From Michael Caine to Whoopi Goldberg: how celebs chose their stage names

Born Maurice Micklewhite, the star of The Italian Job has legally changed over to his stage name. But where did he get it? And what about Joan Crawford and Bono?

Eighty-three-year-old Maurice Micklewhite is the latest victim of the global war on terror. After renewed security checks meant hours having his passport thumbed by baffled border guards who knew him better as Michael Caine, one amateur Italian Job impression too many has meant that he has finally legally changed his name to Michael Caine.

The Blue Ice stars stage name came to him while he was stood in a London phonebox on a drizzly evening, calling his agent, while Humphrey Bogarts The Caine Mutiny was showing in the Odeon opposite.

It was Caines second attempt at a moniker the call was about how he could no longer use Michael Scott because another one had turned up in the West End. And he is certainly not the first star to have made his name through making up his name. The US has a long and slightly depressing history of Jews rebranding to fit in with a WASP star system Jon Stewart (Leibowitz), Winona Ryder (Horowitz), Gene Simmons (Chaim Witz), just to pick a few.

But Whoopi Goldberg is perhaps the only star to have gone the other way. The first part of Caryn Johnsons stage name comes from her reputation for breaking wind (like a whoopee cushion), and the latter half from her mothers injunction that if the first half of her name was super silly, the second half should be super serious (and probably an understandable desire to keep the family name out of it).

Sometimes, they come from even less likely places than Goldbergs. Sid Vicious took his name from a hamster belonging to John Lydon which bit him, causing him to exclaim Your Sid is vicious!, a remark Lydon found so hilarious hed soon wrapped it around his childhood pal.

The artist formerly known as Paul Hewson was once known by the street gang he hung around with as Steinhegvanhuysenolegbangbangbang, so no doubt he appreciated it when one of his pals noticed a hearing aid shop in Dublin called Bonavox, Latin for good voice, and adapted it as Bono Vox or Bono for short.

Fellow store-front lover John le Carr claims he plucked his made-up last name from a shoe shop he spied in Battersea from a passing bus. Although this has never been confirmed, and double-agent that he is, there are a lot of question marks over whether he made the whole yarn up. Likewise, Vincent Furniers claims to have been contacted by a 16th-century witch doctor while playing a ouija board seem mildly dubious. The doctors name was Alice Cooper. Furnier made it the name of his band, but somewhere along the line it transferred tohim personally meaningthat he still pays royalties to the original band members for loaning it out every year.

Having to loan out your name is one thing, but having it sold out from under you is quiteanother. Glamourpuss Lucille LeSueur was told by her film studio, MGM, that it would be holding a public competition to choose a new name for her. Readers of Movie Week voted for Joan Crawford a name LeSueur detested, as it made her think of crawfish.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global/shortcuts/2016/jul/24/from-michael-caine-to-whoopi-goldberg-how-celebs-chose-their-stage-names

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