Starlee Kine: From Gimlet, I’m Starlee Kine and this is Mystery Show. (music - why is there you?) Every week I solve a new mystery. (music - why is there me?) Mysteries that can't be solved online. Mysteries you can’t solve yourself. (music) Up until now, there hasn't been anyone to help with this. That person is now me.
This week's mystery belongs to David. David is a former political cartoonist who runs an Artisanal Pencil Sharpening company out of his home in the country. You send him your unsharpened pencils and he sends them back to you sharpened. I am telling you this so you’ll understand that David is both a man who appreciates the more nuanced details of life and a man with a lot of time on his hands.
One afternoon David rang me up and said he had something pressing he needed to speak with me about. I caught the 3:18 train up to his house and sat in the second car from the front, in the window seat.
Upon my arrival, David greeted me warmly: “How are you?” I said cordially, gripping his hand with a strength I would’ve hardly been given credit for, David quickly ushered me into his study and after brushing off the pencil shavings from his sofa, gestured for me to sit down. Then he explained his predicament to me:
David: So, it all started when I went to see the movie Source Code and Jake Gyllenhaal was the star, and I thought it was a really good movie. But there was one thing about it that struck me as a little uncanny. It was that sometimes in the movie, Jake Gyllenhaal looked kind of short, and other times he looked really tall, which didn't seem like part of the movie. It didn't seem like it was a plot point element or anything, and I never notice
things like that with celebrities.
Starlee Kine: So David turned to every amateur sleuth’s jealous, undermining best friend: the internet. He typed in “How tall is Jake Gyllenhaal” and a website called “Celeb Heights Dot Com” popped up. David thought it would be the end of the investigation.
David: But it was just the beginning because the printout of Jake Gyllenhaal, I have it here, and it's a contested piece of data, I think is the only way to say it. So the entry begins: "Jake Gyllenhaal height, US actor from Brokeback Mountain, he is quoted at age 23 as saying 'I'm happily six feet tall.'" And then the remaining eleven pages are devoted to people arguing and screaming at each other about whether he was speaking truthfully when he said he was happily six feet tall.
Starlee Kine: David says it's the Infinite Jest of Jake Gyllenhaal heightrelated discourse.
David: The disputants are, as far as I can tell, from all over the world. It’s an international debate.
Starlee: And are they people who know him? Why, how are they
David: Well, that's a great question. I'll give you an example if I can find one. So here's an entry:
"I met Jake at the Weinstein Oscar party. We were both wearing dress shoes and
standing four inches away from him. I was looking him in the eye. I had no need to even slightly angle my eyes upwards. I'm five foot eight and Jake was an inch taller than me. Period. He has a pretty tall cranium, which gave him the extra inch over me."
So there are first hand accounts. And then there's people who watch him on tv:
"Just saw Jake on Jimmy Fallon. He was an inch and a half shorter than him, in the scene where they are dancing about a hedgehog doing karate. Funny skit, but it proves to me, Jake is 5 foot 10 and half inches at the most. They were both wearing the same air force ones/converse shoes for the skit. It showed the whole body. There's no way he is six foot. This entry needs to be changed."
So that's that guy, and this is very common on celebheights.com, if you see Jake or any celebrity, standing beside a celebrity of known height, then you just extrapolate based on that. It's never like, "Oh I have a photo of Jake Gyllenhaal standing beside three yardsticks with his back to the wall." For instance, there's an infamous picture of Jake with the rapper Xzibit, and that is referred to a number of times here. Because Xzibit's height, I think, has been nailed down.
Starlee: Nailed down how?
David: Xzibit is actually the moderator of celebheights.com. It's Xzibit's website. The address used to be "mystream.com/music/xzibit." But yeah, there are all kinds of celebrities on the site, anyone from Danny Devito to Liam
Neeson, to use two height extremes.
Starlee: Danny Devito would be a good comparison.
David: You could probably measure Jake's height in DeVito's. "I was standing beside him at an Oscar party..."
Starlee Kine: Celebheights homepage specifies that all stats are “barefoot estimates,” as opposed to "running shoe estimates" or "pajamas with feet estimates" or "the pair of socks that everyone in your office always says the same thing about "oh aren't those fun," when you wear them on casual Fridays estimates." Celebheights was interested in facts, not frivolity. Definitely
not a fun sock crowd.
David: So here's an entry:
"I have met him. We were very close in height. No more than .75 in difference. I believe his six feet claim. He might measure five foot eleven and three quarters of an inch at 7pm. His absolute lowest will be my height: five eleven and a quarter, but nothing suggests that he was really under six feet” which is unusual because this guy just said he was under six feet.
Or this guy writes:
"I see a five eleven max morning height guy in those pictures."
So this is something I had never heard of before: the term is, "max morning height," which is that people are tallest in the morning, and then as the day goes by and this is true for myself you slump more and more, you're getting more and more tired, you're getting beaten down by the world. So a lot of people talk about max morning height.
When I first read that, I was like this guy has got to be a doctor or something, or an orthopedic surgeon. I have never heard of this concept. But as soon as I heard it, ithat makes sense to me.
Starlee Kine: Then there’s the ethnographic take on the question.
David: This guy writes,
"he doesn't look like a typical six foot guy with long arms and a long neck. His body is like a Peruvian guy: large, oblong head, short neck. Hmmm. At least, he is maybe around five foot eleven. I don't think he's around six feet. I should see him shaven."
I should see him shaven, denuded of hair, like a lizard.
Starlee: But he doesn't say, "if only we could see him shaven."
David: No "I, none of you other people should see him shaven. I have my own test, but it requires Jake Gyllenhaal to be fully shaven. I should see him shaven."
It's the should. It's not as emphatic as, "I must see him shaven," it's "I should see him shaven." It's like "yeah I really should eat more fiber."
Starlee Kine: One commenter points out that Jake was supposed to play the Joker and so mystery solved….since, as everyone knows, the Joker is six foot three. That commenter is immediately attacked by other commenters, as the Joker’s height is too contested.
Of course Jake never did play the Joker, perhaps because of this very controversy. Instead he went on the play the role of Army pilot Colter Stevens in Source Code, who is sent back in time in eight minute intervals to try and prevent a bomber from blowing up Chicago:
David: Although at the end of the movie, it's revealed he's actually just a grown up torso which makes calculating his height even that much more difficult because he doesn't have legs.
Starlee: How important is it to you to get to the bottom of this?
David: Well I've invested more time in this than most of my peer group, I think.
Structurally, it's almost analogous to Source Code, in that Jake is returning again and again to the scene of the crime to try to solve the mystery over and over again, with incremental additions of information. And I am having my own mystery where I am returning again and again to celebheights.com, with each visit trying to gain a little more information about the height of Jake Gyllenhaal. It kind of messes with your mind after a little while. There is one guy here, one maniac on this board, who is like: "huh. That's surprising. I always thought he was six foot five. I loved you in Prince of Persia, Jake." That's in here somewhere.
I'm like, I'm pretty sure Jake Gyllenhaal is not six foot five. If you're six foot five, there's no debate about whether you’re five eleven and three quarters or a weak six foot. Six foot five kind of stands out.
Starlee: What's the lowest they go with?
David: This goes from 5'9" to someone saying he's 6'5" That's a huge-- that's eight inches.
Even accounting for max morning height and shrinking over the day, you're not going to lose eight inches in one day.
Starlee: So we are working with an eight inch spread here?
David: Right. I have a feeling he is not six foot. I have a feeling that if he was six foot, he would have said "I'm happily 6'1"' I have a feeling he is five foot eleven and a half.
Starlee: Here's what I think I should do for you. What if I found out how tall Jake was, once and for all?
David: Well that's good. I think you have a better chance of doing it than I would.
Starlee: So what is the bare minimum you will settle for?
David: Um... I would settle for word from Jake himself, and if he's like... "It's like I wrote on my website, I'm happily six feet tall. I'm happy with it. I'm right in the middle of it. Boom, just lounging in the middle of six foot." He seems like an honest guy. I would accept that. I would take him at his word.
Starlee: So, word from the man himself. Ok. I can do it. I can do it.
Starlee Kine: I promised David I’d send word once I had any news and set off on my search. I decided to begin where this whole mess had started: the internet. It felt like using a brick to clean up a spill. I posted a call on Twitter for anyone who saw Jake to let me know. I didn’t expect anything to come of it.
But almost immediately, the tweets started pouring in. Jake was in New York, like me. One person had seen him in her Spin class. Someone else said it was just the two of them in her coffee shop the other morning. She reached for the sugar and there he was. Another girl was ordering a burger when Jake walked by outside. She was so startled that she threw the burger away, just chucked it in midair.
Not to sound creepy but by the end of the week, I had a pretty good idea of his entire schedule. I knew where he bought his shirts, where he unwound with a beer. I knew which shifts his brotherinlaw and sometimes costar, Peter Saarsgarrd, worked at the food coop. But even so, I was always one step behind. The closest, and most frustrating call, came from my friend Dan.
Dan: It’s very sad, actually. I had no idea that you were doing this Jake Gyllenhaal story.
Starlee Kine: It was a leisurely Saturday afternoon. Dan had just finished up brunch and was browsing at a store that I went to all the time and which was no more than ten minutes by train, five minutes by mad dash, from my house.
Dan: Jake Gyllenhaal was standing out on the sidewalk and talking to a group of maybe four or five women. He was just standing there, I mean, he was there in my presence for 30 or 40 minutes.
Starlee: So it's definitely conceivable that if you had called me I could have gotten there in time to have measured him?
Dan: There was plenty of time for you to get on the subway, come over…
Starlee Kine: Jake Gyllenhaaal was becoming my celebrity Moriarty, or to put it in terms that my peer group would understand… my Snuffleupalogous.
And now let's take a short break.
And we're back. Hi.
My friend, Jeb, is a film producer. We met at the top of a mountain in Utah,
but that's a story for another time. Jeb was actually one of the producers of Source Code. I called him up, and he said he was going to see Jake in a week they were going out to dinner. Did I want him to ask Jake if he would tell me how tall he is. I tried to play it off, all casual like. I told Jeb, only if it comes up naturally in conversation. The dinner happened, and then Jeb called me, and then I called David to relay the findings.
David: Hey what's up. So you're calling to report on your findings?
David: I'm excited.
Starlee: I did find Jake Gyllenhaal.
David: Where is he?
Starlee: He knows you are looking for him.
David: Good. My name is out on the street, that's good.
Starlee: But he won't tell you how tall he is.
Starlee Kine: Jake had been intrigued, but wouldn't give a number.
David: Did he say why?
Starlee: He's trying to lay low.
David: What does that mean? He won't stand up? He's lying down?
Starlee Kine: I had failed, at the very moment when success seemed most guaranteed. No matter which way I looked at it, no matter how hard I thought about it, I simply couldn’t go higher than Jake Gyllenhaal to get to Jake Gyllenhaal. And now that I had set this thing in motion, I didn't know how to make it stop. Twitter was giving celebheights.com a real run for its money when it came to Jake Gyllenhaal minutiae.
People were now not only giving me reports about where he was, but also where he wasn't.
"He's not here putting my very cranky baby to sleep."
"Sick in bed today. He is not making reassuring jokes while dapping my forehead with a cool washcloth."
"I checked in the cubicle next to me. Alas, no Jake, just Susan from accounting, who is dreamy in her own right, but not the same."
"He's not on this bench in Battery Park, watching the harbor, sun on his face, the wind in the leaves."
All around me was Jake Gyllenhaal. The Earth was comprised of surfaces where he had either just been or could one day be. The molecules in the air were in a perpetual state of arranging and rearranging themselves around his presence or absence. Trying to determine his true height was like asking how wide is the sky, how deep is the sea. It occurred to me that perhaps Jake himself didn’t know how tall he was.
Seasons passed. Winter came. Planets rotated. Stars died. Innumerable gallons of ice cream were consumed. Countless spoons were bent. Babies learned how to crawl. Teenagers learned how to kiss. Podcasts went from being popular in a niche way to being popular in a mainstream way.
But still, older people could not figure out how to listen to them on their phones.
Heavy televisions were replaced by thin televisions. The outdated models were put out on the street, picked up by couples in love and then, after some time had passed, put back out onto the street.
It might be helpful to imagine a wall calendar for this part, with the pages dropping off one after another after another, the time just falling away until...
Starlee: How impressed are you that I stayed on the case?
David: Well, I have to say as an investigator, you are tenacious, and I really admire I mean I assume you're here today to close the case, that we're going to solve this case, move it from red to black. I don't know. Maybe this is just your update where you are like "I have no idea who Jake Gyllenhaal is, or how to measure human height. Just wanted to let you know, I'm still plugging away." But if you are here to bring closure to this, I'm excited because this has been a long time coming.
Starlee: Do you remember who you saw Source Code with?
David: I saw it by myself. Yeah. I think I saw it at the Fishskill Regal Cinemas, which is just like a local multiplex, and I think it was before they redid their floors, because they have an insanely large and empty lobby area, and they put it very brightly patterned industrial tile, and I think it was before that.
Starlee: So in the marking of your life, it's like postdivorce, prefloor change of that cinema?
David: Something like that. Postdivorce, prefloorchange, as are so many of our precious moments in this life.
Starlee: So recently my friend Sloane texted me and said, "Jake Gyllenhaal is in this restaurant. He's having dinner with his Mom. Should I go ask his height."
Starlee Kine: I texted Sloane back, "yes!" Then I remembered how Jake Gyllenhaal had reacted the last time I sent someone on a similar mission. Had history taught me nothing? Clearly, Jake Gyllenhaal hated being asked how tall he was while in a restaurant. I got nervous that Sloane's badgering would scare him off, and then I'd never solve the case.
Starlee: I wrote another text saying, "no! no! abort! abort! abort!" And then Sloane's phone died, so she never got that message.
David: She only got the yes. Oh my gosh.
Sloane: Hello? Hi! How are you?
Starlee: What happened?
Sloane: I don't even know where to begin.
Starlee Kine: As soon as she was out of the restaurant, Sloane found a place to charge her phone and called me with her update.
Sloane: You have to understand the layout of the restaurant is such that there is one table for two that is sort of on an island in the inside, and the rest are family style tables, circling it. I was sitting at that middle table with my friend Chris, which means that everything I'm about to tell you was in an amphitheater.
Starlee Kine: Sloane and her friend deliberated for an hour about whether she should approach Jake.
Sloane: Chris kept turning around, and thinking he was being very slick. I was like, "you are not being slick!"
Starlee Kine: Before finally landing on, well hell here goes nothing.
Sloane: Just as I sort of get the balls to do it, some beanpole blonde lady approaches their table and starts talking to them. I was like, "oh my god. I did not see that coming."
Starlee: Oh my god. This woman is going to ask him how tell he is first.
Sloane: Finally, it was like, that's it. I have to do it. Starlee has been looking for this information for a very long time. I'm going to go ask him. That's it. I'm going to go ask him. And so, I walked over him and said I'm so sorry
David:Are you serious? Your field agent really went over to him. Oh my god. What did I put in motion?
Sloane: I said, "I'm sorry I don't mean to interrupt. I know you're eating dinner with your family." And they looked at me exactly how I thought they would, which was like, you know slightly deer caught in the headlights. And then I said, "I know this is totally strange, but I have to ask, how tall are you?" And Jake Gyllenhaal said, "why does everyone want to know this?"
David: (laughing). That's so amazing. Oh my gosh.
Sloane: And he sort of hemhawwed. He's like, "I can't say."
Starlee: He wouldn't?
Sloane: He wouldn't. He was really hedging about it. And then his mother looked me and she holds up
Starlee: I think happily.
Starlee: Did he nod when she did six feet? Did he confirm?
Sloane: No! He did not confirm. He did not confirm. I'm like, "so you're six feet tall."
And he said, "I'm 6'8"." I was like, "oh come on!"
David: Yeah, see a guy like that is savvy. He knows he has all the leverage. Not only is he a famous hollywood movie star, he's a favorite hollywood movie star and the only person who knows how tall he is. And that's what everyone wants to know.
Starlee: How tall do you think he is?
Sloane: I think he's 5'9" No I'm kidding. I don't know. I stood up next to him, the problem was I was wearing a slight heel so it's hard to say. But anyway, I should go and do this thing. I'm coming I'm coming I'm coming!
Starlee: Ok bye.
Starlee: What did you think I was going to come here and tell you?
David: My fantasy would be for Jake Gyllenhaal in a state of true transparency and honesty and oneness with the universe, to just announce his height, with the
understanding that he wouldn't be judged for it and it would have no effect on his personal or professional prospects. It would just be almost a statement of principal, visavis the unknowability of certain things in the age of information. And then it does seem like, for so many things, we still do need to go to the source, right? Because so many ways of finding out the objective truth of this information would have been unethical. You can't go to his doctor and find out. That's not the type of people we are, unless that's what you did, in which case, that is the type of people we are. I wanted
Starlee: You wanted the man himself?
David: Well now I'm excited. Do we have to ask? I mean, did we get to the man himself?
Starlee: I hope you're not disappointed, but the answer is...yes. Jake Gyllenhaal told me how tall he was.
Starlee: How are you?
Tape: I'm well. So I'm going to connect you to Jake.
Amazing. Thank you so so much.
(beeping). Starlee can we call you back in like four minutes?
Tape: Ok. Thank you.
Jake: Hi Starlee?
Starlee: Hey, Jake?
Jake: Hey. How you doing?
Starlee: At last, we meet. Should I ask you the question?
Starlee: Are you sure?
Jake: I mean, I think so.
Starlee: You're so nervous about being asked the question, that I'm positive you already know what it is.
Jake: No, I'm not nervous about it at all. I'm worried for you. I just fear that ultimately, the answer will be totally unsatisfactory, you know? I don't want to devastate you with this.
Starlee: Or destroy my career.
Jake: You may be doing that already. That I have nothing to do with.
Starlee: I'm trying really hard to do it.
Jake: Oh good.
Starlee: I've been very disciplined about it.
Jake: One thing I have learned: when you try to destroy your career, it only brings wonderful things. Don't ever use that advice. That's the worst piece of advice anyone has ever given. But my hint to you: I will say, I'm taller than my sister. She is three years older than me, so she had a good head start, but I caught up and got taller.
Starlee: What age did you surpass her?
Jake: I would say when I hit 16, 17, I was taller than my sister. But, as any younger sibling would tell you, they always do sort of feel taller than you. It really is about what we project onto other people. There are days when I'm sure I seem taller than I am, and there are days when you wake up and you're just like "ugh, man." It's cold out, or there's something going on in your life, and you're shorter, I think.
Starlee: I know what you're saying, because I think I'm taller than I am.
Jake: How tall are you?
Jake:That's not fair. That's totally
Starlee: Right. Who is interviewing who here, right?
Jake: I'm sorry. I didn't think I would apologize during this interview.
Starlee: Oh I did.
Jake: I'm not doing it again, I just want you to know.
Starlee: Ok. We will see about that.
Starlee: I'm going to ask you the question. Are you ready for it?
Jake: How can anyone be ready for this question. There's no right time.
Starlee: It's like having a baby. You just do it, and then you figure it out.
Jake: And then it grows up!
Starlee: To some undetermined height.
Jake: Totally relative height.
Starlee: That changes depending on whether it's morning or midday
Jake: Or how you feel about yourself. Wait. Just because I laugh, doesn't mean I think it's healthy.
Starlee: To me, it's less about the answer to the question, and more about the quest.
Jake: I feel a little uncomfortable with you calling it a quest. I'm surprised at myself that I agreed to do this. But, like you, I am inquisitive. And let me just say this, I'm not a scientist.
Starlee: Wait a minute.
Jake: Let me just explain. Speaking of shrinking, Innerspace have you ever seen that movie?
Starlee: Yes, I've seen Innerspace. Great film.
Jake: Ok well, this is the irony of Innerspace, Dennis Quaid is tiny teeny small shrunken in Innerspace, but in reality is taller than Martin Short, his costar in that film, who is bigger than him in the film, but in reality happens to be smaller than Dennis Quaid.
Starlee: That is true. So the answer is yes, you're ready, that's what you're saying?
Jake: Yeah I'm ready. Of course I'm ready.
Starlee: Of course. Ok.
Jake: Should I even answer this question?
Starlee: I see no downside to you answering it.
Jake: Can you tell me about the upside of this?
Starlee: Is it time for me to ask you the question?
Jake: (sighs) I feel like once I answer this question, that will be it. There will be no mystery in your mind, because I will have told you what is true. Right?
Starlee: The mystery will be solved.
Jake: I just want you to take a minute, before we cross over to the other side, and I just want you to ask yourself, are you willing and ready to walk into reality, because this is the end of the journey. No more fantasies that you have been living under. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is the moment, for you. Are you ready?
Starlee: Yes. How tall are you?
Jake: I am
David: So what did he say? You know what? Let's do this right. Starlee, it's been a long time coming. How tall is Jake Gyllenhaal?
Jake: I am actually five foot eleven and one half of an inch. That's how tall I am.
Starlee: Five eleven and a half.
David: That's the best possible answer. Five eleven and a half. That's amazing.
Starlee: Why is it the best possible answer?
David: Because it's like, it could have been so easy for him to say, "yeah I'm happily six feet." I had to get a physical the other day and they asked, "how tall are you?" I said "six two," but in my mind I was thinking I was six two and a half, I'm brushing against six three. But how am I, a 42 year old man, going to say "I'm six foot two and a half inches."
Do you know what I mean? Once you pass six feet two, it's all the same. It doesn't matter is you're six three or six sixteen. So I admire in the spirit of our inquiry, which was to get some hard facts, that Jake Gyllenhaal gave us that half inch of significant digit.
Starlee: Case closed.
David: Case closed. I love it.
Starlee: Should I tell you my real height? Doesn't that seem fair?
Starlee: I always say I'm five feet. But I think I'm four eleven.
Jake; Yeah, see. That's what we're talking about right there. Doesn't it feel so much better to say, "oh I'm five feet," as opposed to like "no I'm actually four eleven."
Starlee: No because you're tall. My thing is very understandable.
Jake: What are you talking about? Tell that to LeBron James. It's all relative. I'm tall. You're tall to Dennis Quaid in Innerspace or to Martin Short in general. Does some of this, or all of this, just really have to do with you and how tall you think you are?
Starlee: It really didn't until this conversation.
Jake: Yeah but that's kinda great. That's kinda great. Because I've been sitting here, let's be honest, thinking "I've never met her. I've never even seen her." You could be seven foot six
Jake: You could be one of the tallest women in the world, in fact, talking to you on the phone, you seem like it.
Starlee: That's why I'm saying. It's the projection right!
Jake: That's what I was saying. You're stealing my thing. Maybe we can all go out to dinner, and then you can officially measure me, and you can make sure.
Starlee: Ok, I mean…
Jake: Or not. Forget about it.
Starlee: No my pause was not that was a bad idea.
Jake: No nevermind, I didn't want to anyway.
Starlee: I actually have it on tape.
Starlee: He wants to go to dinner with all of us, me, you, him and Sloane.
David: That will be an amazing photo, and we will line up according to height.
Starlee: Oh dammit, that means I'm on the end.
David: What is Jake Gyllenhaal's favorite restaurant?
Starlee: Is that my new mystery?
David: Exactly. Jake, my inquiry has only just begun. Expect my agents in every grocery store, every car wash, every church service, every book reading, every awards gala. We will understand you, Mr. Gyllenhaal. Just kidding.
Starlee Kine: Mystery Show is produced by Alex Blumberg, Melinda Shopsin, Eric Mennel and me. Producing help for this episode from Chris Neary and Phia Bennin. Eli Horowitz is contributing editor.
Thanks also to Matt Lieber.
Original score for this episode by White Dove. Additional original scoring by Emmy the Great, and Devin Dare. Closing song by Emmy the Great. Opening song by Sparks. Arthur Jones made our logo. Miss you pal, come visit. Thank you Elna Baker, Mark Sikes, Jen Snow and Sara Zebrack.
Now I don’t want you guys to get all nervous but there won’t be a new episode of Mystery Show next week. We’re taking a little break until midJuly. But in the meantime, you can tweet at us and at me all you want.
And now I have a confession. I’m slightly worried that I gave you an unsolvable clue last week. I thought it was real but now I’m thinking it was maybe only celebheights.com real. All I know for sure is that no one guessed Jake Gyllenhaal. So it's sort of like, you all guessed Jake Gyllenhaal. That makes sense right? Here is the clue for the next episode: borough president.