I was minding my own business at New Jersey's world-famous Colts Neck Inn the other night when I overheard this conversation:
Woman #1: 'Hi, I'm Jan, and this is my boyfriend, Tommy."
Woman #2: "Hello. I'm Raquel, and this is Luis. My mom named my sisters and me after movie stars. I was named after Raquel Welch. My sister, Tina, was named for Tina Louise. My sister, Yvonne, was named for Yvonne DeCarlo, a great actress of the '40s. And, then there's Norma Jean. And, well, you know who she was named after."
I was stunned. How could any self-respecting mom name her girls after Hollywood starlets? More to the point, Marilyn Monroe aside, who would name her kids after B-level TV actresses? Yvonne DeCarlo's chief claim to fame was playing Mrs. Herman Munster on TV and Tina Louise was the
glamorous Ginger in 'Gilligan's Island', another one-and-done, ersatz 1960s TV sitcom. And, while Raquel Welch proved herself a competent Broadway actress in later life (and, guest starred in one of my all-time favorite 'Seinfeld' episodes), she's certainly not A-level material.
The whole scene got me thinking. Maybe naming one's kids after marginal actresses reflects a larger trend of Americans embracing all things mediocre? (i.e. 'Glee,' fast food, the former Alaskan governor, etc.).
If my hypothesis is accurate, why limit the name game to Hollywood's second-tier performers? How about naming one's sons after, say, obscure 19th century U.S. presidents? 'Hi. I'm Rutherford. My brothers and I were named after other, little-known American presidents. There's Millard, James Knox and my kid brother, William Henry. But, everyone calls him 'Tippecanoe.'"
And, what about utterly forgettable sports stars? "Nice to make your acquaintance. I'm Wally and was named after Wally Pipp, who played first base for the Yankees before Lou Gehrig. This is my twin brother, Donny. He's named for Donny Anderson, who succeeded the Packers' Golden Boy, Paul Hornung, but accomplished absolutely nothing in his pro career. Then there's my sister, Tonya, whose Olympic figure skating namesake's career was, shall we say, whacked?'
Imagine going through life named in honor of a second-rate actress, an unknown president or a failed athlete? Talk about overcoming image and reputation challenges.
The Colts Neck materfamilias is clearly a trendsetter in the name game. And, who knows where it will lead? In fact, I'll bet some mom is already planning on naming her brood after the ultimate Hollywood bad boys. There would be Errol (for Errol Flynn), Nick (for Nick Nolte), Robert (for
Robert Downey, Jr,) and the pick of the litter, Charlie (named for the one, and only, Charlie Sheen). Winning!
Good to hear, Laura. Some moms, like yours, think through the implications that go along with the name game. And, then there are those who name their daughters after Tina Louise of ‘Gilligan’s Island.’ No one said life is fair.
My favorite names are the ones like “Brayden.” Being a New Englander, I have a met someone who named their child this b/c of Tom Brady.
“Luckily” my mom was much like Allison’s, and named me after her favorite childhood author/TV character–Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Great song by a great artist. Thanks for sharing, Alison.
Being a music lover, I thoroughly enjoy being serenaded with ‘my song’. I can’t help but appreciate that my mother randomly heard the song ‘Alison’ by Elvis Costello on the radio and felt compelled to name me after it.
That’s a really interesting point, Book. Lord knows it’s tough enough for kids to find jobs in today’s economy. Saddling them with bizarre or obscure first names only makes it tougher on them. I know I wouldn’t be impressed by someone who proudly told me she was named in honor of Tina Louise.
I stand corrected on Yvonne DeCarlo. Gaetano is right! And Espn is now also spelled Espyn, Espin, Espen, etc. There was actually a study done once for college applications and/or jobs where using odd names vs. “regular” main line names, how each person would fare and suffice it to say most schools and employers hire those with normal easy to pronounce names.
Don’t discount Yvonne DeCarlo…she was a major player in the 1940’s as a Universal Studios contract player. She appeared in over 121 titles. She played Moses wife Sephora (which is now the name of a major cosmetics company) in the 10 Commandments but was also in 1947’s highly regarded “Brute Force” with Burt Lancaster. She was linked with Lancaster, Clark Gable and Howard Hughes in the 40’s and 50’s…clearly the Angelina Jolie of her day.
Hi, I’m Usher, and this is my sister, Gaga… Come to think of it, Yvonne and William Henry ain’t bad. (By the way, when I took my Myers Briggs test about 15 years ago, someone who knew me too well said I was an E-S-P-N. No such thing, of course, but accurate nonetheless.)
Thanks Book. I didn’t realize people were naming their kids ESPN. That’s scary and sad. I wonder if the more intelligent ones are naming their kids C-SPAN?
Another great post; however, if today’s mom’s were naming their offspring after the bad boys, they would now use the last names giving us Flynn and Nolte as their sons (and daughters) first name! Additionally, Yvonne DeCarlo, while being a wonderful Lily Munster, also played another famous Lily in The Ten Commandments and loved by both Joshua and that Edgar G. Robinson character. The truly awful name that is around nowadays and a testament to unusualness in families, is those naming their children Espn.