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definition - Age disputes

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Age fabrication

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Age fabrication occurs when an individual deliberately misrepresents his or her true age. This is usually done with the intent to garner privileges or status that would not otherwise be available to the individual. It may be done through the use of oral or written statements or by falsifying official documents (such as altering the archives of vital records or doctoring (or even creating) a birth certificate).

Although uncommon in modern Western society, it is still possible for an individual not to know his or her exact date of birth. Such an individual may arbitrarily choose a date of birth which after later research is found to be false. This situation should not be considered age fabrication, however, as there is no obvious intent to deceive on the part of the individual.

Age fabrication was once common in the entertainment industry. For example, until the early 1950s in Hollywood it was extremely common for actresses to subtract at least one year from their actual age so that producers and casting directors would be more likely to hire them for roles. On some occasions, age is increased so as to make cutoffs for minimum legal or employable age in showbusiness or professional sports. There are many stories of men lying about their age to join the armed forces, for example to fight in World War I [1]. Sometimes it is not the people themselves who lower their public age, but others around them such as publicists, parents, and other handlers. Using original source material such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, the census, Social Security applications, identity documents and death certificates usually provides the correct date and year. Most cases involve taking or adding one or two years to their age. However, in more extreme cases such as with Al Lewis and Charo, a decade has been added or subtracted.

Subtracting time from one's age is often known in English as "shaving", while adding time to one's age may be referred to as "padding".


Famous incidents


  • Danny Almonte (born April 7, 1987) played in the Little League World Series for his Bronx team in 2001, despite being over the cutoff age for the league. His parents had provided a doctored birth certificate misrepresenting his birth year as 1989. A Sports Illustrated writer discovered the discrepancy when Almonte's Dominican elementary school records gave his correct birth year.[2]
  • American golfer Tom Shaw claimed throughout his career on the PGA Tour to have been born on December 13, 1942. He was suspected by some of being older, notably by Frank Hannigan, who as Executive Director of the United States Golf Association paired him with the then-19-year-old Ben Crenshaw and 24-year-old Johnny Miller, both known as fast players, for the first two rounds of the 1971 U.S. Open for his apparent amusement. As it turned out, Hannigan was right; in 1988, Shaw produced a birth certificate proving that he had been born on the same date in 1938, which made him eligible for the Senior PGA Tour (now the Champions Tour) starting with the 1989 season.[3]


  • Toni Tennille, half of the husband-and-wife duo Captain & Tennille, born May 8, 1940, was encouraged by her record label to shave five years off her age because the label was concerned that a 35-year-old starting a recording career would be seen as unusual. She compromised by using 1943 as her birth year, which has appeared in numerous sources. Tennille herself corrected the error in a 2006 entry on her blog, in which she also confirmed that she had married her musical partner Daryl Dragon on November 11, 1975 instead of February 14 in the same year.[4]
  • Anastacia (born September 17, 1968) shaved four years off her age when she first signed a record deal, and came clean in August 2008 when she turned 40.[5]


  • Gracie Allen, comedian, was notorious for keeping her true age concealed and even her husband George Burns did not know her exact age. Various sources claim she was born on July 26 in 1894, 1895, 1897, 1902 or 1906. Her exact age could not be retrieved by a birth certificate, as it was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Allen herself gave her year of birth as 1906, despite the fact the earthquake occurred three months before her birthday that year. (When the 1900 United States Census became public information, the true year was revealed as 1895, which meant she was actually a few months older than her husband.)[citation needed]
  • Sandra Bullock's birthdate was erroneously given as July 26 in 1965, 1966, and 1967 for most of her early career. In 1997 Vanity Fair discovered that the correct year was 1964.[6]
  • Irene Cara's exact age was a mystery for most of her career, with various sources claiming that she was born on March 18 in either 1964 or 1959. In 2004 the Associated Press retrieved a copy of her voter registration records from Florida, which verified that she was actually born in 1959. Cara vehemently claimed that she was born in 1964, but refused to comment on the voter registration records.[7]
  • Charo is sometimes accused of trimming 10 years from her age. In 1977, a Las Vegas court sided upheld Charo's claims and ruled she was born in 1951. The ruling held that the 1941 date on her original Spanish birth certificate is incorrect. However, some still doubt the historical accuracy of a 1951 birthday. Skeptics point to her 1966 marriage and some media reports as evidence that she was born before 1951.[8]
  • Al Lewis, actor from "The Munsters", is reported by various sources to have been born on April 30 in either 1910 or 1923. Shortly after Lewis' death, his son claimed that he was actually born in 1923.[9] This contradicts Lewis' own statement that he was born in 1910.[10] Lewis claimed to have graduated from high school in 1927 and to have earned a Ph.D from Columbia University in 1941,[11] but research by Dan Barry of the New York Times failed to reveal evidence of either.[12] In April 2006, Lewis' listing on the Social Security Death Index gave his date of birth as April 30, 1923.[13]
  • Traci Lords, born on May 7, 1968, claimed for the purpose of being eligible to act in pornographic films that she was born in 1964. On July 18, 1986 it was discovered that she had only recently turned 18, and that most of her pornographic films had been made while she was under age.[14]


  • Joseph Stalin, born December 18 (December 6 OS), 1878, changed the date to December 21, 1879 later in his life for unknown reasons. The December 18, 1878 birth date is maintained by his birth registry, his School Leaving Certificate, his extensive tzarist Russia police file, and all other surviving pre-revolution documents. Russian playwright and historian Edward Radzinski argues in his book Stalin, that Stalin changed the year to 1879 to have a nation-wide birthday celebration of his 50th birthday. He could not do it in 1928 because his rule was not absolute enough. The incorrect December 21, 1879 date was printed in many almanacs and encyclopaedia during Stalin's reign, and remains one of the most widely reported incorrect dates of birth.[15]
  • Eva Perón, born May 7, 1919, had her birth certificate altered after becoming First Lady of Argentina. She made herself seem to be three years younger and also made it appear that her parents had been married.[16]


  • Riley Weston, a writer and actress for Felicity, claimed that she was an 18-year-old when she began on the show. After it was discovered Weston was actually 32, she issued a public apology.[17]
  • Dan Savage was discovered to be lying about his age by five years by Seattle Weekly writer Mark D. Fefer. Fefer was able to cite three occasions from Savage's newspaper column, and one occasion when he was asked to confirm his age to a reporter researching a Seattle Post-Intelligencer profile on him.[18]


  • Al Capone (born January 17, 1899) and wife Mae Coughlin (born April 11, 1897) both misstated their age when they applied for a marriage license. Capone gave his as a year older, while Mae gave hers as a year younger.
  • The birth records of Henryk Gulbinowicz, Bishop Emeritus of Wroclaw, Poland and a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, were forged by his parents and his parish priest to prevent him from being conscripted during World War II. The forged documents showed his year of birth as 1928, but he was actually born in 1923. The Roman Curia disclosed the age discrepancy in February 2005 because his real birthdate made him ineligible to participate in the papal conclave that would follow Pope John Paul II's imminent death. The Vatican stated that Gulbinowicz's close associates (including the Pope) knew of the discrepancy.[19]


  1. Recruitment into the British army of 1914-1918
  2. Little League investigating: SI uncovers document that disputes Almonte's age. AP. 27 August 2001.
  3. Feinstein, John (2000). The Majors: In Pursuit of Golf's Holy Grail. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. p. 199. ISBN 0-316-27795-9. 
  4. Toni Tennille (2006-06-17). "Toni's Take: Toni's Thoughts on Life, Music and Whatever...". CaptainandTennille.net. http://captainandtennille.net/tonis-take_blog_06.htm. Retrieved 2007-11-27.  (scroll down to June 17, 2006 entry)
  5. http://www.contactmusic.com/news.nsf/story/anastacias-lies-about-her-age_1078336
  6. Catherine Seipp, Act your age!. Salon.com. 2 June 1997.
  7. Celebrities Slippery When It Comes to Age. AP. Retrieved 4 March 2006.
  8. Powell, Larry (Feb 7, 1999). "Exact age for Charo leaves plenty of wiggle room". The Dallas Morning News: pp. 38A. 
  9. AP. Actor 'Grandpa Munster' Al Lewis Dies. 5 February 2006. Retrieved 6 February 2006.
  10. Shadow interview with Al Lewis. Retrieved 6 February 2006.
  11. Syracuse New Times. Al Lewis runs for Governor. 1998. Retrieved 6 February 2006.
  12. New York Times. Hey, Whose Grandpa Didn't Tell Some Tales? by Dan Barry. 11 February 2006. Retrieved 5 April 2008.
  13. Social Security Death Index Interactive Search. Hosted by RootsWeb.
  14. Krajicek, David. ""A Porn Star Is Born"". http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/sexual_assault/traci_lords/5.html. Retrieved 2008-12-07. ""Roger had provided Nora with fake identification that added 5 years to her age."" 
  15. When was Stalin born?. Classical Values. Retrieved 6 February 2006. State and Power in Russia: Prominent Figures. Retrieved 6 February 2006.
  16. Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron by Nicholas Fraser and Maryssa Navarro
  17. Studio Briefing. News Share. 16 October 1998
  18. Buzz. Seattle Weekly. 2004-05-26. Accessed 2006-08-19.
  19. "Polish cardinal found 5 years older than official listing; ineligible for papal conclave". Catholic World News, February 3, 2005.


  • State of California. California Birth Index, 1905-1995. Center for Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California.
  • State of Texas. Texas Birth Index (1903 - 1997). Texas Department of State Health Services.
  • Dawn of a New Age Baseball America, July 8, 2002. Chart of nearly 300 players found to have falsely recorded ages.


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