ELKO — Judy Garland didn’t have any idea who the star of “The Wizard of Oz” was until she was in the fourth grade.
The Elko resident may have the same name as a mega-watt celebrity, but it was her fourth-grade teacher who told her all about the famous starlet from such hits as 1944’s “Meet Me In St. Louis” and 1954’s “A Star Is Born.”
“I didn’t realize it was a big deal,” Garland said. “But after my teacher told me about it I went home and asked my parents who she was.”
Garland isn’t alone. There seems to be no shortage of people who share famous names in Elko.
Some of them — like Pamela Anderson, Elizabeth Montgomery, Kathleen Turner and Paul Allen, just to name a few — preferred to keep a low profile and declined an interview, but a few riffed on what it was like to bear the name of a famous person from stage, screen, politics and finance.
Rob Lowe may be one of Elko’s deputy district attorneys, but he shares a name with the star of television shows like “The West Wing” and “Parks and Recreation” and films like the Austin Powers trilogy and “Tommy Boy.”
Lowe says he’s not a huge fan of the famous Lowe’s work, so that may be why they’ve never crossed paths, but the Elko-based Lowe is a huge film buff.
There are some benefits to sharing a famous person’s name, according to Lowe.
“The best thing is that no one ever forgets your name,” Lowe said. “It’s easy to remember. And of course, people always say, ‘well, you don’t look like Rob Lowe.’”
What does he look like? He jokingly describes himself as a better-looking version of Brad Pitt.
The two Lowes may share names but there’s never been any confusion about who is who.
“There’s never been any mistaken identity,” Lowe said. “In fact, I really haven’t taken note of him that much at all.”
Linda Evans gets a lot of people pointing out her famous doppelgänger.
“They’ll say, ‘oh, hey, you’re Linda Evans,’ and I’ll just look at them and say, ‘yup that’s me,’” Evans laughs. “I used to watch her on ‘Dynasty’ all the time.”
The famous Evans, born Linda Evanstad, made her name on television as Audra Barkley in the 1960s Western series, “The Big Valley.” She also played Krystle Carrington in Aaron Spelling’s soapy drama “Dynasty” throughout the 1980s.
Utah-raised Evans, 49, says she doesn’t mind the comparison. It usually comes when she uses her credit card.
“That’s the only time people are staring at my name so they comment on it,” Evans said. “I actually don’t think much about it and I’ve never even looked her up.”
Evans did make a trip to Los Angeles and visited her double’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In a bout of coincidence — Evans is a former married name — her brother also shares a famous name: Jim Morrison.
“I told my mom that it was too bad we weren’t all rich and famous like the other people,” Evans said.
Judy Garland also has a sibling with a famous name.
Beverly Garland was named after her mother’s friend in Canada, but her famous twin comes from more California-based stock.
The famous Beverly Garland was a television actress made popular by her role as Fred MacMurray’s second wife on the 1960s sitcom “My Three Sons.”
Garland never knew much about the actress.
“It’s just not as big of a deal as my sister’s name,” Beverly Garland said. “I thought she was related to Judy Garland anyway so I really don’t know much about her.”
For the record, the famous Judy Garland and celebrity Beverly Garland aren’t related, namely because Judy’s actual name was Frances Gumm.
Judy Garland says she likes sharing a famous name. She’s started collecting the actress’s memorabilia and she watches “The Wizard of Oz” each year when the holidays roll around.
She says people will often ask, “where’s Toto?” when they hear her name.
“It’s funny,” Garland said, “and I never really mind.”
The younger generation doesn’t seem to know much about Garland, she says. Her kids — the oldest is 28 and youngest 15 — had no idea about the famous Garland.
“The times I talk about it most is when I pay by check and the cashier says ‘that’s your name?’ in disbelief,” Garland said.
When she finds out Garland’s real name she gleefully says, “well, then maybe she’s named after me.”
A national authority on names and the author of “Know the Name, Know the Person,” Sharón Lynn Wyeth says people with celebrity names may actually have the same qualities as their famous double, but just use those qualities in a different way.
“It’s like they are born with the same set of ingredients, only they cooked something different with them,” Wyeth said. “Our names allow us to start with the same gifts and challenges as a person with the same name and it’s only our reactions to those gifts and challenges that’s going to make the people different from each other.”
Wyeth, who has a background in mathematics, uses a systematic analysis of names to determine characteristics of people. For instance, Wyeth’s research says that anyone with the name Judy Garland will be bright, self-directed, have a great sense of humor and be entertaining. Someone with the name Rob Lowe will be competitive, nurturing, loyal and rebellious.
Thomas Jefferson says he loves to share titles, and hopefully personal qualities, with the famous man who shares his name. The Elko man was excited when his daughter took an interest in genealogy and found the origin of his name, which he says came from Louisiana and not from the third President of the United States.
With a grandfather and father who played big in Utah politics and business, and a name shared with an American founding father, Jefferson has an understandably grand air about him.
Their family history is full of famous designations. His brother was named Richard, after Richard the Lionhearted, the reputed great warrior and King of England from 1189 to 1199.
Jefferson wasn’t entirely sure about the origins of his own name until five years ago when his daughter told him about her research into their family history.
They found out their family had migrated from Louisiana into the north, eventually ending up in Utah working in the freight business.
“Up until then, I used to kind of lie about it and say we were related, but we’re not,” Jefferson said. “But it makes sense. My mother had a glorious and grand way about her and she named her kids as such. The name just fits.”