Yesterday, I cleaned out the bookcases in the living room, dusting everything. I could have planted petunias in the dust covering those books. In cleaning, I couldn't help but pull a few books out and set them aside. These were some I'd accumulated this last year. I had eventually shelved them because I didn't have the time to read them.
With the goal of making a dent in the print books TBR, I started with the one I want to tell you about today.
Pseudonyms: The Names Behind The Names by Joseph F. Clarke
This book was in a throwaway pile at a local school. I rescued it. I'd love to give you a link to a new copy of this book because it's an informative and highly entertaining book. Unfortunately, it has a 1977 Copyright. A quick search online showed a copy at ABE Books as well as an Amazon page that has links to used copies.
Many of the pseudonyms the author discloses are of Hollywood icons of the golden age, well-known politicians, and, of particular interest to writers, famous authors. What's so interesting are the stories of how these famous people ended up with the names by which we know them.
Take Veronica Lake
If you don't recognize the name, Ms. Lake was the actress known for her side-swept blond hair that nearly obscured one side of her face. Here's a pop culture reference to help you place her. In the movie L. A. Confidential starring Russell Crowe and Guy Pierce, Kim Bassinger played a call girl -- and won an Oscar for her portrayal of a blonde -- "cut to look like Veronica Lake."
(Note: The image shown here is from Wikipedia. As stated on Wikipedia, "This is a standard publicity photo taken to promote a film role. As stated by film production expert Eve Light Honathaner in The Complete Film Production Handbook, (Focal Press, 2001 p. 211.): Publicity photos (star headshots) have traditionally not been copyrighted. Since they are disseminated to the public, they are generally considered public domain, and therefore clearance by the studio that produced them is not necessary.)
In the preface of the book, which is excerpted from W. H. Allen's Veronica, (Book not found online.) we learn that Veronica Lake was Constance Keane, a perfectly good, even rather elegant sounding name. The problem was that MGM producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr. did not like the name. The long and the short of it was that he summoned her to his office and proceeded to talk her through the name-picking process.
"It has to do with images," he told her. Then, he looked at her and said he thought when people looked at her deep, navy-blue eyes, that they would feel calm, like the calm of a lake. Then he decided that he wanted something more normal than the trend to the outlandish like Tab (Hunter) and Rock (Hudson). Because Connie Keane had classic features, he chose Veronica, a classic name.
Thus, Veronica Lake, to her dismay was born. She didn't like the name because her mother, with whom she had a difficult relationship, was often called Veronica. In fact, she cursed and wept, but it did no good.
How wonderful to rescue a book and find it a complete delight.