“Card Sharks” Baby Names: Dilanjan and Risha

Risha, Card Sharks, 1979
Risha on Card Sharks (1979)

Does anyone remember the NBC game show Card Sharks?

The original version — which involved a pair of contestants guessing survey results (à la Family Feud) and then playing the card game High Low for prize money — ran from 1978 to 1981. During that period, two uniquely named contestants had a small influence on American baby names:

Dilanjan

A contestant named Dilanjan was on the show for five episodes in January of 1979. That year, the baby name Dilanjan debuted on the SSA’s baby name list with 13 baby boys. It was never on the list again, though, making it a one-hit wonder.

  • 1980: unlisted
  • 1979: 13 baby boys named Dilanjan [debut]
  • 1978: unlisted

The name is apparently Sinhalese (the Sinhalese people make up 75% of the population of Sri Lanka) but so far I can’t figure out the meaning.

Risha

A contestant named Risha [pronounced REE-sha] was on the show for six episodes in July of 1979. The baby name Risha had already been on the SSA’s list for several decades by then, but in 1979 usage of the name more than tripled:

  • 1981: 17 baby girls named Risha
  • 1980: 24 baby girls named Risha
  • 1979: 56 baby girls named Risha
  • 1978: 17 baby girls named Risha
  • 1977: 17 baby girls named Risha

I have a feeling that repeat contestants on other long-gone game shows have also affected the charts…but it’s hard to do research on this sort of thing, as there isn’t some master-list of game show contestant names I can refer to (I wish!).

For all the game show junkies out there: What memorable contestant names have you spotted over the years?


More “Star Search” Baby Names

symba smith, star search, spokesmodel, 1991
Symba on Star Search, 1991
When I wrote about the name Tareva a couple of years ago, I said it was the only Star Search-inspired debut name I’d ever come across. Well, I’ve since discovered one more!

Symba

The name Symba was a 2-hit wonder that only appeared in the SSA data in 1991 and 1992:

  • 1993: unlisted
  • 1992: 5 baby girls named Symba
  • 1991: 30 baby girls named Symba [debut]
  • 1990: unlisted

The cause? Not Disney’s animated baby lion, which didn’t come along until a few years later, but Star Search spokesmodel competitor Symba Smith, who appeared on multiple episodes of the show during the 1991 season and ultimately won the 1991 championship (which included $100,000 in prize money).

Two years earlier, in 1989, Mississippi-born Symba had won the “Miss Teen All-American” pageant. (Four years before that, the pageant winner had been Halle Berry.)

*

But that’s not all. Here are two more names that saw a boost in usage thanks to Star Search:

Durell

The name Durell spiked in popularity in 1985 thanks to singer Durell Coleman, winner of the 1985 season.

  • 1987: 50 baby boys named Durell
  • 1986: 123 baby boys named Durell
  • 1985: 208 baby boys named Durell
  • 1984: 46 baby boys named Durell

Countess

The name Countess jumped back onto the charts in 1988 thanks to Countess Vaughn, who sang on the show as a 9-year-old.

  • 1990: unlisted
  • 1989: 6 baby girls named Countess
  • 1988: 15 baby girls named Countess
  • 1987: unlisted

Vaughn went on to join the cast of Moesha in 1996 as a teenager.

Two more names that may have been influenced by Star Search — it’s hard to tell — are Garcelle and Jordis. Garcelle Beauvais competed as a spokesmodel in 1986, and Jordis Unga competed as a vocalist in 2004. (Unga’s 2005 appearance on Rock Star: INXS was probably a bigger influence on overall usage.)

A “Twilight Zone” Baby Name?

Prime Mover, Twilight Zone, 1961, ace, jimbo
Ace and Jimbo
Yesterday’s post involved Alfred Hitchcock, so today let’s cross over into the Twilight Zone.

The Twilight Zone is now a cult classic, but was only moderately popular during its original run (1959-1964).

That said, it did win a couple of Emmys in the early ’60s. It also inspired viewers to start Twilight Zone fan clubs across the nation. Best of all, it boosted at least one baby name onto the U.S. charts.

The name? Jimbo:

  • 1965: unlisted
  • 1964: 6 baby boys named Jimbo
  • 1963: 7 baby boys named Jimbo
  • 1962: unlisted
  • 1961: 10 baby boys named Jimbo [debut]
  • 1960: unlisted

In March of 1961, Twilight Zone audiences were introduced to nice-guy character Jimbo Cobb in the episode “The Prime Mover.”

Jimbo Cobb was telekinetic. Ace Larsen, the owner of the diner where Jimbo worked, discovered this one day and convinced Jimbo to go to Las Vegas with him.

The story unfolds as you might expect: They win for a while with the help of Jimbo’s ability to move objects (like roulette balls) with his mind. But Jimbo is wiser than he seems, and in the end doesn’t allow Ace to keep his winnings.

Instead of losing his mind (like some gamblers are wont to do), Ace finds the humor in all of it immediately. Easy come. Easy go. Something snaps inside of him, and he appreciates the life he has more than the life he thought he wanted.

Jimbo was played by actor Buddy Ebsen, who also appeared in dozens of other early TV shows, including Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, Rawhide, and Gunslinger. He’s best remembered today for playing Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies.

Sources: Exploring The Twilight Zone #57: The Prime Mover, The Prime Mover – Wikipedia

Thedy, a Hitchcock-Inspired Baby Name

thedy sue hill, hitchcock

Here’s a baby name with ties to Ray Bradbury, Alfred Hitchcock, and decapitation! What fun.

The name is Thedy, and it appeared for the first and only time on the Social Security Administration’s baby name list in 1964:

  • 1965: unlisted
  • 1964: 10 baby girls named Thedy [debut]
  • 1963: unlisted

Where did it come from?

It came from Thedy Sue Hill, a character in an early 1964 episode of the The Alfred Hitchcock Hour called “The Jar.” The episode aired on Valentine’s day, actually, which is ironic given the content…

thedy sue hill, charlie, the jarThe story is set in Louisiana, and the protagonist is Thedy Sue’s husband, Charlie, who goes to a carnival and purchases a large jar containing a weird, fleshy mass submersed in murky fluid.

Thedy Sue — a “cunning, self-involved young wife” who has been unfaithful to Charlie — insists that Charlie get rid of the jar. He refuses, as the jar has “brought him notoriety and respect in the community. People come from miles to gather in his parlor and look at the jar and the obscure contents which represent something different to each of them.”

Fed-up Thedy goes back to the carnival to learn what’s really inside the jar. Turns out, not much — a wire frame, paper, doll parts, etc.

But does this stop a humiliated Charlie from continuing to displaying the jar for his neighbors? Nope. But the next time they gather to start at the fleshy mass inside, guess what they see:

thedy sue, hitchcock,

Lovely, right?

Not only did the name Thedy become a one-hit wonder on the charts the same year the episode aired, but I’ve found four people named “Thedy Sue” specifically, including Thedy Sue Hess (b. 1964 in Kentucky) and Thedy Sue Scott (b. 1967 in Illinois).

“The Jar” was based on a short story of the same name by Ray Bradbury. The story was first published in the November 1944 issue of fantasy/horror pulp magazine Weird Tales. In the original story, the character’s name was simply Thedy, no “Sue.”

I’m not sure how Bradbury came up with the name — perhaps it’s based on Theda [THEE-da], Theodora, or Theodosia — but I do know that the story was inspired by his childhood memory of seeing preserved embryos in jars at a carnival sideshow.

The actress who played Thedy Sue Hill also had an interesting name: Collin Wilcox. Her parents, confident they were getting a baby boy, picked out the name Collin ahead of time in honor of an uncle.

What do you think of the baby name Thedy? (Do you like it more or less than Theda?)

Sources: The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: The Jar – TV.com, ‘The Jar’ – The Cosmicomicon, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour – Bradbury Media, An Interview with Collin Wilcox – The Classic TV History Blog

The Baby Name “Sundown”

sundown, gordon lightfoot, 1974,

We talked about Sundance last week, so today let’s look at Sundown.

The baby name Sundown was a dual-gender debut that appeared on both sides of the U.S. baby name charts simultaneously in 1974:

  • 1977: unlisted
  • 1976: 5 baby girls named Sundown
  • 1975: unlisted
  • 1974: 7 baby girls named Sundown [debut] + 6 baby boys named Sundown [debut]
  • 1973: unlisted

Overall it was a one-hit wonder on the boys’ side and a two-hit wonder on the girls’ side.

The name was inspired by the song “Sundown” by Canadian folksinger Gordon Lightfoot. The song had been released in early 1974. Here are some lyrics:

Sundown, you better take care
If I find you been creepin’ ’round my back stairs

By the middle of 1974 the song hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Lightfoot’s album (also called Sundown) reached the #1 spot on both the U.S. and Canadian charts.

What do you think of “Sundown” as a personal name? Usable?

Lyrics: Sundown © 1973 Gordon Lightfoot

Baby Name Battle: Sundance vs. Cassidy

sundance kid, movie, Teenage thief Harry Longabaugh served an 18-month jail sentence in Sundance, Wyoming, in the late 1880s. During his imprisonment, he was nicknamed “the Sundance Kid.”

In the 1890s, Harry became associated with Butch Cassidy’s infamous “Wild Bunch” train-robbing gang.

Many years later, the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) came out. Not only did it win four Academy Awards, but it called attention to the names Cassidy and Sundance. Cassidy started appearing in the U.S. baby name data in the late ’60s, Sundance in the early ’70s.

Cassidy has been in the data ever since. It became especially popular as a girl name, peaking at 99th on the girls’ list in 1999.

Sundance, on the other hand, never really picked up steam. It was last in the data in the mid-1990s…though the most recent winner of The Voice is nicknamed Sundance, so the name might be back soon.

Which of these two names do you prefer, Sundance or Cassidy?

Which name do you prefer?

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The Model-Inspired Baby Name Donyale

Donyale Luna, VogueThe Danielle-like baby name Donyale debuted on the charts rather impressively in 1966:

  • 1970: 38 baby girls named Donyale
  • 1969: 45 baby girls named Donyale
  • 1968: 35 baby girls named Donyale
  • 1967: 43 baby girls named Donyale
  • 1966: 15 baby girls named Donyale [debut]
  • 1965: unlisted

Where did it come from?

African-American model Donyale Luna, who in 1966 became the first black model to appear on the cover of Vogue (the British version).

A TIME article from 1966 described her as “a new heavenly body who…is unquestionably the hottest model in Europe at the moment.”

She was born with the name Peggy Ann Freeman, but started going by the “Donyale Luna” in high school. (Another popular model from the ’60s who went by a pseudonym was Twiggy.)

One of the reasons Luna is not well-remembered today? She passed away from an accidental drug overdose in 1979. This was two years after she gave birth to a baby girl named Dream.*

What do you think of the name Donyale?

Sources:

*Dream is a baby name to watch, btw, now that the Kardashians have used it…