Joshua Micah Marshall of TPM wrote a long post to say his dad died.
My dad passed in 1999. I miss him more as time goes by. My sympathies.
But something nagged at me, reading Marshall’s biography of his father. The name of Joshua Micah Marshall’s dad was Alan Cohen. His late mother was named Sandra Cohen.
So where’d the Marshall come from? (Could have been Sandra’s maiden name. He doesn’t say.)
Now, a lot of famous people (and not-famous people) change their names. Alan Alda was born Alphonse D’Abruzzo. (His father had the same name, but one of his dad’s middle names was Roberto, so he was Robert Alda. Alan changed his name when he became an actor.) It used to be quite common for people to hide their ethnicity behind an "Americanized" name.
This is especially popular among people whose last name was Cohen, which I always thought was a short, snappy name. (As opposed to Blankenhorn, which is constantly misspelled and has more n’s than the law allows.) Leonard Cohen, great songwriter. Richard Cohen, well known columnist. Sascha Cohen, good little actress. Wikipedia has a whole page full of Cohens.
But there’s more. Rodney Dangerfield was born Jacob Cohen. (Joshua Micah Dangerfield has a ring to it.) Howard Cosell was born Howard Cohen. (Joshua Micah Cosell?) Mama Cass Eliot? Yep, Ellen Naomi Cohen. (Joshua Micah Cass? Papa Josh?)
Most of those people changed their last names because the originals were considered "too Jewish." Leonard Rosenberg became Tony Randall, and Emmanuel Goldenberg became Edward G. Robinson. Tony Curtis was Bernard Schwartz. (My favorite? The original name of Michael Keaton was Michael Douglas.) Carole King was Carole Klein. (Did Calvin mind? He was born Richard Klein, by the way.)
Another reason to change a name is to dress it up. David Bowie was born David Jones. Chubby Checker was Ernest Evans. Whoopi Goldberg was born Caryn Johnson. Queen Latifah was Dana Owens. (I figure that makes her a relative of mine.)
Movie studios also created many famous names. MGM had a contest in
the 1920s to change the name of starlet Lucille LeSueur. The winner got
$500 for the name Joan Crawford.
Now, Blankenhorn is no star name. The closest to fame that name has
come, according to family legend, was in the movie San Francisco. The
person Clark Gable was playing, the saloon-keeper named Blackie? It was
based on a real Blackie. Blackie Blankenhorn. (But I believe his given
name was David.)
Why did Josh Cohen become Joshua Micah Marshall? I don’t know. It fits
better at Princeton, maybe, or in Washington. (Maybe Richard Cohen objected.) Maybe Josh Cohen would be
easily ridiculed by the "Kewl Kids" or the far-right bloggers. But I
never imagined such things mattered to Joshua Micah Marshall. Besides,
what those Hollywood types were trying to hide is still there, right there, in the middle name. Not that
there’s anything wrong with that. (Jerry Seinfeld’s given name? Jerry Seinfeld.)
Just shows a little insecurity I didn’t know was there before. And his father’s death is a heck of a time to learn of it. (How about if I became King LaBlogo. No?)