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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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In Living

This is not the Jerry Garcia who lives in Waukesha. (PHOTO: Doug Irwin)

Unfamous Milwaukeeans live with famous names


The world is filled with Michael Jacksons, but only one of them was that Michael Jackson. The rest of the MJs have to put up with smirks, suspicions and / or annoying quips almost every time they divulge their name.

"I've gotten everything from 'where's your sparkly glove?' to really messed-up comments about pedophilia," says Michael Jackson, who lives in West Milwaukee.

Jackson was born in 1972, eight years after the Jackson Five stormed the music scene and he was a teenager when Jackson's career spiked with the release of "Thriller."

"I guess my parents didn't listen to the radio," he says. "It gets really annoying. I even try to say my name is 'Mike Jackson' and people still say, 'so your name is MICHAEL Jackson?'"

Waukesha's Jerry Garcia has a famous musician's name, too, but he doesn't mind it.

"Basically every time I say my name for the first time, the person has to comment on it," says Garcia. "They say 'you look great' or 'I thought you were dead' or 'why aren't you on tour?' But for the most part, it's been fun."

When Garcia was in grade school he didn't understand when people made comments about him being a famous guitar player.

"I had no idea what they were talking about," says Garcia. "Then when I became a teenager, I started listening to the Grateful Dead."

Garcia became a big fan of the band and having the same name as the group's famous, four-fingered frontman scored him a free ticket to a Dead show at Chicago's Soldier Field in 1993.

In Grateful Dead culture, before shows, fans – aka "Deadheads" – without tickets sometimes walked around the lively concert venue parking lot scene asking for a "miracle" which meant a free ticket.

"I was walking around like an idiot with my cousin and it was his birthday and a guy gave him a ticket and then asked me if there was a reason why he should give me a (free) ticket, too," says Garcia, 41. "I said 'because I'm Jerry Garcia' and showed him my ID and then he gave me a ticket, too."

Garcia, who has been a chef for 26 years (he currently works at Foolery's Liquid Therapy in Ocauchee Lake and is the host of the Piggly Wiggly Tailgating Tips during Brewers games), says having made a name for himself professionally has resulted in people referring to him as " the chef Jerry Garcia" to differentiate.

Garcia's father, who has the same name, was not particularly bothered by it either, and he, too, saw a few Dead shows. However, when Garcia's son was born, he did not name him Jerry Garcia the third.

"I don't mind my name, but it gets a little ... overplayed," he says.

The "unfamous people with famous names" is often referenced in the media.

Last year, Howard Johnsons gave a free room to anyone named Don Draper like the role in "Mad Men." In the iconic film, "Office Space," a character named Michael Bolton says, "Why should I change? He's the one who sucks." And ESPN has a commercial featuring a white guy named Michael Jordan who's constantly disappointing people because he's not the basketball star.

For Wauwatosa's Robyn Williams Bruskotter, having almost the same name as the comedian Robin Williams has not been an issue – thanks to timing.

"By the time he (Robin Williams) became well known for starring in 'Mork and Mindy,' I had just married and changed my last name," says Bruskotter. "It really only became a funny bit of conversation with new friends when I told them my maiden name."

Carol King, who lives on Milwaukee's Northwest Side, remembers getting comments about her folkishly famous name when she was 3-years-old and it has never stopped since.

"I think it peaked when I was in college in the late eighties and early nineties," says King. "But I was interacting with more people during those years, so the number of comments may be in direct relation to how many people I interact with."

King found her name particularly confusing and frustrating as a child when people teased her about singing on the radio.

"Once I came up with some good come-back lines while at college, it's gotten better. The most stinging one in my arsenal is 'Oh yeah, I hear that from old people a lot.' Snap!" she says.

Although not a fan of the famous Carole King's music, the Milwaukee Carol King is impressed with her story.

"As I've learned more about her as a woman trying to succeed in the music world, I certainly respect her," says King.

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