Six Degrees of Separation

In 1990, American author John Guare wrote Six Degrees of Separation, a play that catapulted an obscure academic theory into popular culture. “I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people,” Guare wrote. “The President of the United States, a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names. I find it extremely comforting that we’re so close […] I am bound, you are bound, to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people.” 

Last July, however, psychology professor Judith Kleinfeld swept that theory into the dustpan of disproved hypotheses. “The pleasing idea that we live in a ‘small world’ where people are connected by ‘six degrees of separation’ may be the academic equivalent of an urban myth,” she said.  

Rather than tackle the pile of papers on my desk, I thought it might be fun to procrastinate do my own experiment with the Six Degrees of Separation hypothesis. So here’s my attempt to connect you, me, and six celebrities. 

1. Let’s start with former President Gerald R. Ford, who, at age 93, died yesterday at his Rancho Mirage home. I didn’t see President Ford himself, but I waved at a small group of his Secret Service men as I drove past his desert home in a Rolls Royce golf cart last spring.

2. President Ford loved outdoor sports altogether, but he was especially fond of skiing, as is our California governor. Unfortunately, Arnold Schwarzenegger was forced to terminate his ski vacation in Sun Valley, Idaho after breaking his right femur – just a few short days after sending me a holiday greeting card that featured a Christmas fir tree he’d painted himself. The tightly-structured letters in his signature look identical to the ones he wrote when he signed my legislation into law back in September, but the card’s also signed by his wife, Maria Shriver.

3. Back in October, Arnold Schwarzenegger put the kibosh on critics who tried to associate him with President George W. Bush. “To link me to George Bush is like linking me to an Oscar. That’s ridiculous,” the Governator told Jay Leno. But a serious discussion about the potential extinction of polar bears may require Bush to cozy up to Arnold and other environmental advocates.

4. President George W. Bush is an avid bicyclist, and apparently, Paris Hilton’s now taking up the sport. After her DUI back in September, she reportedly traded in her silver car for a bicycle. (Fact-checker alert: Last time I drove down her street, Paris had a Bentley parked in front of her house, not a Benz. And hello, reality? Does anyone besides me have trouble seeing Ms. Hilton using a bicycle for anything other than a prop?) 

. I’m certainly not BFF with Paris Hilton, but we do have a few things in common.  On at least a couple of occasions, she guest-starred on the hit series, “The O.C.,” the SoCal county in which I live. Also, Paris says she’s trademarked her oft-repeated phrase, “That’s hot.” However, I openly admit that I’ve co-opted and up-marketed the phrase, and that I’m using it as a title for my nonfiction book, THAT’S HAUTE. Finally, Paris Hilton’s appeared many times in People magazine and its sister publication, TIME. Coincidentally, I was once quoted in a TIME feature story, when I had a different last name. 

6. But You landed a spot on the cover of TIME, didn’t you? The magazine put you into the spotlight of fame when it chose You as its 2006 Person of the Year. So this makes you the sixth link in the chain that brings us all together into one united Circle of Trust.

If, like me, you’re in the mood for procrastination mental gymnastics, I challenge you to play the Six Degrees of Separation game.

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