Hedda Hopper was a gossip columnist who came to fame in the early 1940s (when she was in her 50s). But “Hedda Hopper” wasn’t her original name. It was Elda Furry.
She’d been a performer (both on stage and in the movies) as a young woman — long before she wrote for the newspapers. So it’s logical to assume that the name change happened around the time she embarked upon her showbiz career, right?
As it turns out, that wasn’t the case — she made the switch mid-career. Here’s the story:
Elda was working as a chorus girl for DeWolf Hopper’s theater company in the early 1910s…
[DeWolf Hopper] had had four marriages, and was five years older than Elda’s father, but was still a great charmer and anything but jaded. Hopper’s first four wives were named Ella, Ida, Edna and Nella, in that order, and Elda was a natural for the euphonious sequence. So, about a year after their first meeting, Hopper proposed on a train platform in Grand Central and that afternoon they were married in Wading River, N.J.
Elda shortly became aware of some rather piquant marital complications. Any man with five wives is likely to become confused and, when the wives have such similar names as the Hopper ladies, the situations becomes positively grotesque. Elda discovered that as often as not Hopper would whisper affectionately, “Dear Nella” (or Ella, Ida and Edna) instead of “Dear Elda.” The sensation of being continuously mistaken for someone else became irksome in time, and Elda forthwith visited a numerologist who recommended the name “Hedda.” From then on Hopper never got his lines crossed.
Her marriage to Hopper only lasted from 1913 until 1922, but she retained the name “Hedda Hopper” for the rest of her life.
It’s no coincidence that the usage of the baby name Hedda was highest during the 1940s. Records even reveal that one of the 1944 babies named Hedda was born into a Texas family with the surname Hopper.
Which name do you prefer, Elda or Hedda?
Source: Wickware, Francis Sill. “Hedda Hopper.” Life 20 Nov. 1944: 63-70.