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Curing an Identity Crisis on the Internet

November 27, 1994|SCOTT HARRIS | Address TimesLink or Prodigy e-mail to YQTU59A ( via the Internet:

It happened again this week. But this was the first time it happened in cyberspace.

A person who signed his name "Stan B." was the culprit. His message on the Internet began like this: Ron , . . .

Now, please take another look at the name on this column. It should say Scott Harris , unless some editor is trying to mess with my mind. In any case, it shouldn't say Ron Harris , because I'm not Ron. I'm Scott. And, for the record, I'm not Kathryn or Lee or Zonker or any other Harris whose name may appear in this newspaper.

People started confusing Ron and me more than a year ago, when our columns ran on consecutive days in the same spot in the Metro Edition. Here in the Valley Edition, my column runs on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, but in Metro it only runs on Thursday. So I was the Thursday Harris, and Ron was the Friday Harris. This was the pattern until a few months ago, when Ron joined the foreign staff.

Now it should be easy to tell us apart. Here are some key distinctions:

Ron Scott Rio de Janeiro Chatsworth Carnival! San Fernando Valley Fair The Samba Aftershocks Ipanema Sepulveda Basin The Girl from Ipanema Vals Lucky son-of-a... Darn Glad to Be Here

Does everybody get that? Ron is the Harris who gets to cruise the Amazon. I'm the Harris who gets to cruise Ventura Boulevard.

It's been a few months, yet I still get mail and messages meant for Ron. By now it seems safe to say that more people have mistaken me for Ron than have ever mistaken me for the only Scott Harris who to my knowledge has ever made international news. This would be the Scott Harris who a few years back parachuted into Elizabeth Taylor's latest wedding at Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch. That day, a Chicago radio station called me at home, eager for an interview. Looking back, I should have given them a hell of a story.

The name Scott Harris isn't, say, John Smith, but it's common enough. Although I've never met the famous wedding correspondent, I've said hello to three other Scott Harrises in my lifetime. But I'd wager that none of them have ever been confused for Ron.

Often, this has been a source of amusement. My colleague David Colker recently fielded a call from a reader asking him to settle a disagreement: "Is Scott Harris black or white?"

Now, David is pretty sure I'm white--at least as white as the guy whose photo appears with this column. The Metro Edition, however, doesn't run such photos, so we should probably assume that this caller was from over the hill.

In any case, David didn't think it was his place to discuss something as personal as my heritage. He urged the woman to call back and ask me personally. I'm not sure if it was the same woman, but somebody did indeed call last week who meandered a bit before asking me this question.

I gave her my usual explanation. "A lot of people confuse me with Ron Harris. Happens all the time. He's black. I'm white. He ran on Friday. I run on Thursday. Now he's in Rio. I'm in Chatsworth. And I'm darn glad to be here!"

Sometimes, the confusion has been interesting.

Several months ago, after I wrote a column about the police search for a black suspect in the so-called "Valley Molester" case, a reader called to say he was tired of blacks complaining that they are always treated like criminal suspects. Climbing atop his soapbox, he declared that the biggest problem today is reverse racism.

He said something like: "Now white guys are being treated like. . .," and here he used the infamous N-word. Then he said it a couple more times.

I didn't realize it then, but a few minutes later I said something about how "guys like us" don't have to worry about being harassed by police searching for this particular suspect.

There was a pause. "You mean. . . you're not black?"

If he had known, would he have bothered to call?

Whatever. The confusion should start to subside. In the meantime, I'm still trying to figure out exactly who "Stan B." is.

In his message, he made it clear that he is a retired editor at "the by God LA Times."

I immediately thought of a Stan B. who recently departed the national desk and promptly sent him a message. But further inquiry suggests it's probably a different Stan B., who retired several years earlier.

People probably get them mixed up all the time.

Scott Harris' column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

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