Toma & Baretta: Crime Drama Baby Names

toma, television, baby name, 1970s

The gritty TV police drama Toma, which starred actor Tony Musante as New Jersey police detective David Toma, started airing in 1973.

The year the show premiered, the baby name Toma, which had only ever appeared in the data as a girl name, started seeing usage as a boy name. It even cracked the boys’ top 1,000 briefly.

  • 1975: 6 baby girls / 26 baby boys named Toma
  • 1974: 21 baby girls / 84 baby boys [rank: 884th] named Toma
  • 1973: 21 baby girls / 43 baby boys [debut] named Toma
  • 1972: 9 baby girls / x baby boys named Toma
  • 1971: 5 baby girls / x baby boys named Toma

But usage petered out after Toma was canceled in 1974.

baretta, television, baby name, 1970s

In 1975, a retooled version of Toma called Baretta came out. The new show, which starred Robert Blake as New York City police detective Tony Baretta, was less violent and included more comic relief than the original. (Baretta had a pet cockatoo named Fred, and one of his informants was a man called Rooster.)

In response, the name Baretta debuted in the baby name data, and it remained there for the same number of years the Emmy-winning series was on the air (1975-1978).

  • 1979: unlisted
  • 1978: 8 baby boys named Baretta
  • 1977: 13 baby boys named Baretta
  • 1976: 6 baby girls / 13 baby boys named Baretta
  • 1975: 14 baby girls [debut] / 18 baby boys [debut] named Baretta
  • 1974: unlisted

Notice how the name debuted on both sides of the list. Other dual-debut names from the 1970s include Chaffee, Chudney, Khaalis, Shilo, Sundown, and Tavares.

Which name do you like more, Toma or Baretta?

Which of the two do you prefer?

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The Source of Shakira

shakira, baby name, movies, 1970s
Shakira in Dec. 1975

These days, when you say the name Shakira, most people think of the Colombian singer (“Hips Don’t Lie”) who became famous in the U.S. in the early 2000s. In fact, the name saw peak usage in 2002 thanks to her.

But the name Shakira first caught the attention of America’s expectant parents decades earlier:

  • 1973: 74 baby girls named Shakira
  • 1972: 20 baby girls named Shakira
  • 1971: 7 baby girls named Shakira
  • 1970: 12 baby girls named Shakira [debut]
  • 1969: unlisted

Why?

Because of Shakira Baksh (later known as Shakira Caine).

She was born and raised in British Guiana to Muslim Indian parents who had relocated from the Kashmir region of British India.

In 1967, she won the Miss Guyana contest and placed third in the Miss World contest in London. Following that, she became a London-based model and actress.

In early 1970, she was mentioned (and pictured) in a short article in the “Youth Notes” section of Parade magazine (the Sunday newspaper magazine distributed in U.S. papers nationwide). Here’s the piece in full:

Ever since Diahann Carroll hit it big in the “Julia” TV series, television producers the world ever have been scouting for other talented black beauties to star in a weekly program.

In England, Shakira Baksh, 22, who came to London from Guyana in 1967 as contender in the Miss World beauty contest, has just been signed in a new and as yet unfilled weekly series.

The objective in starring Shakira is to attract a large share of the non-white TV audience.

And, right on cue, we see her name debut in the data.

Shakira Baksh married Michael Caine, star of Alfie, in early 1973. (He first spotted her in a Maxwell House commercial, believe it or not. Here’s the story of how they met [vid].) They appeared together in the 1975 movie The Man Who Would Be King together (along with Sean Connery, whose eyebrow is in the photo above) and on the cover of People together in 1976.

The name Shakira is Arabic and means “thankful” or “grateful.”

Sources:

The Story of Doria

The baby name name Doria has peaked in usage twice so far. The second spike happened in 1971, the year of Tropical Storm Doria (which ended up being the costliest storm of the season). But the first spike, which was more subtle, happened in 1957:

  • 1959: 29 baby girls named Doria
  • 1958: 31 baby girls named Doria
  • 1957: 37 baby girls named Doria
  • 1956: 27 baby girls named Doria
  • 1955: 24 baby girls named Doria

What’s behind the first spike?

I think it’s same thing that was behind the sudden jump in usage of the name Andrea* a year earlier:

  • 1958: 3,241 baby girls (and 65 baby boys) named Andrea
  • 1957: 3,369 baby girls (and 67 baby boys) named Andrea
  • 1956: 3,394 baby girls (and 62 baby boys) named Andrea
  • 1955: 2,764 baby girls (and 31 baby boys) named Andrea
  • 1954: 2,721 baby girls (and 26 baby boys) named Andrea

On the night of July 25-26, 1956 — exactly sixty-three years ago — the Italian ocean liner SS Andrea Doria sank just off the east coast of America.

The Andrea Doria — said to be “unsinkable” (like the Titanic) — had been known for its luxury. It featured theaters, dance floors, card-rooms, lounges, and three outdoor swimming pools (one per passenger class). Since its maiden voyage in 1953, it regularly made trips across the Atlantic.

On the final night of one such trip from Italy to New York, the Andrea Doria was sailing through thick fog 50 miles south of Nantucket. Just past 11 pm, the Doria‘s starboard side was suddenly pierced by the ice-breaking prow of a smaller passenger ship called the MS Stockholm (which had left New York at mid-day and was en route to Sweden). The collision resulted in the deaths of 51 people — 46 of them Andrea Doria passengers.

Within a few minutes of the crash, the Doria had taken on so much water that it was listing more than 20 degrees to starboard. Evacuations began and, over the course of the night, the still-seaworthy Stockholm and other nearby ships came to the rescue of the remaining passengers and crew (a total of 1,660 people).

Early the next morning, East Coast newsmen in airplanes visited the crippled Doria. They took photographs and got video footage of the ship’s final moments. (It began sinking in earnest at 9:45 am, and disappeared from view under the water at 10:09 am.)

The video footage was broadcast on TV news shows later the same day, making the sinking of the Andrea Doria one of the very first televised tragedies.

The next day, photos of the doomed Doria were on the front pages of newspapers nation-wide. A few weeks later, more Doria shots ran in a photo-essay and on the cover of Life magazine. The most famous Doria photos were the Pulitzer-winning ones taken by Harry A. Trask.

All this media exposure drew attention to the two names “Andrea” and “Doria,” which in turn gave boost to the usage of both names, which is what we saw in the data above.

The ship had been named for 16th-century Italian admiral Andrea Doria, a member of the wealthy Genoese Doria (D’Oria, De Auria) family. The family traces its lineage back to a woman named Auria.

What do you think of the name Doria? Do you like it more or less than the name Andrea?

Sources:

Image: Screenshot from A Welcome Guest in the House

*Dozens of the baby girls named Andrea during the second half of 1956 got the middle name Doria. Here’s one example from Idaho.

Who Loves Ya, Baby?: Kojak-Inspired Baby Names

The baby name Kojak debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1974.

The TV crime drama Kojak was on the air for five seasons (1973 to 1978). It starred actor Aristotelis “Telly” Savalas as lollipop-sucking, tough-talking, big-hearted New York City police detective Theo Kojak. The series became very popular and, as a result, all of the names in that sentence (Aristotelis, Telly, Savalas, Theo, and Kojak) either debuted or saw increased usage in the baby name data in the mid-1970s:

1973 1974 1975 1976
Aristotelis . . . 5 boys*
Telly 41 boys 293 boys 277 boys 207 boys
Savalas . 30 boys* 26 boys 13 boys
Theo 27 boys 32 boys 57 boys 58 boys
Kojak . 9 boys* 6 boys .
Azuredee . . 10 girls* 7 girls
Azure . . 121 girls* 60 girls

*Debut

The name Savalas is currently tied for 48th-highest boy name debut of all time. The name Telly reached the top 1,000 for the first time in 1974, and variant name Telley debuted the same year. Even Aristotle was affected.

So…where do those “Azure” names come from?

They’re from a specific Kojak episode called “Elegy in an Asphalt Graveyard,” which first aired on February 2, 1975. The episode focused on the murder of a character named Azure Dee (played by Denyce Liston), a Manhattan call-girl who Kojak happened to know. Also, notably, the episode began and ended with a melancholy song called “Azure Dee,” [vid] sung by Telly Savalas himself.

The name Azure is currently the 20th-highest girl name debut of all time. The similar name Azuree debuted the same year, but Azuree was probably influenced as much by the the Estée Lauder perfume as by the Kojak character.

Sources: Kojak – Wikipedia, Telly Savalas, Actor, Dies at 70; Played ‘Kojak’ in 70’s TV Series, Telly Savalas – IMDb, “Elegy in an Asphalt Graveyard,” Kojak (TV Episode 1975) – IMDb

Baby Names from Bleaching Creams?

Ad campaigns don’t just popularize products — they also popularize baby names.

And ads for certain types of products (like perfumes) are much more likely to influence baby names than ads for other types of products. But nothing is off limits, really, if the exposure is wide enough and the product name looks/sounds enough like a human name (e.g., Corelle dishes, Finesse shampoo).

One type of product I never expected to find in my ongoing hunt for pop culture baby names, though, was bleaching creams — used to lighten/whiten/even-out skin tone.

These days, ads for bleaching creams ignite controversy. But decades ago, these ads ran regularly in magazines with African-American audiences, and, as a result, at least two bleaching cream brand names ended up on the baby name charts.

Artra

baby name, product, 1960s
Artra ad in Ebony, 1962

The baby name Artra, inspired by Artra Skin Tone Cream, was a one-hit wonder in the data that appeared in the early 1960s:

  • 1964: unlisted
  • 1963: unlisted
  • 1962: 5 baby girls named Artra [debut]
  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: unlisted

Ambi

ambi, cosmetic, baby name, 1970s
Ambi ad (detail) in Ebony, 1977

The baby name Ambi, inspired by Ambi Skin Cream, stuck around a little longer — three years in the late ’70s and early ’80s:

  • 1982: unlisted
  • 1981: 12 baby girls named Ambi
  • 1980: 6 baby girls named Ambi
  • 1979: unlisted
  • 1978: 5 baby girls named Ambi [debut]
  • 1977: unlisted

…Another bleaching cream that was advertised during the ’60s and ’70s (as well as decades earlier) was Nadinola. The name Nadinola never appeared in the U.S. baby name data, but records reveal that it was given to a handful of U.S baby girls during the 20th century.

What are your thoughts on these names?