The stand-in for George Washington at the bicentennial of his inauguration was an actor playing Washington.
And a descendant of the nation's first president who participated in the weekend's festivities is a Washington trying to be an actor.Stern-faced Philadelphia actor William Sommerfield, who took the oath in Sunday's re-enactment of Washington's inauguration, tried to be as much like the nation's first president as possible even when crowds seemed unsure whether to laugh or applaud.
But 24-year-old John Washington, whose great-great-great-great-great-great-uncle was Washington, says he doesn't know whether his bloodline and name are an asset or a curse as he pursues acting in Los Angeles. And more than once, he said, he's considered changing his last name so it will no longer be a factor.
Washington said he began having mixed feelings about his heritage after he appeared in 1984 in a television miniseries about his uncle. He played Washington's brother.
"The only reason I'd get in to see people is my agent would say, `He's related to George Washington,' " Washington recalled before a dinner-dance at the Waldorf-Astoria on Sunday night for descendants of presidents. He called it "bizarre nepotism."
"I was so humiliated," said Washington, who has appeared on television in small parts several times this year. At the inauguration parade Sunday afternoon, people asked him, "Who are you?"
"I lied and said, `Kennedy,' " he said. "I thought I'd get more respect. It was my impression people didn't care about George Washington anymore."
He said the Washington name also didn't help some of his relatives. One Washington descendant ran for Congress in the state of Washington with the motto, "Send Washington to Washington for Washington."
"He lost," Washington said.