The History Of 'Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon'

Google has incorporated the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game into its search function. Morning Edition's David Greene goes to the movies and traces the history of the iconic college game.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Oh, even if you've never played this game, you have probably heard of it: "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," where you try to connect any movie star, living or dead, to the veteran Hollywood actor Kevin Bacon. And now Google has decided to get involved. They have incorporated it into their search function. NPR's David Greene has gone in search of the game's origin.

DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: Let's start with how this original game works. Take any celebrity you like, say, Sean Connery.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DR. NO")

SEAN CONNERY: (as James Bond) Bond, James Bond.

GREENE: ...and we'll try and link him to Kevin Bacon. Well, Sean Connery was in "Marnie" with Tippi Hedren.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "MARNIE")

TIPPI HEDREN: (As Marnie) I send you plenty of money, Momma. You don't have to be a babysitter.

GREENE: ...and Tippi Hedren was in the movie "Jayne Mansfield's Car" with...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "JAYNE MANSFIELD'S CAR")

KEVIN BACON: (As Carroll Caldwell) It's not going to kill you to talk to your kids. You might be surprised what happens.

GREENE: That's right: Kevin Bacon. So that gives Sean Connery a Bacon number of two. Does that make sense? Let's try one more: say, Tom Cruise.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "A FEW GOOD MEN")

TOM CRUISE: (As Lt. Daniel Kaffee) Colonel Jessup, did you order the code red?

GREENE: Oh, yes, that famous line from "A Few Good Men," which also starred Kevin Bacon. They were side by side. So that gives Tom Cruise a Bacon number of one. You get the idea? So where did all this start? Well, it began in 1994 at Albright College in Pennsylvania, where three friends were holed up in a room with the TV on.

BRIAN TURTLE: We were snowed in, and we were watching TV, as, you know, you might do at that age when you're snowed in. And we may have had a cocktail or two. And "Footloose" was on TV, and then the movie "Quicksilver" came on after that. And then a commercial for another Kevin Bacon movie came on in between those two movies. And it was like, whoa, what is this, Kevin Bacon marathon on, you know...

GREENE: He's in everything.

TURTLE: He's in everything. And that was kind of the statement that we made. And then it was sort of like, well, has Kevin Bacon ever worked with Robert De Niro? This was before the movie "Sleepers," which has subsequently put the two of those together in one movie. But before that we said no, but Robert De Niro was in "The Untouchables" with Kevin Costner, and Kevin Costner was in "JFK" with Kevin Bacon. And that was kind of the light bulb statement right there.

GREENE: That's Brian Turtle, who, along with Craig Fass and Mike Ginelli, dreamt this game up with some cocktails and a few Kevin Bacon movies. And so now, Google has made the game part of its search engine. And we asked Brian Turtle what it feels like to have a game that you created with your college buddies get incorporated by one of the world's largest Internet companies.

TURTLE: I don't know, flattering or weird. It's interesting, because I've Googled, you know, whatever it is, hundreds of thousands of different things over the years, and I've never really felt the need to say, oh, well, I wonder how that thing that I'm searching links back to Kevin Bacon.

GREENE: And I have to admit, this thing can really get addictive. I spent a lot of a morning using this new Google-Bacon number calculator. I mean, the point's supposed to be you get six degrees of separation, right? Well, I couldn't get a connection over the number two. I asked Brian if he could get anywhere near six. And to do that, he and I had to travel to a galaxy far, far away.

TURTLE: You can go Mark Hamill through "Star Wars," with Carrie Fisher.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "RETURN OF THE JEDI")

MARK HAMILL: (As Luke Skywalker) Yes, it's you, Leia.

CARRIE FISHER: (As Princess Leia) Somehow...

TURTLE: And Carrie Fisher was in "The Blues Brothers" with John Belushi, who was in "Animal House" with Kevin Bacon.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ANIMAL HOUSE")

JOHN BELUSHI: (As John Blutarsky) Toga, toga, toga, toga, toga...

GREENE: All right, so Luke Skywalker at least gets us to three. If you want to try this for yourself, just type Bacon number and then an actor or actress' name into Google and see what number you get. Now, before I go, I should mention that Steve Inskeep, I know, met Alec Baldwin in person. He was in "She's Having a Baby" with Kevin Bacon, which means Steve Inskeep has a Bacon number of two.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME FROM "FOOTLOOSE")

INSKEEP: Yes. That means Alec Baldwin's number is one. By the way, David Greene's Bacon number appears to be three. He interviewed Kathy Griffin, who appeared with Marisa Tomei in "Four Rooms." And Marisa Tomei was in "Crazy, Stupid Love" with Kevin Bacon.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.

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