Cher will be performing at the Intrust Bank Arena on Jan. 29, and many of her fans are sure to imitate her look and style during the concert. She’s not the only celebrity with local lookalikes, though.
While Wichita is a long way from Hollywood, several area residents are routinely misidentified as their famous doppelgangers. Mistaken fame has lead to odd, often perplexing encounters, with sometimes humorous results. We asked several local “celebs” to share their stories.
‘They just call me Paula’
Connie Comstock, 58, has loved to cook for nearly her entire life and bakes, but she’s never had a cooking show on television. That doesn’t stop people from mistaking her for southern-fried celebrity chef Paula Deen, though. She said it’s been a phenomenon for the last 15 years or so. She used to work at Maize High School, and each year there would be a scavenger hunt to find the Paula Deen lookalike. The students always noted her striking resemblance. They’re not the only ones who noticed the resemblance.
“The lifeguards at the YMCA, they just call me Paula; I don’t think they know my actual name, though I’m pretty sure by now they know I’m not actually her,” she said.
Comstock’s ordinary chores and private moments have often been interrupted. Bargain hunting at a garage sale once lead to a man running out of his front door, thinking a famous person was perusing his items. A shopper at Target chased her down the aisle, wondering if Paula Deen was in town to do a food demo at the store. Last summer, there was a paparazzi-like encounter during her Florida vacation.
“I was on a girls trip with my book club and one night we were eating dinner at a rooftop restaurant,” said Comstock, who lives in Wichita and is an office manager at a dental practice. “My friend next to me noticed that another table was intensely staring in my direction. One of the people at the table waved, and I waved back, rather bewildered. Later, I was a quite surprised when my friend told me that one of the ladies from that table snapped a picture of me. She later came over and asked if I was Paula Deen. I just had to laugh. My girlfriends say I need to work on my southern accent and just go with it.”
When asked about the recent firestorm surrounding racist allegations against Deen, Comstock said that she wasn’t affected much by the controversy.
“People would joke with me that I might not be so popular to be looking like her during that time of the accusations,” she said. “I never had anyone say anything negative against her to me, though.”
‘You never know when you’ll need a red cape’
Wichitan Suzanna Mathews, 42, looks a lot like one of her childhood heroines –Wonder Woman. Her hair style, face and eyes match the look of Lynda Carter, who played the original Wonder Woman in the live-action TV show that aired from 1975-79. She’s been asked to dress up like the famed crusader of peace for charity walks and always has a cape handy, just in case.
“You never know when you’ll need a red cape,” she said.
Mathews finds her resemblance ironic, yet poetic, given how much she idolized Wonder Woman growing up.
“I worshiped her,” she said. “I didn’t just watch the show, my entire life revolved around if it was Friday yet because that’s when the show came on. I had the ‘Wonder Woman’ doll, Underoos and anything that was branded with her. Even today, I have a collection of memorabilia that includes lunch boxes, mugs and figurines.”
The women from the 70s-era TV hold a special appeal for Mathews. “If you think about television in the early 70s, there were shows like ‘Wonder Woman,’ ‘Bionic Woman,’ and ‘Charlie’s Angels’ that were showing a lot of women being put in these really powerful, kick-butt roles while looking beautiful with their hair flying all over the place. That captivated me. She stood for the ideals of truth, beauty, justice and peace.”
Mathews channels some of that ethos today in her occupation as a dating coach. Though she’s never been the star of her own superhero show, she has worked as an actress in the commercial-trade industry.
“I’m only famous if you make a habit of watching corporate training videos,” she said.
‘I’m a lawyer, not a comedian’
Maize resident Kenneth Clark, 57, often seems familiar to strangers, though they’re usually not aware why. That may have something to do with his likeness to one of the world’s most recognizable actors.
“It’s pretty typical for people to stop me and say that I look familiar and ask if we’ve met before,” he said. “I’m reasonably certain that most of the time that’s some connection to my resemblance of Robin Williams.”
Clark thinks it’s the facial features that parallel the late actor most. He said that he was recently stopped by an airport security officer, who did a double take before noting his similar look. This was a few weeks after Williams death.
Though a fan of several Williams films, Clark said that there aren’t many similarities beyond the superficial.
“My personality couldn’t be more different than Robin Williams. You couldn’t drag me kicking and screaming up onto a stage in front of a bunch of people. I’m a lawyer, not a comedian, not an actor at all.”
Clark admired Williams’ brand of humor. “I remember him back in the Mork and Mindy (TV show) days,” Clark said when asked about Williams’ legacy. “He had such a unique approach to humor and an easygoing style. He was funny without having to be raunchy or rude or crude. He was just a funny guy. He brought a lot of enjoyment to people.”
A long-running joke
For Cathy Gray, 42, it was a misunderstanding that lead to a now long-running joke about her resemblance to Nancy Grace, the famed “victims’ rights” advocate and legal commentator.
When Gray was calling a friend, her friend said, “I need to get this. It’s Cathy Gray.” Her friend’s roommate mistakenly heard, “I need to get this. It’s Nancy Grace.” She was confounded as to why Nancy Grace would be calling.
Gray was amused and shared the story on Facebook. She also changed her profile picture to an image of Nancy Grace, but many of her friends commented that there wasn’t much of a difference.
Gray isn’t an attorney, though; she teaches preschool at Wichita Collegiate. She’s watched Grace’s television show several times and paid particular attention during the Casey Anthony murder trial.
“I did watch her quite a bit then because I care so much about kids,” she said. “I’m really not much like Nancy Grace, but my husband would probably say that I’m pretty argumentative.”