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Originally published October 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 27, 2006 at 9:32 AM

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Classmates ad turned Eastsiders into familiar cyberspace faces

She married him??!! And they've got 7 kids?? That Classmates.com online ad, complete with its hyperactive punctuation, is so ubiquitous...

Newhouse News Service

She married him??!! And they've got 7 kids??

That Classmates.com online ad, complete with its hyperactive punctuation, is so ubiquitous — more than 1 billion Web-site displays — that folks around the world know those faces: the serious, bespectacled young woman and the fresh-faced young man, forever linked in cyberspace.

They've even inspired parody pages.

But, in answer to the ad: Sorry, no, the two are not married and they did not breed a passel of tots.

They do, however, share an employment history.

Her real name is L.A. Smith, his is Bryce Lane.

Their high-school senior portraits are featured in the ad for Classmates.com, the site run by Renton-based Classmates Online that helps its 40 million-plus users find and stay in touch with old friends — particularly former school chums for reunions.

Smith is now 46, a writer, editor and artist in Bothell; Lane is 34, an investment banker in Bellevue.

Their imaginary online happily-ever-after tale began a little more than three years ago.

"We were looking for an unusual couple that showed what could happen after high school, and that who you were in high school doesn't necessarily represent who you are now," said Rita Spangler, Classmates Online's vice president of marketing.

The company sought out old high-school senior portraits from among its employees.

Smith was there, creating site content, and was "more than happy" to turn over her 1978 Charleroi (Pa.) Area High School picture.

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"I always get a kick out of how much my senior portrait looks like Velma from 'Scooby-Doo,' " she said.

Lane also was an employee, one of the original Classmates management team.

He volunteered his photograph from Interlake High School in Bellevue.

"I couldn't tell you why they chose my photo," he said. "I must look like a lot of people."

His senior portrait is from 1990.

So, yes, "Bryce is more than a decade younger than I am," Smith said.

She jokingly calls it "the 'he's in second grade and she's the pedophile babysitter??!!' ad."

No matter. Their serendipitous pairing has outlasted several others in similar ads.

As Spangler said, "We think the ad is popular because people seem to relate to the people in the photos with both empathy and curiosity."

Sometimes that curiosity has set imaginations wandering.

Jeff Davenport of Boulder, Colo., writing on the blog 3rd Chair Trombone, decided that the young woman was named Donna Saperstein, "who couldn't really write well, and couldn't express herself."

He called her paramour Dave Capp.

Davenport, a real-life pastor and aspiring screenwriter, imagined the mousy Saperstein dismayed to find her photograph online, and writing to Classmates.com, "I'm sure you look at my picture and think one thing: Her insides can't make seven babies with Dave Capp."

Blogger Justin Winters referenced the breakup of pop-rockers Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson with his rhetorical question, "How am I supposed to care about Nick and Jessica when I still know nothing about the Classmates.com couple??"

That sparked a discussion at dudemanphat.blogspot.com in which the two were dubbed Piper and Axl, and Winters actually contacted Classmates.com in an unsuccessful attempt to wheedle their true identities.

"It's an amazing advertisement, because you see it everywhere," said Winters, a documentary television producer in Los Angeles. "Who are these people? Do they know they're matched up?"

Yes. But others don't.

As Smith said, "My cousin, with whom I graduated high school, got into an argument with his wife because she refused to believe the ad was actually me."

Lane said he has "been approached a couple of times offline over the years, and asked if I was the person in the ad."

Lane's wife "just thinks it's funny," he added. They don't have seven children, just two young daughters.

He and his wife did, however, meet in high school.

And Classmates literally paired up Smith with her longtime partner, "a terrific and talented man, a designer and musician."

The two met working together at the company.

Their "seven children" consist of two black cats, Toots and Stinky.

Lane thinks his photo captures his personality, both then and now.

"I'm pretty conservative," he said.

But Smith's nerdy senior portrait hid her alter-ego.

"Despite the wedge haircut, I was pretty edgy back then," she said. "I dressed in all black, wore stompy boots, listened to early punk like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and the Clash. The whole deal."

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