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A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but a chrysanthemum by any other name would be easier to spell. Words of wisdom to be sure and who would know better than Henry Deutschendorf Jr., Charles Hardin Holley or Walter Matuschanskayasky?
What’s in a name? Well obviously, these names never had a chance to become famous. Matuschanskayasky? I nearly sprained a finger just typing it!
The three names above were the real names of John Denver, Buddy Holly and Walter Matthau. It’s common knowledge that movie stars, singers, entertainers of all sorts and even poets and authors often change their names to a pseudonym or stage name.
Two name changes known by many people are Robert Allen Zimmerman and Marion Michael Morrison. You might know Zimmerman for his raspy voice and harmonica playing in “Blowin’ in the Wind” (Bob Dylan).
And we all know Marion. It’s as nice a name as any, but somehow you just can’t picture a Marion sitting up on a horse calling you Pilgrim, can you? (Yeah ... that’s John Wayne)
Now, I happen to be a movie buff. Hmmm ... you know, when I say it like that, it doesn’t really sound all that good. The meaning of “swimming in the buff” puts a whole new spin on being a movie buff, a civil war buff, or pretty much buffing anything. I’m going to have to pull out my old Buffy Saint Marie albums and take a closer look at the covers.
What was I talking about? Oh yeah, movies. Who didn’t love watching Archibald Leach croon “Judy, Judy, Judy! When I don’t love you, I’ll let you know!”
Of course, it sounded better coming from Cary Grant, didn’t it? Or Issur Danielovitch standing defiantly among a thousand slaves all shouting “I’m Issur! I’m Issur!” Yeah, that was Kirk Douglas.
Remember Michael Shalhoub riding toward the insurgents in “Lawrence of Arabia”? Or Walter Palanuik as the cold-blooded gunfighter in “Shane”?
And didn’t you just love Bernard Schwartz as the adorable Josephine in “Some Like It Hot”? They just don’t make actors like that anymore (Omar Sharif, Jack Palance and Tony Curtis).
Sometimes, entertainers change their names for totally unexpected reasons. Albert Brooks was born Albert Einstein and that name simply wouldn’t work on the comedic path (although many of us do find relativity to be quite amusing).
And why Arnold Dorsey changed his name to Engelbert Humperdinck is an eternal mystery.
Some stage names don’t even put up a pretense of being real names. The Big Bopper’s real name was Jiles Perry Richardson. The Big Richardson just didn’t have the same pizazz.
Alice Cooper’s real name is Vincent Damon Furnier. I can’t imagine why he changed it, can you?
And Hulk Hogan was Terry Jean Bollea. Terry Jean? A wrestler named Terry Jean? Well, no one would laugh about that to Hulk’s face.
When you hear the birth names of some famous people, it’s easy to see why they changed their names. Tom Cruise was born Thomas Mapother IV.
Fortunately, he had the good sense to stop that train wreck before a Mapother V could be bred. And no one questions why Meg Ryan changed her name from Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra. Danny Thomas’ name change also made a lot of sense.
I mean, really, just imagine having a TV show named “Make Room for Amos Alphonsus Muzyad Yakhoob.”
The names of many entertainers are often chosen to be simple, easy on the tongue, or distinctive.
How far would rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg gotten with the name Cordozar Calvin Broadus Jr.? Or Queen Latifah as Dana Elaine Owens? Notorious B.I.G. was a drug dealer turned gangsta rapper and commanded street respect from rap fans across the nation.
How many of them would have purchased his music if he kept the name Christopher George Latore Wallace?
And then there’s the wild, wild west with that famous married couple, Leonard Slye and Frances Octavia Smith (better known as Roy Rogers and Dale Evans). Oddly enough, many of the classic western stars kept their real names.
A few examples are Alan Ladd, Eli Wallach, Fess Parker, Richard Boone, Mercedes McCambridge, Walter Brennan, Randolph Scott and Miriam Hopkins. They kept their names, but I think they changed the names of their horses.
Perhaps the most revealing name change of all is that of Brian Hugh Warner, who changed his skin, his voice, his stance, his eyes and is now known as Marilyn Manson. Yes, the secret is finally revealed. It’s a man.
Oh, in case you’re wondering, Gypsy Rose Lee’s real name was Rose Louise Hovick.
John Pawlak (just name me Ikinda Whinealot).