The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

September 16, 2012

Today's interactive column: What's your Bacon Number?

By Kelly Kazek

— Today’s column is interactive. I’ll wait while you get your Hoola Hoops.


What you’ll need is your computer, a smartphone or, in a pinch, Kevin Bacon.

Oh, and have some canned Beanie Weenies and bottled water nearby. We’re going to play a game that will soon take over your morning, your week, your life: the Bacon Number search.

Google has created a search engine that automatically calculates any actor’s “Bacon Number,” meaning how many connections it takes to link him or her to Kevin Bacon, á la the parlor game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

This does not apply to ordinary people, like, say, you guys.

I, however, have a Bacon Number.

I know you’ll find that news difficult to believe, despite my relative obscurity as a small-town humor columnist and author, especially when you type “Bacon Number Kelly Kazek” in Google search and nothing appears.

Bear with me: Kevin Bacon appeared with actor Jason Patric in the film “Sleepers.” Jason Patric appeared with actress Zoe Saldana in “The Losers.” Zoe Saldana appeared in “Constellation,” which was filmed in Huntsville in 2003. A reflection of my shirt appeared in the film “Constellation” in a scene alongside Zoe Saldana.

I can prove it. Stop by my house sometime and I’ll fast-forward you to the scene, then pause and zoom. There’s my shirt, reflected in the glass over a mural in EarlyWorks Museum.

You might have been able to see my face except I apparently looked more constipated than concerned as Zoe ran past in tears because I was cut from the scene.

I know y’all are surprised I don’t take direction well.

So I’m claiming a Bacon Number of 3 … ish.

If you think the connection needs to be more direct, try this: My baby girl Shannon actually got paid to be an extra in “Constellation” – 40 bucks! – and although she is not credited, she did “act” with Zoe Saldana for about 4.5 seconds. Plus, she was brilliant. The most talented runner-upper-of-stairs I have ever witnessed.

So Shannon is a true 3.

I have never been so proud – although I admit I am more impressed her Depp Number is 2 (Saldana starred with Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”)

If you are wondering how this seemingly mindless Kevin Bacon game came about, it began when three college students – Craig Fass, Brian Turtle, and Mike Ginelli  — made the observation in 1994 that any actor could be linked to Bacon within six connections. They called it “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” after the “Six Degrees of Separation” parlor game used to link ordinary people to other ordinary people like, say, you guys. 

The initial Bacon game decreed the connections must be made by feature films rather than TV roles, which spells doom for Honey Boo Boo Child, who does not have a Bacon Number, but unfortunately not for Snooki, who has a Bacon Number of 3 and, because we live in a mad, mad world, also has the entire cover of this week’s People Magazine.

Bacon has starred in more than 70 films, making connections to him fairly easy, but he is far from the most prolific actor. John Wayne was the lead actor in 142 films, which is a Guinness World Record. Why the game is not named for The Duke rather than a guy who wore a Speedo in 1980s “Friday the 13th,” I can’t be sure. 

All I know is, it’s addictive.

As I started trying names to check Bacon Numbers, I soon found most actors have a Bacon Number of 2. Trying to find anyone with a number higher than 3 proved difficult, although I tried for hours (oh, like your life is soooo interesting).

First I tried some actors I thought might be difficult to connect, mainly because they are dead:

Silent-film star Clara Bow? Bacon Number 3.

Jimmy Stewart? 2.

James Dean? 3 – and he made only three films before his untimely death at age 24. Dean starred with Dennis Hopper in “Rebel Without a Cause.” Hopper starred with Chris Penn in “True Romance.” Penn starred with Bacon in “Footloose.”

Then I tried sports-stars-turned-actors: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a 2.

O.J. Simpson? 2.

Rosey Grier? 2. Those of you asking, “Who the heck is Rosey Grier?” must have missed the 1972 classic “The Thing with Two Heads.” Oh, and I think he once played professional football or something.

Next, I tried child stars:

Shirley Temple? 3.

Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer: 2.

Billy Laughlin: 3. If you have no idea who that is, he played Froggy in the “Our Gang” series and died at age 16 in 1948.

Still, I could not find anyone obscure enough to stump the Baconator.

So I tried non-humans:

C3PO (played by actor Anthony Daniels): 2.

Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew): 2

Gollum (actor Andy Serkis): 2.

All these 2s were getting boring, but not as boring as the “Saved by the Bell” marathon on TV, so I continued.

I tried the ever-growing field known as politicians-who-act — professionally, I mean — and got surprising results:

Fred Thompson: 2.

Al Gore: 2.

Barack Obama: 2.

Would I kid you? Kevin Bacon appeared with Tom Hanks in “Apollo 13” and Hanks appeared with the president in “The Road We’ve Traveled.”

To find an actor with a number high than 3, I had to cheat. I Googled the question and found William Shafter, who has a Bacon Number of – gasp! – 7.

That’s “Shafter,” not “Shatner,” as in William Rufus Shafter, the Civil War major general who died in 1906. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more obscure than the guy who appeared in two short films as himself in the days when “film” was newly invented.

After all my research, I came to this conclusion: Someone at Google was tired of “Saved by the Bell” marathons, too, because the inventor of the Bacon Number search engine had waaay too much time for mindless pursuits.

If only our geniuses would spend time finding ways to make calorie-free chocolate, the world would be a better place.

Until then, give the Baconator a try and let me know what you find. But if you get stuck on the computer for hours, don’t call me to complain. I’ll be busy in the kitchen. I’m having a sudden and inexplicable craving for chocolate-covered bacon.