Separated at birth, Spy magazine: Do celebrity lookalikes still look alike?

Arts, entertainment, and more.
March 14 2011 6:51 AM

Still Separated at Birth?

Do Spy magazine's celebrity lookalikes still look alike?

Launch a slide-show essay on Spy's "Separated at Birth" pairings, 25 years later.

A few weeks ago, Kurt Andersen tweeted the following: "Google's digitized every issue of Spy magazine. Half up now, the rest soon. (The internet has justified itself)." Media nerds and pop culture junkies rejoiced. Spy, which Andersen co-founded in the mid-1980s with current Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and publisher Tom Phillips, maintains a hallowed place in magazine lore. And, as the Google trove reveals, Spy's reputation for excellence is well deserved.

Editors and writers love Spy foremost because it overflowed with great ideas. It specialized in snarky commentary, hyperdetailed charts and lists, celebrity takedowns, and pre-Photoshop image-manipulation shenanigans. The publication's legendary front-of-book section, "Naked City," was an embarrassment of riches—it included "Letters to the Editor of The New Yorker" (at the time, The New Yorker refused to print readers' letters), a section delineating the scope of health-code violations at New York City restaurants (with accompanying icons to signify roaches, rats, etc.), and a chart on the number of times Liz Smith mentioned Brooke Astor, George Hamilton, and others in her New York Daily News column.

Naked City's biggest hit, though, was its "Separated at Birth" photo pairings. The idea is as brilliant as it is simple: This public figure seems to look like this other public figure (or, as the case may be, like a cartoon character). Let's put them side by side and take a closer look. "Separated at Birth" confirmed that, in 1987, Mick Jagger sort of did look like Don Knotts; Tammy Fay Bakker, when seen from the correct angle, resembled an Ewok; and Sarah Ferguson looked like the maid from The Brady Bunch.

Advertisement

Nearly 25 years after the first "Separated at Birth" photos appeared in Spy, do the original pairings still hold up? Twenty-five years is a long time. People age differently, and in unpredictable ways. It seems only fair to test the continued strength of those old Spy pairs via the same method the magazine used in the 1980s: side-by-side headshots. Here are some of the best pairings from Google's first batch of Spy uploads, along with new, modern versions. You make the call: Does Bob Costas still look like Katie Couric?

Matthew J.X. Malady is Slate’s Good Word columnist. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjxmalady.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 23 2014 12:43 PM Occupy Wall Street How can Hillary Clinton be both a limousine liberal and a Saul Alinsky radical?
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Head of Security Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would A Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 2:31 PM 3 Simpsons Showrunners Reflect on New Fans and the “Classic Era” Myth
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 1:50 PM Oh, the Futility! Frogs Try to Catch Worms Off of an iPhone Video.
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 1:38 PM Why Is Fall Red in America but Yellow in Europe? A possible explanation, 35 million years in the making.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.