This was a lucky find. While researching Press Your Luck contestant names for yesterday’s post, I found out that there was a PYL precursor called Second Chance that aired for a few months during 1977 (March to July).
Only a handful of those 95 Second Chance episodes still exist, and there are currently only two on YouTube. But one of those two happens to feature a contestant with the unique name Davenia.
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:
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.
1979: 13 baby boys named Dilanjan [debut]
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.
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?
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?
Five of those eight babies were born in Louisiana specifically.
The popular sitcom Bewitched (1964-1972) included a character named Enchantra, as did a cartoon called Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch (2013-2014), but neither of these shows was airing new episodes in 1978.
So where did Enchantee/Enchante and Enchantra come from? I wish I knew! What theories do you guys have?
In 1973, from February 27 until May 8, American Indian Movement (AIM) activists and Oglala Lakota occupied the town of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
The standoff lasted 71 days, and both the activists and the federal government were armed. Gunfire wounded several people on each side and ultimately killed two of the occupiers.
The first victim was 48-year-old activist Frank Clearwater, who had hitchhiked to Wounded Knee with his pregnant wife Morning Star, 37. They arrived on April 16, Frank was shot in the head on April 17, and he died in the hospital on April 25. The news of his death was widely reported.
The same year, the baby name Morningstar appeared on the SSA’s baby name list for the very first time:
1978: 6 baby girls named Morningstar
1977: 9 baby girls named Morningstar
1975: 9 baby girls named Morningstar
1973: 8 baby girls named Morningstar [debut]
(The SSA omits spaces, so some these babies may have been named “Morning Star.”)
Supporters of the Indian movement extolled Frank, who had claimed to be Native American. The 1973 folk song “The Ballad of Frank Clearwater” refers to Frank as an “Apache who longed to be free.”
But this was probably not the case. Frank Clearwater, born Frank Clear in the state of Virginia, is listed as “white” on various documents (including arrest records and the 1930 U.S. Census).
My guess is that Morning Star’s name was similarly invented — coined as a sign of solidarity — and that she was also not Native American. I’m not sure what her real name was, or what became of her (or the baby) after 1973, but her assumed identity lives on in the baby name data…