Desiree, Joanne, Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman

Joanne song and the name Joanne

With Lady Gaga’s Joanne song, album, and upcoming tour,  I’m sure there are a few people with the name Joanne who are not unhappy it’s getting a bit of a lift.
My father claimed (and I choose to believe him) that I was named after Joanne Woodward, so am quite happy about that. I mean, to say…. Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman!  I accept and approve of that story about my name.
However. When I was about fifteen I decided Joanne was a dull-as name and I needed a new one. I toyed with Desiree (naturally taken from a book – Desiree by AnneMarie Selinko set in Napoleonic France) but for some reason I came up with the name Helena. It was (apparently) the most marvelous name ever, so much so, that when I got my driver’s licence, I added it in.
That is correct – I just added it in.  I wrote my real names on the form, added in Helena as a third name and it got through and … hello, Helena.
Cut to many years later when we got new photo drivers licences here in New Zealand for the first time. Ah, the novelty. Dad and I were comparing licences (which was actually looking at the photos and seeing how we’d fared) and he stares at mine and suddenly he blurts out “What the hell is Helena?”
For a moment I had no idea what he was on about, since I’d had it on my licence for the past twenty I mean twenty five  hundred years and was quite used to it.
“Oh that, dear Papa. Well, you see, it’s quite funny really but there was a time, when I was fifteen….”
There may have been shaking of the head as in “Jo, Jo, Jo, whatever will become of you…”
So a few years later I had to get a replacement licence and I suggested they could get rid of the Helena.
Actually, they, the driver licencing people, suggested it, because there was no other record of this mysterious middle name Helena on any other documentation anywhere, and it would require something legal to say I was Helena, which of course I wasn’t. In fact, they asked how Helena even got on there.
I wrote it down and added it in and they put it on the licence, I said.
They looked at me as if I was making it up.
Fortunately, I no longer liked the name Helena for myself, but of course, it is quite lovely for other people.
Possibly this desire for another more exotic sounding name was because the most famous Joanne song I knew was Michael Nesmith’s “Her name was Joanne and she lived in a meadow by a pond.” I think it must actually be a most brilliant song, because once you hear it, you find yourself singing it, even though you don’t even like it.
You have been warned.
Joanne Helena