Of Memes and Men
Harold Zweckis was the world’s most accidental celebrity, and he didn’t even know it.
Harold was photographed by the Google Maps Streetview Van as he walked through Times Square, captured in full panoramic glory yelling at his business partner on his cell phone. Thing is, Harold wore one of those Bluetooth headsets, and it was on the side of his head away from the street, so it looked like he was just yelling at thin air.
Neither Harold nor anyone he knew was the type of person to waste time looking at Google Street View of a place they saw almost every day, so he never noticed he was there.
But the rest of the world did.
Times Square being a popular choice to look at using Street View, it didn’t take long for people to notice the yelling man in mid-step outside the Sbarro. Pretty soon “Angry Google Guy” was a full-fledged Internet phenomenon, photoshopped into hundreds of pictures (of weddings, crying babies, libraries, walking in on people having sex, etc.).
Tourists recognized Harold and ran up to him demanding his autograph. He shoved them out of the way and didn’t even listen. He was a busy man, he had places to go!
Stephen Colbert referenced “Angry Google Guy” on his show, as did Saturday Night Live (two months later). Again, Harold was a serious man, and he only knew serious people, so nobody ever saw it to mention to him, and he certainly never saw it himself.
Pretty soon people started selling bootleg T-Shirts of the “Angry Google Guy,” both in New York as well as online. Harold wasn’t the type to pay attention to the stupid T-Shirts people wore, though, so again he never noticed.
Eventually, the furor died down when someone discovered a YouTube video of a baby in a sailor suit playing “Chopsticks” on the piano, and Harold once again became just another guy, never even having realized he was anything else.