You’ve Seen Him Everywhere: Find Out Why

I have angina. I have failing eyesight and I’m going deaf. I’m a teacher. I’m an architect. I’m an avid PC user. I donate blood. I attend Phoenix University. I love I bank at US Bank, BankAmerica and Citibank. I’m in the National Guard. And my life has been rebuilt thanks to advanced antipsychotic medication.

Of course, none of the above assertions are true. But there are those who would have you believe so. At least until you favor their product or service. I’m not famous. I’m merely ubiquitous. My name is Terry Marks, and I’m the quasi-Asian face of the new century.

You see, my image was included on what was perhaps one of the most pervasive stock-photo CDs of the last few years. The result: Much like David Hasselhoff, I’m big in Europe.

OK, you’re still thinking, "What in the H-E-double toothpicks is he talking about?" Here’s the skinny: Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, where information CDs were hardly more than a notion, some companies were making their mark selling royalty-free images on CD. Yet stock images of people were still—to use the technical term—poo.

Enter stage left Mel Curtis, noted photographer and friend of Terry Marks. While creating a stock-image CD of hands and faces, he shoots a vast number of people, mostly friends. On the way to a lunch, Mel shoots Terry. Maybe 15 or 20 minutes in the chair. Release is signed. Off to eat.

Fast forward a few months. CD debuts. Photos are great. It’s a hit. Holy monkey! Of the 100 images, eight or so are of Terry. Hee hee. Ha ha. Very entertaining. Back to work.

Then it began—a cavalcade of appearances by this unknown Asian. Secret Asian man. For the last three years, there’s been a steady trickle of notices, brochures and ads with my face arriving on my doorstep.

My image has been used to pimp everything from AIDS testing to Oracle, from the U.S. Census to dating services. I’m even the "turn off your cellular phone" guy in some movie theaters. Lately, I’ve been receiving junk emails with the subject "Why haven’t you called me back?" that have my face embedded in the body. While in Paris, the director of PhotoDisc Europe remarked to Mel, "Who ees thees Chineese man? He ees so popular!"

Like I said, I’m big in Europe.

My image has been spotted in Japan, France, Germany, the Netherlands (as a billboard on an agricultural-products factory) and of course, in our good ol’ U.S. of A. Chances are, I’m even huge in Djibouti. (Did I say "booty?")

The saturation has been so dense that, as I meet new people in the design world, I’m invariably received with a look of faint recognition. That "Do I know you?" stare. Creepy sometimes to say the least. But I guess it might actually work to my advantage.

This happens so often that I was struck with a bolt from the blue: Why not make a short film about how it’s affected my life? Not my life now, but 50 years from now. Having been used to hawk so many services, products and causes, my future self suffers a loss of identity, first with those around him, and ultimately with himself. The result: a grouchy, gnarled man in plaid trousers and running shoes, with a Yiddish accent.

Many friends have been outraged, or at least stunned, by the phenomenon. But please know I have no remorse. I’m not bitter. Who could have known this would explode the way it has? I have, it seems, that "he’s Asian, but he’s not too Asian" sort of face. I fit a comfortable demographic. Besides, I did get paid. And $40 will almost buy lunch for two.

We’re all familiar with Andy Warhol’s idea that each of us will have 15 minutes of fame. I know I do. It’s just sneaking by in 28k snippets on the World Wide Web. So to those of you who have contributed to my collection of appearances, I thank you. Especially if you chuckle about this with me and not at me. Or toward me, for that matter.

And for those of you whom I’ve not yet had the pleasure of meeting, please introduce yourself. Then buy me a drink. (The power of suggestion!) If you are so inclined, send me samples of my mug from your junk mail. And to all of you, remember: You only have 15 minutes; please use them wisely.