A Letter to John Lithgow’s Publicist

Dear Kara,

Let me start by saying that I realize this email/inquiry may be outside the scope of what you do, but please humor me.

For the past 30 plus years I have been plagued by your client, Mr. Lithgow. You see, for the past 30 years people have been approaching me and telling me I “Look like somebody” or “Do you know who you look like?” Inevitably, that person has been John Lithgow – except one nice airline gate person at LAX who guessed the look as Ed Harris. You can imagine how that warmed my heart. But then back to the John Lithgow, John Lithgow, John Lithgow. I’m almost certain no one has asked him if he knows that he looks like Jason Spafford.

I’ve been a filmmaker, writer, river boat captain, and entrepreneur and over the past thirty years I’ve traversed this country of ours, and at every corner I’ve been asked if I know who I look like. In my mid-twenties with hair down to my shoulders having a beer in a heavy metal bar in New York, I was approached by an attractive young woman. The only reason for her interest was that I looked like the dad from Harry and the Hendersons – John Lithgow. Damn you Lithgow.

At a coffee shop in Santa Monica, many years later, sporting closely cropped hair – a necessity for a man of a certain age and “high forehead” – a barista (and actor) was so excited for me and my prospects. She suggested that I use the likeness to my advantage and have fun with it. Her suggestion involved me going to a restaurant and asking for a seat in the back and not to be bothered. She thought me asking “not to be bothered” would seal the deal. And then what? I don’t know. I didn’t have the heart to ask her the rest of the plan.

I’ve been in a top level meeting with the leadership of BNSF Railway at a retreat in Utah, discussing a very large transportation deal when people at the director level of that organization could no longer control their need to ask me if I knew who I looked like.

Most recently, outside of Minneapolis, a twenty year old behind the counter of a Subway (yes, I love those sandwiches – just don’t tell my wife I was there) popped the question I’ve been surprised by for 30 years. “Do you know who you look like?” I said yes cautiously. He seemed too young for 3rd Rock from the Sun, definitely not Garp, and probably not a follower of The Crown.  Could this young man have come to Lithgow via the Manatee? Turns out, he was indeed comparing my face to that of Mr. Lithgow’s (fortunately not my fanity). I had to take stock and wonder how long this John Lithgow is continuing to stay relevant and will these comments never end, even though I’ve easily found the humor in fielding these continued questions of my knowledge of who I look like.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the work of John Lithgow over the years. I’ve seen many of his film performances – except that one where he plays the good him and the bad him, although I’m guessing those roles may have been fun. I even memorized the Manatee song when my children were younger (see above). I’m happy for any person’s continued successes. I just didn’t realize Mr. Lithgow’s successes would continue for so long.

If you’ve read this far, you’re very kind and possibly getting a bit behind on more important work, so I’ll wrap this up. I’m not the kind of person who seeks out famous people or collects autographs. I don’t have anything to sell. I’m sure fame can bring about an array of unwanted attention or focus. And I’m guessing Mr. Lithgow has worked hard to focus on the importance of his work and family. I too have worked hard to stay focused on my wife of 27 years, three great children and a remarkably diverse career. I feel incredibly lucky to also have my sanity intact after thirty plus years of a slow drip, drip, drip of unknown people asking me if I know who I look like or telling me that I look like somebody.

I’m hoping to meet with your client at some time in the future, once it is safe for people to interact again, and take a photo together. If Mr. Lithgow is ever in Minneapolis, that’s where I reside. But I can also be available in L.A. or East Coast. For the record, I don’t think I look like John Lithgow so I have not enclosed a photo. If you have additional time and would like to investigate, you can probably find a picture by searching via Google, “Jason Spafford Minneapolis”. I’ll be the good looking Jason Spafford with a high forehead. And if you are really lucky, Ed Harris’ picture may pop up.

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