A case of mistaken identity

Posted by on December 8, 2015 in Blog, Living today | 2 comments

Potato in disguise/David Appleby/flickr

Potato in disguise/David Appleby/flickr

I’ve realised that I’m something of a Mrs Malaprop when it comes to slightly obscure celebrities or ones whose star has waned with the passing of the years. Often the two I’m confusing are completely different types, in very different lines of business, which makes the confusion even more ludicrous. Here is a selection of these mismatched pairs, just in case anyone else is having similar difficulties.


Heath Robinson and Heathcote Williams

Most people probably know of William Heath Robinson, illustrator of ingenious contraptions for running a family breakfast or bizarre activities such as ‘resuscitating stale railway scones for redistribution at the station buffet’. His whimsical fantasies combined with his talents as a draughtsman place him firmly in the British humorous tradition. Equally creative, but of a vastly different temperament, Heathcote Williams is a protean free spirit: sometime Notting Hill activist, actor, poet, playwright and lyricist, he includes among his achievements discovering a new species of honey-producing wasp in the Amazon and setting fire to himself on Jean Shrimpton’s doorstep.

NOT to be confused further with Ted Heath, bandleader, and Ted Heath, former Prime Minister, yachtsman and, er, bandleader.


Hoagy Carmichael and Stokely Carmichael

James Joel/flickr

James Joel/flickr

Jazz Guy/flickr

Jazz Guy/flickr







Pianist and bandleader Hoagy Carmichael is remembered for some of the greatest American songs of all time, including ‘Stardust’ and ‘Georgia on my Mind’. He starred in 14 films, describing his screen presence as ‘the hound-dog-faced musical philosopher noodling on the honky-tonk piano.’ I doubt that Stokely Carmichael, on the other hand, would ever have described any of his activities as ‘noodling’. He was the firebrand black activist and one-time Black Panther, seen by many as a provocateur, who became notorious for having declared ‘The position of women in the [black rights] movement is prone.’ Opinion is divided on how serious this off-the-cuff quip was meant to be – but still . . .

NOT to be confused further with Ian Carmichael, genial English actor specialising in upper class twits.

Sandy Powell and Sandy Powell

The confusion is inevitable! Rotherham’s finest, Sandy Powell – cathchphrase ‘Can you hear me, mother?’ – was a comedian and ventriloquist who successfully made the transition from music hall to television via radio and film. Known as ‘Mr Eastbourne’ from his numerous appearances on the pier of the same name, he is a very different kettle of fish from soignée Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell, hotly tipped to receive a fourth little golden man for Carol. Imagine La Blanchett turning up for a fitting for one of her divine Carol creations and being confronted with Mr Eastbourne! No doubt she’d have carried it off with her usual aplomb.

NOT to be confused further with Sandy Wilson, composer of The Boyfriend (who in some strange way seems to constitute a bridge between the two).

I know I’m not the only one to mix people up like this – one of my friends once confused John Inman with John Goodman. Are You Being Served? and Roseanne would have been very different propositions, and sitcoms on both sides of the pond set on a very different course, had casting directors made the same mistake.

Let us know if you have any similar examples of mistaken identity.


  1. Saw a brilliant poetry piece by Heathcote Williams in November in Brighton called ‘Poetry can F*** Off’ do see it if you have a chance really good love Helen X

    • Good to know he is still going strong!

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