What do Liberace, Mr. T and Audrey Hepburn have in
A taste for fine jewelry or a fondness for Shi Tzus? Perhaps,
but more importantly these three celebrities share a Bacon
number of two. That number is based on the theory that
everyone who has ever appeared in a film is linked to Footloose
star Kevin Bacon.
The theory spawned the aptly titled Kevin Bacon Game that
has movie fanatics trying to connect all of Hollywood to the
Flatliners, star. While the game might not make the the next
Olympics, it has definitely done more for the actor's career
than The Air Up There ever did.
If you haven't visited one of the dozen or so Bacon sites on
the Web or crashed a college party recently, here's how the
Players try to connect any actor or actress to Kevin Bacon (who
made his movie debut
in 1978's Animal House), in as
few steps as possible. For example, Marlon Brando was in The
Missouri Breaks with Jack Nicholson, who co-starred with
Bacon in A Few Good Men. That gives Brando the magic Bacon
number of two.
Brett Tjaden and Glen Wasson, both currently working toward
their graduate degrees in computer science at the University of
Virginia, created a site, The Oracle of Bacon, that once and for
all proves that the Tremors star is the center of the
The Oracle (http://www.cs.
virginia.edu/~bct7m/bacon.html) raids the massive Internet
Movie Database (http://www.imdb.com) site to instantly
connect any actor with Bacon, the star of The River Wild. When
it comes to the Game (alternately known as Six Degrees of
Kevin Bacon), the Oracle is unshakable.
Most actors, living or dead, have a Bacon number of two or
three. Tjaden and Wasson
originally hypothesized that no one could possibly score a
higher number than four, but Tjaden says the highest numbers
hover around seven or eight. But unless you're a big fan of truly
obscure actors -- Sri Lankan Grace Ariyawimal, for instance, has
a Bacon number of seven -- it will take you hours to come up
with even a four.
The site's averaging 20,000
visitors a day, with many surfersf inding themselves instantly
addicted. Office workers and students often crowd around one
terminal and frantically type in the names of obscure actors, in
hopes of stumping the Oracle. Tjaden says that
he never expected all of this attention.
"We originally intended it to be for just the two of us," says
Tjaden, 26. "Then we told a couple of friends, who had
graduated and left school, about it. Word got out and pretty
soon more people were using it. After the site had been up for
about a week or two, all of a sudden it was Yahoo's pick of the
week and that just brought absolutely everybody. It went big-time
The pair receive 10-20 e-mails a day about the site and say
that the reaction has been "very positive." Not only has the
'net community been visiting the site, but Hollywood has taken
notice as well. Attaining his 15 minutes of fame, Tjaden was
flown out to Los Angeles in July to appear in a segment for the
Discovery Channel's Cyberlife. While he was in California,
Tjaden became the envy of Bacon-heads everywhere when he
met the star in person. Before the cameras and without his
computer, Tjaden played a round of the Bacon game with
"I had heard that he thought of the game as making fun of
him," Tjaden says. "But he was very nice to me and said he
was very happy with it and impressed. I complimented him on
Footloose and he said, 'Well, thank you, but I've done other
movies since then.'"
"To be perfectly honest," Tjaden says, "I haven't seen more
than two or three of his movies."
After reaching the "highest plateau" of Bacon-dom, Tjaden
says that he and Wasson don't enjoy the game as much as
"Whenever anybody hears about this, the first thing they want
to do is challenge me," Tjaden says. "I am still playing the
game, but not much for fun anymore with Glenn."
Nonetheless, Tjaden says he doesn't have any regrets.
"When we first started to do this we had
no aspirations other than to make it for
ourselves," he says. "When other people
found it interesting we were perfectly happy
if they wanted to use it. When we first
started, we joked that if this ever led
to meeting Kevin (She's Having A Baby) Bacon that would be
the ultimate. We have accomplished all that we can hope to
accomplish with this."