner, Pete Rozelle.

Phyllis to John Y. Brown: "Hon. Come here. Doesn't she look exactly like Carrie? This is so weird. You look like Carrie's twin. I've never seen anything so weird. John, isn't it weird?"

John to Phyllis: "It's weird."

And when I interviewed the late, great fashion doyenne, Diana Vreeland, she greeted me with this comparison: "Hmmmmmm. You have an overbite that makes you look like Leslie Caron. Hmmmmm."

Other people I have been told I look like: Dinah Shore, Princess Margaret, Jane Fonda and Vivien Leigh.

Vivien Leigh?

Yes. It really happened. In the ninth grade. I was sitting with Martin Litz in the darkened school auditorium watching the film version of "Caesar and Cleopatra" starring Vivien Leigh, when Martin -- who worshiped the ground I walked on -- turned to me and said: "Did anyone ever tell you that you look just like Vivien Leigh?"

Sometimes in life a man (or boy) tells you something, just one little remark, and he's got you. Martin Litz got me that day.

Some people I wanted to look like over the years but have never been told I look like: Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Bisset, Katharine Hepburn and Candice Bergen.

Although Elizabeth Taylor had a great influence on me during my teen years, and although she is the reason why I went to Miss Maida's Beauty Salon when I was 14 and convinced her that my mother said it was OK to have my hair dyed black (not tinted, dyed), it was -- and still is -- Katharine Hepburn who epitomized the Ideal Woman to me.

But no amount of sucking in my cheeks or arching my eyebrows or letting my hair fall across the right side of my face could change the fact that I had a moon face and snub nose.

Growing up, my girlfriends and I loved to sit around in somebody's bedroom and talk about who we'd like to look like. Then we'd talk about who we'd like our dogs to look like. I wanted my dog, Floppy, to look like Lassie. Which, given the fact she was a cocker spaniel, was never going to happen.

But then I was never going to look like the girl I saw once when I was about 10 and visiting an uncle in Princeton. Her eyes were green, her hair was long and blonde and worn in a pageboy style that swung around her face when she moved her head. I'd never seen such a sophisticated dresser: She was wearing a fuzzy, blue Angora sweater, a gold circle pin, jodhpurs and brown leather riding boots. She seemed perfect to me.

You can call it kid stuff, all this nonsense about who you look like and who you'd like to look like. But I still exchange such bits of vital information with women friends. For instance, a colleague and close friend tells me I look like Victoria Principal. In return I tell her she looks like Kirstie Alley.

Still, sometimes I wonder if there's a celebrity out there -- say, Susan Sarandon or Jacqueline Bisset -- who sits around and dreams of looking like me.

I mean, it's not impossible that Jacqueline Bisset would think of gaining 20 pounds; buying contact lenses to change her eyes from green to brown; losing the flowing mane of hair for a shorter, neater look; and undergoing surgery to lower her cheekbones. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying she's actually going to do this; I'm just saying it's not impossible.

And I don't want to get weird or anything but I thought I noticed something about Ms. Bisset in her last film that I hadn't noticed before. Something about the mouth, maybe a slight overbite.

Or maybe not.

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