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Sometimes Kevin Bacon Isn't Enough

May 04, 1997|Susan King | Susan King is a Times staff writer

It doesn't cost a penny to play the trendy "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" connection game.

But the creators of Starcrossed: Hollywood's Movie Game are betting film buffs will be eager to fork over $40 to play their board game, which offers more than 700 game cards allowing for nearly 70,000 different movie connections.

"The Kevin Bacon thing is far too limited," says Marty Malinow, an L.A.-based stock broker who created the game with his wife, Sue Goldman, and a friend, Wall Street broker Steve Monaco.

"Every time that Kevin Bacon does a movie with someone else, [the game] is going to shrink. [With Starcrossed], there are 264 movies and 264 actors, so it never gets old. It's not like you are going to do Tom Cruise to Randy Quaid more than once."

Starcrossed challenges up to six players or teams to connect random stars through the roles they've played or random pairs of movies through the stars in them.

Like connecting the late Lionel Barrymore to his niece Drew Barrymore. Lionel was in "Key Largo" with Lauren Bacall who was in "Misery" with Kathy Bates who was in "Fried Green Tomatoes" with Mary Louise Parker who was in "Boys on the Side" with Drew.

Or connecting "JFK" to "Nixon": Joe Pesci was in "JFK" and in "My Cousin Vinny" with Marisa Tomei who was in "Chaplin" with Anthony Hopkins who played "Nixon."

Players advance along a film path past well-known Hollywood landmarks. The strategy is to come in "under budget"; those with the shortest connection get to advance farthest. Though Malinow won't dilvuge how many games have sold, he says sales have been going "tremendously well." A portion of the proceeds go to the American Paralysis Assn., chaired by Christopher Reeve.

Starcrossed, Malinow says, is an offshoot of a phone game he and Monaco would play when they were bored. "Wall Street is, like, hours and hours of boredom punctuated by moments of terror. We had a thing where we would each pick an actor and we would have to name as many movies as possible and the person who would name the most movies would get lunch. We realized we were having such fun with it, we thought wouldn't it be great if we could turn this into a board game and start our own business."

Last summer, Malinow and his partners made up 20 prototypes of the game and took them around to various stores. "We put them in film cans and took them out to various buyers at Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales and F.A.O. Schwartz. Not only did the stores buy the games, F.A.O. Schwartz included it in its '96 Christmas catalogue.

Connection games, Malinow says, have been around for years. "As sort of a lighthearted thing, Truman Capote used to talk the international daisy chain--who slept with whom. John Guare called it six degrees of separation and other people have called it 'La Ronde' when they played it."

The Kevin Bacon variation, he says, "is sort of a theft of the whole idea. He's not the center of the movie universe more than anyone else is. We didn't want to limit our game by tying it to one actor. We have been approached by other actors saying why don't you do a game about me. But we always thought with the cast as great as the one in Starcrossed, you don't need a lead actor."

'Starcrosed" also has its own Web site: Each day there's a new movie connection game involving two movie cards and two actor cards. "You submit your answers back to our Web master," Malinow says. "He grades them and keeps a running score. At the end of the weekend, the Top 10 list wins a shirt or a game. We have had a ton of repeat visitors."

The game also has caught the attention of Hollywood. "We've been approached by a few of the top agents and studios interested in various extensions of the Starcrossed brand name--for example, a CD-Rom game," Malinow says. "People are interested in a game show. We have new (game) cards for the fall. We want to come out with foreign editions. It's a timeless concept."

"Starcrossed" can be ordered by calling 888-FILMBUFF.

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