The Edge of Night (1956-1984) was a television soap opera with heavy crime drama elements (e.g., courtroom scenes). It was based directly on the radio drama Perry Mason (1943-1955). In fact, the central character of EoN — a police officer/lawyer named Mike Karr — was played by actor John Larkin, who had been the voice of Perry during the last eight years of the radio show.
EoN was a popular soap, ranking anywhere from 2nd to 6th from its inception until the early 1970s. More importantly, though, several EoN characters/actors ended up influencing the U.S. baby name charts.
First we have Teal, which debuted in the data in 1957:
- 1962: 24 baby girls named Teal
- 1961: 35 baby girls named Teal
- 1960: 28 baby girls named Teal
- 1959: 21 baby girls named Teal
- 1958: 28 baby girls named Teal
- 1957: 14 baby girls named Teal [debut]
- 1956: unlisted
Teal was inspired by actress Teal Ames, who played Mike’s girlfriend/wife Sara Karr on the show from 1956 to 1961. When Teal decided to quit show business, the character was killed off Edge of Night in a car crash. “CBS received so many anxious and hysterical calls after this episode that actress Teal Ames had to go on the air the following day to assure her fans that she was still very much alive.”
(That said, another potential influence on the name was Japanese-American jazz singer Teal Joy — real name Elsie Itashiki — who put out an album and started appearing on TV in late 1957.)
- 1964: 25 baby girls named Laurieann
- 1963: 39 baby girls named Laurieann
- 1962: 35 baby girls named Laurieann
- 1961: 23 baby girls named Laurieann
- 1960: 21 baby girls named Laurieann
- 1959: 5 baby girls named Laurieann [debut]
- 1958: unlisted
No doubt Laurieann and Laurieanne were given a nudge by Laurie, which was at peak popularity in the early ’60s (perhaps thanks to Piper Laurie). But the more direct influence was fictional Laurie Ann Karr, Mike and Sara’s only daughter, who was born in the storyline in September of 1959.
Ratings for EoN weren’t as good from the mid-1970s onward, but by then the show was becoming known for something entirely different: unusual character names. These included Taffy, Lobo, Morlock, Cookie, Gunther, Didi, Smiley, Raven, and Schuyler. (Raven and Sky were a couple, of course.) And several of these unusual names got a boost in real life, thanks to the show.
For instance, character Draper Scott was featured in the storyline from 1975 to 1981. The baby name Draper re-emerged in the SSA data in 1976 and saw peak usage in 1980:
- 1981: 40 baby boys named Draper
- 1980: 46 baby boys named Draper
- 1979: 39 baby boys named Draper
- 1978: 36 baby boys named Draper
- 1977: 35 baby boys named Draper
- 1976: 15 baby boys named Draper
- 1975: unlisted
And female character Winter Austin, who was on the show from 1978 to 1979, pushed the baby name Winter into the top 1,000 for the first time in the late ’70s:
- 1980: 140 baby girls named Winter
- 1979: 241 baby girls named Winter [rank: 705th]
- 1978: 137 baby girls named Winter [rank: 1,000th]
- 1977: 29 baby girls named Winter
Were you a regular viewer of The Edge of Night? Did you have any opinions on the character names?
- The Edge of Night – Wikipedia
- Erickson, Hal. Encyclopedia of Television Law Shows. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2009.
- List of U.S. daytime soap opera ratings – Wikipedia
- Storylines 1959 – The Edge of Night Homepage
Image: from TV Radio Mirror, July 1961
P.S. Here’s a post with a bunch more soap opera-inspired baby names.