What’s In A Name?

One of the questions I often get from people looking for a short jab to the jawbone is ‘So, is Tristan Risk your real name?’ to which I’ll sigh. I won’t be the first one to tell you but many of us with stage pseudonyms dislike it when posed with this query. I dislike it because I find it both annoying and invasive. Many of my burlesque brethren also have careers or other aspects that force them to truly live a double life, and so an adopted moniker is necessary. For myself, it’s just a pain in the ass, since Tristan Risk is the name I’ve gone by since I was a child and the first one I respond to. However, since for legal purposes of banking and such, I have another surname which can make matters tricky.

Case in point.

I was down in LA this past week and en route there I hit a stumbling block with the check in at YVR. I’ve always found the self-check in kiosks to be a complete waste of my time, so when it didn’t find me straight off I wasn’t shocked. At the agent, even though BOTH names appeared and one matched my passport perfectly, I still had to get arrangements made to change my ticket, etc. I did make my flight and all was well. But it’s something that has become a greater thorn in my side as people want to pay in cheques that require the name my bank recognizes (they DO recognize Risk now, thank Christ, but it took a while to convince them of the fact) but it makes for a series of headaches and is a pretty good test of what is normally a pretty deep pool of patience I possess.

I recall hearing of someone, an American author, who was travelling within the USA. He was on a book tour and was heading home from his series of engagements. This was just as the FAA was enacting the law of needing a piece of ID with a photograph and pre-9/11. He was surprised to hear that even though he had an expired driver’s license, they may not let him board the plane. In a fit of desperation, he offered up the dust cover of the book he was promoting and showed it as a piece of ID. He was told it wasn’t part of the cognitive documents or something to that effect. He was stupefied to have them suggest that he had gotten it printed just so he could sneak on a flight to Buffalo. In the end, he also made his flight, but it brought up the argument of how hard it is to define one as one’s self and break the ties that bind us from who we once were versus who we now are. Ask any divorcee, performer, or newly married woman who has taken her husband’s name. I understand the need for security, especially in this age of rampant identity theft, but it’s no less frustrating when your in a hurry and the poor shmuck on the hook for security is trying to access whether the pin up on the business card is a match to the mug shot in your ID.

Much like Johnny Cash’s Boy Named Sue, I too, was cursed with the name of the opposite gender. While I’ve yet to get into fisticuffs with my biological father (I won’t lie – I’d mop the floor with that sucker) I also had to put up with a certain amount of ribbing – both from my given and my family name growing up. Let’s face it – it’s a unique name and children aren’t known for being lenient on people with unique names. Although with this strange trend of naming your kids batshit names that no one has seen since LSD was in major vogue in the 60′s, I might be wrong at this point. While it wasn’t fun during, it did harden me up and I wasn’t one of the legions of girls in my generation named Sarah or Jennifer. It also helped define me as a burlesque performer in later life through pure accident.

Much like the aforementioned ‘Jennifer’ and ‘Sarah’ burlesque suffers greatly from many performers who go back to the same moniker well one too many times. You would be hard-pressed to go to a burlesque show or Burlesque Hall Of Fame and throw a garter without hitting several ‘Kittys’, ‘Bettys’, ‘Ditas’, ‘Cherrys’ or ‘Babys’. Oftentimes you can find who had a clever play on words name first a bone of contention, and I wrote a a blog years ago about why no, you cannot call yourself that. Oddly enough it still holds true today. Google people, it’s your friend. But Tristan Risk has been who I’ve always been and the name Little Miss Risk was borne from two things: my ability to get under my mother’s skin and laziness.

You know how you can usually gauge the anger of your parental until by the tone and inflection of their voice? Everything from you can tell they want to give you shit, but they are trying not to laugh? Other times there is company present and your basically staying the executioner’s hand for a time until they leave and they your folks REALLY let you have it? We all get good and figuring out these cues and whether to take it seriously and keep reading our comics or if a hasty relocation to the neighbour’s bushes might be a good idea until they cool down.  In a lot of cases when you hear your full name, first, middle, last used it’s a pretty good barometer that the shit you are in is deep, indeed. In my case, I never had a middle name so when my mother yelled, ‘LITTLE MISS RISK’ it was a safe bet that she had discovered the holes in the drywall or that I had appropriated something to turn into an art project.

Thus, when I began doing burlesque and having my first website it seemed a natural move for me. When I first started doing burlesque, I never really thought I’d be doing it this long, but I had hoped. But now as I enter into my eleventh year, I now realize that I WILL occasionally have to, upon making people swear a blood oath, let folks know who to make the cheque out to, or else take the plunge and and update all ID to match up so there is little to no question as to my identity in the future. Because if I’m going by Tristan, Tristan Risk, Little Miss Risk, Finn, Raccoon, Risky, Lil Risk or any of the other handles attached to my bag of bones, I don’t think USA Customs is going to to want 30 business cards and pin ups handed over to them when I am running in heels to catch a flight. But then again, you never know what might get you on a flight these days.

So when that James Bond type technology becomes more readily available to us, I for one will welcome whether my lids are dusted in glitter and false lashes or au natural that my eye scan will save me the rest of face that my current passport doesn’t.

And while we are on futuristic subjects, I want a hover board too, before I’m too old.


Little Miss Risk



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One Response to What’s In A Name?

  1. Ron says:

    “First rule of magic: Don’t let anyone know your real name. Names have power.”
    John Constantine, The Books Of Magic

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