26 May 2005

Alastair McKenzie - it's my name. You can't have it.

Looking through my site statistics for the last few days I notice my name appearing higher up the list of keyword referrals than usual. This is the number of times somebody visits my biog page having searched for 'Alastair McKenzie' on Google or another search engine. There's always a few - one or two a day - but sometimes, as now, the figure leaps up to five or six a day.

The reason, I assume, is because my namesake has appeared on TV again - maybe a new series of Monarch of the Glen in which he plays a/the lead role.

Here I am, riding on the back of his fame. And, assuming he's noticed, it must be a little galling for him that I have quite a high profile on the internet, so that anyone searching for 'Alastair McKenzie' ... gets me. To get him you need to search specifically for 'Alastair Mackenzie' because that's the way his name is spelt.

It's just one of those names I'm afraid! It gets spelt every which way. Regular variations are Alistair, Alister, Alasdair, Mackenzy, etc etc. My favourite variation was when somebody entered it on the passenger list for a cruise ship as 'AllStar McKenzie'! I had to spend a week on board with people calling me 'All Star' - it was tough!

(BTW - My wife who is a writer and ex-publisher/editor absolutely hates it when people miss-spell McKenzie. I, on the other hand, as a broadcaster, couldn't care less. I only object if they mis-pronounce it!)

Anyway, what my namesake probably doesn't know is that I think he only has the name because I gave it up. His predecessor wasn't so lucky.

Under the rules of the actors' union, Equity, no two members can have the same stage name. When I came to join in 1976 I was aware of a child actor called Alastair McKenzie who had been the understudy to Jack Wilde in the film 'Oliver' and then gone on to play one of the children in the London Weekend television series of Black Beauty. So I was expecting to have to change my name (I won't tell you to what - too embarrasing!). In the event I got there first... and he had to change his name!

The Black Beauty series was very successful and from time to time over the next decade (every time they sold it to Nepal TV or somewhere) a repeat-fee cheque for a few hundred quid would turn up in the post, having been sent from LWT to Equity to me. It was heartbreaking to keep sending them back (especially with my name on them!) but Equity never amended their records and eventually sometime in the late eighties on about the eleventh occasion I phoned the LWT accounts dept and explained what was happening. That sorted it. A few months later I got a letter from him, thanking me and suggesting we meet up and compare the lives of Alastair McKenzie. Sadly we never did, I lost the letter, and I cannot remember what his stage name was.

I stopped working in theatre in the late eighties and let my Equity membership lapse a few years later. I assume that the one-person-one-name rule still applies and that the spelling (Mck v Mack) is not crucial. So presumably, if I had kept my membership up, the Monarch of the Glen would be called something else.

The good thing is that spelling is everything to computers, so he won't be wanting my domain, www.alastairmckenzie.com !








2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes that is why I'm here. the other 2 kids Roderick Shaw and Tony Maiden died pretty young. Glad he is still around.It was nice that you did that and nice that he wrote to you. I have been watching it on RETRO TV.

Jeff Cooper

Anonymous said...

His name is now Stuart MacKenzie and you can find him here: http://www.maynardleigh.co.uk/biographies.php?category_id=2