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Posts Tagged celebrities

The long and short of it

In my last post, I wrote about a particular name and nickname. That got me thinking, which isn’t always a good thing. (Just ask my lovely wife, who has to put up with me saying things on a daily basis like, “If you add another S to the end of Saltines, it becomes another word that’s interestingly related to the first.” She’s a good sport.) This time I started pondering the names of certain celebrities and their use or lack of use of nicknames.

First off, let’s look at famous folk who use nicknames and marvel at how strange it sounds to use their proper ones. John Depp sounds pretty weird to me, as does Alfredo Pacino. Then you take someone like Bill Murray and turn it into William Murray, and that’s sufficiently different to me. In fact, if I saw a roster of some sort with “William Murray” listed, it wouldn’t cross my mind that that’s the same name as someone famous. I would with the previously mentioned ones though, or others like Tobias Maguire. I think Edward Murphy would catch my eye, but it’s hard to say since it sounds so very normal.

I actually have a real life example of this that I just thought of. An old friend of ours got married a few years ago to a nice man named James Carter. It took months and a second time seeing them before I realized that we have a former President with that name. It just seemed like a standard, common name to me. Now that I think about it for another few seconds, I’m more struck by the fact that Carter has gone by that nickname for his entire life. I guess only a few people thought, “I like him, but I just feel weird electing a grown man named Jimmy.”  Readers, what other celebrities can you think of whose names sound funny when using the proper ones? Feel free to branch out into sports as well, because things like Peter Rose will surely sound weird to most of us.

Let’s flip this thing around now and look at famous people who do not use nicknames. Off the top of my head, I thought of Katie Hepburn, Johnny Malkovitch, Billy Hurt, Tommy Jefferson, and Bob Loggia. For bonus points, we’ve got Bill Randy Hearst. Who else can you think of?

And now the big question: Which of these two types of name/nickname changes sounds odder to you? Are you more thrown by names like William Crystal or Mike Jackson? Comment away!

Lastly, I’ve mentioned a few times either here or on my old site that it took me decades to find it strange that someone is named Sigourney. The same is true with Chevy, I’ve said. Well I got a new one: Dabney. Really? I just accepted that his name is Dabney without giving it a second thought? It sounds like someone with a bad cold or a speech impediment trying to say Daphne.  Or part of an Elmer Fudd tirade.  Or how one treats a minor wound on his patella.  Or…aw forget it.

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Feeling L.A.ted

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MC Squared’s wife hails from a tiny little mountain town in the northern part of our great state of California.  I like to tell people that she didn’t need to learn how to change lanes while driving until she went to college, but it turns out that’s an exaggeration.  On New Year’s Day of this year, a group of us went out for breakfast after a fun night together.  Mrs. Squared leaned in and said, “We’re in L.A., so if someone looks like someone famous, it’s probably that person, right?”   We all agreed that that was indeed the case, so she nodded in a direction and asked who the red-head at the nearby table was.  “Oh, that’s Charlotte from Lost,” I said.  “That’s it!  Thanks,” she replied, and we went back to our meals. 

This kind of thing happens all the time, and having grown up in the Los Angeles area, I’m as used to it as one can get.  When I saw a cool-looking dad with a “Working Class Hero” shirt in Staples with two boys who looked like Gary Oldman, it turned out that he also had Gary Oldman’s voice and entire identity.  It just happens, so much so that I really can’t remember all of the famous people I’ve seen in the past couple of years, let alone my lifetime.  I’m not bragging (because it’s not like I’ve hung out with any of these people), but it’s one of the interesting aspects of life in L.A.

All that said, I had a two-day period this week that I can only describe as “so L.A.”  A lot of it has to do with my work, so I’m going to be vague when it comes to some of the actual names, but you’ll get the point.  First off, we have a client in town from the Chicago for a commercial shoot, and they were already thrilled with the weather and overall feel of being in Southern California.  My colleague and I took them out to dinner with a couple of other people, one of whom happens to be the son of a famous former TV star in the 80s and 90s.  When I’d first mentioned who his mom was on the phone before the trip out, they oohed and aahed like he was an exotic animal.  So we took them out to a cool and happening place on Sunset, and while we were checking in at the hostess desk, I leaned into the group and said, “In case you’re interested, that’s Dr. Dre sitting right over there.”  “Oh my god, you’re right!” one said.  (Duh.)  I watched as they quickly scanned the rest of the restaurant to see if anyone else of such importance was there while we walked to our table.  Though no one stood out, they weren’t disappointed as they were clearly still riding the Dre high.

During the meal, an L.A.-based woman with whom we occasionally work said that her husband was going to stop by and join us for part of the meal.  When he walked in, I shook his hand and introduced myself.  Meanwhile, the voice inside my head said, “Hey, he’s the guy that won that reality show a few years ago.”   So there I was on the patio of a trendy restaurant with an old tv star’s son, a reality tv personality, and nearby an icon in the music industry.  To complete the scene, the table behind us had a man in his 50s sitting with five or six scantily clad young ladies who were clearly not his relatives.  The Midwesterners’ eyes could not have been wider. 

The next day at the commercial shoot, they were treated to another “Hollywood type” that they’d missed up to that point.  I was sitting with a woman who was hired to say two or three lines in the spot, and though I was writing emails on my Blackberry, I apparently missed the glowing neon sign above my head that said, “Please talk to me about how awesome you and your career are!”  Out of nowhere – seriously, we weren’t talking at all – she said, “I just completed a one-woman show that I hope to take off Broadway.”  “Oh cool,” I said, and I made an exaggerated move back to my phone to nicely show that I was done with the conversation.  “And I just got a call from someone,” she continued.  “She wanted to commend me on my honesty and forthrightness, which is exactly what I wanted to get across.”  I nodded and made a Clinton-esque lip purse to imply that I was proud of her.  That had to end it, right?  “A one-woman show is really hard to pull off,” she told me.  I decided it was time to have a little fun since she wasn’t getting any of my obvious hints.  “How large was the cast?” I asked.  “Just me!” she said.  “I know, I was kidding.”  “Oh.”  I went back to my phone, this time intensely writing an email to myself (about this lady’s honesty and forthrightness).  “That’s the big challenge of a one-woman show,” she continued, “not having other actors to bounce off of.”  “And a really small cast party,” I added.  “That’s so true!” she laughed.   Mercifully, she was called away to start getting her makeup done. 

I told the clients about that interaction and warned them to steer clear of talking about her one-woman show.  It became the running gag of the day, because the woman was…well, the word “nutjob” kept coming up.  In between takes, she ran over to us to tell us how difficult it is to say “Irish wristwatch” five times fast.  (She’s right, of course, and I truthfully have trouble saying that even one time correctly.)  Then she ran back to her spot and one of us inevitably asked, “Is that in her one-woman show?”  Ah, good times.

Anyway, I was just so struck by the L.A.-ness of those two days that I felt compelled to share.  If you live here too, you’re probably nodding.  If you don’t, you’re probably shaking your head.  It’s not for everyone, and I totally get that.  In fact, Death Cab For Cutie has a song called “Why You’d Want to Live Here” that’s as anti-L.A. as you can get.    But hey, Randy Newman still loves us, so it can’t be all that bad.

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