Quotes about the names of artists and performers

Showgirls on the cover of LIFE magazine (Dec. 15, 1947)
Showgirls named Dawn, Thana, and Joy

From the cover description of a late 1947 issue of LIFE magazine:

Among the prettiest showgirls in New York’s nightclubs are (from left) brunette Dawn McInerney, red-haired Thana Barclay and blond Joy Skylar who all work in the Latin Quarter. […] Thana, also 22, was named after her mother’s favorite poem Thanatopsis. She is married to a song plugger named Duke Niles and owns a dachshund named Bagel.

[The poem “Thanatopsis” was written by William Cullen Bryant. The word itself means “a view or contemplation of death.” In Greek mythology, Thanatos was the god of death.]

From the 2010 article “A Fashionable Life: Paloma Picasso” in Harper’s Bazaar:

She produces two major [jewelry] collections a year [for Tiffany’s New York]. This year, to celebrate her 30th anniversary, she has already launched three new collections: Marrakesh (including the openwork bracelets), Hammered Circles, and Paloma’s Dove, which features, most appropriately, a dove pendant.

Having been named by her father in honor of the dove he drew that became the symbol of the World Peace Conference in 1949, Paloma went through a process for designing the latter that wasn’t easy. She did about 200 drawings. “I didn’t want it to look like a Pablo Picasso dove,” she explains. “One looked like a Braque, and I thought, ‘No! Can’t have that!'” She did finally settle on a perfect version. “One looked like an angel. I’ve always been proud that my name stands for peace, and I thought, The angel of peace; that’s my combination,” she says. “A dove that will protect you.”

From a 2013 article in Independent Magazine about filmmaker Lu Lu:

Lu Lu is no stranger to a language gap. Even her name is a constant source of confusion in America. “They ask me my first name. I say ‘Lu.’ Then they ask me for my last name, and I say ‘Lu.’ They think I misunderstood them.” In Chinese, the characters, while pronounced the same, are written differently. In English, though, Lu Lu’s first and last name are identical. She laughs, being frank, “My name in Chinese is ordinary, but when I came to the US, people think it is interesting.”

From a 2016 interview with Dita Von Teese (born Heather Sweet) in Vogue:

I was just Dita for many years. I had seen a movie with an actress named Dita Parlo, and I thought, God, that’s such a cool name. I wanted to be known with just a simple first name–Cher, Madonna. Then when I first posed for Playboy, in 1993 or 1994, they told me I had to pick a last name. So I opened up the phone book at the bikini club [I worked in at the time]. I was with a friend and I was like, “Let’s look under a Von something.” It sounds really exotic and glamorous. So I found the name Von Treese and I called Playboy and said, “I’m going to be Dita Von Treese.” I remember so well going to the newsstand and picking up the magazine, and it said Dita Von Teese. I called them and they said, “Oh, we’ll fix it. We’ll fix it.” The next month, same thing: Dita Von Teese. I left it because I didn’t really care. I didn’t know I was going to go on to trademark it all over the world!

From the 2008 New York Times obituary of illustrator/author Tasha Tudor:

Starling Burgess, who later legally changed both her names to Tasha Tudor, was born in Boston to well-connected but not wealthy parents. Her mother, Rosamond Tudor, was a portrait painter, and her father, William Starling Burgess, was a yacht and airplane designer who collaborated with Buckminster Fuller. […] She was originally nicknamed Natasha by her father, after Tolstoy’s heroine in “War and Peace.” This was shortened to Tasha. After her parents divorced when she was 9, Ms. Tudor adopted her mother’s last name.

[Her four kids were named Seth, Bethany, Thomas, and Efner (female).]

From the 2013 book Pretty in Ink: North American Women Cartoonists 1896–2013 by Trina Robbins:

[A] male pseudonym seemed to be required for action strips, starting with Caroline Sexton who, in 1934, signed “C. M. Sexton” to Luke and Duke. From Cecilia Paddock Munson, who often signed her work either “Pad” or “Paddock Munson,” to Ramona “Pat” Patenaude, to Dale Messick and Tarpe Mills, the women of the 1940s seemed to believe at least in part upon having a male name.

From a 2009 review of the book Looking In, about photographer Robert Frank:

On November 7 1955, part-way through a two-year, Guggenheim-funded voyage around America, the photographer Robert Frank was arrested by Arkansas state police who suspected he was a communist. Their reasons: he was a shabbily dressed foreigner, he was Jewish, he had letters of reference from people with Russian-sounding names, he had photographed the Ford plant, possessed foreign whisky and his children had foreign names (Pablo and Andrea).

For more quotes about names, check out the name quotes category.

Image: © 1947 LIFE

[Latest update: Oct. 2023]

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