Tuesday, July 10, 2012


When I was sitting in my prison cell, I often thought I should come up with a tougher first name than Jerry. But I didn't want a nickname so tough that people would want to take me on, like Fist, or Brute, or Killer. In the end, I kept my own name. I haven't used the first name on my birth certificate, Gerald, in a long, long time. 

My driver's license was always Jerry, as was my passport. But after 9/11, the rules changed, and when I sought a California identity card at the DMV after my parole, they insisted my name match my birth certificate, so it and now my CA driver's license and my new passport all say Gerald. I don't think that would have done quite as well for me at Folsom as Jerry did.

People are more accepting of unusual names now, ethnic names and such, than they were just a few decades ago. Look at the names, for instance, usually provided by agents or the big studios, for some of the most glamorous movie stars. Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe. Now we have RenĂ©e Zellwegger and Angelina Jolie. 

In my neighborhood in South Philadelphia, much was made of the match between a Jewish girl and Italian boy who got married and thus gave her the unforgettable name of Yetta Benadetta. And there was Carol Crumb, whom I dated when I worked at a radio station and lived in Dover, Delaware. She was a lovely blonde, smart and sweet, but I have to confess than whenever I introduced her to friends or family, I mumbled her last name out of embarrassment. Ironically, it became famous a few years later when her strange and talented brother, Robert, became the world renown cartoonist, R. Crumb.

As part of the shift toward self-identification, more and more people have decided to change their names since the 1970s. Two former relationship partners I am still close to, Bonnie and Barbara, now are known as Rupa and Maggie.

Old friends like Judy and Rachel and Jane now have daughters named Ashley, Courtney, and Taylor. While I'm pretty sure I'll be sticking with Jerry, there is one thing I hope is true--that people will think my name is the most ordinary thing about me.

A blog by any other name on the subject of prosperity:

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