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Friday, November 13, 2009

My Name Is Uke Jackson. Or not.

My name is Uke Jackson. My name is Steve DiLauro. I’m actually able to maintain both these personas without being schizophrenic. That doesn’t mean I’m not crazy; just that I’m not certifiable. So who am I and how am I both these people? I’m back in the country and full of questions it seems.

Uke Jackson started out as a joke character when I was rhythm guitarist with a string band out of Philadelphia back around 1999 going into 2000. I would switch hats and instruments and become Uke Jackson and play and sing a novelty tune I wrote (but oddly never recorded) titled “eBaying at the Ukulele Moon”. Then I was walking along the sidewalk one day and somebody rode by in a convertible and shouted out “Uke Jackson! Uke Jackson!” It later turned out to be my next door neighbor but the name was starting to stick.

I started using the name online and then it just took on a life of its own, or my own. I used to say that Uke Jackson got loose with too much money one day and got some tattoos to prove that I was him. Or he is me. See, it gets kind of confusing. The tattoos are real enough, though.

Jackson is my long suffering wife’s maiden name, so there is at least some basis in reality for me using it as my own. Non-traditional, to be sure, but a basis nonetheless. Uke comes from the fact that I play the ukulele. I used to be much more obsessed with the instrument. Now, it’s just something that I do.

I used to be mildly well-known, at least in literary and journalism circles, as Steve (or Stephen) DiLauro. Sometimes I think the name change was nuts. Other times, it seems like I chose a course that was part of a perfectly natural progression. At Elaine’s recently, watching the Yankees win the Series, I introduced myself as Steve to some people at the bar. I think it was the nostalgia of Yankee baseball. If the conversation blossomed, I informed them that I’m also p.k.a. (professionally known as – my showbiz attorney came up with that one) Uke Jackson.

For awhile I continued to write as Stephen DiLauro – op ed essays and book reviews for the Philadelphia Inquirer – but then I launched a public radio program as Uke Jackson and it all became too much for my editors to get their heads around and I got no more assignments. The money was a pittance anyway. Then I started the annual NY Uke Fest and for sure there was no going back.

Josephine Baker once said “It’s very easy to become famous again.” “Again” being the operative term in this ramble. I certainly don’t think of myself as ever having been famous, and certainly not rich and famous, but my mild celebrity as a writer was quickly surpassed as the recording and performance artist, and broadcaster Uke Jackson. At least it seemed to be. Somewhere on this blog page is a link to my bio. A lot of my credits are listed there. I’m not sure what fame is anymore but I know I’m not it. I really would only like to be famous if it was accompanied by huge sums of money, and hit shows.

I wonder if the name change came about as a result of a series of events that I had no control over – medical problems, working for the Miami Herald Sunday magazine when it got downsized out of existence and finding myself and my family stranded on the beach, and a subsequent period of deep-seated depression that lasted for several years. I really have no clue other than it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I mean, hey, I used to be an ardent vegetarian, too, for years and years. Suddenly I got bored with fake meat and wanted the taste of blood in my mouth, I guess. That’s a whole other topic, though.

It felt good to be Steve DiLauro watching the Yankees. I mentioned this to a friend a few days later during a phone conversation. “You’re lucky – you can be both,” he commented, then added “You are both.”

Should I have kept “Stephen DiLauro, serious journalist” a functioning entity? Could I bring him back, like Prince became the artist formerly known as Prince, then became Prince again? Do I even want to? Walk past any newspaper building and you can hear the screams of the dying. Would I have to have the tattoos removed if my name was re-changed? Should I have kept Stephen DiLauro as my name as a playwright? Why? Does anyone even care what my name is?

Is this blog post the definition of narcissism or madness? Or both? If it reads like the ramblings of a lost soul, I assure you – I’m not lost. There’s just no map.

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