Stage name

Stage name

A stage name, also called a screen name, is a pseudonym used by performers and entertainers such as actors, comedians, music performers, clowns, and professional wrestlers.

Motivation to use a stage name

Performers often take a stage name because their real name is considered unattractive, dull, unintentionally amusing or difficult to pronounce or spell, or because it has been used by another notable individual or projects the wrong image. Sometimes a performer adopts a name that is unusual or outlandish to attract attention. Other performers such as pornography performers use a stage name to retain their anonymity. The equivalent concept among writers is called a nom de plume or pen name, while the term ring name is used in wrestling.

Family connection

Some individuals who are related to a celebrity take a different last name so that they are not perceived to have received undue benefit from their family connection. Examples of these include Nicolas Cage (real name Nicholas Coppola, nephew of Francis Ford Coppola) and Mike McGear (brother of Paul McCartney). Conversely, individuals who wish to receive benefit from their family connections may take that loved one's first or last name. For example, Lon Chaney Sr.’s son Creighton spent a number of years appearing in minor roles before renaming himself Lon Chaney Jr.. Emilio Estévez chose not to take his father Martin Sheen’s professional name and uses his birth name; however, Emilio's brother Carlos chose to use their father's professional name, and took the name Charlie Sheen.

Guild and association rules

Guilds and associations that represent actors, such as the Screen Actors Guild in the United States and British Actors' Equity Association in the United Kingdom, stipulate that no two members may have identical working names. An actor whose name has already been taken must choose a new name. Notable examples include Nathan Lane, whose birth name, Joseph Lane, was already in use, Stewart Granger, whose birth name was James Stewart, and Michael Keaton, born Michael Douglas. The latter chose the last name Keaton simply because he was an admirer of actress Diane Keaton, who in turn had changed her name from Diane Hall. Michael Andrew Fox became Michael J. Fox because a Michael Fox was already a member of the Screen Actors' Guild.

A person hoping to become successful as an entertainer who has a name identical to a name already familiar to the public (in any field of endeavor) may change his/her name in order to not have his/her name evoke the other person with that name. By way of example, the actor/writer/director Albert Brooks, had been named "Albert Einstein" by his parents and chose a different second name so that his name would not be a distraction that would evoke the renowned physicist of the same name [[Albert Einstein|].

Ethnicity

In the past, a stage name was often used when a performer's real name was considered to denote a specific ethnicity that faced potential discrimination. One of the most famous examples of this type of name change involved Freddie Mercury of Queen, who was born Farrokh Bulsara to Parsi parents; his name change was partly intended to conceal his heritage. Historically, Jews in Hollywood were encouraged to anglicize their names to avoid possible discrimination. This still happens to a degree (Jon Stewart, Brad Garrett, and Natalie Portman for instance), but the growing acceptance of ethnic performers in the performing arts has made this occurrence less frequent. Ramon Estévez changed his name to Martin Sheen, because he expected a better reception for an Irish name than a Hispanic name; his sons made divergent choices: Carlos Irwin Estévez is now Charlie Sheen, while Emilio Estévez left his name unchanged.

Ease of use

Another consideration in choosing a stage name is ease of use. The Actors' Equity Association (AEA) advises performers to select a name that is easy for others to pronounce, spell, and remember. Some performers while paying great attention to their skills and abilities give little thought to the difference that a well-thought-out name can make to their career. Often it is only after the realization that a poorly chosen name results in an undesired impression that a person or group decides on a different name.

Actor Michael Caine was born Maurice Micklewhite and chose the name Michael because he preferred the sound of it to the less glamorous-sounding "Maurice". He chose the name Caine reputedly because at the precise instant he needed to decide upon his new stage name, he saw a cinema marquee for the then-current movie The Caine Mutiny and thought that it would make a good last name in conjunction with Michael. ("Had I looked the other direction," he would later quip, "I'd be known as Michael The One Hundred and One Dalmatians.")

Relevance to image

Commonly in the music world, and especially those of heavy metal, punk rock, industrial and hip hop, musicians will rechristen themselves with names more menacing than their birth names. Examples include Slash, Sting, Darby Crash, Johnny Rotten, Zakk Wylde, Varg Vikernes, Nivek Ogre, Dimebag Darrell, Trey Azagthoth, Vintersorg and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein as well as every member of Avenged Sevenfold (M. Shadows, The Rev, Synyster Gates, Zacky Vengeance, and Johnny Christ). Being that those genres pride themselves on a larger-than-life quality, larger-than-life names are desirable. Madonna, Prince, and Pink are pop music examples, though both Madonna and Prince were given those names at birth. Every member of the punk band The Ramones took the pseudonymous "Ramone" surname as part of their stage persona.

Actor John Wayne's real name was Marion Morrison. He adopted the stage name because the name Marion was not masculine enough for the cowboy characters he portrayed.

Euphony and ease of remembrance

Some performers and artists may choose to simplify their name to make it easier to spell and pronounce (and easier for others to remember). For instance, Andy Warhol dropped an "a" from his original name, Warhola, while couturier Yves Mathieu-Saint-Laurent dropped the first of his three surnames. Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Piero Filiberto Guglielmi adopted the stage name Rudolph Valentino in part because American casting directors found his original surname difficult to pronounce.

Some surnames may carry unfortunate connotations in English. Hal Linden, born Harold Lipshitz, adopted his stage name for fear that the embedded obscenity in his original surname could cost him work. Ralph Lauren's brother (who was his guardian) changed their family name from Lifshitz for a similar reason: fear of mockery.

Musical use

Some types of music are more associated with stage names than others. For example rap artists almost always use stage names, whereas "classical" composers and performers virtually never do. Some Algerian raï musicians use Cheb (for men) or Chaba (Chebba) for women. Both Arabic words mean "young" (e.g. as in Cheb Khaled, or "Young Khaled"). Some performers take a series of different stage names. The British pop singer successful in the 1970s as Alvin Stardust previously went by the stage name of Shane Fenton in the 1960s. He had been born Bernard William Jewry. Some performers will use different names in different settings. Charles Thompson, singer/songwriter for the alternative band the Pixies, was known in that band as Black Francis. He was called Frank Black as a solo performer, and again called Black Francis in a reunited Pixies.

Many performers refer to their stage name as their "professional name." In some cases performers subsequently adopt their stage name as their legal name. For instance, the former Robert Allen Zimmerman's legal name has been Robert Dylan (Bob Dylan) since he changed it in New York City Supreme Court in August 1962. Elton John was born Reginald Dwight but changed his name by deed poll and subsequently took that name as his real name. When he was knighted, he became Sir Elton John rather than Sir Reginald Dwight. Sometimes a person who has adopted his professional name as a legal name will change it back to his birth name later on, as Elvis Costello (born Declan McManus) did in 1986. Names so adopted are technically no longer "stage names," though are often perceived as such by the public.

Sometimes, but not exclusively, due to restrictive recording contracts, many musicians are known to have appeared on other performers' recordings using names other than their own.

See also

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