You don’t read many news stories these days that begin, “One good thing about Bernie Madoff is …”
Nevertheless, one good thing about Bernie Madoff is that he has single-handedly rekindled interest in that popular bar game from the distant ’90s, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”
The cult of Bacon expanded exponentially when it was revealed that America’s worst serial swindler had bamboozled Bacon and his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, as well as other entertainment figures, including John Malkovich, Larry King and Steven Spielberg.
The game, you may recall, stemmed from a 1994 interview in Premiere magazine in which the prolific, tousle-haired Bacon speculated that if he hadn’t in fact worked with everyone in Hollywood, he’d surely worked with someone who had worked with them.
A trio of students at Albright College in Reading, Pa., took it from there — allegedly during a snowbound double feature of “Footloose” and “Quicksilver” — and devised a party game where the goal is to connect any given actor to Bacon, as quickly and directly as possible.
To illustrate, let’s take, oh, Pee-Wee Herman, aka Paul Reubens. The actor was in 1998’s “Dr. Dolittle” with Oliver Platt, who was in “Frost/Nixon” with Kevin Bacon. It was all sort of Trivial Pursuit-ish, only portable.
A “Six Degrees” book followed, with a foreword by Bacon himself. The inventors and their designated “center of the entertainment universe” appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and the “The Howard Stern Show.” Bacon went on to spoof his iconic status on a popular Visa commercial and the sitcom “Will & Grace.”
My Bernie number
Which brings us to Madoff. Barring the slim chance that Bacon ever actually met Bernie, the actor and the investor-actor probably were separated only by a money manager — now, likely an ex-money manager — who invested Bacon’s bacon in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.
That potentially gives Bernie a Bacon number of 2, meaning he is separated from Bacon by just one other party. Which means, potentially again, that every one of those Madoff victims named on that single-spaced, 162-page list could now have a Bacon number of 2 if they invested with Madoff directly, or 3 if they had an investment adviser.
Wow! And that, according to The Oracle of Bacon Web site — which calculates one’s closeness to Kevin — means that most of the roughly 800,000 actors with Bacon numbers on the Internet Movie Database, or IMDb, are, ipso facto, now six degrees or less from Madoff.
Who’s up for a long weekend at Bernie’s?
I’ve had a Bacon number of 2 since I met and interviewed author Dennis Lehane, who wrote “Mystic River,” which was made into a hit film starring Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and the Kevinator.
But imagine my thrill to learn that I now have a Bernie number of 5 — without the precipitous plunge in net worth, of course!
Suddenly, the whole Baconosphere is all a-Twitter with enticing new possibilities.
How else would Hollywood royalty like George Clooney (who starred in “Good Night, and Good Luck” with Frank Langella, who starred in “Frost/Nixon” with Bacon) have been linked to actual aristocracy like Britain’s Lady Victoria de Rothschild without the Bacon-Bernie link? Not wake-boarding on Lake Como, my friends.
By what other scenario could Jessica Simpson — who starred in “The Dukes of Hazzard” with Jim Cody Williams, who appeared in “Rails & Ties” with KB — possibly be mentioned in the same sentence with Henry Kissinger or pitching great Sandy Koufax, both Madoff victims?
For “Six Degrees” fans, the sudden appearance of a Madoff-size galaxy with which to link is nothing short of a major astrological event.
But let’s hope that future additions to the game do not arise from a financial black hole.