In 1980, a fresh-faced 19-year-old arrived on the campus of Sullivan County Community College in upstate New York as a freshman. He was admittedly rather unpopular, so he was stunned at his overzealous welcome. Nearly everyone he encountered spoke to him as if they were besties, offering slaps on the back, high-fives and the occasional kiss on the cheek.
"Hey, welcome back Eddy," he heard from behind. "Eddy...Eddy...Hey, Eddy, wait up."
But his name wasn't Eddy. It was Robert Shafran. And when he ultimately ran into Eddy's previous college roommate (it turns out that Eddy didn't return to campus the year Robert arrived), the roommate was stunned.
"The same grin, the same curly hair, the same...well, everything," said the roommate who, seconds later, asked Robert, "Is your birthday July 12? Were you adopted?"
The answers were yes and yes. The two ran to the nearest phone booth to call Eddy Galland, and ended up hopping into a car and driving 120 miles to Galland's Long Island home.
"When he came to the door, it was like looking in a mirror," recalled Shafran.
New York City newspapers made the unlikely reunion the feel-good story of 1980. And when the New York Post published a photo of Eddy and Robert with the headline, "The Face Looked Familiar," it sparked a reaction that would make the tale become the feel-really-good story of the year.
"I couldn't believe it. They looked like me, holy shit," said David Kellman. "Oh my god, this is not a minor resemblance."
Kellman ran for a phone and called Galland's home. When Galland's mother picked up the phone, Kellman couldn't talk fast enough.
"My name is David Kellman, I was born July 12, 1961, I'm looking at the photo of Robert and Eddy right now," he shouted.
The trio became a media sensation. Ask anyone who was around in 1980 and they can probably recall the story of the three brothers, separated at birth and adopted by different families. Nearly four decades ago, David, Eddy and Robert appeared with a much-younger Tom Brokaw and Jane Pauley on the Today Show, and as special guests on Phil Donahue's No. 1-rated talk show. The newly reunited triplets made the front pages of practically every major newspaper in North America and were on the covers of Time, People and even Good Housekeeping. They made cameo appearances in the hottest TV sitcom of the era, Cheers, and in the film Desperately Seeking Susan at the personal invitation of its star, Madonna. The trio even owned and operated a trendy restaurant in New York's SoHo district. You guessed it: the eatery was called "Triplets."
Which brings us to Three Identical Strangers, a new documentary that is all the buzz following its sensational premiere at this year's Sundance Film Festival. And here's the ultimate twist, as if this film needed any more: Three Identical Strangers, already a fascinating story, turns a sharp corner halfway through—but don't think for a moment that I'll spoil any of that here. Suffice to say, it's a jaw-dropper that helps the film transition from excellent to remarkable.
Speaking of the unlikely, Three Identical Strangers is yet another superb work of nonfiction filmmaking in a historic summer of big-screen documentaries. If you haven't yet seen Won't You Be My Neighbor?, RBG and Love and Bananas, get with the program.