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What’s in a name? Everything, argues Peter Sherwood.
Changing your moniker can bring out the real you

I wonder if Inga DeCarlo Fung Marchand would have become a Rapp star. But as Foxy Brown she did. Imagine Archibald Leach as a heart throb of the silver screen, or Marion Morrison the macho hero of countless Westerns and war movies. But as Cary Grant, Leach captured the hearts of millions of women worldwide. And although he never fought a war, Morrison, John Wayne, became a rugged man-god.

Would Maurice Mickelwhite have achieved six Academy Award nominations? As Michael Caine he made it (the name was inspired by a poster he saw for the Humphrey Bogart classic The Caine Mutiny). Frances Gumm an iconic star? Likely, not. Which is why the studio named her Judy Garland.

Some other invented monikers brought catastrophe for millions. A Georgian named Jughashvili (son of a shepherd) was educated in a seminary, changed his name to Stalin (man of steel) and went on to herd millions into torture chambers, imprisonment and death. He is presently dead, leaving this life age 73, about 73 years too late.

Clearly, he enjoyed inflicting gratuitous horrors on his people for decades, or he wouldn’t have bothered. He was ‘Jovial Jo’, loving his work. The Gulags of icy Siberia were his Disneyland. About 14 million mostly innocents passed through these nightmarish gates, the majority having such a good time they never left.

A star turn of Jolly Jo was the Great Famine of 1932-33: the Holodomor (to kill by starving). Grain-rich Ukraine lost most of their crops to Russia and about 5 million people. Jo was on a roll. Moscow’s loving Lubyanka liquidation centre was the place to welcome citizens for intensive suffering seminars. Gently terrorised by the NKVD to stunning reviews, those who were bored with having their hair and fingernails ripped out opted for a bullet in the noggin after having too much fun. About 800,000 took this less merry option.

‘Happy Hitler’ had an even better time than jubilant Jo, killing 29 million Soviets in his invasion, and challenging Stalin for the title of funniest dictator. Moreover, Hitler loved his dog, and it is forever a stain on Stalin’s character that he never owned one.

Amiable Adolf went on to slaughter 50 million, mutilate 100 million and generously allow more than that number to seek new accommodation. He would never have achieved all these cheerful milestones had his father not changed the family name from Schicklgruber, hardly a word to provoke mass murder.

Compared to altruistic Adolf, Jo was a pussy cat. For the first time in history genial Adolf arranged genocide on an industrial scale. In terms of sheer terror, they were pretty even with the NKVD and Gestapo vying for the Best Agonising Atrocity and Most Humbling Misery awards. Both geniuses brilliantly employed the mind police technique to great effect, with neighbours finding themselves minus their heads for failing the basic clairvoyance test of not knowing what their friends’ workmates were thinking.

As peace-loving pathological sociopaths there was little between them. In the ‘cuddly’ stakes, it was a toss-up, with affectionate Adolf taking Best Girlfriend, and kindly Jo winning Thickest Moustache. Hitler has no heir. Stalin has Putin.

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