Remarkable restaurant reservations? Free perks? Paparazzi? We asked a few Westchester residents who share their names with celebrities what life is like as a result.
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Name: Michael Jackson
Occupation: Kitchen Designer
Famous Counterpart: Michael Jackson, singer/performer
How is life different sharing a name with a celebrity? I’ve probably heard every Michael Jackson joke. Once I got a speeding ticket, and in court when they called my name, everyone in the room just burst out laughing.
Do people joke around a lot? Whenever he’d come out with a new album or did something that made the news, that’s when the jokes would start again.
What was your initial reaction to his death? I was in my office when someone ran in and said, ‘Michael Jackson is dead!’ You hear your own name like that, and it’s very disconcerting. Especially to hear my name every time I turned on the news, and to watch a memorial service on TV for ‘Michael Jackson.’ It’s all a bit weird.
What’s the most frustrating thing that’s ever happened to you because of your name? I’ve tried using the name at restaurants, but it doesn’t really help. In business, it definitely gets frustrating.
Do you wish you didn’t share a name with a celebrity? I was Michael Jackson first, so no.
Similarities: If there were, do you think I’d really admit it?
Name: Ella Fitzgerald
Residence: White Plains
Occupation: Owner, GEMCO Consultants Inc.
Famous Counterpart: Ella Fitzgerald, jazz singer
Were you named after the famous Ella? No, my husband’s last name was Fitzgerald. People say, ‘You only married him because his last name was Fitzgerald.’ And I say, ‘No, he married me because my first name was Ella.’
What is it like having the name Ella Fitzgerald? People never forget my name, which is both good and fun.
What’s the most frustrating thing that has ever happened to you because of your name? When I first got married, I used to write checks and they would never hit the bank. I guess people thought it was the Ella Fitzgerald or something, so they held onto it.
Similarities: How about dissimilarities? People say, ‘Your name is Ella Fitzgerald? Oh my God, I love Ella. Can you just do a little ‘A-Tisket, A-Tasket’? And I say, ‘Sorry, you don’t want me to spoil your day.’ I just can’t sing. When I got married, I said I’m going to take singing lessons. They won’t even let me sing in the church choir—and you know church choirs take anybody.
Name: Johnny Damon
Occupation: Restaurant Manager, formerly at Caffé on the Green, Bayside, Queens
Famous Counterpart: Johnny Damon, Yankees left fielder
How is life as Johnny Damon? I get calls from young boys who are baseball fans and from drunk a-holes in Boston at three in the morning screaming from a bar. I don’t get better tables at restaurants, and I haven’t been invited to meet Damon or get box tickets.
What’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you because of your name? A couple of times, someone has called me back for a job interview simply because they have a restaurant that ballplayers frequent. They think it would be interesting to have me work there, I guess.
Do you wish you had another name? Not really. My middle name is Kennedy, and I was born the day after his assassination, so there’s always been ribbing about that. My brother’s name is Matt Damon, so at least I don’t get calls from high school girls asking for a prom date.
Name: Robin Williams
Residence: Cortlandt Manor
Occupation: Elementary School Teacher, Lakeland Central School District
Famous Counterpart: Robin Williams, comedian
When did your last name change to Williams? When I got married in ’93. Professionally, I try to use my maiden name to avoid confusion.
What is life like sharing a name with a celebrity? I always get cute little comments, especially from my students. I seem to get great reservations at restaurants, too. When I show up, they always say, ‘Oh I thought it was the other Robin Williams.’ And I say, ‘Can I still have the great table?’
Do your students think you’re famous? When I worked in Chappaqua, there was a phone chain to tell teachers about snow days. One mother had to call me, and her child thought it was so cool that her mom got to call a famous comedian when it snowed.
Do you wish you had another name? No. I think it helps if you have a sense of humor if your name is the same as a comedian’s. My husband shares his name with Brian Williams, the newscaster for NBC, but my husband spells his name with a ‘y’ not an ‘i.’