January 21, 2018


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Maggie Van Ostrand



Six Degrees of Separation: "It's A Wonderful Life"


by Maggie Van Ostrand


Following the advice of humorist George Waters, who researched and discovered his work was being plagiarized by a Canadian would-be, I occasionally Google phrases I've used in my own columns, just out of curiousity, to find out if a wordnapper had ripped off my work. I never expected to hit pay dirt, and certainly not anything connected to the iconic movie, "It's A Wonderful Life." After all, I'd already connected to that movie when, in real life, at a fundraiser for the L.A. Zoo, I once danced with James Stewart.

My current Googling-for-Plagiarists mission netted mysterious results. In the late 90s, when I lived in Mexico, I'd been a columnist for an English-language publication. An old column from 1997 popped up on my computer monitor, and it wasn't just the phrase I'd entered in Google - by gum, it was the entire column, only the name under the title was no longer mine, it was someone else's, someone named Kate Karns. The column, recently published online, still carried the 1997 date, so, um - what's this all about??

I dashed off an email to the then-and-now editor of the publication and he swore he had no idea about it, or how it could have happened, or why, but that he would launch an investigation mañana. O.k. but here's the thing: In Mexico, mañana does not mean "tomorrow," as I've always thought, it really means "not today." That's way different and that's why I haven't got around to telling you what happened until now. Back to Kate.

Kate Karns is not a pseudonym, it's the real name of a real person, now almost 100 years old but still alive, who lives in a rest home. Kate Karns was married to the late Todd Karns, who played the Naval hero, Harry Bailey, brother of George Bailey, played by James Stewart, in "It's A Wonderful Life." Without the character of Harry Bailey, there'd be no movie, ergo my six degrees:

1. The writer, Maggie Van Ostrand
2. The humorist George Waters
3. The editor Alejandro Grattan
4. The Widow Kate Karns
5. The actor Todd Karns
6. The movie, "It's A Wonderful Life"

It all started with a connection to a George (Waters) and ended with a connection to another George (Bailey).

I'm not going after the Widow Karns, having decided that the fact she ripped off my writing was more a compliment than some kind of skullduggery.

I live for days like this.


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Opinion: Huffington Post
Mexico: MexConnect
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  • The Lange Foundation
    Angel of mercy Gillian Lange founded this dog and cat rescue organization, as well as The Amanda Foundation. If someone you know lost a pet, you can sponsor a rescued animal for the bereaved owner in the lost pet's name. No greater gift can you give.
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    British author/photographer, historian and Essex expert, Sylvia Kent has a lively blog about life in the U.K. There's much more to it than you could imagine.

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