Who Are These People?

John W. Pinkerton




My name is Harvey Pekar - that's an unusual name - Harvey Pekar. 1960 was the year I got my first apartment and my first phone book. Now imagine my surprise when I looked up my name and saw that in addition to me, another Harvey Pekar was listed. Now I was listed as "Harvey L. Pekar", my middle name is Lawrence, and he was listed as "Harvey Pekar" therefore his was a - was a pure listing. Then in the '70s, I noticed that a third Harvey Pekar was listed in the phone book, now this filled me with curiosity. How can there be three people with such an unusual name in the world, let alone in one city? Then one day, a person I work with expressed her sympathy with me, concerning what she thought, was the death of my father, and she pointed out an obituary notice in the newspaper for a man named Harvey Pekar. And one of his sons was named Harvey. And these were the other Harvey Pekar's. And six months later, Harvey Pekar Jr. died. And although I've met neither man, I was filled with sadness. “What were they like?,” I thought, it seemed that our lives had been linked in some indefineable way. But the story does not end there, for two years later, another 'Harvey Pekar' appeared in the phone book. Who are these people? Where do they come from? What do they do? What's in a name? Who is "Harvey Pekar"?


This is a monologue spoken by the actor Paul Giamatti portraying Harvey Pekar in the 2003 biographical film American Splendor.  Harvey was an underground comic book writer.  He passed away in 2010 at the age of 70.

I remember the monologue because I suspect it expresses a thought that most of us have at one time or another: “Who are these people using my name?”

We think of our names as ours.  It doesn’t seem quite right that someone else should be using “our” names, but they do.

About forty years ago, I checked the New Orleans phone book while visiting there to see if any Pinkertons were listed.  There was only one.  Damn, New Orleans is a pretty big city.  One would think there would be more.  That reminds me of a conversation I had with my friend, Sam, as we were traveling somewhere together years ago.  I mentioned that there didn’t seem to be many Pinkertons around.  His reponse was, “Natural selection.”  An insult, but a funny one. I checked the internet the other day to see if the supply in New Orleans had improved: three Pinkertons total.  They’re reproducing, but slowly.

I did a Zabasearch for John Pinkerton.  Holy Cow, they listed 102 fellows with that name in the US.  I checked out Texas: 19.  As Harvey said, “Who are these people? Where do they come from? What do they do?”

Okay, I began doing a general search on the net just using the name John Pinkerton. 

Hmmm...“Brewmaster John Pinkerton Receives Pioneer Award.”  Well, that’s a promising start.  “Moon River Brewing Company brewmaster John Pinkerton was awarded the 2012 Pioneer Award at the Savannah Craft Brew Festival in Savannah, Georgia.”   Apparently, John helped found the Rubber Boots Society, a guild for brewers in the mid-Atlantic states.  John’s just 40.  He says that he started brewing beer at his parents’ home and that the greatest perk of being a brewmaster is, “Free beer.”  Well, I guess I’ll allow John to go on using my name.

Here’s another John Pinkerton.  He’s Executive Chairman and director of the Board of Directors of Range.  He’s also on the Board of Trustees of Texas Christian University.  John is both a graduate of TCU and UT.  Seems like a pretty important fellow.

Oh, my!  Here’s a mug shot of a John Pinkerton from Milwaukee.  He apparently is a sex offender.  Holy crap!  Stop using my name.

Oh my Gawd, John Pinkerton is a claymation character in a series of  short videos by a young fellow named Robert Benfer who lives in Austin.  The clay character, appropriately, is blue.  I wear nothing but blue.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Pinkerton Design Studio?  Sounds intriguing.  “Pinkerton Design Studio specializes in creating original character concepts from start to finish. “Artist John Pinkerton offers a wide variety of skills including and not limited to: sculpture, photography, mold making and painting to name a few.”  Wow!  I also found John on Deviant Art. It’s hard to explain his art: ghoulish, deviant, grotesque, but most importantly talented.  He and I are not in the same universe, but I like his stuff.

My goodness, things have turned ugly in California.  John Pinkerton was a candidate for Congress from the 8th District.  He apparently was running against Nancy Pelosi.   Well, that’s one thing in his favor.  Obviously, he lost.

I found that in Antrim, Northern Ireland there is a law firm named John W. Pinkerton & Son.  It was established in 1904.  Just looking at the pictures of the staff, I’d say they look pretty dependable.

What about long-dead John Pinkertons?  John Pinkerton (1758-1826) was a Scottish antiquarian, cartographer, author, numismatist, historian, and,  oh no, an early advocate of Germanic racial supremacy theory.  John Pinkerton (1845-1908) was an Irish protestant nationalist politician and Member of Parliament in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.  John Pinkerton (1919-1997) was a pioneering British computer designer who designed England’s first business computer.  Contemporaries described him as having a “fine critical but constructive intelligence and a quiet, dry sense of humor.”  This fellow I’ll claim as an ancestor. I don’t resent these fellows using my name; I guess the truth is that I’m using their name.

On to Facebook.  There’s a fellow with sunglasses and a cheesy mustasche who likes the music of Jesus Culture, the movie Disco Dance, and the TV series Arrested Development.  Here’s one who likes Reba McEntire, Western books, Western movies, comedies on TV, Colin Kaepernick (quarterback San Francisco 49ers), and he says he’s inspired by hard working people.  Here’s one who likes Nirvana, likes the game Team Fortress 2, and whose interest is “hanging.”  Here’s an older fellow based on his photo.  He likes jazz, Tale of Two Cities, Gran Torino, Nightline.  His activities include skiing, walking, and parenting.  He also has an interest in the National Rugby League.  Here’s another older fellow.  He likes books by Terry Dawson, his favorite football team is Ohio State University, he likes golfing, walking, and biking.  Another old guy.  He likes the movie 2016: Obama’s America, Fox News, Action 3 News, and he seems to be interested in security cameras and Jesus.  Another old guy.  He likes gospel music, Smarter than a 5th Grader, God.  Seems like a nice fellow.  Hey, a good looking young fellow.  He likes Claude Giroux (hockey), the NHL and everything related to hockey.  He looks as though he’s eleven; I guess I’ll forgive him his obsession with hockey.

What about obituaries?  Here’s one: “John Pinkerton, 58 of Paola, Kansas, passed away Sunday, December 25, 2011, at Olathe Medical Center.  Funeral Mass Thursday, Dec. 29 at 10 AM, Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 609 E. Chippewa St, Paola, Kansas, with a rosary at 6 PM Wednesday and visitation from 6:30 to 8 all at the Church.  Memorial contributions may be made to Knights of Columbus or the Pinkerton Memorial Fund.”  Here’s one from New Zealand:  “John Pinkerton.  (Reg.No.456956 24th Battalion Pvte WWII) On 29 August 2012 died after a short illness, aged 89 years. Loving husband of the late Nella.”  I found this statement in the guest book: "I am sorry to learn about the passing of Uncle John. He was such a nice man. I was lucky to get to know him during the time I lived in Hamilton in the 80s."  And one more: “John Pinkerton, 63, of Flagstaff, Ariz. formerly of Sarasota, died Dec. 6, 2010.  Memorial service will be 2 p.m. Jan. 22, 2011 at Toale Brothers Funeral Homes Colonial Chapel.  John was born on July 8, 1947, and raised in Sarasota, Fla.  He was the son of the late John C. Pinkerton and Eloise A. Pinkerton of Sarasota. He later moved to Central Florida so he could manage the family's citrus groves and also started up his hydroponic plant business.  In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to SPCA or the Humane Society.”

Well, after my internet research on the folks who share my name, I’m not sure I really know much more than I did when I was just wondering, “Who are these people?” I guess I don’t begrudge them using my name except for the criminal in Wisconsin and the guy with the cheesy mustache.


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