How did “Kojak” influence baby names in the 1970s?

The character Theo Kojak (played by Telly Savalas) from the TV series "Kojak" (1973-1978).
Theo Kojak from “Kojak

“Who loves ya, baby?”

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 last sentence — Aristotelis, Telly, Savalas, Theo, and Kojak — either debuted or saw increased usage (as boy names) in the U.S. baby name data in the mid-1970s:

 1973197419751976
Aristotelis...5*
Telly41293†277207
Savalas.30*†2613
Theo27325758
Kojak.9*†6.
*Debut, †Peak usage

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.

But that’s not all.

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

The same year, we see two new girl names in the data:

1973197419751976
Azuredee..10*†7
Azure..121*†60
*Debut, †Peak usage

The name Azure is currently the 22nd-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

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