A chap recently said something similar to me: a relative three generations before had met Buffalo Bill during one of his Wild West tours. “So I spoke to a man who met Buffalo Bill,” he said.
The modern equivalent is the theory of six degrees of separation. This has been around since 1929, and spawned a play, film, TV programmes and a Hollywood parlour game involving actor Kevin Bacon
It postulates that anyone in the world is only six steps away from anybody else. To put it plainly, Donald Trump is only six people away from everyone, through a friend of a friend or acquaintance. Which is scary.
Let me explain.
The best man at my wedding was comedian Lennie Bennett who played Las Vegas with Frank Sinatra. So I am connected in two to Sinatra, in three to the complete Rat Pack, the Kennedy clan, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and most of Hollywood. Keep following their friends, relatives and work colleagues and you see how swiftly it all expands.
The theory has been tested by Facebook. Among its 1.6 billion users (which is 22% of the world population), the difference of separation was only 3.57. Which takes the breath away to think that you could be connected so easily to a Chinese rice grower on the other side of the world.
Then again, I can connect to both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in three: through MP Barry Sheerman to Theresa May who has met both the world leaders.
Come to think of it, I can connect to Adolf Hitler in three, through friend, author and biographer Stephen Dorril who interviewed Diana Mitford, who married British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley in Berlin in 1936, when Hitler was one of the wedding guests.
The Hollywood game was to connect that very fine actor Kevin Bacon to other actors through films they were in together. I can even make that connection personal in only five degrees of separation.
Kevin Bacon was in the film Frost/Nixon with Michael Sheen who was in The Damned United with Sir Michael Parkinson who was a friend of George Best who chatted up my wife Maria in a Manchester boutique in 1968. She turned him down.
Try it yourself and discover that it really is a small world.