Saturday, April 14, 2018

Top 10 Real People Whose Names Were Given to Fictional Characters

His name was Bond. James Bond.

I'm not talking about close calls, like Captain James Cook becoming Peter Pan's nemesis Captain Hook or the McDonald's character Captain Crook. Or Hayden Fry becoming Hayden Fox.

10. Peter Parker. Famous people named Clark Kent (like Superman), Bruce Wayne (like Batman), or Diana Prince (like Wonder Woman -- and Princess Diana of Wales doesn't count) are hard to find. But I found a few men with the same name as the comic book character who became Spider-Man.

Sir Peter Parker (1721-1811), 1st Baronet Parker of Bassingbourne, was Admiral of the Fleet in Britain's Royal Navy from 1799 until his death. He had reinforced the British effort in the Carolinas in the War of the American Revolution, and was a mentor to Britain's greatest modern naval hero, Horatio Nelson.

His grandson, also Sir Peter Parker (1785-1814), was the 2nd Baronet. Like his father and grandfather, he served in Parliament. He was also, unlike his grandfather, a cousin by blood of the poet Lord Byron. And, like his grandfather, he was wounded in battle against the U.S. Unlike his grandfather, he died from his wound, while commanding HMS Menelaus at the Battle of Caulk's Field, part of the blockade of Baltimore that led to the Battle of Fort McHenry. He was only 29 years old.

There was yet another Sir Peter Parker (1924-2002), who was chairman of the British Railways Board from 1976 to 1983, but this was after the character of Spider-Man was created. There was also a Dr. Peter Parker (1804-1888), the 1st Protestant medical missionary to China.

9. Dale Cooper. Before the FBI Agent played by Kyle MacLachlan on Twin Peaks, there was Dale Troy "Stoney" Cooper (1918-1977), a country singer and expert fiddler of the 1940s and '50s.

8. Harry Crane. Born Harry Kravitsky (1914-1999), the Brooklyn-born comedian and screenwriter was a childhood friend of Jackie Gleason's, and became a writer for The Jackie Gleason Show, which began the sketch that became the TV show The Honeymooners. He also became the grandfather of actresses Melissa and Sara Gilbert.

A generation later, Harry Chapin used the used the name for his song about a mail-order bride in the Wild West, "Mail Order Annie," because the surname rhymed with "Train." Although also a native of Brooklyn, it's not clear if Chapin knew about Crane the writer.

7. Walter White. Long before Bryan Cranston played the science teacher turned drug kingpin on Breaking Bad, Walter Francis White (1893-1955) was Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1931 to 1955.

He founded the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which led to the Brown v. Board decision, in which the Supreme Court unanimously struck down segregated education. Essentially, he was the leading figure in the civil rights movement before Martin Luther King came along.

6. Crash Davis. In the 1988 film Bull Durham, Kevin Costner played Crash Davis, a slugging switch-hitter with power, whose real name was never revealed, and plays in the Carolina League. Director Ron Shelton had found the name "Crash Davis" in The Baseball Encyclopedia -- which was what we used to look up baseball facts before the Internet gave us Baseball-Reference.com.

Lawrence Columbus Davis (1919-2001) earned his nickname at age 14, when he crashed into a teammate going for a fly ball. The Georgia native was Captain of the baseball team at Duke University, and played for the real-life Durham Bulls in the real-life Carolina League. But while the movie's version was a catcher who spent just 21 days in the major leagues, the real Crash Davis was a 2nd baseman who played 3 seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics, 1940 to 1942, before serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

He later coached baseball at Harvard University, and became friends with Shelton, enjoying his late-in-life celebrity.

5. Edward Hyde. Before Robert Louis Stevenson gave the name to the dark side of the character of Dr. Henry Jekyll in his 1886 novel, there had been Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, Lord Chancellor to King Charles II in the 1660s, and grandfather of both Queen Mary II and Queen Anne.

There had also been the grandson of the preceding, the 3rd Earl of Clarendon, the 14th colonial Governor of New York and the 1st colonial Governor of New Jersey (at the same time, 1701 to 1708); and a distantly related Edward Hyde, who served as colonial Governor of North Carolina.

4. Jo(h)n Snow. Well before Jon Snow became the name of the protagonist of George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, there were several famous men with variations on the name.

In the 1850s, a Dr. John Snow in London became the father of anesthesia and epidemiology. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a John Snow was one of the foremost bowlers in English cricket and a published poet. In the 2000s, John W. Snow was Secretary of the Treasury under George W. Bush. And Jon Snow (Jonathan George Snow) has been the anchor of England's Channel 4 News for nearly 30 years.

How these men reacted to being called a "bastard," I have no idea.

3. Wade Wilson. Before it became the secret identity of the Marvel Comics antihero Deadpool, Wade Wilson was a quarterback, who got the Minnesota Vikings to the 1987 NFC Championship Game, before losing to the Washington Redskins. He later became a renowned quarterbacks coach.

2. James Bond. In 1952, Ian Fleming was living in Jamaica, then a British colony. He was writing a novel about a character much like himself, who had been a British secret agent, enjoyed smoking and drinking, and couldn't keep it in his pants. He needed a name for his protagonist, wanting one "as ordinary as possible." Fleming was a birdwatcher, and noticed a book on his desk: Birds of the West Indies, published in 1936.

The author was James Bond, 36 years old at the time of its publication, a native of Philadelphia who spent his high school and college years in England. He returned to his hometown, worked in a bank, and when he heard that the Academy of Natural Sciences, now a unit of Philadelphia's Drexel University, was forming an expedition to the Amazon jungle of Brazil, he jumped at the chance.

He must have impressed someone on that trip, since the Academy hired him as an ornithologist (someone who studies birds for a living), and he became their curator of ornithology. His 1936 book, originally titled A Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies, was the only book published on the subject for over half a century.

Noticing the name on the book, Fleming contacted Bond, who gave his permission to use the name. Fleming later wrote to Mrs. Bond, and said, "It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed." And so, when Casino Royale was published in 1953, Agent 007 was Bond -- James Bond. But that affectatious introduction was not used until the films, starring with Sean Connery in Dr. No in 1962.

James Bond the secret agent has escaped death in dozens of ways. The book version was said to be born in 1920, making him nearly 100 years old now. If we accept that the movie version was, like his original portrayer, Connery, born in 1930, then he's 88. (A 1954 teleplay of Casino Royale broadcast in the U.S. starred Barry Nelson as Bond.) If we count only from the reboot, starting with the 2006 film version of Casino Royale, then it's not clear how old he is, although he's, at most, the age of his current portrayer, Daniel Craig, who just turned 50.

James Bond the ornithologist seemed to be fine with his tangential fame, but, like everyone in real life, he could not escape death forever, and died in 1989, age 89.

In 2002's Die Another Day, Pierce Brosnan's last appearance as Bond (and maybe the last canonical appearance of the "original Bond"), in Cuba, 007 shows Halle Berry's Jinx Johnson a recent edition of Birds of the West Indies, with a finger covering the author's name.

1. James T. Kirk. I found references to 3 men named James Kirk who were war heroes before Gene Roddenberry gave the name to the Captain of the starship USS Enterprise in the original Star Trek series. Second Lieutenant James Kirk of the Manchester Regiment gave his life, covering his mates with gunfire toward the enemy, in a retreat across the Oise Canal in France, just 1 week prior to the Armistice that ended World War I. He was 21 years old, and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest military honor.
2nd Lt James Kirk VC

In August 2013, Captain James A. Kirk was named the 1st commanding officer the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Zumwalt. He held the command for 3 years, until December 2016, and is currently assigned to the Pentagon.
America's own Captain James Kirk

But only 1 of them was a James T. Kirk. James Thompson Kirk was born in 1826 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburgh, later the hometown of singers Perry Como and Bobby Vinton. He was a tailor who opened his own clothing shop, and enlisted in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Colonel James T. Kirk commanded the 10th Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment, and was wounded at the Second Battle of Bull Run, badly enough to be allowed to resign his commission. He resumed his mercantile business, and lived until 1886.
Headstone of Colonel James T. Kirk.
There appears to be no surviving photograph of him.

Captain James A. came to public knowledge along well after Star Trek debuted. Whether Roddenberry knew about either 2nd Lieutenant James or Colonel James T., I suppose only he knew.

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