Fame and obsession, Calgary style

By David Kenney

Almost everyone goes through a hero-worship stage. Some of us mimicked bad hair metal in front of the mirror. Others talked with an Austrian accent and oozed "Hasta la vista, baby." Heck, some even shaved their eyebrows or wore a single glove to emulate, uh, coolness.

Thank God most people get over this.

Lloyd Hunsecker isn’t one of those people. As the main character in local playwright Doug Curtis’ play The Photo Double, Hunsecker morphs through life from one identity to another, from Ricky Schroeder to Shawn Cassidy and so on. Like the imposter in the novel The Wife of Martin Guerre, Hun-secker tries to be anyone but himself. A photo double his whole life, everything shifts when he meets his famous look-alike.

"He shows up on this Hollywood set as an extra and people start telling him he looks so much like one of the stars and then runs into the star and it’s almost like his soul is taken away," says Curtis, whose play will be performed Jan. 17-20 at the Big Secret Theatre.

Forced to confront his lack of "true" identity, Hunsecker begins a journey that examines celebrity worship and how far people will go to be someone else. Fascinated by celebrity obsession and worship, Curtis decided to explore this fantasy world of lost identity through worship and the stand-ins who are equally privy to it.

"There are a lot of people who buy into the Hollywood system whether they are consumers, purchasers or performers and they say ‘It’s gotta look this way,’" says Curtis. "I find that astonishing – we’ve never had that kind of thing so it’s really uncharted territory."

In The Photo Double, Curtis’ territory moves from Hunsecker’s lame-duck DJ job in Drumheller, to his fateful movie stand-in for star Billy Palomino in Canmore. Like many people, Hunsecker is filled with what Curtis describes as an insatiable hunger for fame. Only in this case, he’s nose to nose with it.

"I’m trying to track where they’re being erased and where they’re regaining they’re individuality again, the sense of self," says Curtis on photo doubles’ obsession with their mirror images.

Playing the characters of Hunsecker, Palomino and Hun-secker’s friend Raymond Bowie, Curtis sees much of the general public more driven by fame than ever before. Even a little taste of light, camera, action isn’t enough.

"It’s not like I need 15 minutes of fame, I need an hour," says Curtis. "If I don’t actually have 15 minutes of fame, then I don’t exist."

And if we’re always so fame obsessed, can we ever find ourselves?

"How do people grow up to be themselves when so much of human activity is based around playing other people, putting on, creating stories… who’s that person, who are they going to represent? Are they going to represent themselves?" asks Curtis. "Sometimes we say actors [are] the most hollow people. I don’t know if I agree with that or not."

Leave a comment