Name: Michael Jordan
Age: 51 (“Almost two years older than the other Michael Jordan.”) Residence: Rye / Famous Counterpart: Basketball star Occupation: Advertising exec. “I have worked with Charles Barkley, Spike Lee, Magic Johnson, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer—just about every athlete… except MJ.”
What is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you because of your name? There are too many to recount, but here are two: At the famous Los Angeles Ivy Restaurant, the maître d’ moved Michael Dukakis and his wife out of the corner table to accommodate my reservation. When I showed up, Dukakis, who had recently run for president, was flummoxed. He must have been thinking, ‘Who is this guy?’ I wanted to say to him, ‘Sorry, but you only carried a few states.’ And Michael Jordan’s father, James Jordan, was killed about nineteen years ago. My father was also named James Jordan. This created quite a bit of confusion, and I had many people calling me up to offer their condolences.
How do clients, et cetera, react to your name? Predictably. I used to keep a tally of their reactions. Thirty-five percent would say, ‘You look taller/darker on TV.’ Twenty-five percent would say, ‘I thought you retired.’ And ten percent would ask, ‘Where’s Scottie Pippen?’ Of course, now all they say, ‘Have you seen that ESPN commercial?’
Can you play basketball? Yes. I was quite good as a kid, but I never grew. My wish as a child was that when people heard my name, they’d say, ‘He was the greatest player of all time.’ And it came true! And it really wasn’t that hard.
Do you ever wish that you had a different name? Of course not. Think about it. My name means, ‘The absolute best.’ How often do you say, ‘He’s the Michael Jordan of…’
Name: Elizabeth Taylor
Age: 58 / Residence: Tuckahoe / Famous Counterpart: Actress and social activist / Occupation: Customer service, FedEx
How do people you meet react when you tell them your name? They’re always delighted.
Have you considered becoming an actress? No, but I just got my demos for voice-overs. I will be pursuing that soon.
Do you ever wish that you had a different name? Yes. I have to do cold calls at work, and when I have to tell customers that ‘Liz Taylor’ is calling, most customers don’t believe me, some hang up, and one customer told me, ‘Yeah, and I’m Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm!’ and slammed the phone down.
What do you and Elizabeth Taylor have most in common? Inner beauty.
Are you a big fan of the Hollywood icon? Absolutely. I admire her in all aspects, as an activist, as a mother, and as a person with a big heart.
How does it feel to have the same name as one of the Golden Age’s biggest stars? Absolutely wonderful. And I have a brother named Robert Taylor, so it just keeps getting better!
Name: George Burns
Age: 50 / Residence: Fleetwood / Famous Counterpart: Comedian and actor / Occupation: Owner, Magna-Dry Carpet Cleaning & Restoration, Mount Vernon
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you because of your name? I was let into the Westchester Open and given carte blanche about fifteen years ago. The kid working there thought that I was a celebrity. The comedian George Burns happened to be on the same list, and they would not let him in! I had a great day until the security came and asked me to leave. Well, I showed them my ID, and as it was all a misunderstanding, I was let back onto the course.
Do you wish you could change any part of your name? Oh God, no!
Do you consider yourself a person who can make people laugh? Absolutely.
Have you ever gotten any ‘raised eyebrows’ from clients when you told them your full name? Yes, especially when I bumped into someone named Lucifer!
Do you ever see yourself staying in business for as long as the famed comedian? Yes, and them some!
Are you in any way as taken to smoking an occasional cigar? I have given up smoking for good going on five years now. But I used to indulge—I would love an occasional Cohiba.
Name: Edward (Ted) Kennedy
Age: 27 / Residence: Stamford, CT / Famous Counterpart: Former US Senator / Occupation: Men’s furnishing manager, Lord & Taylor, Scarsdale
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you because of your name?
Once, when I was a kid, I entered a raffle for a BMX bike at a local sporting-goods store. I actually won, but they thought it was a joke and were going to throw away my ticket and pull another. My dad had to run up to the guy hosting the raffle and explain it was real. I got to keep the bike.
Do you wish you could change any part of your name? No. At this point, I barely notice the comments. Once when I was parking in one of those long-term lots at JFK, the attendant couldn’t spell my last name. I said, ‘Kennedy—like the airport—where you work.’ So I guess it doesn’t register with everyone.
Were you named after the former Senator? No, my full name is actually Edward Francis Kennedy IV, so technically I am named after my great-grandfather Edward, the first, who was born in Ireland in the early 1900s, long before the more famous Kennedys came on the scene. I go by ‘Ted’ because my dad goes by ‘Ned’ and my grandfather by ‘Ed,’ and my parents apparently have little imagination and needed to distinguish between us. Sometimes when people ask, I tell them the Senator was named after me.
Are you as impassioned by political issues as much as the former Senator?
I am interested in politics, but not because of my name. I could probably run for a small political office and win just because people would see the name on the ballot.
Name: Neil Armstrong
Age: 41 / Residence: Chappaqua / Famous Counterpart: Astronaut / Occupation: Social worker
What is the most ‘oddball’ thing that has ever happened to you because of your name? A group of children living in Norway woke me up one morning inquiring if I was the Neil Armstrong. They were studying American History and Neil Armstrong, and, on their break, they Googled the White Pages in New York.
How do new clients react to your name? Most of the time, a snicker, followed by an ‘I won’t say it; I am sure you’ve heard all the jokes,’ followed by the inevitable, ‘So, how was it up there?’ To which I reply, ‘Very cold…so cold it turned me into a black man.’
Did any part of you ever consider becoming an astronaut? No, not a single part of me.
Do you ever wish that you had a different name? Yes, especially when I am waiting in the doctor’s office and they announce my name. Usually I watch the other patients for a few seconds to see their response: an array of whispers and stares.