In an early scene of “Sweet Bird of Youth,” Chance Wayne tells The Princess Kosmonopolas that he always keeps a spare name in his pocket. “Don”t you?” he asks her.
This is a concept that I have long embraced. My various aliases have distinct personalities. Some even have their own appearances. One of my alter egos writes all my letters of complaint. The real “me” is too Southern and too polite to cause much trouble.
In New Orleans, my various identities not only had unique names, but distinctive wardrobes, as well. Occasionally, we all need to wear different hats. It”s just that in my case, switching the “hats” also involved extensive costume changes.
Some people only need one name. Cher and Madonna come to mind. “The Madonna” is someone else, altogether.
Of course, a few of us require an entire title. New Orleans musician Ernie K. Doe was the self-proclaimed “Emperor of the Universe.” “The King of Pop” always means Michael Jackson. Elvis was just “The King,” and John Wayne will forever be “Duke.” These guys certainly have a lot of royalty between them. That”s not the only thing they have in common. They”re all dead, too. Maybe it”s not a great idea to claim a regal designation.
Recently, it has become apparent that I need another fictitious persona. I have been following the Tri-City Roller Dolls, our own roller derby team. They all have a stage name, usually one that aims to inspire fear.
“Dixie Snarlin” is a personal friend, and a lovely person. I didn”t think this moniker was at all appropriate for her. She is a photographer and a talented writer. I have never seen her snarl.
“Sonja Blade” may be a terror in the rink. However, I know her as a very kind person, into animal rescue and a mother of two beautiful girls.
But, I do grasp the concept. A name says so much. There are names that make you think “bimbo,” or “nerd,” or maybe “redneck.” (I won”t say which ones.)
I”ve known a few “Diannas” in my life. They truly believed that they were goddesses. Just “Diane” is entirely different. Changing a letter or two removes any connection to the divine.
“Elizabeths” have the most choices. They may be “Liz,” or “Beth,” “Betty,” “Lib,” “Lisa” … well, I found 50 in English alone. (I didn”t count the ones in other languages.)
Each nickname evokes the image of an entirely distinctive person. Surely, a “Bess” is so very different from an “Izzy.”
But, back to my “roller derby” name. I will never again don roller skates. (My last experience ended badly, with a sprain and a fracture.)
However, I would like to have a name that arouses a bit of respect, if not complete terror. I would use this when dealing with aggressive telemarketers and rude people of every sort. You”ve heard of “road rage,” well this is my answer for “phone rage.”
Surely, The Princess Kosmonopolas understood what Chance meant by “keeping an extra name” in his pocket. She was really movie-star Alexandra Del Lago, traveling incognito. Oh, Tennessee Williams. If only you were here to pen my “roller derby” pseudonym.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.
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