Six Degrees of Separation: Ripped from the Headlines

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

When we walked into the TKTS booth that afternoon, we entered with an open mind. It was our first night in New York City, and there were dozens of shows that seemed appealing. With excitement so palpable you could practically hold it in your hand, we quickly scanned the screen full of possibilities. We quickly narrowed the list to five options, then three, and with advice from the ticket seller about understudies going on that night in a couple of options, finally settled on a winner.

I’ve always been a big fan of House of Blue Leaves, and read most all of John Guare’s plays, but Six Degrees of Separation was never one of my favorites. The new Broadway revival was superb and gave me a jolt of interest in the script. After only a teeny bit of research (Wikipedia), I discovered it’s inspired by a true story. a real-life con man named David Hampton, who died in 2003. Below is an excerpt from his obituary.

“Born at Buffalo, New York, in 1964, the eldest child of a lawyer, David Hampton arrived in New York City in 1981 set on pursuing an acting and dancing career. One night in 1983 he and a friend were trying to get into Studio 54. Turned away, they hit on the ruse of posing as the sons of Sidney Poitier and Gregory Peck, went to the nearby Plaza hotel, borrowed a limo and returned to be ushered into the club as celebrities.

“Hampton then took to entering restaurants and telling the manager he was there to meet his father, Sidney Poitier (who, in fact, had only daughters). After finishing all he wanted to eat, he would lament that his father must have been detained on business. The manager would then pick up the tab.

Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare
Photo from Six Degrees of Separation Broadway Facebook Page


“Aided by an address book belonging to an Upper East Sider whom he had briefly befriended, “David Poitier” suckered his way into the houses of some of Manhattan’s glitziest socialites, including Melanie Griffith and Calvin Klein, claiming that he had been mugged and needed somewhere to stay for the night. He accepted money and clothes, regaled his hosts with stories about his famous “father”, and distributed bit parts in a film supposedly directed by Poitier. “I never beat anyone over the head,” Hampton said. “I was a perfect gentleman.”

“… When Elliot told his friend John Guare how he and his wife had been duped, Guare saw it as the basis for a play, and became further hooked on the idea after reading newspaper reports of Hampton’s arrest (his seventh) in October 1983 and imprisonment for 22 months.”

From The Telegraph