A few years ago, I was having lunch at the rooftop restaurant of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. I was not a guest of the hotel and was staying at a much more moderately priced establishment a few miles away. The atmosphere was opulent—a sixteen-story-high oasis with a pool, cabanas, and an aroma that caused me to imagine a eucalyptus tree making love to a lavender field. I was trying to fit in by wearing sunglasses, a ball cap, and a black t-shirt—the standard Beverly Hills uniform. As I was waiting for my $25 appetizer, I noticed a man and woman at a nearby table whispering to one another while glancing in my direction. I began to wonder if I had been found out. Could this couple sense that I was out of my element? That someone should be notified to gently direct me back to the Comfort Suites in West Hollywood? Suddenly the woman threw her napkin down and walked over to me. I was dreading a confrontation when she said, “Are you Jim Belushi?”
This was not the first time I have been likened to a celebrity. In eleventh grade, a girl in my geometry class told me I looked like Steve Perry. At the time, Perry was the frontman of the band Journey and he made high school girls swoon with songs like “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Faithfully.” While Perry’s voice may have been magical, his appearance was ghastly. He was slightly effeminate, stick thin, and wore a stringy brown mullet that framed his oily, gaunt face. I took the comparison as an insult, but looking back at old high school photos of myself, I must say the resemblance is quite striking.
On my most recent trip to Los Angeles, I was standing at a crowded crosswalk on Hollywood Boulevard when a young boy pointed at me and loudly asked: “Are you Robert Downey Jr.?” Hollywood Boulevard is full of celebrity impersonators trying to get the attention of tourists in order to pose for a photo and elicit five or ten bucks, but this kid seemed to sincerely believe I was the actual megastar. At the time I was wearing a dark suit, thick-framed sunglasses, and sporting the beginnings of an ill-conceived and fortunately short-lived goatee, but other than that, and the fact that we both have dark hair and are roughly the same age, there is no conceivable reason for anyone to confuse me and Robert Downey Jr. I could have ignored the situation but I didn’t want to burst the kid’s bubble, so I winked and gave him a thumbs up. The kid jumped up and down with excitement—his parents, however, stared at me with looks of confusion mixed with slight recognition.
I like to think that now, a year later, that young boy is still telling his friends how he met Iron Man on the streets of Hollywood. But his parents are most likely telling a decidedly different story, of how on a trip to Los Angeles, they saw either the worst Robert Downey Jr. impersonator imaginable or the real-life Jim Belushi.
Illustration by Timothy Banks