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What’s in a name? Plenty, if it happens to be your name. Or in this case, mine.
The gent in question is one Paul Lukas, a Hungarian-born actor who emigrated to America in the 1920s and gained citizenship in 1933. He appeared in a bunch of movies and even won the “Best Actor” Oscar for Watch on the Rhine in 1943, but he was primarily a character actor and has largely disappeared from public memory. So while there are tons of photos of him floating around, I don’t often see his name in print. And when I do, like in the beer ad shown above (which my friend Tim recently found in a 1951 issue of Life and mailed to me), I always find it a bit startling. Like, hey, that’s me! Except it isn’t.
It’s amazing how we can learn to identify so closely, so emotionally, with a simple sequence of letters. When I was in second grade, my teacher mistakenly told me that I had a middle initial (it’s a long story). I wrote out my name with the added initial, and — I don’t know how else to say this — it looked wrong. It was no longer my name; it looked like someone else’s name. All because of the addition of one letter. I was seven years old at the time.
When I came home from school that day and told my parents about this, they said, “Your teacher is wrong — you don’t have a middle name or initial. But if you’d like to have one — or if you want to change your first name — you can.” On the one hand, this was very cool and progressive of them; on the other, it’s kind of a heavy trip to dump into the lap of a seven-year-old. Change my name? I couldn’t even understand the concept. How could my name be any other name than the name that was my name? It was like telling me I could be a girl, or a dog, or a chair. (Yes, I was a bit of a literalist, even by youth standards.) So although I kind of pretended to mull it over, I knew right away that I’d be sticking with what I had. To this day, I’m mystified by people who legally change their names, whether for reasons of marriage, assimilation, or whatever. Maybe this is just a failure of imagination on my part, but I can’t wrap my head around it.
Paul Lukas the actor had no such compunctions. His real name was PÃ¡l LukÃ¡cs, but he changed it when he started working in Hollywood. My parents have a more flexible concept of identity, too: My father’s given surname was Lewkowitz, but he and my Mom changed it to Lukas about a year after they were married (another long story). This means my mother had three surnames in a very short period: her maiden name, which was Tanzer; then Lewkowitz; and then Lukas. Personally, this would have made my head spin, but my Mom says it was no big deal.
My parents were aware of the actor Paul Lukas, but they didn’t name me specifically after him. When I learned about him as I was growing up, I loved knowing that I had the same name as someone semi-famous. Name pride. Later, I learned that he was kind of a McCarthyite dick, involved with HUAC, MPAPAI, and all that other blacklist-y bullshit. Name shame. (I recently mentioned this to my Mom, who said she hadn’t been aware of it. “If we had known, we might not have used that name for you,” she said. “But it’s such a nice name. You don’t mind, do you?” No, I don’t. At other times she’s told me that she’d have given me a longer name if she’d known I was going to become a journalist, because she always thinks my byline looks too small.)
There has never been an NFL, MLB, NBA, or NHL player with the surname Lukas (Jerry Lucas, Maurice Lucas, Ray Lucas, Chuck Luksa, and Mark Lukasiewicz are all close but no stogie), much less the full name Paul Lukas. So I’ve never had the fun of seeing an athlete wearing my name. But many of you have no doubt experienced this. Is it fun? Is it weird? Do you even think about it at all?
Anyway: There’s a uni-related component to that beer ad. As you can see, the brew is Carling’s Red Cap Ale, and all of their ads in the 1940s and ’50s featured a red cap (including several like the Paul Lukas ad, with the awkward-looking combination of a cap perched atop a mortarboard). Is that a jockey’s cap? Something else? I’d be interested in knowing the story behind it.
By Brinke Guthrie
Christmas is getting close. Have any pro sports ornaments on the tree? I’ve had this Aikman figure for awhile, as well as this Garfield Bengals ornament, this Giants World Series ornament, and this Niners helmet. So in the spirit of the season, if you’re a Dolphins fan, these helmet lights will look terrific on the tree.
In other eBay finds this week:
• Had this … a 1975 NFL Media Information Book. No idea how I got it. I was always writing to NFL Properties, trying to weasel stuff out of them, and that’s probably how I ended up with it.
• Frank Gifford put out his own NFL guide in 1967. Who knew?
• Here’s a nice old 1960s AFL pennant display card package, courtesy of relentless reader Michael Clary.
• If it’s 1970s NFL and it’s IHOP, I love it. Therefore I present this 1974 NFL IHOP board game. (The auction has ended, but maybe they’ll re-list it.)
• One final holiday thought for this week: As someone who has a ton of NFL Films music, I can totally recommend these as a great Christmas gift.
Seen something on eBay that you think would make good Collector’s Corner fodder? Send your submissions here.
Membership update: The new Marlins uniforms haven’t hit the field yet, but we have our first membership card based on them. That card, which ordered by Seth Weiss, is one of several that have been added to the membership card gallery. The printed/laminated versions of these latest cards should ship out by the end of this week.
Incidentally, if you click to the last page of the card gallery, you’ll see that seven of the past 28 designs have an orange background (plus an additional one has orange lettering/numbering, and another has orange trim). I’m always amused when these chromatic trends pop up out of nowhere.
As always, if you want to order an orange card — or any other color — you can sign up here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Neglected to mention yesterday that one of America’s best uni-related events took place here in NYC over the weekend: SantaCon. ”¦ New BFBS alternate for the Heat and a new “50 Years in the Bay Area” patch for the Warriors. I’ll have more to say about these next week. ”¦ I assume most of you had better things to do last night than watch the Rams/Seahawks game (like, say, take a nap, clean the toilet, slit your wrists, etc.), so here are the uni-salient points: Marshawn Lynch found a way to incorporate neon green into his socks; several of the Rams, including “quarterback” Sam Bradford, wore solid-white socks; and Pete Carroll has one gnarly-looking finger (screen shot by John Wokas). ”¦ Here’s another, more surprising case of a football player who doesn’t wear gloves: LSU running back Michael Ford. Seriously, when’s the last time you saw a running back playing bare-handed? “He was the same way in high school,” says Joseph Adams. … Love this old shot of the Pearl Harbor women’s basketball team (from Gretchen Mittelstaedt). ”¦ Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Baylor may have a new helmet for the Gasoline Bowl. … Also from yesterday: Some rumblings about Syracuse possibly scrapping the blue jerseys. … Here’s a really interesting article about why the NFL has no white cornerbacks and no black punters or placekickers. Among other things, it mentions that NFL rosters used to have black player quotas, which I hadn’t been aware of. Fascinating read. ”¦ Wesley College uses some laughably tiny TV numbers (from Jesse Meade). … Great timing after the Derek Boogaard articles: a series of blood-spattered hockey enforcer cards (thanks, Kirsten). … Striped socks with a built-in pocket? That’s a win-win (big thanks to Gordon Blau). … Remember last Friday’s post about bicycle head badges? Bench coach emeritus Bryan Redemske has found a site that sells custom head badge designs. Lots of possibilities there — your favorite team’s logo, a dupe of your tattoo, a Uni Watch design, etc. … Syracuse basketball player Dion Walters has been wearing some orange “SU” socks (from Michael Alper). … Yet another story about a high school hoops team that was assessed a technical foul for a uniform violation (from Pete Lootens). … Montana and Nike reportedly had an all-black Amateur Pacifist uniform ready to go, but it never made it onto the field (from Leo Thornton). … New anniversary jersey for the Colorado Mammoth. Note that they’re using their anniversary logo as the main jersey crest, instead of just having a patch (from John Romero). … A bunch of Nike’s new international soccer kits have leaked. “I assume this is Nike’s fix of the sweat-weight issues that athletes from Rafael Nadal to Lionel Messi have had with the Dri-Fit material,” says David Haberman. … Oooh, this is awesome: a basketball jersey with a nut and a bolt as its chest insignia. Wish we knew the story behind that one. … Scroll down to see the really unusual collar on this curling sweater. … I really like these old-school sports illustration decals…. Kevin Tiessen was watching a Charlie Brown video and noticed that Peppermint Patty’s bedroom was covered with pennants for California schools. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Charlie Brown and his crew all lived in California, of course, but it’s the most specific geographical reference I can ever recall having seen in “Peanuts.” ”¦ Kevin Plank is claiming that Under Armour is about to strike a deal with a Big 10 football school, which is leading to rampant speculation regarding which team will have the honor of wearing the Maryland flag, or whatever.