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Everybody’s Port: Look-Alikes & Mistaken Identity

It is possible that you have a doppelgänger. It would take billions of DNA combinations, but it is possible. A doppelgänger is another you, exactly. (Frankly, I think the world is not ready for another me.)

Look-alikes, on the other hand, happen all the time. How many times have you made or heard the comment, “Doesn’t she look like so-and-so?” In the extreme, look-alikes can morph into mistaken identity. And that can be either good or bad. Believe me, friends, it happened to me.

In the early ’60s, a producer, who had optioned a musical for which I had written the music, wanted a London try-out for the show. His strategy: send Louise Troy (star), Paul Rosner (lyricist/playwright), and me to London to perform our score for potential co-producers. Although I wasn’t keen to leave my wife and kids in Port Washington, I figured we’d fly over, do our thing, and fly back in less than a week.

For reasons known only to him, instead of flying us over and back, the three of us found ourselves booked to sail on the USS United States. It was the ship’s last trans-Atlantic crossing. We smelled a deal. But this was showbiz, and we had no choice. It was bon voyage for the three of us.

Aboard the USS United States, there was first class followed by cabin class followed by third class, which had a more euphemistic name that I don’t recall. We were in cabin class. Our individual staterooms were small, but at least our benefactor didn’t try to stick us all in the same stateroom.

No sooner had I settled in than there was a knock on my door. I opened it. An official-looking young man in a navy blue uniform, smiled and said, “Mr. Blankman?” I nodded my head, and he handed me a cablegram. It was from my pal, Vincent Sardi (as in Sardi’s, the famous theater-district restaurant). It read, “Just found out your stateroom is bugged. Have a good time.”

A few minutes later, there was another knock on my door. It was Louise and Paul. Louise was not about to eat dinner in cabin class, so she picked the lock on the gate separating cabin from first class. With some trepidation, we followed her up the stairs and into the first class dining room.

Once there, a smiling maître d’ hurried to us. Addressing me, he said, “Oh Mr. Buchwald, I didn’t know you were going to be with us.” I shook my head and tried to tell him I was not Art Buchwald (the legendary Washington insider and newspaper columnist).

He quickly replied, “Don’t worry, Mr. Buchwald, I won’t tell anyone you’re here.” I started to protest, but Louise gave me a discrete elbow to the ribs. So when he said, “Please, Mr. Buchwald, it would be my pleasure to escort you to a good table.” What else could we do? We followed him.

Once seated, Louise said, “Look, Howard, that guy really thinks you’re Buchwald. He wants to believe you’re Buchwald. Don’t puncture his balloon.”

Then, in my face, threateningly, she added, “Or ours.” I kept my mouth shut, and the next four days we had our run of the ship. Life was beautiful being Buchwald. Brief, but fun.

Fast-forward to 1975: Art Buchwald spoke at a Long Island Association luncheon and we met. I couldn’t resist telling him my adventure as his doppelgänger. He gave me a look and laughed. As we made our goodbyes, a strobe-light flashed announcing that our photograph had been taken. I sent a copy of the photo to Mr. Buchwald with a note asking him to sign it for me.

A few weeks later, an over-sized envelope stamped “Do Not Fold” was delivered to me by the US mail in perfect condition. Inside was the photo of the two of us. It was signed, “Cheers, Art Buchwald”. Even better was the funny letter Mr. Buchwald included with the photo. He wrote, “I would like to get seven guys who looked like me and send them on the lecture circuit lip-syncing my recorded words.”

So much for doppelgängers and look-alikes. Heck, I think I look like my dad.

Howard Blankman has lived 55 years in Port and is the recipient of three lifetime achievement awards. Blankman has successfully pursued a multifaceted career encompassing business, government, television and the theater.


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