San Francisco and Seattle: are you talkin' to me?

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San Francisco and Seattle: are you talkin' to me?

It was at a mayoral dinner function in Seoul recently and I had got dressed up. For the previous few days my young interpreter had seen me in jeans and an open-neck shirt -- so I guess it was her surprise at my well-groomed appearance in dinner jacket, pale pink shirt and red tie that made her startled.

“You are very handsome, Mr Graham,” she said with the kind of charm I am always happy to accept as sincere. Then she added, “Like Sean Connery.”

“But he is old,” I laughed and took my grey beard on through to dinner.

This wasn’t the first time I had received such comments, although Connery was a new one. In various parts of Asia particularly I have been greeted as the (very) late John Lennon, Willie Nelson since I grew the beard, and a couple of times Hollywood people whose names I know but haven’t a clue what they look like.

But like me, I guess.

None of this has ever worked to my advantage although a peculiar thing happened in San Francisco one night.

After dinner we ambled into Union Square and the sign for the Top of the Town caught my eye, a bright neon affair in the night that promised a rooftop club and martinis of the Rat Pack-style. Or not.

But we thought it might be worth a look.

When we got the elevator entrance on the ground floor there were burly bouncers keeping their eyes on the orderly but obviously anxious queue of barely dressed young women and fashionable young men for whom entry to this place seemed akin to getting the keys to the Kingdom.

We glanced at the line, the age of the people and the obvious cool quotient required for entry and turned on our heels -- only to be called back by one of the bouncers who quickly cleared a path for us through the crowd of kids now whispering at each other.

When the elevator doors opened at the top an oddly similar thing happened, a path was cleared for us as we made our way to the bar. I asked Megan what she wanted and then she ambled over the windows to take in the view, I turned back to the barman in time to see him stop serving other customers and briskly make his way to me with an attitude which was a blend of servility and fan-dom.

Bewildered, I picked up the drinks and turned to find Megan.

A path was cleared.

“I think they’ve mistaken me for P Diddy,” I said.

We looked at the pretty lights of the city below, endured a dull but not overbearing DJ and noticed quite a few people looking at us. I went to the bathroom -- again a path was opened for me when I hit the crowd near the bar -- and came back saying I thought we should leave.

Although we had done nothing to warrant their attention, clearly a mistake had been made and I didn’t want to have to admit it when the club owner invited us to fly to Cancun for the weekend with him in his private jet.

We never did figure this out . . .  although a week later I was standing in a Walgreens in Seattle admiring the rows of across-the-counter pharmaceuticals, potions, drugs and other assorted medications when a woman came and stood directly in front of me, opened her toothless mouth and barked, “Triple H”.

I looked around to see who she might be talking to but clearly, through her fug of drugs and alcohol, it was me.

“Triple H,” she insisted.

I denied it, she insisted again and then I made the mistake of laughing on my next denial.

Suddenly she snapped and yelled something unprintable about Triple H and bustled off in a cloud of rancid odour and curses. Whoever Triple H was, I didn’t like his fans.

The following night a friend informed me I had been mistaken for a well-known WWF wrestling champ who was two metres-plus tall and built like -- well, like a man who casually throws other very big men across his shoulder.

Like me, Triple H had long hair. But Triple H I wasn’t.

Then again, I wasn’t John Lennon, Willie Nelson or Sean Connery either.

I often wonder if they were ever mistaken for me in their travels?


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