The Quick 10: Why 10 Celebrities Picked Their Stage Names

It's common knowledge that celebrities often change their names because they want a more memorable moniker or a name that will look great on a marquee (or movie poster, these days). But why did they pick the names they would be known by for the rest of their lives? Let the Q10 fill you in"¦

lucy1. Joan Crawford's real name was Lucille LeSueur. Louis B. Mayer had her change her name because he thought the latter half of it sounded too much like "Le Sewer." Instead of letting her choose her own name, MGM publicity head held a contest in Movie Weekly that allowed fans to give her a new name. Lucille hated "Joan Crawford," thinking that "Crawford" sounded too much like "crawfish."
2. Cyd Charisse started life as Tula Elice Finklea. Despite the less-than-glam name, studio execs didn't exactly have to rename Cyd because "Sid" was her childhood nickname. It came about when one of her younger siblings was trying to pronounce "Sis" and it came out "Sid" instead. MGM changed the spelling to "Cyd" just to make her seem more exotic and mysterious. As for her last name, she came by that the usual way too: she married Nico Charisse and took his last name.

3. Jamie Foxx was born Eric Marlon Bishop. He changed his name when he started doing standup because he found that female comics often got to perform first "“ he thought "Jamie" was ambiguous enough that they wouldn't know if he was male or female and would at least put him mid-list somewhere. "Foxx" was in tribute to Redd Foxx, who also picked his own name"¦

4. Redd Foxx, AKA John Elroy Sanford (yup), got his first name because of the reddish tone in his hair. In fact, he was friends with Malcolm X, who used to call him "Chicago Red." When Redd started working in the entertainment business, he chose his new last name because of MLB power hitter Jimmie Foxx.

gaga5. Lady Gaga was known by a considerably longer name just a few years ago: Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. When music producer Rob Fusari was helping her develop an album, Queen's 1984 song "Radio Ga-Ga" came on the radio. He immediately made a connection between their old hit and her new sound, saying, "You are so Radio Gaga." Thus, Lady Gaga was born.
6. Judy Garland was also born with a decidedly unglamorous name: Frances Ethel Gumm. She and her siblings used to do vaudeville shows together as "The Gumm Sisters," but the audience would laugh every time their name was announced. Vaudeville veteran George Jessel eventually suggested that they change their names for that very reason, and Frances chose "Judy" based on a Hoagy Carmichael song. How the surname came about is really unknown "“ at least four versions of why it was chosen exist. One is that it came from Carole Lombard's character Lily Garland in the movie Twentieth Century. Another is that George Jessel once declared the sisterly trio was "prettier than a garland of flowers." And still another is that they chose it to flatter drama critic Robert Garland. So, take your pick. I like the garland of flowers story, myself.

7. Nina Simone used to be Eunice Kathleen Waymon, which doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it? When she started playing at the Midtown Bar & Grill in Atlantic City, she started going by the name we know her as today. The "Nina" was adapted from the Spanish "niña," meaning "little girl," because it's what an old boyfriend used to call her. "Simone" was for French actress Simone Signoret.

8. Stevie Wonder's real name was Steveland Morris, but because of his insane talent, people started calling him the little boy wonder when he first showed up on the Motown scene at the age of 10. Berry Gordy, Jr. capitalized on this and named him Little Stevie Wonder for his first Motown contract.

dita9. Dita Von Teese was born Heather Renee Sweet, which also sounds like a totally made up name. She took "Dita" from German actress Dita Parlo and wanted to just do a one-name kind of a thing, but when she landed the cover of Playboy, the execs at the magazine insisted that she use a last name. Not wanting to be "Dita Sweet," she randomly picked a name out of the phonebook. It was Von Treese. Playboy typoed it, and she ended up liking that version even better.
10. Nikki Sixx has a not-very rockstar name: Frank Carlton Serafino Ferrana, Jr. When he first started touring with a band, he called himself Nikki London because the band he was in was called London, but eventually he decided that was maybe not the best idea. He was considering new last names when he stumbled across his then-girlfriend's scrapbook; she had documented a time when she dated a musician from a band called Jon and the Nightriders. The musician's name was Niki Syxx. "I stole his name," Nikki admits. "I just liked it."

If you could pick your own stage name, what would it be? I can't think of anything that doesn't make me sound like a porn star, so I'll defer to you guys. Inspire me!

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The Star Trek Theme Song Has Lyrics
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Star Trek theme song is familiar to pretty much anyone who lived in the free world (and probably elsewhere, too) in the late 20th century. The tune is played during the show's opening credits; a slightly longer version is played, accompanied by stills from various episodes, during the closing credits. The opening song is preceded by William Shatner (as Captain Kirk) doing his now-legendary monologue recitation, which begins: "Space, the final frontier ..."

The show's familiar melody was written by respected film and TV composer Alexander Courage, who said the Star Trek theme's main inspiration was the Richard Whiting song "Beyond the Blue Horizon." In Courage's contract it was stipulated that, as the composer, he would receive royalties every time the show was aired and the theme song played. If, somehow, Star Trek made it into syndication—which, of course, it ultimately did—Courage stood to make a lot of money. And so did the person who wrote the lyrics.

WAIT... THERE WERE LYRICS?

Gene Roddenberry, the show's creator, wrote lyrics to the theme song.

"Beyond the rim of the star-light,
my love is wand'ring in star-flight!"

Why would Roddenberry even bother?

The lyrics were never even meant to be heard on the show, but not because the network (NBC) nixed them. Roddenberry nixed them himself. Roddenberry wanted a piece of the composing profits, so he wrote the hokey lyrics solely to receive a "co-writer" credit.

"I know he'll find in star-clustered reaches
Love, strange love a star woman teaches."

As one of the composers, Roddenberry received 50 percent of the royalties ... cutting Alexander Courage's share in half. Not surprisingly, Courage was furious about the deal. Though it was legal, he admitted, it was unethical because Roddenberry had contributed nothing to why the music was successful.

Roddenberry was unapologetic. According to Snopes, he once declared, "I have to get some money somewhere. I'm sure not gonna get it out of the profits of Star Trek."

In 1969, after Star Trek officially got the ax, no one (Courage and Roddenberry included) could possibly have imagined the show's great popularity and staying power.

Courage, who only worked on two shows in Star Trek's opening season because he was busy working on the 1967 Dr. Doolittle movie, vowed he would never return to Star Trek.

He never did.

THE WORDS

If you're looking for an offbeat karaoke number, here are Roddenberry's lyrics, as provided by Snopes:

Beyond
The rim of the star-light
My love
Is wand'ring in star-flight
I know
He'll find in star-clustered reaches
Love,
Strange love a star woman teaches.
I know
His journey ends never
His star trek
Will go on forever.
But tell him
While he wanders his starry sea
Remember, remember me.

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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
The 10 Wildest Movie Plot Twists
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

An ending often makes or breaks a movie. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as having the rug pulled out from under you, particularly in a thriller. But too many flicks that try to shock can’t stick the landing—they’re outlandish and illogical, or signal where the plot is headed. Not all of these films are entirely successful, but they have one important attribute in common: From the classic to the cultishly beloved, they involve hard-to-predict twists that really do blow viewers’ minds, then linger there for days, if not life. (Warning: Massive spoilers below.)

1. PSYCHO (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock often constructed his movies like neat games that manipulated the audience. The Master of Suspense delved headfirst into horror with Psycho, which follows a secretary (Janet Leigh) who sneaks off with $40,000 and hides in a motel. The ensuing jolt depends on Leigh’s fame at the time: No one expected the ostensible star and protagonist to die in a gory (for the time) shower butchering only a third of the way into the running time. Hitchcock outdid that feat with the last-act revelation that Anthony Perkins’s supremely creepy Norman Bates is embodying his dead mother.

2. PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

No, not the botched Tim Burton remake that tweaked the original movie’s famous reveal in a way that left everyone scratching their heads. The Charlton Heston-starring sci-fi gem continues to stupefy anyone who comes into its orbit. Heston, of course, plays an astronaut who travels to a strange land where advanced apes lord over human slaves. It becomes clear once he finds the decrepit remains of the Statue of Liberty that he’s in fact on a future Earth. The anti-violence message, especially during the political tumult of 1968, shook people up as much as the time warp.

3. DEEP RED (1975)

It’s not rare for a horror movie to flip the script when it comes to unmasking its killer, but it’s much rarer that such a film causes a viewer to question their own perception of the world around them. Such is the case for Deep Red, Italian director Dario Argento’s (Suspiria) slasher masterpiece. A pianist living in Rome (David Hemmings) comes upon the murder of a woman in her apartment and teams up with a female reporter to find the person responsible. Argento’s whodunit is filled to the brim with gorgeous photography, ghastly sights, and delirious twists. But best of all is the final sequence, in which the pianist retraces his steps to discover that the killer had been hiding in plain sight all along. Rewind to the beginning and you’ll discover that you caught an unknowing glimpse, too.

4. SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)

Sleepaway Camp is notorious among horror fans for a number of reasons: the bizarre, stilted acting and dialogue; hilariously amateurish special effects; and ‘80s-to-their-core fashions. But it’s best known for the mind-bending ending, which—full disclosure—reads as possibly transphobic today, though it’s really hard to say what writer-director Robert Hiltzik had in mind. Years after a boating accident that leaves one of two siblings dead, Angela is raised by her aunt and sent to a summer camp with her cousin, where a killer wreaks havoc. In the lurid climax, we see that moody Angela is not only the murderer—she’s actually a boy. Her aunt, who always wanted a daughter, raised her as if she were her late brother. The final animalistic shot prompts as many gasps as cackles.

5. THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995)

The Usual Suspects has left everyone who watches it breathless by the time they get to the fakeout conclusion. Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey), a criminal with cerebral palsy, regales an interrogator in the stories of his exploits with a band of fellow crooks, seen in flashback. Hovering over this is the mysterious villainous figure Keyser Söze. It’s not until Verbal leaves and jumps into a car that customs agent David Kujan realizes that the man fabricated details, tricking the law and the viewer into his fake reality, and is in fact the fabled Söze.

6. PRIMAL FEAR (1996)

No courtroom movie can surpass Primal Fear’s discombobulating effect. Richard Gere’s defense attorney becomes strongly convinced that his altar boy client Aaron (Edward Norton) didn’t commit the murder of an archbishop with which he’s charged. The meek, stuttering Aaron has sudden violent outbursts in which he becomes "Roy" and is diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, leading to a not guilty ruling. Gere’s lawyer visits Aaron about the news, and as he’s leaving, a wonderfully maniacal Norton reveals that he faked the multiple personalities.

7. FIGHT CLUB (1999)

Edward Norton is no stranger to taking on extremely disparate personalities in his roles, from Primal Fear to American History X. The unassuming actor can quickly turn vicious, which led to ideal casting for Fight Club, director David Fincher’s adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel. Fincher cleverly keeps the audience in the dark about the connections between Norton’s timid, unnamed narrator and Brad Pitt’s hunky, aggressive Tyler Durden. After the two start the titular bruising group, the plot significantly increases the stakes, with the club turning into a sort of anarchist terrorist organization. The narrator eventually comes to grips with the fact that he is Tyler and has caused all the destruction around him.

8. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)

Early in his career, M. Night Shyamalan was frequently (perhaps a little too frequently) compared to Hitchcock for his ability to ratchet up tension while misdirecting his audience. He hasn’t always earned stellar reviews since, but The Sixth Sense remains deservedly legendary for its final twist. At the end of the ghost story, in which little Haley Joel Osment can see dead people, it turns out that the psychologist (Bruce Willis) who’s been working with the boy is no longer living himself, the result of a gunshot wound witnessed in the opening sequence.

9. THE OTHERS (2001)

The Sixth Sense’s climax was spooky, but not nearly as unnerving as Nicole Kidman’s similarly themed ghost movie The Others, released just a couple years later. Kidman gives a superb performance in the elegantly styled film from the Spanish writer-director Alejandro Amenábar, playing a mother in a country house after World War II protecting her photosensitive children from light and, eventually, dead spirits occupying the place. Only by the end does it become clear that she’s in denial about the fact that she’s a ghost, having killed her children in a psychotic break before committing suicide. It’s a bleak capper to a genuinely haunting yarn.

10. MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)

David Lynch’s surrealist movies may follow dream logic, but that doesn’t mean their plots can’t be readily discerned. Mulholland Drive is his most striking work precisely because, in spite of its more wacko moments, it adds up to a coherent, tragic story. The mystery starts innocently enough with the dark-haired Rita (Laura Elena Harring) waking up with amnesia from a car accident in Los Angeles and piecing together her identity alongside the plucky aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts). It takes a blue box to unlock the secret that Betty is in fact Diane, who is in love with and envious of Camilla (also played by Harring) and has concocted a fantasy version of their lives. The real Diane arranges for Camilla to be killed, leading to her intense guilt and suicide. Only Lynch can go from Nancy Drew to nihilism so swiftly and deftly.

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