I once met myself at a trade show. It was a very strange sensation. I had a meeting scheduled with an executive who was also meeting with another Howard Baldwin later that day. “Come by when he’s here,” the executive said. “I’ll introduce you.” I did, and it was … weird.
Though apparently this happens pretty frequently. There are only so many names to go around, after all – that’s why there are Jim Smith Societies. But my names aren’t that common. According to the Web site HowManyofMe, there are only 130 Howard Baldwins in the U.S. If I – or any of us – ever sell a screenplay, or begin to act, we’ll have to use our middle name or initial to differentiate ourselves, because one of us is a movie producer named Howard Baldwin (see photograph).
He didn’t start out as a movie producer, interestingly enough. He owned two hockey teams in succession – the Hartford Whalers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, and started out in the movies producing a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie set during a hockey game called Sudden Death. It apparently was more fun than hockey, because he went on to do movies with better actors such as Ray, the biography of Ray Charles with Jamie Foxx, and Sahara, with Matthew McConaughey.
As I say, this name confusion isn’t uncommon. The reason actor Michael J. Fox had to use his middle initial was because there already was an actor named Michael Fox. The older Michael Fox made a great living playing doctors and coroners on crime shows like Perry Mason and Burke’s Law; you’d recognize him if you saw him. The Screen Actors Guild doesn’t allow actors to have the same names, because it would get really confusing when it came time to send out residuals.
This is why actor Stewart Granger couldn’t use his original name. It was James Stewart.
I’ve been noticing this name issue more often recently. I have a former co-worker whose first novel is coming out next month. Fortunately, she’s being published under her married name, because her maiden name is Margaret Mitchell.
But beyond that, I’m sensing this name thing really isn’t a problem for most people.
● When I ran across a technology executive named David Caruso (CSI: Miami), I e-mailed him to see whether he had issues having the same name as the actor. He never replied.
● I interviewed a database administrator named Herb Vogel, and he didn’t even know there was a character actor with the same name (who’s probably most famous for having played Darrin Stephens’ father).
● I posed this question on Yahoo Answers, but apparently I wasn’t specific enough in my phrasing. I asked to hear from people who had the same names as famous people, and I got two kinds of answers. There were the people who said, “Yes, I was named after Melanie in Gone With the Wind.” (Uh, not quite what I meant.) And then there were the people who complained that they had the same first and last name of people who were supposedly famous, except that I’d never heard of them (who’s Megan Fox?).
Nor is it a problem for me. There is little chance I’ll ever sell a screenplay, and if I do, I have no problem using my middle name, because my middle name is in honor of Roger Baldwin, one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union (we’re not related).
And do you know what’s really not a problem? If by accident I start getting movie producer Howard Baldwin’s residual checks.