Imagine this: You’re in your apartment. It’s nighttime and the weather is mild– the typical early spring-late winter deal. You smile at yourself in the mirror. #tooblessedtobestressed is right. You can’t wait to spend the weekend catching up on sleep, watching television and pigging out. Suddenly, you hear the doorbell. Several loud, hard raps on the grey door you recently repainted. “Watch it!” You think to yourself. “Have some respect for the newly decorated!”
Your reverie is shattered and your mind begins to spin. Who could it possibly be? You open the door. It’s a person you don’t recognize, but he says his name is Jeff and he’s friends with your best friend Steph. He knows allllll about Steph. But he’s covered in blood… You invite him in anyway. Then, THEN, he tells you he’s George Clooney’s son. “Oh! Spend the night, Jeff Clooney! There’s no need to pay for a hotel room when you can just crash on my couch.”
The above is my attempt at a modern retelling of John Guare’s acclaimed “Six Degrees of Separation.” While details differ, as Guare’s play is based in the 1980s, and my contemporary retelling is both insufficient and inaccurate, I’m trying to give you a sense of the play’s circumstances. Because guess what? Just like “Hamilton,” this Broadway hit is based on a very real story. (But also, sort of, not like “Hamilton” at all.)
David Hampton was born in Buffalo, New York in 1964. The son of an attorney, Hampton moved to the Big Apple in 1981. Unfortunately, a reality I will also soon face hit him hard upon arrival. Hampton was merely a little fish in a giant, enormous, concrete-filled pond. Life wasn’t as easy as it was in Buffalo. When he was denied entry to Studio 54, Hampton claimed that he was the son of renowned actor Sidney Poitier. It worked!
In fact, it worked so well that Hampton adopted the role of David Poitier to garner free meals, tickets, beds, what have you. From celebrities to businessmen to University deans, Hampton conned everyone. He liked to claim that he was a friend of a friend in need. And that he was Sidney Poitier’s son. Casual.
Guare, after having heard firsthand accounts of the story from his friends Inger and Osborn Elliott, penned “Six Degrees of Separation” in a frenzy. A great success, the play was eventually adapted into a film starring Will Smith and Stockard Channing.
I think this story is fantastic, and my generation knows little to nothing about its foundations. The play, in and of itself, is incredibly captivating, but the fact that it’s based in truth…Too much. It’s an event that I can’t see happening in this day and age. After all, if Jeff Clooney visited me at my apartment, I’d definitely try to FaceTime our mutual friend Steph.
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