It was way back in the 80s, but I still remember my mother announcing that Kristie Alley had replaced Shelley Long on Cheers. The only problem is her name wasn’t and isn’t Kristie Alley. Of course it’s Kirstie Alley.
Gwyneth Paltrow has an unusual name. Yet so many people seem to think it’s okay to refer to her as Gwen. It’s not. Gwen is not the diminutive for Gwyneth. She’s Gwyneth, not Gwenyth.
Why am I talking about this? Because so many people seem to think my heroine is called Wesley Shaw.
It’s not proved to be a popular name. So many people have told me I should change it. Or they look at the title and say “Wesley Shaw”—which is another way to telling me I should change it.
I picked Welsey because as far as I know there is no one with that name. I’ve never seen evidence of a single person, male or female, named Welsey. It’s meant to be unique, like her. The problem is, lots of people immediately see “Wesley.”
To be clear, there is already an actor Wesley—Wesley Snipes. And there’s Wesley Clark, a U.S. General.
But there’s no Wesley Shaw.
I’d originally briefly considered naming her Lindsay Shaw, because I like that name so much.
But I was afraid people would think I was alluding to another troublesome actress with the same first name. I’m not. But I wanted to make sure there was no confusion.
Plus, imdb says there are a couple actresses already named Lindsay Shaw.
I guess it’s just not distinctive enough.
So it’s Welsey. Some editor or agent may ask me to change it. But I’m not going to. That’s for sure.
She’s been in the news more than just about anyone else this past week, but probably for reasons she doesn’t like.
Gwyneth Paltrow, self-anointed guru of … practically anything … saw her GOOP website crash when she posted that she and rocker-husband Chris Martin are divorcing.
OOOPS! Sorry, they are “consciously uncoupling.” Don’t say the “D” word. (The uncoupling term comes from a lifestyle guru, one of many people the movie star follows in her quest to be the Perfect Person.)
But Gwynnie’s managed to get even more attention for something else she then said. Gwyneth believes that you have it easier if you’re raising kids than she does, because, well, being a famous movie star is tough. You plebeians just don’t appreciate it because you’re, well, plebeians:
“It’s much harder for me…you [working moms] can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening. When you’re shooting a movie, they’re like, ‘We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks,’ and then you work 14 hours a day and that part of it is very difficult. I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it’s not like being on set.”
Really, even for her, wow.
There’s all sorts of theories why people dislike Gwyneth Paltrow, but I think the most obvious is that she has manufactured everything about her life, from leveraging her godfather connection with Steven Spielberg to get her first gig to threatening to destroy Vanity Fair, Louella Parsons-style, by telling everyone she knows never to speak to the magazine again for daring to write a story that her life was less than perfect. The exact contents of this article will never be known, but the fact that the divor—um, conscious uncoupling (Angelina to Brad: “Dammit, now what are we going to call our divorce?”) came just a few months later is surely no coincidence. (Paltrow admits she and Martin have been trying to patch things for “well over a year,” according to her site.) Vanity Fair later killed the piece they’d originally implied would be a bombshell, saying actually it wasn’t all that interesting after all. Yes, movie stars typically do everything in their power to squash an article that “isn’t very interesting.”
Sometimes I wonder if Paltrow actually uses her perch at her website as an act of sour aggression. She can’t be so dumb as not to realize that when she raves about $400 silk T-shirts and $10,000 room make-overs she’s rubbing our noses in it, all the while seemingly “surprised” if you’d think these are little more than small splurges. She must realize that ordinary people don’t have nannies and assistants, and don’t hire decorators to do their house. She has played some ordinary people in movies, after all.
Some critics call her tone-deaf. I think it goes a lot deeper than that. Gwyneth Paltrow, under the sunny exterior, has contempt for the plain, boring people who have made her rich and famous—something Welsey Shaw, for all her shortcomings, does not.
Her GOOPsite is a plethora of “look how superior I am to you”-ness. She famously condemned Americans for being shallow materialists—“…I was at a party and a girl looked at me and said, ‘Oh, my God! Are those Juicy jeans that you’re wearing?’ … I have to get back to Europe.”—and then opened a retail store in L.A. that extols exactly that kind of conspicuous consumption. There are people who genuinely want to share something that makes their lives better. And there are people who want to tell you about the great things they have knowing you probably can’t have them yourself. They will listen to you talk about how stressful just getting by can be, and then recommend a month of golf in Hawaii as the cure.
Gwyneth is that second kind. She enjoys diminishing you even as you line up to see her films or buy items from the product lines she hawks. Her perfection is pointless without an audience. After all, if a perfect tree fell perfectly in the perfect forest and there was no one to hear it, there’d be no sound.
No wonder Harvey Weinstein stopped letting her use the Miramax jet. She probably kept leaving gum under the seat.
She has stated that she only lets her children watch TV if it’s in French or Spanish. This might not be so hard to swallow if she practiced what she preached, but she continues to do American films and television, and cash hefty American paychecks for doing it.
In a way I feel sorry for her. She’s an empty vessel. There’s nothing there, no soul, just macrobiotic Kabala. And the narcissistic desire to be envied. Our attention—I was about to say approval, but she doesn’t care about approval, only attention—is what drives her.
Since she’s so into speaking French, I wonder if she knows the phrase faux pas.
Really, Gwynnie, perhaps you should let everyday people give advice to everyday people.
More about her latest one here:
How would you like to have Snoop Dogg say hello for you on your answering machine?
Or send your friends a celebrity greeting from Kendall Jenner? Birthday or anniversary wishes from James Stewart? (The motorcross racer, not the movie star.)
I wouldn’t either, but it’s a new and perhaps not-surprising trend being marketed by several companies, such as this one. In this day of digital files it’s a pretty simple idea, and I’m surprised it isn’t more wide-spread: getting celebrities to customize greetings or messages from you, mentioning your name, acting as though they’re hanging with you. I’d expect to hear the voices of Morgan Freeman (“You’ve reached Kevin’s answering machine. But Kevin is out somewhere, we don’t know where or when he’ll return. Some bids are not meant to be caged. Their feathers are too bright…”) or Gwyneth Paltrow (“Hi, you’ve reached Gwynnie, but I’m busy cooking with celebrity chef Mario Batali right now, so leave a macrobiotic message and I’ll call you when I’m finished redecorating the spare room in my fabulous New York apartment.”)
However, neither of those celebrities is part of the website. In fact, I think it’s a stretch to call a lot of these people (University of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, rapper Ice-T, Real Housewives of Atlanta star Phaedra Parks, television “personality” Coco) honest celebrities at all. And there are a lot of stale or fallen celebs, such as Catherine Bach from The Dukes of Hazard and disgraced baseball star Pete Rose, whom I’ve blogged about before, incredibly. And of course, there are a couple of Jenners/Kardashians, because, well, there always seem to be Jenners/Kardashians.
But you can get messages from the likes of Justin Bieber, who was a genuine celebrity even before he started making orange the new black. I imagine a greeting from him might go like, “Yo, this is the Beebs, answering Jim’s machine because they paid me lots of money to. Jim’s not here, but give me your number and I’ll call back and spit on you.” Actually, though, you can just click on the sound samples to hear some possible messages.
I wonder what the turn-around is for these things (they are supposedly customized). I also wonder how many people on the receiving end will just assume it’s a celebrity impersonator and not be all that impressed. Many years ago, back in the early 90s, I misdialed a number and got someone doing a perfect Jack Nicholson on their machine. It was so impressive I remembered the number and would call back once in a while just for a laugh. (The guy never seemed to be home.)
It’s amazing the hold celebrities have on people that they would want one to talk on their voicemail, especially since most of them don’t leave particularly amusing or funny messages, judging by the samples. I also wonder why anyone would be impressed at this point by Charlie Sheen or Justin Bieber to pay money for their voice, even if it’s only four bucks per recording. As for some of the others…well, Dr. Phil? I think anyone who wants some of these people on their answering machine needs someone like Dr. Phil. But a real doctor. Not a celebrity. Just my opinion, and what do I know? I don’t even have my own voice greeting on my phone. I just kept the generic one that came with the machine, which has all the personality of, well, a machine: Hel-lo. Leave a mes-sage at the tone—BEEEEEP.
Word has it that Gwyneth Paltrow, whose career was super-hot in the late ’90s and early 2000s, is after Claire Danes, whose career is super-hot now.
Gwynnie apparently would like to do a movie with the Homeland star. She’d also like to guest on the Showtime melodrama, which is all about the CIA post-9/11.
In the movie that Gwynnie’s envisioning for herself, the two thespians would be sisters. Sources say Paltrow is interested in this because she feels they are doppelgangers.
Well, they’re both skinny and they’re both blondes. To me that’s where the similarity ends.
Oh wait, they both married Brits.
They both have children—or at least Gwyneth has children and Claire has a child. Gwyneth gave her first child a weird name: Apple. (“It sounded so sweet and it conjured such a lovely picture for me—you know, apples are so sweet and they’re wholesome and it’s biblical … and … clean!”) Claire gave her child a normal name: Cyrus.
Gwyneth says she suffered from postpartum depression. Claire admits she’s been depressed in her life, and has gone to a therapist since she was a child.
Both were in movies about the theater and acting. Gwyneth was in the better movie, Shakespeare in Love, a witty and clever tale in the style of a Shakespeare comedy, but in my opinion she wasn’t all that good in it. Claire was in Stage Beauty, a vastly inferior film that was probably made possible by Shakespeare In Love‘s success. But in my opinion Claire’s performance was light-years better.
Claire tends to avoid social media and is very private. She shops for antiques and belongs to a bookclub. Gwyneth has her own commerce website, GOOP, where she tells you what kind of parties to throw and where to buy $1000 outfits for your pre-schoolers.
Both have been quoted extensively:
Sources claim Danes is cool to the joint-movie idea. She doesn’t like to plan far ahead, they say. But it’s amusing that just five years ago her career was at a standstill. How quickly times change.
I remember a scathing review in the Boston Globe of Danes’ performance in Stardust. The critic found particular irony in the fact that Ms. Danes was portraying a fallen star. He said she looked pained to be in the film. She was a fair maiden caught taking out the garbage. And that was just the start of the vitriol. But don’t believe me—here’s the whole review. I’m betting this guy isn’t on Ms. Danes’ Christmas card list.
Not that Paltrow hasn’t gotten her share of nastiness from critics—everyone does—but the consensus a few years ago was Danes was an “it” girl gone stale. Now she’s The Comeback Kid.
Paltrow hasn’t been on the screen so much…Ironman franchise the one exception.
It’s amazing how fleeting fame is, and how everything you do right one day is something you do wrong the next—something Entertaining Welsey Shaw is about.
No matter what the reason for Danes’ reluctance to co-star with her “twin,” I’d have to point out that this idea Paltrow has—the pairing of two, let’s face it, divas—rarely works. Paul Newman and Steve McQueen were among the hottest stars of the early and mid ’70s. Someone got the notion to put them both in a blockbuster, The Towering Inferno. The trouble was, who was the bigger star? In Newman’s eyes it was Newman and in McQueen’s eyes it was McQueen. It got so bad that each began counting lines and scenes in the script, and protesting when one had more than the other. So if a new scene were added for, say, McQueen, Newman required a new one be added for him. Billing became a nightmare.
Finally they decided to put one name first on the American posters and another on the overseas posters. But the opening credits still presented a problem. Here they ingeniously came up with “diagonal billing”: Who came first depended on whether you read the screen from left to right or top to bottom. (They did something similar with the opening credits to Jaws a short time later, though I think it’s fairly clear Roy Scheider is the star.)
It’s interesting to me that prior to Claire’s resurgence, Gwynnie didn’t seem interested in teaming up with her; to the best of my knowledge she never mentioned her. Since Danes has a terrific career going already, and Paltrow can surely get projects developed simply by picking up the phone, it might be best if these two just stayed Facebook friends for now. xoxo!
This post is getting rerun today because I’ve decided to make a major name change in my story. From now on my narrator, for reasons that matter only to me, will be Joe, not Daniel, Ferreira. Other, lesser, names have changed too.
“That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” — Bill Shakespeare
Believe it or not, it’s one of the hardest parts of fiction writing, at least for me: coming up with names.
If the name isn’t convincing, the character won’t be. That’s my take, anyway, which is odd because when you think about it names are actually pretty random in real life. Oh, we think there are “typical” names for people. But in reality there aren’t, unless you subscribe to the thought that our names determine what we do. Yet we’re set up to think there are “right” and “wrong” names for people: consider Yul Brynner (yes, that was his real name), or Omar Sharif (no, that wasn’t). And doesn’t Burl Ives just look like a Burl Ives? You somehow just wouldn’t buy a car or a resort timeshare from someone named Lennie Slickman, would you? But how about investing with someone named Vincent Johnson? A little easier?
I agonize over names. Really agonize. I think they’re as important to the inevitability of your characters as the sound of their dialogue or their depth, or back-story. And I keep making alterations. There are often wholesale changes as drafts go on. This applies to fictional places too–restaurants, and so forth.
For the present story I made up the name Welsey Shaw because I wanted something unique (I can’t find any evidence of any real woman currently with the name Welsey) as well as something that had a trace of “blue-blood” in it. Something that would represent a pale, blonde thespian perfectly. Gwyneth Paltrow is perfect—that’s blood bluer than a Smurf’s. But she’s already using it.
For my male protagonist, I wanted a more “meat and potatoes” name. Daniel Ferreira was originally Michael Ferreira, but I liked Daniel more. It was easy enough to change from draft one to draft two with a word processor. I think of how an editor at Macmillan decided that Margaret Mitchell’s heroine should be named Scarlet and not Pansy O’Hara, and told some lowly copy editor to change it every time it appeared in the manuscript. That must have been fun.
Back in the classic Hollywood days they were always changing actors’ names. Think of Cary Grant. Joan Crawford. John Wayne. Cary Grant sounds gracious, and there’s just no way Marion Mitchell Morrison could get all those settlers over the rugged mountains and onward to safety the way John Wayne could. How sexy is Norma Jeane Mortenson? (Not very.)
Somehow, you know Woody Allen is a comedian; Allan Stewart Konigsberg is an historian, or should be. Luke Skywalker and not Deke Starkiller is your clean-cut sci-fi hero and Scarlett and not Pansy OHara is your romantic lead. Seriously, can you picture Clark Gable (now there’s a name, and it was his) saying, “Frankly, Pansy, I don’t give a damn”?
Today it seems name-changing isn’t as prevalent as it used to be, except for rappers. (Let’s face it, Robert Matthew Van Winkle carries little street cred.) Movie and TV stars tend to keep their real names far more often, even if they’re highly unusual (Kaley Cuoco). Partly it’s because we’ve grown more comfortable with ethnically-diverse names. Once Cameron Diaz might have been unthinkable, especially for a blue-eyed “all American” blonde. Keep in mind that 1950s network executives thought it was ridiculous that Lucille Ball (another real name) would be married to Desi Arnaz in a TV show, even though they were in real life.
But the right name is still important. After all, there’s a reason Thomas Mapother IV changed his.