Ed. Note: During the last week of the year, we asked our writers to reflect on the highs and lows of 2010.
As a reporter, one of the easiest ways to stay abreast of local newsmakers is using Google Alerts — where you sign up to get an email every time the name of someone, or some thing, hits the world wide web.
My Google Alerts run the gamut from Vermont politicians like Jim Douglas and Bernie Sanders, to prominent local companies like Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Every time their name hits the Internet, I get an email alerting me to it.
It's a really smart little system Google has devised — but not so smart that it can distinguish between Jim Douglas the governor and Jim Douglas the television news reporter from Dallas, Texas. Or Jim Douglas the character in the 1968 Disney film The Love Bug. Or the Jim Douglas who is a judge in Australia.
Over the last year, Google Alerts has clogged my inbox with Jim Douglases, Patrick Leahys and Phil Scotts who have nothing to do with Vermont. I started collecting them last January and wanted to share my stash before 2010 went out the door. Much as former Seven Days staff writer Mike Ives discovered in his piece "Alter Egoed," I learned that once you go down the doppelganger rabbit hole, there's no telling where you'll end up.
Here, in no particular order, are my 7 best newsmaker doppelgangers of 2010:
1. Jim Douglas is Vermont's departing governor of eight years. Whatever you think of his politics, Douglas's personality seems pretty staid. You would never say this governor has mojo. So imagine my surprise when my "Jim Douglas" Google Alert started blasting me with news stories about Jim Morrison, who was recently pardoned posthumously by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Turns out, Jim Morrison was born James Douglas Morrison (I didn't know that), and several blogs referred to the legendary Doors frontman using his full name. Are there two men who've walked this earth with less in common than Jim Douglas and Jim Morrison? Probably, but for the purposes of this post, let's just say that one is Mr. Mojo Risin ... and the other's Mr. No-jo Risin. One is the Lizard King .... and the other's the Scissors King. One sang "Love Me Two Times" ....the other "Override Me Two Times." Of course, for both Jim Douglases, this is the eeeeeend.
As mentioned previously, Jim Douglas is also a TV news reporter for WFAA in Dallas (pictured above); a Supreme Court justice in Australia; a race-car driver character in Disney's 1968 film The Love Bug (pictured below); one of "Scotland's Treasures;" a writer for AvStop - Aviation Online Magazine; and a 36-year-veteran of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission who was recently promoted to deputy director. (Congrats, Jim!)
2. Deborah Markowitz is Vermont's secretary of state. She is a fast-talking, ambitious politician who finished third in this year's five-way primary for governor. Now, she'll serve as secretary of natural resources under the guy who beat her, Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin. Debra Markowitz (pictured below), on the other hand, is a Long Island film commissioner, novelist, freelance writer and yoga buff who loves reading, dogs, indie music, "you name it." Her tomes include Sarah and Caleb, and Naked In the Rain — and judging these books by their covers, this sultry scribe has it all over our Deb Markowitz in the romance department.
3. Phil Scott is Vermont's newly-elected Lt. Governor. HIs new job will demand he enforce the rules of the state Senate. But don't mistake him for actual law-enforcer Phil Scott (pictured below), the police chief of Morgantown, West Virginia. Or Phil Scott, managing director of ACP Magazines in Australia, who said there's "nothing unusual" about the depatures of three top executives from the company's advertising sales division (yeah, right.)
4. Peter Welch is, of course, Vermont's lone congressman. The bespectacled Democrat from Windsor County led the fight against Obama's tax cut deal with Republicans, but was overwhelmed by glass-jawed Democrats who caved faster than the snow-covered roof at the Minneapolis Metrodome. (Apologies for the mixed metaphor). Welch put up a good fight. But could he last ten rounds against Peter Welch the South Boston boxing coach? That's the former Golden Gloves Champion who runs Peter Welch's Gym (promo video below), a place for "professional and amateur fighters," "children and teens," "women of all ages" and "anyone who feels ready for an amped-up, innovative, high-intensity workout." Whaddaya say, Congressman?
5. Patrick Leahy is Vermont's senior U.S. Senator. He's been called a lot of things over his three-plus decades in Washington (Dick Cheney famously told Leahy to go fuck himself on the Senate floor). But no one could call Leahy a conservative, much less a Tea Partier. Michael Patrick Leahy (pictured below), however, is co-founder of the National Tea Party Coalition and one of the top conservatives on Twitter. No seriously. MPL is credited with popularizing the Twitter hashtag #TCOT, as in "Top Conservatives on Twitter," and publishes a blog under the same name. Kinda makes you wonder why he doesn't just go by "Michael Leahy."
6. T.J. Donovan is the state's attorney for Chittenden County. He uses evidence, eloquence and a touch of artistry to put dangerous criminals away and to cut deals with ones who might redeem themselves. But the real artist is Timothy "T.J." Donovan (art below) of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This T.J. is co-organizer of "Take the Day," an "art-making extravaganza and auction" at the Washington Pavillion Visual Art Center. The idea for the day-long event: An open call to artists to come and make art, while the public bids on art pieces as they're being created. Who could object to that?
7. Steve Howard is the Vermont state lawmaker who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor this year, the government's #2 job. Don't even get me started on the other Steve Howards served up by my Google Alerts. Let's see, there's Steve Howard the English soccer — sorry, football — star (pictured below); Steve Howard the new chief sustainability officer for IKEA; Steve Howard the Camden County (Florida) administrator, who thinks the $10.9 million project will be done in about two years (keep dreaming, Steve); Steve Howard the vice president at CertiPath, a company focused on "physical access security for airports;" and, of course, Steve Howard the Washington, D.C.-based artist and blogger who loves "the good things in life: good friends, a pretty face, cold beer, a good stogie, and red meat!"