Monthly Archives February 2006

Cecil Adams vs. Ed Zotti

The photograph on the right is of Ed Zotti. It appeared on page 15 of the September 1995 issue of Parenting magazine. Ed was the author of an article, “Book ‘Em”, which appeared in this issue. The cute tyke also pictured supposedly is one of Ed’s offspring, although it is possible the child is actually a cardboard cutout, hired for the occasion through one of those “Rent-a-Kid” photo centers.

The photo on the left, purportedly of Cecil Adams, appeared on page 147 of the February 1995 issue of American Libraries magazine. It was part of an article entitled “What makes Cecil Adams the world’s greatest reference librarian?”, written by one Paul S. Piper, described as a reference librarian living in Hawaii. (Incidentally, the individual responsible for the Dec. 20, 1996 Straight Dope question, Did medieval lords really have the ‘right of the first night’ with the local brides? was said to be Paul S. Piper of Honolulu, Hawaii, although this is likely no more than a coincidence.)

Clearly, these are two photographs of the same individual. (I’m talking about the adults here). And some people will jump to the conclusion this means that “Cecil=Ed”. These individuals (the ones making the claim) are beneath contempt. Nothing could be further from the truth. Look closely at the pictures. You are no doubt familiar with Unca Cece’s magnificent and illuminating work. Does the person in the photographs, while pleasant enough, appear to be in any way capable of producing Cecil Adams-caliber work? Hardly. (I know phrenology has been discredited, but still, you’ve got to wonder…)

On the other hand, does this individual look like an editor? Of course. So, what you have here clearly are two photographs of Unca Cece’s editor, Ed Zotti. Thus, one of Ed’s photographs was used as a stand-in for the American Libraries article. According to The Straight Dope, “Cecil Adams… has never been photographed…” There is no reason to believe this has changed.

There are two possible reasons for the substitution. It may be that, under pressure, Paul S. Piper felt he had to supply some sort of image, so he sneaked in a photo of Ed, hoping no one would notice. Literary fraud has a long history–if this was indeed the case, we can only hope that Mr. Piper will receive a long prison sentence.

Another possibility is that Paul S. Piper was himself duped, and Ed supplied the picture of himself, either to protect Unca Cece’s privacy, or to gain his own “15 seconds of fame”