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Friday, February 4, 2011

What's in a name? or The (D)Evolution of George

George the Curious

My first encounter with George was as a mischievous monkey who enchanted his yellow hat-wearing owner. The escapades of this early embodiment of George were hits with the under ten set around the world. Though he spoke not a word, his compassion for balloonless children, children in hospitals and other disappointed by life’s seeming inequalities painted a moral picture with charming illustrations of smallness being no limitation to heroism. H.A. and Margret Rey, authors and survivors of the modern century’s most horrific chapter knew all too well about man’s cruelty to man.  First published in 1941 after the couple escaped from Hamburg with the original Curious George manuscript on their backs, it’s no wonder they chose a simian as hero.

George the General 

My next George appeared in grammar school when I learned about the father of our nation. General George, a very tall Virginian, had an aristocratic bearing in spite of the false wooden teeth he required. Many myths were crafted to show his humility and honesty, traits that have not been extolled too frequently by our country’s leaders. Coming from the state with the wealthiest, most erudite and educated colonists only enhanced George’s natural appeal and talents as leader. Offered the job of king, this George turned down the position in favor of one more suited to a country of disparate members. His choice, in light of the deposition of friend France’s leaders a few years later, appears prophetic. Clearly no job is worth actually losing your head over. 

George the Quiet 
My third George was the quiet one. In the go-go sixties Sir George was the balladeer of the mop-headed number one boy band from England. His mumbled, hesitant and self-effacing persona provided a counter to the froth of Paul, the goofiness of Ringo and the tortured soul of John. It was hard to imagine how he ever garnered the attention required to actually have one of his compositions included in any of these quartet’s compilations. Yet - Here Comes the Sun, Something and While my Guitar Gently Weeps, are critical to any Beatles ‘collections. The victim of a brutal home invasion, before the fanzines and paparazzi, he was actually allowed to recover in quiet dignity. It wasn’t until his solo career that I actually paid attention to him at all. He seemed to silently slip away from all of us at only 58 without rancor or scandal, so unlike an icon. 

George the cypher

George the fourth was a creature unlike his predecessors. He too wore the mantle of U.S. President but rather than the rakish possessing style of Washington, this George seemed cast out of smoke and mirrors. His rather sanguine and colorless persona, his privileged upbringing and Ivy League pedigree transported to the wide-open ranges of Texas made for a strange mix.  He was a hybrid of Southern laid back and New England shrewd. Then there were the years playing cloak and dagger, heading up the CIA. I was discomfited rather than calmed by his presence in the White House. 

George the Magazine
George then morphed into a glossy political magazine named in honor of the General who became the first president. Cindy Crawford posed on the cover as our midriff-bared leader, in keeping with the airbrushed treatment of American politics. The astoundingly handsome son of Jack published George. Some year’s later, right after John Jr. had passed his bar exam, he rode his bicycle past me as I stepped outside my apartment building on Bleeker Street. We were both on our way to work in the crisp of autumn’s early morning, just the two of us in a neighborhood usually too noisy and congested to sleep.  Even wrapped in his sweater and scarf, he was easily recognizable. George the magazine may have failed to impress but I can assure you that exquisite John did not.  

George of the Seven
My life was filled with other George’s as well. There was the George who dared to speak the seven forbidden words.  A huge career was launched with this small collection. And then there was the two dimensional George, swinger on vines thwarted always by the unforeseen tree.  

George the Tan
One other George comes to mind, he of the tan. I only include him to share an amusing anecdote. I was staying in Beverly Hills on a business trip and I walked over to Rodeo Drive for an early Saturday morning breakfast.  I sat at an outdoor cafĂ© sipping my $7 orange juice and nibbling my $12 croissant when who should drive by in his caramel colored Rolls Royce with the top down but none to wear  than George the tan.  His complexion and auto body paint were a perfect match. 

George the Reborn
George, the reborn was next.  Witnessing his puppet show administration (surely the strings were being pulled by someone else…) his disingenuous humility and sheer lack of ambition was disturbing.  After reading the commencement addresses Hillary and George gave at Yale University in the same year, I shook my head in wonderment at how we could have elected someone who showed such disdain for the value of academia. His creation of NCLB, the dysfunctional but highly profitable national program still in place, demonstrated just how little he understood about the process of education but did about payback. 

George the Best! 
Of course I have saved the best, the ultimate George for last. While my delineation is not necessarily sequential, I have chosen the velvet voiced George to conclude my list.  He is the George who inspires strangers to wear tee shirts proclaiming themselves to be his wife. He is the George who inspires comparisons to Cary Grant. And if his beauty and grace were not enough, he is also the George who cares about the enormous dire poverty in the world and the rights of the disenfranchised. He is the George who has an endless series of graceful and demure beauties on his arm at all industry functions. We are comfortable with his serial monogamy, which allows us to fantasize about his slippers beside our beds. He is masculine and beautiful and he is George.