What's in a name? Shakespeare famously said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But does that apply to show business Roses as well as botanical ones? Specifically, would it apply to Axl Rose, frontman for Guns N' Roses? Would a Rose by any other name sell as many albums? It's a question that has haunted linguists and entertained stoners for years.
For the record, Axl was born William Bruce Rose, Jr. When his mother remarried, young William legally acquired his stepfather's surname, "Bailey." He was now William Bailey. Bill Bailey. Wouldn't the snappy and alliterative "Bill Bailey" have been a suitable name for an entertainer? Considering Tina Turner, Freddy Fender, Janis Joplin, Joan Jett and Bobby Brown -- Bill Bailey would've been perfect.
Let's move on to Sean Combs. I've been a fan of Combs ever since "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" made its debut. But in order to attract a larger and hipper audience, Combs felt obliged to abandon his birth name and adopt a showbiz moniker, one he hoped would resonate with the public and set him apart from his competition. In 1997, he announced the name change. Goodbye Sean Combs, and hello "Puff Daddy."
Even though show biz folk are notorious for changing their names, I've never understood why Combs needed to change his. By my lights, Sean Combs was a good, clean, versatile name, one you could hang your hat on. Indeed, if you're looking for a name that was begging to be changed, look no further than Meryl Streep. Remarkably, she kept that name and went on to become one of our most respected actresses, which should be a lesson to all of us.
In any event, Combs soon grew weary of his new name. As bewildering as the name "Puff Daddy" was, Combs believed it had become insipid and uninspiring, and was convinced an upgrade was in order. And in 2001, hoping to project a new image and reinvigorate his career, he changed his name again. Goodbye Puff Daddy, and hello "P. Diddy."
Give the man credit for his adaptability and stamina, because he wasn't finished yet. It turned out there were some problems with "P. Diddy." As melodious and soothing as that name was, there was some confusion as to how he should be addressed by friends and associates. (Is it "P" or "Mr. Diddy"?) In 2005, he shortened it to "Diddy." People could now address him accordingly. Hey, Diddy. Yo, Diddy. Diddy did it. Did he?
But I would argue that Diddy isn't finished with name changes. As he moves deeper into middle-age (he's already 43), he's going to feel the need to reach back to his roots, to reclaim his ancestral identity. He'll want a stage name that incorporates his birth name, Combs. I predict that Diddy will change his name to "Comby." Which rhymes with Homey. Comby the Homey.
Moreover, he will assign that name to his clothing line, and the Comby the Homey label will soon be as popular as Fruit of the Loom. Combs will become even richer than he is now. And when he accepts his next Grammy award, he will channel Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind and dramatically declare, "As God as my witness, I will never be hungry again!" (Note: Vivien Leigh's birth name was Vivien Hartley.)