Masks do Life as Howard Stern Lookalike Easier

resembling a celebrity i personally loathe has been a bit easier throughout the pandemic.

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"Hey! ns resemble the remark." — Jonathan Curiel (we think)

Walking roughly San Francisco v a mask every day method hiding an essential part of her appearance from the public. If the eyes room a window into the soul, the nose and also mouth room portals come our symmetry selves, completing the border of our challenge so that everyone in sight have the right to make an prompt assessment of that we are — or who they think us are. For me, the coronavirus pandemic has tamped under a continuous occurrence that would certainly rile me every time it happened: A stranger notices my face from a couple of feet away, then claims for anyone to hear, “Wow, the guy might be Howard Stern!”

The worst is when they won’t take “you’re mistaken” for response – as taken place on a Sunday afternoon in 2019, when I stood on a street corner in an eastern Harlem ar where nobody knew me. I was a traveler in a city wherein you can acquire lost in anonymity, but a middle-aged mrs was honking in ~ me and also furiously waving, then drove ideal to my corner as she quit for the red light. “Howard Stern!” she crooned excitedly together she poked her head the end her window. “Hi Howard!”

“No, I’m no . . . .,” I stated as she bellowed native her car window. Yet as the light turned green and cars behind her were almost pushing she to move along, I gave into she fantasy so the traffic can flow again. “Hi,” i said, and also she waved ago and drove far – a instance of assumptive misidentification that, prior to the arrival of mask-wearing, would occur not simply in new York and San Francisco yet overseas, in cities prefer Lisbon and Porto in Portugal. And when it happened on a street wherein I could respond through a conversational reply, here was my normal answer: “I’m not even close to being Howard Stern. Together a matter of fact, i detest Howard Stern. He’s overpaid. He’s overrated. And also his utter buffoonery contributed to an inane society that accepts ‘diss course’ because that ‘discourse’ and helped give rise to Donald trump – a chairman whose national politics are the antithesis that mine.”

The answer ns usually obtain from inquisitors. “Oh.”

It’s disconcerting come resemble a human you don’t like. I average really don’t like. And I don’t think ns really look prefer Howard Stern. For one thing, he’s much taller than me: 6-foot-5 contrasted to mine barely 6-foot stature. And also while ours hair and also hawkish/hookish noses can be vaguely similar, Stern’s prompt ethnic roots are in Europe, when mine room a global mix of geographies and cultures. Yes, I’m a fifty percent Ashkenazi Jew however I’m also half Mexican, v DNA that web links me to native America, eastern Asia, and also sub-Saharan Africa. The blood of disparate peoples courses v my veins, and it provides my blood cook to be connected to a pop society figure that – through his radio parade called The Howard Stern Show – embodies a culture that rewards snide answers, dubious boasting, sexist idiocy, and an arrogance and also belligerence it is designed come embarrass, agitate, and, yes, entertain. It is Howard Stern, who became very rich by smuggling in his brand of linguistic narcotics. Ns say “narcotics” because it gets people hooked on – and also tolerant of – a kind of toxicity sensationalism the centers top top sophomoric putdowns and also superficiality, together in this 1999 on-air comment do 24 hrs after the catastrophic Columbine shooting:

“There were part really good-looking girl running with their hand over your heads. Did those kids shot to have sex with any kind of of those good-looking girls? they didn’t also do that? At least if you’re walking to kill yourself and also kill the kids, why wouldn’t you have some sex? If i was going come kill part people, I’d take them out with sex.”


Stern to be Trump’s conjoined twin, engaging v the future president about behavior that is morally if no legally criminal – together in 2005, once Stern solicited an join from Trump the he barged in on women, some apparently as young as 15, at his beauty beauty pageants: “Before a show, I’ll go backstage and everyone’s getting dressed, and also everything else, and you know, no males are anywhere, and I’m enabled to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant and also therefore i’m inspecting it. You know, ns inspecting because I desire to make certain that every little thing is good. Friend know, they’re standing there v no clothes. ‘Is anyone okay?’ and you view these significant looking women, and also so, I kind of get away v things favor that.”

Heard by millions and millions the people, The Howard Stern Show assisted lay the groundwork because that the public’s reception and perception of Trump’s venomous “Grab castle by the pussy” remark, which to be revealed in 2016 yet had virtually no affect on Trump’s presidential campaign. Sure, Stern now says, “I just don’t agree politically” with Trump. And also sure, Stern now says he was a actual fan of Hillary Clinton and wished she’d unable to do on his show to rise her popularity and also political base. Yet it’s way too late because that regrets. Stern helped develop a U.S. President whom many civilization call a fascist and also an American Frankenstein. Notice I say “helped create,” due to the fact that a thousand other factors gave rise to Trumpism, but the undeniable fact is the Stern was a factor. So that’s what ns tell people who cozy up to me and expect some sort of positive, celebratory reaction.

I burst their bubble. Ns burst their bubblism – a condition that keeps people in social and political silos, particularly at digital sites favor Reditt, where they talk about Stern, communicate with their other bubblists, and also worship in ~ the feet that the famous and also give this celebrities a respect that’s grossly the end of ratio to their deserved place in society. When teachers roughly the United states struggle to earn $75,000, Stern apparently earns $100 million a year (and is supposedly worth $650 million), which prompts his pan to adulate him even more. That no surprised that, throughout Gawker’s “stalker maps” period, whereby it tracked celebrities in actual time, Stern to be a target. Any kind of sighting the Stern was a big deal – and that hasn’t readjusted in the year 2020. I beg your pardon is why I obtain approached as regularly as i do.

I know some world would envy me because that quasi-resembling a celebrity. In the surreal Instagram era that we live in, looks can be whatever – and also can cause its own fame and feasible fortune, i beg your pardon is why extreme worshippers will have actually excruciating plastic surgical treatment to look choose their heroes. Angelina Jolie lookalike Sahar Tabar and also Kim Kardashian lookalike Jordan James Parke space the poster youngsters for this too much fawning. I didn’t pay a dime to accomplish my look. No one dime. It just happened through genetic circumstance. And also if ns really hated looking prefer Howard Stern – really despised the moments annually where human being mistake me for the shock-jock – then I’d cut my hair short and stop wearing the glasses that also cement my resemblance to Stern. However I ain’t law that. Instead, I use each case of mistaken identification as a possibility to educate Stern’s pan – to connect the dots for them the way I’m law in this essay.


Stern’s acolytes aren’t provided to that. Not at all. And also while ns haven’t retained in touch v the scores of human being who’ve stopped to questioning if ns Howard Stern – which is to say, ns haven’t bring away a vote to check out if mine dot-connecting and protestations have actually made a difference and adjusted their views around Stern, or celebrity-hood, or something – I deserve to say this: The pattern of mistaken identity has changed me. That clued me even an ext adroitly to the celebrity society that drives so numerous people approximately the world – drives them to religiously follow celebrities on society media, just like Howard Stern (1.6 million Twitter followers) and also Jennifer Aniston (35 million pendant on Instagram); and even cd driver them to poll for celebrities who run for office without viable, systematic political endure or public service, similar to Al Franken, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and also Donald Trump.

It’s this out-of-control celebrity lionizing that really galls me once strangers questioning if i’m Howard Stern. Yet if I’m honest with myself – if ns parse out the levels of mine animosity towards Stern and his location in the culture – I need to admit the jealousy is a factor. Yup. There’s a next of me that wishes people regularly walked up to me and asked, “Are you Jonathan Curiel?” yes sir a side of me that wishes i were consistently on TV and also had countless social-media followers. I’ve to be on the airwaves occasionally, similar to my journalistic interviews that’ve do their way to C-SPAN. And also I am on society media, but I’m mostly pedestrian in ~ it, and also have simply 74 Twitter followers and also 227 Instagram pendant – which is about normal for Instagram and rather pathetic for Twitter.

Don’t obtain me wrong: human being have inquiry me whether ns me – including one time at a journalism awards ceremony, where I was obtaining recognized for my reporting on Arab society and Arab politics and also had to go on phase for a few minutes. It was nice come be well-known that evening. And also it’s always illuminating to fulfill a celebrity – i m sorry I’ve done in my 30-year career together a journalist, just like my interviews v Aniston, Jackie Chan, Warren Beatty, and Omar Sharif. Hell, Aniston was honest enough to phone call me around the chasm between fans’ late of celebrity lives and the reality. “People phone call me, ‘Your life is perfect,’ and also they’re fed this idea the there’s this life without problems,” Aniston said me in 2002, “but castle don’t recognize me and also my life. Nobody gets away without part crazy days and also hard knocks.”

I’m not also a fan of Aniston’s comedy, and I never watched Friends — no one minute – but I didn’t dislike her, and I was an excellent with writing around her 2002 movie, The great Girl. Stern is one more matter. That become an individual for me. The hate is visceral. However I likewise know this: The hate could easily dissipate if i were to accomplish him and also get to understand him a bit the way I gained to meet and also know – if only for 30 minute – Jennifer Aniston and also Jackie Chan and also other famous world like Rwanda chairman Paul Kagame. Every popular figure in the people – even if it is Paul Kagame or Howard Stern – has a complex legacy. I wrote around Kagame’s in 2005, a month after ns interviewed that in person. Kagame committed genocide to protect against genocide, scholars and critics now say. His heritage lives solidly in a gray area. Not black. Not white. Gray. Together in, “There are contradictory truths here. Let’s not involved conclusions prior to we recognize all the facts. I typical all the facts.”

It’s this kind of complex existence that Stern and his fans avoid. Generally speaking, they taste the put-down. And also they taste conversations that devolve right into the gutter – the devolve into conveniently reductionist notions around women’s bodies, about sex, around politics, and about the civilization at large. This kind of reductionist view is good for Stern’s bottom line, yet it’s poor for the world bottom line. It helped lay the structure for the cultural dumbing under of America, and the social acceptance of politicians who have the right to talk nonsense however still get chosen to office.

I speak “hell no” to this political dumbing down. I say “hell no” to rewarding superficiality in politics and also the culture at large. And also I speak “hell no” to Howard Stern. However in this pattern of “hell no,” I recognize I’m being an extremist myself. I’m being prefer . . . Well, Howard Stern. Almost twins. So, shock of shocks: We have things in common. (Hell, we’re both authors!) and also guess what: ns OK through that. I’m OK through occasionally being similar to Howard Stern. And also if people are walking to approach me like that driver in east Harlem – if lock taking the time from their day to take time from my day – the fair because that me to give them a Howard Stern-like lecture on what it’s choose to look at a little bit like Howard Stern. In the moment, ns am him. Favor him, I’m making use of a short time – seconds, yes, really – to it is in didactic and also opinionated and also (if ns in the mood) darkly funny.


So, i’ll welcome the end of mask-wearing, the finish of the pandemic, and the reemergence of being mistaken for Howard Stern, whenever it happens. And in the meantime, I’ll learn to actually say thanks to Stern. And anyone that stops me or does a dual take – like the woman two years earlier on Fulton and Masonic roadways who stated she could empathize through my resemblance due to the fact that people often told she she looked exactly like Sharon Stone. Truthfully, she didn’t. Not at all. I mean, i’ve met Sharon Stone. Speak to her for a minute. Wished she well (even though i think she an utterly terrible actress). And also the Sharon stone lookalike i spoke with in san Francisco was no lookalike. She was a look-a-little. As with me. However a tiny resemblance, i’ve learned, deserve to go a lengthy way. It’s no a problem however an opportunity. The a chance to meet brand-new people. Even if it is you favor them – or look favor them – is a whole other matter.

Jonathan Curiel has actually been writing around the arts because that SF Weekly since 2010.

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Quarantine think is an ongoing personal essay collection focused on how the coronavirus, society distancing mandates and the financial fallout that COVID-19 is impacting locals.Read more essays here.