BBN News: Baby Names Get Bizarre
By VIRGINIA ROHAN
Let's pretend we're at Hollywood High, circa 2023 -- and pity the poor teacher who's taking attendance.
Apple? Banjo? Coco? Shiloh Nouvel? Suri? Pilot Inspektor? Kal-el? Moxie CrimeFighter?
Wait a minute. Is this a classroom or a superhero convention?
As you've no doubt noticed, for the rich and famous these days, naming babies has become an exercise in creativity. Or is it a competitive sport -- a great, big "Can you top this" contest?
Once upon a time, most stars gave their kids nice, down-to-earth names. Bing Crosby christened his children Gary, Phillip, Lindsay, Dennis, Harry, Nathaniel and Mary. Princess Grace (Kelly) had Albert, Caroline and Stephanie. Even eight-time bride Elizabeth Taylor, who had no problem flaunting convention, named her kids Michael, Christopher, Liza and Maria.
Nowadays, there's not a John or Mary in the (Malibu beach) house.
What's the harm, some ask? Even Shakespeare famously asked, "What's in a name?"
Others focus on the larger challenges a celebrity kid will face.
If, for example, millions of people saw your dad declare his love for your mom while jumping up and down on Oprah Winfrey's couch, it's a safe bet that the name on your birth certificate will not be your biggest problem in life.
In fact, little Suri Cruise -- infant daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes -- actually has one of the more normal-sounding of the celebrity-baby names.
Consider the other members of that aforementioned class: Moxie CrimeFighter (daughter of Penn Jillette); Apple Blythe Alison (daughter of Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay's Chris Martin); Banjo Taylor (Rachel Griffith's son), Coco (daughter of Courteney Cox and David Arquette); Pilot Inspektor (Jason Lee's son), Shiloh Nouvel (daughter of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt), and most bizarre of all, Nicolas Cage's not-quite-1-year-old son, Kal-el.
Now, where have we heard that name before? Oh, that's right. Kal-el was the Kryptonian birth name of Superman.
Why do it?
Many ordinary mortals get incensed about such outlandish names. After the birth of little Kal-el Cage last October, fans posted their reactions on the Web site hellblazer.com.
"It shouldn't be allowed. Your children are not an extension of your own damaged personality!" wrote someone with a good-old-fashioned name -- James.
Another huffed: "Nic Cage needs to have his head examined."
Why do celebrities do it? Why make it even harder than it already is for their kids to feel normal?
"I don't think they're topping each other per se, but I think it's an exercise in creativity," says Danielle Friedland, publisher of the popular Celebrity-babies.com. "Someone who grew up as a non-celebrity may not have loved their name. If your name is Rachel, you may want to give your kid a jazzier name. You think they're special, and you want the world to know that -- and that you're really special."
To be fair, it's not just celebs who do this to their kids. Actors Rainn Wilson ("The Office") and Poppy Montgomery ("Without a Trace") were born to non-celebrity parents.
"My mom, who's British, had this flower fairy book from the 1800s, and she loved it," explains Montgomery, who has four sisters that also have flower names. "I think she just sort of picked them out of that."
Nor is the weird celebrity baby names trend brand new. Tatum O'Neal was born almost 43 years ago. Sonny and Cher's Chastity is now 37. Bruce Willis and Demi Moore's girls (Rumer, Scout, and Tallulah Belle) are now teenagers.
And rock stars have always gravitated to unusual names. Dweezil and Moon Unit Zappa are the poster children for the weird-name trend. There's also Zowie Bowie. And Peaches Honeyblossom, Pixie and Fifi Trixibelle Geldof, daughters of Bob Geldof and Paula Yates (who named the daughter she had with Michael Hutchence Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily).
When you live in such a surrealistic world, though, would you even have to worry about things like taunting schoolmates? That may depend on exactly where you live.
"In Hollywood, these kids are going to school with other celebrities' kids with unusual names, so, they may be in a classroom filled with Apples and Oranges," Friedland says. "Cupcake could be the girl sitting next to you -- or the boy. Even if they're not the children of celebrities, most of the people in Hollywood are kind of zany and creative people as well.
"[But] children of celebrities who do not live in Hollywood or New York are going to get more attention in a classroom full of Jennas and Jasons. Moxie CrimeFighter might get picked on, because she's going to school in Las Vegas."
David Narter, author of "The Worst Baby Name Book Ever," thinks their names are the least of their worries.
"It's not the names that are going to screw up these kids' lives. Their lives are screwed up already. They're celebrity kids," he says.
Citing, for example, Dandelion Richards, daughter of rocker Keith Richards and his longtime girlfriend Anita Pallenberg, Narter says her big issue "is that her dad has no teeth and looks like he's been dead since he was 25."
No argument on that. Then again, Dandelion does now call herself Angela.
And remember Free Carradine, the son of Barbara Hershey (who went by Barbara Seagull for a time) and David Carradine? He changed his name -- to Tom.
And then there's the advice -- plea, really-- that Peaches Geldof issued in an interview with Australia's The Advertiser in January. Stop giving your kids strange names.
"I hate ridiculous names," she says. "My weird name has haunted me all my life."
Not everyone with an unusual name would agree.
Montgomery -- whose full name was Poppy Petal Emma Elizabeth Deveraux Donahue -- has mixed memories of living with her moniker.
"You sort of pay your dues, because growing up with it is awful. You get teased, and you're sort of not the norm," says the actress, who took her mom's maiden name professionally. "But then when you're an adult, it's kind of cool. You love it. You like that your name is different and unusual."
What's in a name?
Montgomery says she would "absolutely" recommend calling a child something different. "Look, I think, at the end of the day, it's just a name and people change them and people keep them. ... If I had a kid, I would probably pick an unusual name, 'cause that's my taste."
Of course, if you're a high-profile celebrity baby, it probably helps if everyone's on the same page about the meaning of your name.
Little Suri Cruise is not so lucky in this regard.
According to her parents' publicist, the name means "princess" in Hebrew and "red rose" in Persian. But online gossip maven Perez Hilton has speculated that "Suri" actually has an underlying meaning, derived from Surrey, England, the region where the late L. Ron Hubbard's home (now the U.K. headquarters of Scientology) is located.
The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, pointed out that Suri means "pickpocket" in Japanese. And Narter's research revealed yet another possible interpretation.
"Apparently, Suri doesn't mean princess, it means 'Go away,' " he says.
Destined as she is for a life eluding the paparazzi, Suri may be aptly named.
The current crop of celebrity baby names make Moon Unit, Dweezil and Chastity seem downright ordinary. Test your knowledge of stars and their offspring:
2. Audio Science
3. Makena lei
8. Pilot Inspektor
10. Indiana August
A. Jason Lee
B. Race car driver Kenny Brack
C. Julia Roberts
E. Casey Affleck; Summer Phoenix
F. Shannyn Sossamon
G. Courteney Cox-Arquette
H. Julia Roberts
I. Helen Hunt
J. Ex-NBA star Jayson Williams
K. Gwyneth Paltrow
L. Debra Messing; Cate Blanchett
Answers to the Quiz are in the Comments!
Source: North Jersey Media Group. Thanks!