Many years ago, as a young actor approaching the time when I could finally join our fine union (Actors' Equity Association), I was, at that same time, about to get new headshots printed. I called the union office and spoke with the new membership person there (she will remain unnamed here) to make sure that my name was available for use before I had 250 headshots made with "Ron Rains" imprinted on their borders. As an actor, your name is your brand, and so it is forbidden for two union members to have the same name. To avoid confusion. It's a sort of copyright.
I was told by the ever-so-delightful-new-membership-representative that there was already a Ron Raines in The Union and that I would need to use another name when it came time to join. It wasn't enough that our names were spelled slightly differently, and I couldn't simply add a middle initial or even middle name. I was disappointed, of course. Ron Rains is a great name for stage or otherwise. It's the name I was given at birth. (Sidebar: I was named after Ronald Reagan and the German word for rain is "regen". My mother had no idea of this, but it's an interesting fact, nonetheless. To me, that is...) But rules are rules and I understood. I had the headshots printed with the name Ron Herold on them; Herold being my then-wife's surname. 250 of them.
A couple of months later, it was time to join the union. And I did. Ron Herold.
Shortly thereafter, I received a phone call late one Friday afternoon from the NYC Equity office. They told me that I really needed to keep my contact information up to date with them. That there was a producer in New York frantically trying to hunt me down. I nearly dropped my teeth. I asked for the producer's number, but they wouldn't give it to me. They told me they would pass my info on to him. Please do.
Needless to say, that was a long weekend of waiting to see who wanted to hire me. In New York! And me just a newbie to the world of Professional Theater!!
Monday came and, sure enough, I got the call. When I answered, he said, "Ron Rains?" I said, "Yes?" He said, "An old friend of yours said to tell you 'Hi'". I said, "Oh, who was that?" He said, "Debbie Reynolds!"
This producer was looking for Ron Raines.
But, wait! I wasn't Ron Raines. I was (am) Ron Rains. But not to The Union. To them, I was Ron Herold. I called the Union office to get to the bottom of it all. Why did they call me if they were looking for Ron Rains? Or rather, Ron Raines?
It seems - with not much effort at all - the NY office could do what the Chicago new membership rep was unwilling to do: a small amount of research. There is an actor Ron Raines who was once a member of The Union, but gave up his membership once he went on to TV to play Alan Spaulding on the long-running, and now canceled soap, Guiding Light. That's him on the right. The NY union rep asked if I wanted to use the name Ron Rains, since it was available after all and I jumped on it.
It was good to be back in my own skin again. I didn't even know who Ron Herold was! But he was handsome! I knew because I had 250 of his headshots.
I did write a letter to the Chicago Equity office complaining about the rude and inefficient New Membership Representative. She no longer works for Actor's Equity Association.
If anyone needs 250 8x10 photos of my face with someone else's name imprinted on them, contact me. I still have them.