This man cultivated a persona supported by the fiction that he was descended from Austrian aristocracy. He embodied the role of this character so thoroughly, for so long, that the lie became the smallest part of the character, so much so that friends and admirers who suspected the fiction didn't seem to care.
Is identity authentic only to the extent that it develops through unconscious processes, even if those processes are partly defensive? How much of who we are can be deliberately cultivated before it isn't who we really are?
Alan Feuer, NY Times:
The story told of a friendship I had struck up with my New York doppelganger, a man who shared my name and whom I came to think of, with congenital self-absorption, as “the other” Alan Feuer. I had, for years, been getting Alan’s phone calls — from the Metropolitan Club, from well-mannered girls named Muffy — until one day, feeling curious and crowded, I looked up my double.
I’m glad I did, because we met and had a drink, and then, to my surprised delight — mysterious New York! — embarked on one of those unique relationships it seems only the city can provide. Alan, I discovered, was a society man, a gentlemanly figure who frequented affairs like the Petroushka Ball at the Waldorf and the Military Ball at the Plaza. He was an expert waltzer and a wearer of white ties who spoke with an accent — the Palm Beach Lock-Jaw — I had heard only in Preston Sturges films.
Beyond our name, we had nothing in common. He lived on the East Side; I lived on the West. He wore top hats; I wore baseball caps. When he asked about my family, I told him I was from Romanian Jews, most of whom fled Europe after World War II. Alan told me that he was from a family of Austrian bluebloods transplanted to New York. There had been, he said, a family fortune once; but, he added wistfully, “Mother lived too long.”