Celebs Must Be 'Kidding'

Friday , April 25, 2003

By David Koeppel



With Brooke Shields' due date only days away, here's hoping she doesn't fall victim to CSNS.

That's Chronically Stupid Name Syndrome -- the growing fondness celebrities have for bestowing unusual, offbeat and downright dumb names on their helpless children.

Two weeks ago, sexy soul diva Toni Braxton (search) welcomed son Diezel, who joined 16-month-old brother Denim.

Back in February, supermodel Elle Macpherson confounded everyone by dubbing her son Aurelius. (After the Roman emperor, perhaps?)

And last fall, Victoria Adams (search) (Posh Spice) and husband David Beckham christened their new son Romeo -- alongside 4-year-old brother Brooklyn.

Baby-naming experts are troubled by this trend of abandoning Billy, Bobby and Susie for the more esoteric charms of Sailor (Christie Brinkley's daughter) or Salome (ER 's Alex Kingston's daughter).

"It's become a game of one-upmanship," says writer Bruce Lansky (search), co-author of The Baby Name Survey Book: What People Think of Your Baby's Name.

"It's like they want their kids to have their own bizarre brand names. It could be a blessing or it could come back to haunt them."

Lansky says certain names will provoke ridicule -- even if your father's name is Sean Penn.

Take Hopper, who is Penn's 9-year-old son, named for family friend and volatile actor Dennis.

"In kindergarten, kids must have been thinking frog," jokes Lansky.

And if names are destiny, then any girl called Salome better learn how to give a good lap dance, he adds.

Braxton's publicist David Brokaw admits his client's children's names are unusual (Diezel, he explains, was named for a favorite but little-known finger-snapping member of the Jets gang in the original stage production of West Side Story).

But, he says, they're far less bizarre than Bruce Willis and Demi Moore's daughters Rumer, Scout and Tallulah Belle.

The jury is still out on Catherine Zeta-Jones, who gave birth last week to a girl named Carys, a name derived from the Welsh word for "love."

At The Institute for Naming Children Humanely, Michael Wintry accuses celebrities of a variety of naming transgressions.

Wintry divides offenders into "bad name categories" like "The Scrabble Draw," "Named Him After My Favorite ..." and "I Found It on This Here Map" -- like Ireland Baldwin (daughter of Alec and Kim Basinger), Lourdes Ciccone (Madonna's daughter) and Paris Jackson (Michael's daughter).

"Since American children can't even locate the U.S.A. on a map, the child will feel dejected and angry they had to be the ones saddled with geographical names," writes Wintry.

Not everyone sees the downside of unusual monikers.

Pamela Redmond Satran, co-author of Beyond Jennifer and Jason, Madison and Montana: What to Name Your Baby Now, says offbeat names are just as important for today's celebrities as having a "fabulous wedding" or finding the "perfect Oscar dress."

"It's the ultimate accessory," she says, who compares celebrity baby naming to a spectator sport that's gotten more and more competitive.

And where one star goes, thousands of others are likely to follow: Today's Romeo and Paris may even become tomorrow's Michael and Jennifer.

"In the schools these kids attend, being quirky or out of step is a good thing," Satran says. "Having these names in Hollywood is different than having them in New Jersey or Kansas."

Lansky doesn't agree. He thinks that most young kids aren't hip to their parents' money and status.

"Odd names can really make it open season for teasing," he says.

So, can Claudia Schiffer's newborn Casper escape the inevitable association with the cartoon friendly ghost?

Will other children cry "D'oh" every time they bump into Richard Gere's son Homer?

Or perhaps an unforgettable first name can be its own ticket to stardom: Tomorrow's superstars could be John Travolta's son Jett or John Mellencamp's son Speck Wildhorse.

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