Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon 

Yes, a purely non-political, just-for-fun post. I've been playing around with the Oracle of Bacon, a wonderful online program at the University of Virginia that uses IMDB data to calculate the Kevin Bacon number for any actor you pick. (It can also do the same for any actor and, despite Bacon's ubiquity, Sean Connery apparently is even more connected to everyone else).

Anyway, no matter how obscure or weird I try to be, I find most people to have a Bacon number of 2 or 3 -- meaning there are only two or three steps between them and Kevin Bacon. I mean, shiat -- Adolf frickin' Hitler has a Kevin Bacon number of 3. Disturbingly enough, that's the same as my Kevin Bacon number. And even going back for people who made very few film appearances a century ago, Thomas A. Edison has a Kevin Bacon number of 5. I had to look up obscure actors who appeared in what were basically home movies of the 1880s in order to find folk with infinite (aka non-existent) Kevin Bacon numbers.

But -- it's a fun toy to play with. Just try to find someone with a Kevin Bacon number greater than six. It isn't as easy as it looks. I even checked on a distant cousin of mine, who was a Broadway chorus boy in the 50s and had a cameo in one movie in the 80s. His KB number? Three. Which is the same number as my sister, who appeared in exactly two movies as an infant.

To give a random example of Kevin Bacon's ubiquity, I picked an obscure silent film comedian, Ben Turpin, and came up with this: Ben Turpin was in Hollywood Cavalcade with Don Ameche, who was in Oscar with Marisa Tomei, who was in Loverboy with... Kevin Bacon. A Bacon number of 3.


But, on the bright side, Bill Clinton has a KB of 2 (the same as Ronald Reagan), while Bush fils and pere don't connect to Bacon at all. Surprisingly, FDR's KB number is 3, as is Harry S. Truman. And Woodrow Wilson. And Calvin Coolidge and Teddy Roosevelt. Herbert Hoover is a 4. Gerald Ford, surprisingly, is a 2, while Warren G. Harding, JFK, LBJ, Nixon and Jimmy Carter have no connection.

Barbara Boxer? Two. Same as James Carville. And Orrin Hatch. John Kerry and Russ Feingold are not connected. And neither is Spiro Agnew or Nelson or John D. Rockefeller. Jaye P. Morgan has a KB of 2 -- but that's not the J.P. Morgan you're looking for.

Okay, I'll stop now. But it's a fascinating game to play, and I have yet to hit anyone except Edison with a KB number greater than 3.

Tiny frickin' planet, isn't it?

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