Name Dropping Creates Instant Images

Baby cowExert from Pockets of Wildflowers:

My heart leapt, and I spun around to see Harry Graham walking towards me.

“To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?” The tall man who always reminded me of Lorne Greene—except I admired the actor—smiled down at me with his corn-on-the-cob-shaped teeth. He appeared ready to dine at a fine restaurant, not tend to cows. Although I didn’t genuinely like the man’s business tactics, he was still a person respected in the community, one who had never said a mean word to me. He was just a jerk, like the guy who doesn’t show up for a date and later says he ran into a buddy and they went fishing, and expects another date just because he really didn’t do anything wrong.

When I wrote that sentence containing Lorne Greene, my fingers instinctively entered his name. There was no thought to it. It was as if I subconsciously imagined Harry Graham (name subject to change) to look like the actor.

When I read the sentence later, I thought about the use of this image and wondered what others would see. Would they see a strict but fair father figure, like Ben Cartwright? Or would they see a tall, broad-shouldered, grey-haired man with a distinct voice? I’m hoping for the second vision because the first one is a wee misleading.

I’ve  been watching Lorne Greene on television for as long as I can remember. Bonanza (1959-1973) first introduced the Canadian actor to me. He played Ben Cartwright, father of Little Joe, Adam and Ben. Being a part of a family that loved westerns, we seldom missed an episode.

My next meeting with Lorne Greene came through Battlestar Galactica—the original television series, and in my mind, better than what was put forth lately. Greene portrayed Commander Adama. He wasn’t the attraction for me. Apollo (Richard Hatch) and Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) were.

Lorne Greene hosted a weekly television show called Lorne’s Greene New Wilderness, one in which showed animals in their natural habitat. As a kid, I watched it for the fascinating facts and the dramatic, never-seen-by-me-before footage of animals doing what they did naturally.

The only problem I had with Lorne Greene was that my father hated him…for reasons I never discovered before his death. We were never allowed to watch a show in which he starred…with the odd exception of Bonanza—my father loved westerns. If Greene didn’t appear in too many scenes, everyone was happy; Dad because he didn’t have to see him, and us kids who got to watch one of our favourite westerns.

I’ve heard only one song sung by Greene, the western tune Ringo, however, he recorded several songs in the 1960s, early 70s. He really doesn’t sing the song, but rather tells the tale to the rhythm of music.

Lorne Greene was born Lyon Hyman (Himan) Green on February 12, 1915 in Ottawa (or Toronto), Ontario, Canada, to the parents of Dora and Daniel Green (Grinosvsky), who were Russian Jewish immigrants. His mother apparently called him Chaim, but his school records contained Hyman. Greene passed away September 11, 1987, at the age of 72, from pneumonia. He was buried at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California, USA.

Do you use names of famous people to instantly describe your characters, whether intentionally or instinctively?

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