Category: DAvid Bowie
I recently watched one of the seemingly countless Masterpiece Theater/BBC/theatrical versions of Jane Eyre, and I couldn’t help noticing how many times this particularly dreamy Rochester (Toby Stephens) repeated the heroine’s name, imbuing it each time with various shades of sweetness, sadness, passion, and more–and it made me fall in love with not only him but the name Jane. And to start wondering what’s become of baby-name Jane, one of the most classic girls’ names.
For a long time Jane was so popular that she became the Generic American Girl’s Name, as in Jane Doe/John Doe and G.I. Jane/G.I. Joe and the everygirl in the Dick and Jane readers. In 1935 there were 8,900 baby Janes born in this country, whereas in 2010, there were just a little over 800 in all of the U.S.
So why did Jane get shunted aside, while her male equivalents have survived and thrived? Was it because—unlike Mary and Elizabeth—she didn’t have biblical roots? Was this strong, simple name a victim of over-smooshing—too many Maryjanes and Bettyjanes and Sarajanes for it to stand alone? Was it mortally injured by the pejorative phrase Plain Jane?
We all know how the media likes to jump on every new ‘weird’ starbaby name, predicting dire consequences down the road for the likes of poor little Moxie CrimeFighter, Pilot Inspektor, Bronx Mowgli, and Apple. Well, only time will tell how these kids will actually meet that particular challenge as they grow up, but it might be instructive to look at the previous generation of oddball-named celebrity babes who are now young adults and see how they’ve handled it–which ones think these names have made them feel special and which have felt damaged, how many have held on to their bizarre appellations and how many have dropped them.
CHASTITY BONO. Mom Cher used the name of dad Sonny‘s film “Chastity,” but though her daughter has hung onto it, she has said “most of the time it’s been a pain.” Seems when she complained about it, Sonny would say “Be thankful we didn’t name you Dweezil.” Which brings us to:
DWEEZIL ZAPPA. When the hospital refused to register this name, the birth certificate read Ian Donald Calvin Euclid–the names of Zappa’s then-bandmates. But Dweezil, always called Dweezil, later made it his legal name. Older sister MOON UNIT has frequently insisted that she likes having an unusual name like Moon rather than something more ordinary, and presumably their other siblings AHMET EMUUKHA RODAN and DIVA THIN MUFFIN PIGEEN agree.
PEACHES HONEYBLOSSOM MICHELLE ANGEL VANESSA GELDOF, daughter of rocker-activist Bob, has bemoaned “My weird name has haunted me all my life.” Wouldn’t be surprised if her sisters FIFI TRIXIEBELLE, PIXIE and HEAVENLY HIRAANI TIGER LILY–exhibitionists all–felt the same way.
SATCHEL FARROW. The son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen was born Satchel Ronan O’Sullivan Farrow, named for one of his father’s baseball heroes, Satchel Paige. Following a bitter custody battle, he became known as Seamus, and now, having been a prodigy who graduated from college at 15 and become a human rights activist and journalist, he has settled on the name Ronan Seamus Farrow. His sister also took three steps, going from DYLAN to ELIZA to MALONE.
ZOWIE BOWIE. Like Satchel–Seamus–Ronan, has had multiple identities. He was born Zowie Duncan Heywood Bowie and, although he says he loves his distinctive moniker, he first called himself Joey Bowie, and then changed his name to Duncan Jones, saying he didn’t want to be in the shadow of famous dad David.
STRAWBERRY SAROYAN. When fruitily-named Apple Martin was born in 2004, the granddaughter of William Saroyan gave a long interview about her name to the New York Times . Since she grew up among kids named Cream, Wonder and Raspberry, she didn’t exactly feel like the odd girl out, and after some ups and downs, now definitely sees the benefits of her unusual name.
TALLULAH BELLE WILLIS, sister of RUMER GLENN and SCOUT LARUE, though still a young teen, has already had dad Bruce announce on the Letterman show that she plans to legally change her name to (nickname) Lula.
It’s way too soon to know how this generation of unusually named starbabies–the Bronx Mowglis and Pilot Inspektors and Moxie CrimeFighters–will feel about their names as they move on into schoolyards and workplaces, but if we can gain any insight by looking back at the first generation of weirdly named celebrity kids–those born in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, there’s a good chance they may choose to leave those names behind.
One of the first of these was america (deliberately spelled with a small ‘a’) Hoffman, son of sixties activist/protester Abbie Hoffman. As soon as he could, america opted to become Alan. Three of the wackily-named kids of the past were uncomfortable enough with their names to change them not once but twice. Zowie Bowie became first Joey and then Duncan (Jones), saying that he actually loves his unusual moniker, but wanted to step outside the shadow of his famous father. One of Mia Farrow’s daughters morphed from Dylan to Eliza to Malone, and one of her sons from Satchel to Seamus to Ronan.
When Chastity Bono (named after the title of a movie made by her father Sonny) used to complain about her name when she was young, her father was known to say “Be thankful we didn’t name you Dweezel.” Which brings us to the Zappas: Moon Unit, Dweezil (whose birth certificate name was Ian Donald Calvin Euclid), Ahmet Enuukha Rodan and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen. Despite merciless mocking over the years, the Zappas have steadfastly held fast to their names (Dweezil making that his legal name), and Moon has repeatedly stated that she’s glad not to have a common, ordinary name.
But they are the exceptions, even with the slightly younger generation. British rocker Bob Geldof’s daughters Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa (sister of Fifi Trixiebelle, Little Pixie and Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily) has declared that she hates ridiculous names in general and that her “weird name has haunted me all my life.” And even teenaged Tallulah (not really such a bizarre name at all) Willis recently asked her dad Bruce to announce on David Letterman’s show that she is already ready to change her name–to Lula.