Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Gang That Couldn't See Straight

Famous Lazy Eye Stars


One-eyed Jack leads the pack

I ran across this post, The Lazy Eye of Jack Elam, by my hero Kliph Nesteroff on WFMU's Beware of the Blog and it got me to thinking about other famous lazy eye stars of stage and screen. Jack Elam, who passed away in 2003, was a veteran of countless Westerns (his best was Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West) and Film Noirs and, yes, as Kliph so cruelly points out, he does look like a cross between Neil Young and Marty Feldman (who surely must be the patron saint of Lazy Eye Stars, as pictured below)!


St. Marty of the One-Eye

Feldman, of course, was celebrated in the song "Marty Feldman Eyes," Bruce Baum's spoof of Kim Carnes' 1981 hit "Bette Davis Eyes" (itself a cover of a song written by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon that first appeared on DeShannon's 1974 album New Arrangement). Which is not to be confused with the Bruce Florio novelty song "Sammy Davis Eyes" (BTW, shouldn't that be a singular "eye"?).

The Guy with the Lazy Eye

When I mentioned Jack Elam in passing to my half-Japanese girlfriend, she replied "Oh yeah, the guy with the lazy eye!" and pointed out that in Japan people call the condition Rondon Pari, or "London Paree" eyes - meaning, one eye is looking in the direction of London while the other one is gazing at Paris.

The medical term used to describe eyes that don't point in the same direction or are misaligned is strabismus or heterotropia. But it's more commonly referred to as a "squint" or by the (inaccurate) pejorative "lazy eye." The conditioned is further classified by the direction in which the "lazy" eye turns: an esotropia (convergent) eye points inwards towards the nose, while an exotropia (divergent) eye points outwards. When the eye points upwards, it's called hypertropia.

More Views Askew

The most obvious contempo lazy eye star is Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker, whose famous squint has appeared appeared in over 75 films, most notably as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.


Can't see the Forest for the...

According to Wikipedia: "Film critics often mention Whitaker's droopy left eye: it is considered 'intriguing' and 'gives him a sleepy, contemplative look'...Whitaker has explained that the condition is hereditary and that he has considered having surgery to correct it, not for cosmetic reasons but because it affects his vision."

Broadcaster Alison Stewart, who often fills in as a news anchor on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, is probably the most beautiful of this class...



...she certainly beats out ESPN Sports Center sportscaster Stuart "Boo-Yah" Scott, who looks like he suffers from lazy eye...


Stu kept his eye on the ball

...but in fact sustained a severe eye injury in 2002 when filming a story about the New York Jets pre-season minicamp. Something called the Juggs Machine was shooting footballs at Scott when one pigskin hit him square in the left eye. Scott had emergency corneal surgery that night and was out of work for several months; he still has to wear thick glasses and needs the teleprompter moved closer. Scott has definitely had his share of hard knocks and bad luck: he left ESPN last fall to have an emergency appendectomy related to cancer.

Some people claim that Paris Hilton also suffers from this condition: see Paris Hilton's Lazy Eye Boggles the Mind. (I've never noticed it - perhaps it's related to alcohol abuse, as in "blind drunk"?)


Ms. Hilton lends credence to Japan's "Rondon Paree" diagnosis

I hope not, for with the lone exception of Ms. Hilton, the common thread connecting all the folks mentioned above is their immense talent in their chosen fields. One eye may be looking off in another direction, but these people otherwise manage to focus undivided attention on their heralded careers and exceptional skills.

The Eye Hears, the Ear Sees...

Finally, in an aside to the subject matter, i did notice...a band called the Silversun Pickups released a song entitled Lazy Eye and at least two books have that title, a short story collection by Mark Morrissy called A Lazy Eye: Stories and Donna Daley-Clarke's 2006 Commonwealth Writer's Prize-winning novel Lazy Eye.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Scott Wallace Brown said...

Like "Boo-Yah," Jack Elam also suffered an eye injury, resulting in his "Rondon Paree" condition. Still, I feel that because he began an acting career undaunted by this, he nonetheless qualifies for inclusion (and, of course, the highest honor) in this category.

11:44 PM  
Anonymous Scott Huffines Gown said...

The Radiohead guy got his lazy eye from bad use of forceps during childbirth - I know that having never heard a Radiohead album ever. Really.

2:12 AM  
Anonymous Lloydchiro said...

All the Kennedys have lazy eye; just look at any picture. Also: Michelle Obama.

4:14 PM  
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