Baby Names from “The Edge of Night”

edge of night, soap opera, teal ames, 1950s, 1960s
Sara, Laurie Ann, and Mike Karr
(characters on The Edge of Night)

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.)

Next is Laurieann, which debuted in 1959. (And, a year later, the similar name Laurieanne popped up.)

  • 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?

Sources:

Image: from TV Radio Mirror, July 1961

P.S. Here’s a post with a bunch more soap opera-inspired baby names.

The Debut of Desnee

Desnee and Billy

The rare name Desnee was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data in the early 1950s:

  • 1953: unlisted
  • 1952: unlisted
  • 1951: 7 baby girls named Desnee [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted
  • 1949: unlisted

What was the influence?

A 15-month-old London girl named Desnee Sampson, who was featured in a pair of photos that ran in various U.S. newspapers in late 1950 and early 1951.

In the first photo, she was sitting on the floor, watching her cat Billy drink milk from a saucer. In the second, she was bent over the saucer herself and trying to lap up milk in the same way (with Billy looking on).

I don’t know the origin of the name. In fact, my initial guess was that “Desnee” was a typo for Desiree. (I could imagine the middle letters being transposed and then mistaken for an “n.”)

As it turns out, Desnee Sampson’s birth (1949) and marriage (1970) records both confirm that her real name was indeed “Desnee.” Besides, the name Desiree didn’t become trendy until a few years later, thanks to the 1954 Marlon Brando movie Désirée (which I mentioned in the Deserie post).

What do you think of the name Desnee? Would you pronounce the second syllable like that of Desiree (ay-sound) or Deedee (ee-sound)?

The Double-Play Baseball Baby Name Ryne

ryne, duren, baseball, 1950sIn the late ’50s, the name Ryne debuted impressively on the charts:

  • 1962: 7 baby boys named Ryne
  • 1961: 13 baby boys named Ryne
  • 1960: 10 baby boys named Ryne
  • 1959: 31 baby boys named Ryne
  • 1958: 21 baby boys named Ryne [debut]
  • 1957: unlisted

Where did it come from?

It was inspired by professional baseball pitcher Rinold “Ryne” Duren, known for “[staring] down batters through thick-lensed eyeglasses and then [delivering] fastballs that might go just about anywhere.”

In fact, Duren was the inspiration for the character Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn (played by Charlie Sheen, clearly #winning at the time) in the 1989 movie Major League.

Duren was in the Major Leagues from 1954 to 1965, but in 1958 was a member of the World Series-winning New York Yankees. It was also the first year he was selected for the All-Star Game.

He inherited the name Rinold from his father, whose family came from Germany. Rinold, like Renault, is related to the more familiar name Reynold.

…But that’s not the end of the story!

Because one of the 1959 babies named Ryne was Ryne Dee “Ryno” Sandberg, who also became a professional baseball player (second baseman). He started with Chicago Cubs in 1981 and went on to become a Hall of Famer.

He boosted the name Ryne not just back into the data, but into the top 1000 for the first time:

  • 1986: 178 baby boys named Ryne [rank: 675th]
  • 1985: 286 baby boys named Ryne [rank: 516th]
  • 1984: 199 baby boys named Ryne [rank: 605th]
  • 1983: 38 baby boys named Ryne
  • 1982: 31 baby boys named Ryne
  • 1981: unlisted

Ryne Sandberg had a son in the mid-1980s, but didn’t give him a baseball-inspired name. Instead, Justin Ross got a theater-inspired name. Ryne had seen “A Chorus Line” in New York around that time and been impressed with the name of performer Justin Ross.

Do you like the name Ryne? Would you use it for a baby boy?

Sources:

The First Appearance of Pepi

five fathers of pepi, ira avery, book, 1950s

The peppy name Pepi first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1956:

  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: unlisted
  • 1956: 5 baby boys named Pepi [debut]
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: unlisted

What put it there?

“The Five Fathers of Pepi” — a mid-1956 episode of the live anthology TV show The United States Steel Hour.

The episode told the story of a group of men (Giorgio, Benozzo, Jacopo, Carlo, and Vittore) in an Italian town who were raising a war orphan named Pepi.

Pepi, a young orphan, has been adopted by five men of a town on the Italian riviera. Both the “fathers” and the boy are very happy about this arrangement, until the arrival of a wealthy American couple threatens the pleasant state of affairs. The Americans become interested in Pepi and consider adopting him themselves, legally. When they fail to be discouraged by various ruses, the “fathers” feel there is only one thing left to do and it is up to Giorgio, the “bachelor father,” to act quickly.

Giorgio was played by a young Paul Newman, described by a contemporary source as the “outstanding talent of stage, screen and television, who has skyrocketed to stardom during the past year.”

The story, written by Ira Avery, had been published in book form in mid-1955. Interestingly, though, Avery had originally created it as a television script for a 1952 episode of The Philco Television Playhouse.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Pepi? (It’s a pet form of Giuseppe, the Italian form of Joseph.)

Sources:

Sheena: Jungle Queen & Baby Name

sheena, queen of the jungle, comic, 1940s, baby nameIf you meet someone in the U.S. named Sheena, chances are she was born in the 1980s. That’s when the usage of baby name Sheena spiked impressively thanks to Scottish singer Sheena Easton, whose first big hit was “9 to 5 (Morning Train)” and whose name was no doubt based on Sìne, the Scottish form of Jeanne.

But the name Sheena has been on the onomastic map (here in the U.S.) a lot longer than that. And I think the initial influence was a comic book character.

“Queen of the Jungle” Sheena, who always wore a skimpy, leopard-print outfit, started appearing in the adventure anthology comic book Jumbo Comics in 1938. She’d been created by artist Will Eisner as a female counterpart to Tarzan, and her name was inspired by H. Rider Haggard’s novel She: A History of Adventure.

By the second half of 1940, Sheena was being featured on the cover of Jumbo Comics regularly. And in the spring of 1942, Sheena became the first female character to star in her own comic book in the spin-off series Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. (The first issue of Wonder Woman didn’t appear until later in 1942.)

Around the same time, the baby name Sheena debuted in the SSA’s baby name data:

  • 1945: 14 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1944: 11 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1943: 9 baby girls named Sheena [debut]
  • 1942: unlisted
  • 1941: unlisted

The next decade, Sheena got her own TV series. Sheena, Queen of the Jungle first aired from 1955 to 1956 and the title character was played by Nellie Elizabeth “Irish” McCalla. The show gave the name a boost in the mid-1950s:

  • 1958: 121 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1957: 163 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1956: 136 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1955: 34 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1954: 20 baby girls named Sheena

The name got another (lesser) boost in the late ’70s with the release of the Ramones song “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” (1977), but it was nothing like the rise that was to come a few years later thanks to Sheena Easton.

What are your thoughts on the name Sheena?

Sources: Sìne – Behind the Name, Eisner and Iger – WillEisner.com, First female character to star in her own comic book | Guinness World Records
Image from the Digital Comic Museum.