The separation an actor has from Kevin Bacon; personified in the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Interesting stats: at the time of this writing, there are:

  • 1 with a bacon number of 0 (Kevin Bacon himself)
  • 1434 with a bacon number of 1
  • 98161 with a bacon number of 2
  • 215341 with a bacon number of 3
  • 47572 with a bacon number of 4
  • 2644 with a bacon number of 5
  • 251 with a bacon number of 6
  • 60 with a bacon number of 7
  • 2 with a bacon number of 8
The average (mean) bacon number for any given actor is 2.871, with a standard deviation of 0.66. This is what happens when you have a 365465-node undirected graph with random linkage. Median and mode are both 3.

The owner of my living plushie character on a MUCK and I were trying to find anyone with a bacon number of more than 4. We went at it for hours, finding as obscure an actor as we could, and we couldn't find a single one. Hubs like Wild Things and Sleepers, and promiscuous actors such as Robert Wagner, ruin it for everyone. Even Marie Cabbit, the credited name of the voice of Ryo-Ohki, has a bacon number of only 3 (because of Petrea Burchard, the horrible English dub voice actor of Ryoko, who was in Death Becomes Her alongside Lydia Peterkoch, who was in She's Having a Baby).

Annoying.

It turns out that the 25th president of the United States, William McKinley, is the key to the entire Kevin Bacon Game.

At least, he is in my eyes. If you don't believe me, simply consult the Oracle for President McKinley's Bacon number. When you get back, the justification below for my opening claim will still be here.

Allow me to explain.

Last Sunday I was watching the Academy Awards ceremony on television. By 'watching', I of course mean ogling, and by 'Academy Awards ceremony' I of course mean Jennifer Lopez in a see-through dress and a giant, poofy Björk-stuffed poultry product, both prancing around a stage in Los Angeles. Regardless, I became curious about some of the films mentioned (that I hadn't managed to see in theaters), as well as some of the actors and actresses with whom I wasn't particularly familiar. For some reason, and I think Tom Hanks had something to do with this, I felt a strange curiosity towards the Bacon numbers of these various overpaid starlets.

For a while I linked the movies, in my head and on my own. Eventually, my Kevin Bacon Game inadequacies began to mount, and I did a web search for the Kevin Bacon Game. I found the Promised One, the Oracle of Bacon. "Yes..." I thought, "This is good."

I bowed before the Oracle and began asking questions. Eventually, it was determined that anyone who has ever been in a film has a (not necessarily finite) Bacon number. The lowest Bacon number is 0, and only Kevin Bacon can ever claim it. Anyone who acted in a movie featuring Kevin Bacon can claim a Bacon number of 1. Actors who made movies with these people get Bacon numbers of 2, and so on down the line. The highest finite Bacon number, as of this writing, is 10.

This is all exhaustively covered in the writeups above. What is not covered is the deeper state of enlightenment I would achieve later the next day.

Imdb got absolutely slammed. Slashdotted. Hammered. DDOS'd. This was my conclusion, at least, watching a few internet traffic reports. It seems nationwide coverage of J-Lo's breasts was too much for the bogged-down imdb to take. I gave up the quest for the night and returned the next day.

There is exactly one person with a Bacon number of 10. There is exactly one person with a Bacon number of 9. There are 20 people with Bacon numbers of 8. I was very interested in finding these 22 individuals (out of about 450,000 actors currently in the database). I was downtrodden, however, since the highest I'd been able to get up to at that point was a paltry 3.

I knew a Big Ass Perl Script would be up to the task. It would require a long, long time, however, to build up my copy of the database and start crunching bacon. I really didn't want to spend more than an hour or two on the project, though, so I started asking the Oracle for the Bacon numbers of the most obscure actors and actresses I could find, hoping for a lucky 5 or 6. No luck, and I do mean none. Every one of the fifty or so I could come up with has a 2 or a 3. Drat!

Eventually, I began searching the imdb for actors by year of birth. That didn't help too much, unfortunately. Everyone I tried had either infinite Bacon number, a Bacon number of 2-3, or simply made no useful movies with which to find other (potentially useful) actors. Double drat! I then tried searching for Western movies made before 1900. This is when I struck gold in the form of Winfield S. Schley. He has a Bacon number of 7. He made all of 3 movies, and all in 1898/1899, but I was onto something.

Through linking and cross-checking, I found more 7's. Since nobody on E2 seemed to have ever found higher than 4, I was ecstatic. Eventually, I compiled a nice little list of actors with Bacon numbers of 7. One of them led to an 8. I could feel the excitement rise. There were only twenty 8's in the world, I had found one. Would I be able to find the Man of Bacon number 9? The 10? I was starting to doubt it, since all the 7's I'd found led me to only one 8. Drawing this particular needle from this particular haystack, however, seemed a worthwhile goal. I was getting more and more skeptical about my odds, however, as try after try yielded nothing past 7.

That is, until I found President McKinley.

One of my 7's, George Dewey (I), made a film with President McKinley. President McKinley, being a very important man at the time, made lots of films (relatively speaking). William McKinley has a Bacon number of 7. As soon as I started poking around McKinley, the 8's started falling from the woodwork. I collected 13 out of the twenty 8's in no time flat.

Sniffing around a bit more finally landed me the 9. Where there's the 9, there must be the 10, I reasoned. Sure enough, he was there.

Major General William Rufus Shafter has a Bacon number of 10 - the only one in the database of 450,000 actors, and the highest finite Bacon number currently on record.

So you see, without our beloved President McKinley, I might never have found William Shafter.


On a side note, seven people in the database have William Rufus Shafter numbers of 16 (using him as the center of the acting universe instead of our Beloved Bacon Boy). Wow. I have no idea how I might find them without resorting to perl. Also, if Mickey Rooney ever makes a film with Kevin Bacon, then Major General Shafter will drop down to a 9 from a 10.

Also, there now seems to be an IMDB entry for American Assassins which changes this entire writeup completely. I'll leave it untouched for posterity. Finally, some noders have expressed concern about the difference between an actor and a historical person. No comment.

DAMN YOU WALLY ROSE! YOU'VE RUINED EVERYTHING

The current chain:
William Rufus Shafter was in Surrender of General Toral (1898) with Joseph (IV) Wheeler
Joseph (IV) Wheeler was in General Wheeler and Secretary of War Alger at Camp Wikoff (1898) with Russell Alexander Alger
Russell Alexander Alger was in President McKinley's Inspection of Camp Wikoff (1898) with William (I) McKinley
William (I) McKinley was in President McKinley Taking the Oath (1901) with Marcus Hanna
Marcus Hanna was in Opening of the Pan-American Exposition Showing Vice President Roosevelt
Leading the Procession (1901) with Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt was in Womanhood, the Glory of the Nation (1917) with Walter McGrail
Walter McGrail was in Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc. (1941) with Wally Rose
Wally Rose was in Murder in the First (1995) with Kevin Bacon

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