Thursday, August 23, 2012

Brett Cohen's Not Famous (Or Is He?)

Who is Brett Cohen? He's just a regular person who has become famous for pretending to be famous while not being famous. Did you follow that?

Brett Cohen was curious to see what would happen if he walked around Times Square looking like he was famous, complete with bodyguards, Paparazzi and a film crew. Guess what? It worked. Tourists posed for photos with him. Kids clamored to get his autograph. And when Times Square pedestrians were asked what they thought of Brett Cohen by the film crew, they acted like they were his biggest fans, raving about his work as an actor in a recent Spiderman movie and praising his latest song.

Regular guy Brett Cohen posing as a celeb in New York City's Times Square

So this 21-year-old Jewish SUNY at New Paltz college student proved that anyone can pretend to be a celeb as long as you can play the part. The YouTube video (below) of Brett's shenanigans is already going viral and his "experiment" has been covered by Mashable, the Washington Post, Reddit, and The Daily What. So, not only did Brett Cohen prove that he could fake fame, but he managed to get his 15 minutes of it along the way.

But Brett Cohen isn't the only one parading around Times Square pretending to be someone he's not. I was duped earlier this month when I thought I caught a glimpse of Snoop Dogg in Times Square. A man who is a spitting image of the rapper (now called "Snoop Lion") was walking at a celeb pace with a large entourage. After taking a photo with the lookalike (below) I still wasn't sure he was the real deal so I posted the photo on Facebook asking my friends if they thought this was actually Snoop Dogg or an impostor. Turned out that the majority thought it was really him.

With a guy who looks an awful lot like Snoop Dogg

It was when I overheard a member of his entourage ask for a small donation from a group of teens who wanted a photo with the supposed celeb that I realized it wasn't the real Snoop Dogg. This apparently wasn't his only night pretending to be Snoop Dogg. My cousin's wife, Ashley Broad of "Hardcore Pawn," had been similarly duped the week before in Times Square by the same Snoop Dogg lookalike.

So what does this say about celebrity and how we respond to it? Many Times Square tourists pay a good deal of money to visit Madame Tussauds New York and get their photo taken with wax models of their favorite celebs. Is that any different than getting a photo standing next to "Nobody Brett Cohen" or "Not Snoop Dogg"?

In the Jewish calendar we're now in a period of personal introspection as we approach the High Holy Day season. What does Brett Cohen's foray into faux stardom teach us? I wonder if Brett Cohen felt differently about himself during his hour of celeb status. Perhaps he got a taste of what it feels like to be a celebrity who can't walk a few feet without being hounded for photographs and autographs. Perhaps he felt larger than life and enjoyed the feeling. Perhaps he was just trying to prove a point that we're all too star struck to even realize that we don't really care if the celeb is even a legitimate celeb.

One thing is for sure -- our society continues to go ga-ga over the wrong celebs. The young entrepreneur, Nancy Lublin, who took her inheritance and started a non-profit for homeless women to get free business suits for job interviews will go unnoticed walking through Times Square and yet thousands will flock to catch a glimpse of a Kardashian sister. I'm glad Brett Cohen's experiment worked because it will give us all something to think about. We're all mega-celebrities in our own way. Thank you Brett Cohen!

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