Hemingway Sightings

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It's Ernest and Elvis and The Three Stooges
by Bill Hall, Idaho Tribune, Sunday, September 7, 1997

Never mind all those Elvis sightings. Those are nothing by comparison
with Ernest Hemingway all over the place.

Everywhere I look these days, I see barrel-chested, bald-headed men with
white beards. Except for the barrel chest, I probably qualify as one

Every year, some bar some place in one of Hemingway's old haunts has an
Ernest Hemingway look-alike contest. It used to be that a few guys
barely resembling the author -- beyond the white beard and a slightly
plastered look -- would show up for the contest. But in recent years
the number of entrants has grown huge. And a large percentage of them
look a lot like Hemingway.

At first, I thought we had another Elvis-sighting phenomenon on our
hands, that not only had Hemingway come back from that big trout stream
in the sky but that he had been cloned. The guy was suddenly all over
the place.

Of course, what we actually have is the phenomenon of an aging
population of 1960s people. Beards on men came back into fashion during
that decade. And a lot of men from that era kept their beards -- which
have now turned Hemingway white.

For good measure, these former slender youths in tie-died shirts and
bell bottoms have chunked up quite a bit. Today they have bell bottoms
more than ever and I'm not talking about their trousers. They are, to
put it kindly, barrel-chested in the fashion of the famous author. They
couldn't get into a pair of bell bottoms today if their lives depended
on it. So they wear the ordinary trousers and shirts that work best
with that shape, sometimes even including a tan fishing vest or a
hunting jacket. They dress in the Heming-way.

So that's who they look like. I see them all over town, all over every
town. It's like there's a factory somewhere cranking them out -- a
bizarre new toy for aging women who have tired of their Barbie doll

But it's easy to see from this development how the Elvis sightings got
started. A decade or so ago, people started seeing guys who looked like
we thought Elvis probably would have looked if he had lived long enough
to get even more pudgy.

And in truth, you had a lot of men who started out trying to look like
Elvis. Elvis had a large puffy hairdo and sideburns. So when Elvis was
still alive and his imitators were kids, they started wearing sideburns
and puffing up their hair. They borrowed the whole pose, even his
swagger and his pouty redneck ain't-I-handsome way of holding his
mouth. They had a thing about looking and acting as much like "the
King" as they could. And they have never stopped.

Consequently, they are just what Elvis would be now -- a pudgy old guy
who looks like Elvis. Their hairdos are no longer puffy but the guys
themselves are. So in that sense those who say Elvis lives are
correct. He lives in the heart and hairdos and beer guts of his aging

But the many Hemingways are something different. They began as skinny,
long-haired hippies with a beard and with no thought of trying to be
like Hemingway. They weren't contemporaries or necessarily even
admirers. Most has never read him. And their emergence today as his
clones is simply a striking coincidence. They just fell into the
Hemingway image without realizing it. First they abandoned the long
hair they began with. Long hair was too much work and the bald spot
that wore through the top made them look too much like Benjamin

But they kept the beard. And they misplaced the skinny body. So
everywhere you look, there he is.

Maybe, like the legendary Elvis, Hemingway isn't dead after all. Maybe
he got tired of the attention and faked the death and now roams America
like an ordinary person.

On the other hand, if so, he is suffering the worst case of multiple
personalities you have ever seen because sometimes there are several of
him in the same place at once.

But there's more to it than that. The other day I was noticing that one
of the Three Stooges -- Moe Howard -- appears to be everywhere. Every
other kid in town has Moe's haircut --that bowl cut, or "the shelf," as
some call it. From the back, they look just like Moe

It's kind of freaky -- especially if you see a couple of them coming out
of a convenience store with Ernest and Elvis.

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