William Conrad once wrote to his look-alike, calling him ''the other Cannon''
The story of H.B. "Ham" Nelson, the "other Cannon"
Doppelgangers. Doubles. Look-alikes. Whatever you call them, they're out there, and they are unsettling. Even Spock had that evil twin. It seems faces are not like snowflakes, in that some are mirrored elsewhere.
Take, for instance, TV's Frank Cannon, as played by William Conrad. The former LAPD detective had a distinctive look, especially compared to what else was on TV at the time. Nobody on the television landscape could have really been mistaken for Cannon. That was part of Cannon's appeal; he was a believable private investigator, not a Hollywood type.
However, if he'd traveled to Natchez, Mississippi, William Conrad would've had the chance to step into Star Trek's "Mirror Universe," as one resident was a dead ringer for Cannon. Hamilton B. "Ham" Nelson, Jr. might've made it through life his own man had Cannon not debuted in 1971. As the show grew in popularity, Nelson noticed a strange recurrence in his everyday life. Walking down the street, minding his own business, Ham Nelson was frequently mistaken for a certain small screen gumshoe.
That's because Hamilton B. Nelson was the spitting image of Frank Cannon. Or maybe he technically looked like William Conrad. The resemblance was so strong that Ham became a local quasi-celebrity in his hometown of Natchez. He told the East Carroll Delta News about the constant mix-ups that happened wherever he went. People would address him as Cannon. They asked for autographs, too. "About the only thing that has not happened is someone coming up to me and asking for my help solving a crime," said Nelson.
But what did the real Cannon think of the likeness? That's what Nelson set out to determine by contacting William Conrad in 1973. Nelson wrote to Conrad at his Los Angeles address and included a picture so Conrad could see the similarity for himself. "To the other Cannon," William Conrad addressed an autographed photo. He too, was taken aback by the uncanniness. Conrad wrote he was "quite amused and startled by the amazing resemblance as shown in the pictures." TV's Cannon also noted that he wasn't at all surprised at the number of fans who asked Nelson for his signature.
The best detail of the whole ordeal, though, was just how big a fan Ham Nelson was of the Cannon television series. Not only did he look like the guy, Ham never missed a single episode of the Quinn Martin-produced detective series.