Even though I’m not actually guilty, I know many of you think that I got what I deserved. You probably think people like me get by on their looks and coast through life without breaking a sweat. Well, in my case, coast through someone else’s life. I know for a fact, from the “fan mail” I get here, that there are lots of you out there that think I’m just a crazy man spinning a conspiracy theory. I’m used to that kind of judgement, it doesn’t bother me. I don’t need to defend myself from that. I will tell you all this right now, I am not, nor have I ever been, a religious man, but I will confess my sins today. I am guilty of many, many sins.
But none of those sins is murder. That one belongs to my look-alike buddy, Brad Pitt.
To set the record straight, it took me a while to see my resemblance to Brad, I mean, I never thought I was that good looking. I was a geeky kid; glasses, acne, bad haircuts, debate club, math nerd. And the fatal blow? I was a big kid. About eighty pounds overweight, just five pounds shy of being officially obese. I was ground zero for awkward. Deathblows for any teenager trying to make friends and learn social skills, so I retreated inward. Friends? I had a few loyal friends who were fellow dorks, but mostly TV and movies were my friends. I was also fascinated by data, by numbers.
I’m not telling you all this to get sympathy. Yes, I was a sad case growing up, but this is who I am. I am not a monster, I evolved into Brad. There was no plastic surgery involved either. This is all me.
My point being that by the time I had left high school, the mirror had become my enemy. I hated the image that I saw, so I avoided looking at one, in college I even avoided owning one. Looking in the mirror would trigger all of my self-loathing. The longer I looked in a mirror, the uglier and fatter I became.
It wasn’t until my last year of college that I put my foot down. I was going to lose weight if it killed me. I would not leave school and go out into the world as that near obese self-loathing kid anymore. I dieted, exercised, stopped eating fast foods, soda, desserts. By the time I graduated the weight had come off. But that wasn’t enough to make me Brad Pitt.
My relationship with my reflection began to change, but not entirely. I was no longer a big guy, I could see that. Sometimes. The image I saw in the mirror was still competing with the image that had been burned into my brain all of my life. If I went off my diet for one meal, the old me would show up in the mirror immediately. It was hard to trust what I was seeing.
That’s why I didn’t see the resemblance to Brad. Back then, it wasn’t even a thought that I could look like a movie star, I just wanted to stop being afraid to see myself. In photos from that time you could clearly see I looked exactly like Brad Pitt. In fact, almost a dead ringer. But Brad Pitt wasn’t Brad Pitt yet either.
I was twenty-five years old and still thought of myself as the fat ugly duckling. The mirror had always been my opponent, so I still avoided it. It became instinct to cover up my looks, a hat that would overshadow my face, clothes that would hang loosely instead of formfitting, never looking at anyone eye to eye for too long. This ability, the ability to will myself ugly, would come in use later in life when I needed to “de-Brad.”
Memorial Day Weekend 1991. That’s the weekend Brad and I were born. Well, that’s the weekend we both became BRAD PITT. Thelma and Louise came out. Until then, he was just a lucky guy who did okay in the gene pool. And I was a guy who had no idea that I was just as lucky. But that movie changed both our lives.
The fateful moment when Brad’s destiny and mine would become entwined forever occurred about a month after the movie opened. I remember it very clearly because I did not want to see it. I was dying to see Backdraft. It was the closest thing to an action movie that was playing that weekend and I didn’t want to waste my Saturday night at a “chick” movie. My friends outvoted me. I grudgingly went along. I mean, what else is a nerdy, lonely twenty-five-year old with no self-confidence do on a Saturday night in Madison Wisconsin?
I have to admit, the movie was pretty good, but when Brad appeared on screen as the sexy hitch-hiker, it didn’t register with me. Like everyone else, I was struck by his charisma. I could never have that swagger, that charm! Never even entered my mind that I could be his twin brother.
However, it registered with a couple of the women who were with my friends that night. We went out for beers after the movie and they kept insisting that I looked like him. I thought that they were making fun of me. There’s no way I would ever resemble this guy who oozed sex on screen like that. I never oozed anything, well, not anything good. One of the girls took out her brush and tried to give me his hair, but I just swatted her away. I ignored them that night.
But not the next day.
I woke up the next morning with this question creeping through all of my thoughts. What if I do look like him? I mean, what if I am really actually that good looking? Wouldn’t that be something? But, it couldn’t be possible. People who looked like that knew they were good looking. Didn’t they?
I wet my brush and styled my hair the way Brad’s character did in the movie. I had a cowboy hat in my closet from an old Halloween costume. I put it on and stared at myself. Maybe, I thought. Maybe I might look like him.
This is where it all begins. I let my hair grow out and grew my sideburns a little bit. I went to the mall and bought the clothes that he wore in Thelma and Louise. Yes, the exact clothes. Being the nerd I was, I cut out pictures of him from a magazine that had his outfits and took those pictures shopping with me. When I looked in the mirror, the reflection was a very different image than I was used to seeing. But what if it was lying? Can mirrors lie?
I needed someone else to see this.
For Halloween that year, I broke off from my tradition of hiding behind a costume to cover up my perceived flaws.
My friends were floating the idea of the Simpsons or Pee Wees playhouse as group costumes. I declined. I had a surprise.
When I showed up to our annual Halloween Party as JD from Thelma and Louise, complete with clothes and hair, there was silence. Long excruciating silence. I had purposely come late to the party so that I could get everyone’s attention. This was difficult enough, as it was not in my DNA to seek attention. Even having my friends take that much notice of me was going to require what little confidence I had. I stood there in the doorway as a small group gathered in front of me. I remember two distinct things about that moment: One woman, who was dressed as Lisa Simpson, was staring at my crotch. No one had ever looked at my crotch and now Lisa Simpson was staring at it. After another few seconds, Marge Simpson yelled out, “Smile like him.” I knew the “Brad grin” that Marge was looking for. It was in all the photos of him that I used to track down his outfit. It occurred to me that I was focusing on the clothes and not the attitude. I put my hands on my hips, leaned a little sideways and gave them the cocky Brad grin. That’s when the screaming and squealing started.
I had a superpower. I WAS Clark Kent. I could run into a phone booth and become Brad Pitt at a moment’s notice! This was like going to sleep an orphan and waking up as the secret Getty heir.
So, maybe I might have taken Brad out for a test drive a few times. I may have gone to a local bar on weekends, by myself, with my Thelma and Louise outfit on, and maybe I started to get laid a lot. Okay, no maybe’s, I did this. So sue me.
My new superpower gave me a little more confidence in life. I walked with a little more swagger, I smiled with a little more intent.
This new-found confidence found its way into my personal life. Now that I had gotten somewhat used to having this superpower, I used it at work to get ahead. I’m still at my core, a nerd, so I found that by using these looks I did not have to have a dazzling personality to get ahead at work.
I was a bean counter at a large insurance firm in Madison, a worker bee in an anonymous cube farm. I’m not a charming guy, not particularly gifted with chat. I’d just as soon discuss statistics and probability than anything else. The internet was finally invented and this helped me to continue to avoid human contact. At a company Christmas party, one of my co-workers attempted to hit on me. She shocked me, but I was a little drunk, so what the heck! Of course, all I could talk about was Y2K and the impending doom. This was in 1994. She was not impressed.
I began to interact with management a little bit more, I just smiled his smile and brushed back his long hair and people assumed I had the charm that went along with the looks. I got promoted twice.
In 1995, People Magazine announced that Brad Pitt was the sexiest man alive. Really, I thought? I still didn’t feel like the sexiest man alive. By this time, I knew that I could look like him, and I had gone through two girlfriends who I had picked up in bars because I looked like him, but that’s all they cared about. I noticed a pattern with my girlfriends; they always wanted to go out, never wanted to stay in. They wanted to show Brad off. They wanted to be seen with him, get treated better when they were with him. What did we talk about? Parties they could take me to, what I would wear to those parties. I felt like Brad Pitt was a mask I could wear to hide me. Still, I could not stop being him. Being me didn’t work as well as being him, so I went ahead and changed my hair to Brad’s spikey new do.
I decided that I wanted to swim in a bigger fish pond, so I moved to Chicago and became a Financial Analyst for Goldman Sachs. I am convinced that they hired him, not me. The interview was all about using my superpowers. I had a decent enough grasp of finance for the new job, but for this type of position, they usually require two degrees from the “right” schools. I remember talking on the phone to their recruiter who was trying to tell me politely that she couldn’t even forward my resume because it lacked the “proper” background. I told her, with complete Brad confidence, ”Just get me into an interview. I will get the job.” Well maybe I was not quite as confident as I was cynical. By this time, I knew that looks trump everything. I had five interviews with them and I learned how to easily win over the interviewer. Less talk, more smile. Me, my B.A. from U of W and his looks got me hired.
I moved quickly up the ladder at work because my boss wisely saw that negotiating complex financial deals would be more successful if negotiated by Brad Pitt. I’d sit at the negotiating table and grab their eyes with Brad’s smile. Even the men! Actually, especially the men! My upper legs were raw because of all the hands placed on them during a business meeting.
But then Brad finally challenged me. He threw down the gauntlet. I mean, really asked, “Are you with me? Willing to put your money where your mouth is?” That was the year Fight Club came out.
Fight Club is a brilliant film about an alter ego that looks like Brad Pitt. Let’s just say this movie resonated with me. Maybe more than I’d like to admit.
Up until then, for me to keep my own Brad alter ego alive, it was just a matter of hair styles, but with Fight Club it was the body as well. My body wasn’t bad at this point, but it wasn’t even close to the shape he was in. Also he buzzed his head. And the facial hair. Goldman Sachs didn’t allow facial hair.
I made a plan. I guess this is where the lines started getting crossed. Instead of casually going to my hair dresser and updating my haircut, I plotted to become him. Or more accurately to remain him. I hired a trainer. Four days a week for three months. Turns out, I’m a little beefier than Brad when I pump iron, so we had to adjust the work out. I hired a dietician so I could get just the right combination of food to produce the sinewy muscle that I needed.
I changed my job. This was during the heady days of dot-com madness, and I found a job at a startup that not only welcomed facial hair but practically demanded it. And of course, I buzzed the hair off. I not only became Brad, I became Fight Club.
Life was changing for the both of us. We were both getting older, maybe getting that nesting instinct. Brad got married for the first time. I started to tire of the sex. Well, maybe not the sex per se, but the women. They all became the same to me. They all wanted him, not me. I never had to put that much effort into finding women, I just showed up somewhere and they would start talking to me. They really didn’t care much what I had to say, they would laugh at my jokes, and I learned from their cues whether I was welcome to take them home.
But actual dating? I was afraid to admit it, but this is a skill I had never acquired. Talking to women about their lives was not necessary for me since most women came on to me for his looks and cared little what was underneath. The double-edged sword? I felt like there wasn’t that much underneath.
All of that changed one fortunate weekend when I was bored enough to go on a blind date with some friends from work. I still remember that first encounter with Sophie Taylor. She was sitting at the table in a restaurant when I walked in and we were introduced by our mutual friend who loudly proclaimed, "I told you he looks just like Brad Pitt!”
She calmly held out her hand and smiled, “Don’t worry, I won’t hold that against you.”
Bam! She had my attention. She was a little bit older than my usual conquest, much more confident, sophisticated. For the first time since becoming Brad, I was a little bit intimidated by a woman.
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, I’m not going to assume that because you’re so pretty, that you aren’t intelligent or just relying on your looks to get by. So I think that’s kind of nice of me, don’t you?” Her smile spread across her entire face. Sophie was not classically pretty, she was not like my typical Jersey Shore type of women. She was impressive. Her features were distinct, big eyes that were always searching, a big nose that curved a little bit to the left.
I smiled back at her. She didn’t say this maliciously, she said it with a wink, a dare. I was fascinated at her bravado and now totally intimidated. How do I tell her that she’s right? She wants honesty. Fuck, I’ll give her honesty.
“I agree, It’s really nice of you, but I’m afraid you’re wrong. I’m totally empty inside. Not one original thought in my head. Nada. I was counting on looking like a movie star to win you over. Now I don’t know what to do. It’s all I got.”
She scrutinized me a bit more. Was I pulling her leg? Her smile came back.
“Okay, then let’s start with that. Not one original thought in your head, right? Let me hear about some of your unoriginal thoughts.”
Sophie wanted to know who I was. She was paying attention. This was new to me. Before I knew it, I started blathering on and on to her about statistics and probability.
“What’s the probability of you having a doppelgänger?” She was genuinely curious.
“One in a trillion.” I knew this from research. I also appreciated that she asked about my doppelgänger, not me being his doppelgänger.
“You probably have differences in how your features are measured.” She was staring at me like a science project. “Even identical twins have some huge differences in facial measurements.
“Measured? What does that mean?”
Sophie plucked an olive out of her Martini before explaining. “Sorry, I have a bad habit of focusing on minute facial details. I restore artwork at the museum, and I’m restoring a bunch of 18th century profiles, so the devil is in the details. How far your eyes are from your nose, how close your lips are to your nose. My guess is that they are some big differences there.”
This was refreshing, I was talking to a grown-up. Someone who knew details about art and who talked about my face as something other than a ticket to get in a club.
For those few hours I totally forgot who I looked like. I didn’t worry about hair, maintaining the movie-star smile, or if there was someone hotter in the restaurant that I could get. I think she saw me in the same way she saw the paintings that had to be restored. She knew that if she scraped the paint and dirt on the surface a little bit, there was something better underneath, and she could bring out the original beauty.
Since all of my relationships were based on who I looked like, it was a whole new experience to be with someone who wanted me, not him. She challenged me in ways no other woman would ever do. In relationships I never had to do any heavy lifting. If I didn’t like the way a woman spoke to me, I could easily move on to the next one. Sophie unmasked me. She demanded more, demanded I value her as she did me.
I finally had to learn to care about another person, figure out how she would feel about decisions I made, think about what she was feeling.
For a while I almost forgot about him. Almost.
Having Sophie in my life also challenged Brad. Why did I need him anymore? Had he outlived his usefulness? I finally had a normal relationship, it’s not like I need his looks to go out and get women anymore.
I definitely didn’t need more attention from women. I was locked on to Sophie. We had moved in together and I assumed we’d get to marriage sooner or later. So for the most part, I thought my obsession had passed.
Until Oceans 11 came out. Brad had a whole new look. He was now older, but still Mr. Cool. I could become that, I thought. In earlier days I would have run right out to my stylist and had my hair re-done. I would have found the clothes he wore. But now, it suddenly felt wrong. After all, my primary use for him was to gain access to women, so it felt like putting on the Brad mask was getting on a runway to cheating.
This is when I began to realize maybe I was addicted to being him. Once in a while when Sophie and I would go to a concert or to a five-star restaurant, he would come out again. I took great pleasure in preparing to become him for a night, so we could get to the head of a line or better treatment. It satisfied some need in me I couldn’t identify.
That’s when I thought it must be about the power, not about the women. Or maybe about the attention. Maybe it’s something out of my past, when I was afraid of getting attention, and now the pendulum has swung where I hungered for it.
Do they have an AA for this kind of addiction? Celebrity Anonymous? Being hooked on looking famous anonymous? I don’t think so. I wish they did, because as you will soon see, what happened in Las Vegas did not stay in Las Vegas.