Cherished reader: This page is maintained for entertainment purposes only. Not to be taken internally. It is not affiliated with The Straight Dope (R), the Chicago Reader, or their slightly ominous (but well-respected) corporate overlords, Sun-Times Media, LLC. By now, Little Ed may have dramatically changed his appearance, so he could well be that strange guy on the bus who talks to himself. Loudly.
Cecil Adams vs. Ed Zotti
The photograph on the right is of Ed Zotti. It appeared on page 15 of the September 1995 issue of Parenting magazine. Ed was the author of an article, "Book 'Em", which appeared in this issue. The cute tyke also pictured supposedly is one of Ed's offspring, although it is possible the child is actually a cardboard cutout, hired for the occasion through one of those "Rent-a-Kid" photo centers.
The photo on the left, purportedly of Cecil Adams, appeared on page 147 of the February 1995 issue of American Libraries magazine. It was part of an article entitled "What makes Cecil Adams the world's greatest reference librarian?", written by one Paul S. Piper, described as a reference librarian living in Hawaii. (Incidentally, the individual responsible for the Dec. 20, 1996 Straight Dope question, Did medieval lords really have the 'right of the first night' with the local brides? was said to be Paul S. Piper of Honolulu, Hawaii, although this is likely no more than a coincidence.)
Clearly, these are two photographs of the same individual. (I'm talking about the adults here). And some people will jump to the conclusion this means that "Cecil=Ed". These individuals (the ones making the claim) are beneath contempt. Nothing could be further from the truth. Look closely at the pictures. You are no doubt familiar with Unca Cece's magnificent and illuminating work. Does the person in the photographs, while pleasant enough, appear to be in any way capable of producing Cecil Adams-caliber work? Hardly. (I know phrenology has been discredited, but still, you've got to wonder...)
On the other hand, does this individual look like an editor? Of course. So, what you have here clearly are two photographs of Unca Cece's editor, Ed Zotti. Thus, one of Ed's photographs was used as a stand-in for the American Libraries article. According to The Straight Dope, "Cecil Adams... has never been photographed..." There is no reason to believe this has changed.
There are two possible reasons for the substitution. It may be that, under pressure, Paul S. Piper felt he had to supply some sort of image, so he sneaked in a photo of Ed, hoping no one would notice. Literary fraud has a long history--if this was indeed the case, we can only hope that Mr. Piper will receive a long prison sentence.
Another possibility is that Paul S. Piper was himself duped, and Ed supplied the picture of himself, either to protect Unca Cece's privacy, or to gain his own "15 seconds of fame".
ADDITIONAL NOTES: A more recent photograph of Ed Zotti was posted at the late, lamented "The People of The Straight Dope (TM)" site. However, an archived copy of the photo is still extant, at click here for archived photo of Ed Zotti still extant, mute evidence that, tragically, even Ed's brave smile could not conceal the ravages of a quarter-century of abuse as Unca Cece's helpmate. An even more recent photograph -- since deleted -- appeared on Mr. Zotti's blog page, more evidence, although still mute, of the unrelenting effects of dealing with Uncle Cecil on a weekly basis -- to wit: "my assistant, Little Ed, who on his best days dwells in a persistent vegetative state" -- and apparently there are limits to what even a professional photographer can conceal. The November 2, 2011 Time Out Chicago, asking Who is Cecil Adams?, included a photographic illustration of a weary Mr. Zotti, weeping eyes cast longingly skyward, hoping to be raptured unto the heavens, escaping forever this mortal coil and the clutches of Uncle Cecil.
Also, there is a reference librarian named Paul S. Piper located at Western Washington University. Please be advised, however, that this might not be the same Paul S. Piper referred to in the Did medieval lords really have the 'right of the first night' with the local brides? column, and also, based on the unnatural "rearing bear" pose in an archived copy of his photograph, which used to be on his site, it is possible that this Paul S. Piper actually died some time ago and was subsequently stuffed. But we hope not.
Moreover, a more recent photograph of the apparently same Paul S. Piper appears at a webpage titled They Used to Hang Outlaws, which features a stuffed horse, along with a very life-like Piper, so if he is actually also stuffed, his photograph is a testimony to the taxidermist's skill.