"Please, let me explain.
"Like many of my countrymen, in my youth I was a great fan of tales of the American West, though my first exposure to such stories came via the series of films adapted from Karl May's novels of Winnetou and Old Shatterhand; only later, when I was able to watch them without dubbing or read them in the original, did I experience Westerns that actually came from America. When I was young you would hardly have guessed, to watch me playing at Cowboys and Indians with my friends, that I, but not they, would continue to be influenced into my adulthood by these tales of a frontier and its civilization: our play was of no great intensity, and certainly no more intense on my part than on theirs; it was, moreover, highly labile, not characterized by a particular devotion to that specific kind of make-believe.
"Something about those first films must have made more an impression on me than I realized at the time, however, and when I became aware that they were part of a genre unto themselves I set out quite deliberately to learn more about it, first tracking down May's novels, then other German Westerns (Red Westerns not exempted), and of course, as soon as I was up to the language, American Westerns. I did not care too much for the so-called "Revisionist" Western; I always preferred the earlier, if you will classical, takes, the heroism and ruggedness of their protagonists. My favorite of all, as you well know, was Jack Shaefer's famous novel, and the film, starring Alan Ladd, that was made of it.
"To bear such an uncanny resemblance to Ladd as you do is something that, I'm sure, most people would be far from regretting. You must surely have thought yourself lucky more than once! And for most people it would indeed have been a piece of good luck. I count it a piece of good fortune that I met you. You, I think, are more likely at this point to find it unfortunate. I of course recognized the resemblance straight off, and visions of you as Ladd in the role from which he was, for me, inseparable immediately began playing in my mind. I did not anticipate—could not have anticipated!—that you might ever have objected to what I saw as playful attempts to make you over in his image—and besides, they brought me such pleasure!
"I have since seen the film Vertigo, in which something not entirely dissimilar takes place; I can, now, recognize in it something untoward. But this recognition has, sadly, not been accompanied by a release from my obsession with Westerns and their characters. For as long as you are part of my life, I will never be able to see you except as a stoic gunfighter, translated out of his native time and place into, happily, mine. Whoever you are to your coworkers, your friends, your family, that is no matter: bei mir bist du Shane."