Kevin: Timeline Of A Name
Another of the few remaining threads linking us to Old Hollywood has just snapped with the passing of actor Kevin McCarthy. He won a Golden Globe (and was nominated for an Oscar) for his performance in 1951′s Death Of A Salesman, but he’s best known as the panicked hero of the original Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956).
McCarthy was never too uppity for genre films, and he worked in TV from its early years when small-screen drama was presented as recorded ‘theater hours’. Late into his career he played politicians, doctors, judges and professors, and was even enough of a good sport to appear in 1991′s Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go To College. He was a favourite of Joe Dante, appearing in Dante’s Piranha and Innerspace, and in Dante’s segment in Twilight Zone: The Movie.
But McCarthy’s first name sounds curiously contemporary for someone born in 1914. The name is Irish, and dates back to at least 498 CE, when St Kevin of Glendalough, the patron saint of Dublin, is said to have been born. In Old Irish, the name was originally spelled Cóemgen, in Middle Irish Caoimhghin and in modern Irish Caoimhín. It means “of gentle birth”.
It is a popular boys’ name throughout Europe and in English-speaking countries. In the US it reached its peak of popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, when it was the 14th and 13th most popular boys’ name, respectively. It also hit a peak in France in the late 1990s – in 1998 Kevin was the 17th most popular French boys’ name, and in 1999 the 18th most popular. Oddly, Swedes and Chileans are also fond of the name.
Let’s pay tribute to McCarthy – and the other Kevins of the world – by tracing the name’s appearances over a century of popular culture.
1914: Kevin McCarthy is born in Seattle. He is orphaned in the flu pandemic of 1918, along with older brothers Preston and Sheridan, and sister Mary (who goes on to write the landmark proto-feminist novel The Group in 1963).
1928: Kevin Heinze is born in Melbourne. As a teenager during WWII, he discovers a love of gardening. “I just liked to be outside and I liked the feeling of planting something and watching it grow,” he will tell Gardening Australia.
1947: Kevin Kline is born in St Louis. His father, an agnostic Jew and scion of a local department-store dynasty, owns a record store. His mother was born in Ireland. Also born this year in Melbourne is Kevin Sheedy, a scrappy Catholic kid who will prove himself to be a tenacious Australian Rules footballer.
1949: Kevin McQuay is born in Melbourne. Both his grandfathers fought at Gallipoli in WWI, and McQuay is intensely patriotic. From an early age he shows a flair for colourful entrepreneurship. Always a tubby lad, he acquires the nickname ‘Big Kev’.
1955: Kevin Costner is born in Lynwood, California, the youngest son in a respectable, working-class Baptist family.
1957: Kevin Rudd is born in Nambour, Queensland, to a dairy farming family. Aged five, he will be seriously ill with rheumatic fever, and at age 11 his father will die, precipitating a period of financial disaster for the Rudd family. Later, Rudd will tell journalists about the hardship and humiliation of these years.
1958: Kevin Bacon is born in Philadelphia, one of six children in a close-knit, liberal family. In 1995, Bacon will form a band with his brother Michael. They will tour and record as the Bacon Brothers Band.
1959: Kevin Fowler is born in New Jersey, the youngest of three children, and grows up in California. After being expelled from military school, he graduates as valedictorian of his class. While in high school, he decides to become an actor, and takes on his mother’s maiden name: Spacey.
1963: Kevin Mitnick is born in Los Angeles. Aged 12, he will learn to bypass the ticketing system on LA’s buses. In 1979, aged 16, he will perform his first computer hack. In 1988, he will be caught hacking and sentenced to 12 months in prison, plus three years’ probation.
1967: Kevin Heinze’s gardening program Sow What first airs on ABC television, filmed at Heinze’s own home in Montrose, Victoria. The show will air until 1988. Generations of kids will watch Heinze give his customary sign-off “Cheerio for now”. He will also tour schools, advocating gardening programs.
1968: Kevin Aoki is born in New Jersey to Japanese restaurant entrepreneur Rocky Aoki and his wife Chizuru Kobayashi. “It’s brought a lot of pressure being his child,” Kevin will tell New York magazine in 2006. “He basically changed the way Americans think about Japanese culture and cuisine.”
1970: Kevin Smith is born in New Jersey, the youngest son of Irish Catholic parents.
1973: Kevin McKidd is born in Elgin, Scotland.
1978: Kevin Federline is born in Oregon. When his parents divorce, Federline will move with his father to California, where he will drop out of high school to start a career in dance. Meanwhile, Kevin Bacon makes his acting debut in fratboy comedy National Lampoon’s Animal House.
1981: Kevin Sheedy begins coaching Essendon Football Club. He will hold this position until 2007, during which time Essendon will win four premierships (in 1984, 1985, 1993 and 2000) and finish second four more times. In 2012, he will become the inaugural coach of the new Western Sydney Football Club.
1982: After a distinguished stage career in which he has won a Tony Award, Kevin Kline makes his film debut in Sophie’s Choice.
1984: Kevin Bacon becomes a breakout star in the box-office smash Footloose.
1986: Kevin McEnroe is born in Santa Monica, California. He is the son of drug-addled actress Tatum O’Neal and tantrum-throwing tennis star John McEnroe, who will marry several months after his birth. Kevin’s parents will separate acrimoniously in 1992. Due to O’Neal’s drug problems, McEnroe, his brother Sean and sister Emily will live with their father.
1987: Paul Kevin Jonas Jr, known as Kevin, is born in New Jersey, the eldest son of musical parents who are also devout Pentecostal Christians. Along with his brothers Joe and Nick, Jonas will be homeschooled. That same year, Kevin Costner breaks out in the role of Elliot Ness in The Untouchables.
1988: The Wonder Years begins airing. Its main character, Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage, narrated by Daniel Stern), recalls growing up in the 1960s. Kevin and his friends are about to enter junior high school; in the show’s timeline, Kevin was born around 1956.
1989: Kevin Kline wins a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Otto in A Fish Called Wanda.
1990: Kevin Costner directs, produces and stars in Dances With Wolves. The film is nominated for 12 Oscars and wins seven, including Best Picture and Best Director. Home Alone is also released this year. Its hero is an eight-year-old boy named Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), who is accidentally left behind when his family goes away for Christmas and must defend his home from two dim-witted burglars.
1994: Kevin Smith directs his debut film, Clerks. Shot in the same convenience store where Smith works, it cost $27,575, part of which is Smith’s reimbursed tuition after dropping out of college. It goes on to gross $3.1 million. Smith wins the Filmmakers’ Trophy at the Sundance Festival and the Prix de la Jeunesse and International Critics’ Week Prize at Cannes.
1995: After two-and-a-half-years as a fugitive, Kevin Mitnick is apprehended by the FBI. He will confess to four counts of wire fraud, two counts of computer fraud and one count of illegally intercepting a wire communication, and will serve five years in jail. The same year, Kevin Spacey wins a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects. He will win another Oscar in 1999, for Best Actor in American Beauty.
1996: Kevin McKidd makes his breakout appearance as doomed heroin addict Tommy in Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting.
2001: Kevin McQuire floats his cleaning-products company, Big Kev’s Ltd, on the Australian Stock Exchange. Known for his Australian flag shirts and enthusiastic TV-commercial delivery, McQuire’s catchphrase is “I’m excited!”
2003: Lionel Shriver writes We Need To Talk About Kevin, an epistolary novel about 15-year-old high-school mass-murderer Kevin Khatchadourian and his fraught relationship with his mother Eva. In 2005, the novel will win the Orange Prize.
2004: Kevin Federline marries pop star Britney Spears in a surprise ceremony in which they wear matching tracksuits. The couple will have two children, Sean and Jayden, but will separate in 2006. Federline will be granted sole custody of their sons.
2005: Kevin McKidd stars as Lucius Vorenus in HBO’s period drama Rome. Meanwhile, Kevin McQuire dies of a heart attack, having stepped down from his financially troubled namesake company in 2004, and Kevin, Joe and Nick Jonas sign a record deal with Daylight/Columbia, deciding to call themselves the Jonas Brothers.
2007: Kevin Rudd is swept into the Australian prime ministership on a groundswell of “Kevin 07″ goodwill. He will enjoy a startlingly long period of public popularity.
2008: Kevin Heinze dies, aged 80.
2010: Kevin Rudd is deposed in a backroom coup and replaced with his deputy, Julia Gillard. In a tediously drawn-out federal election, Gillard manages to form a minority government. Kevin Rudd is appointed foreign minister. Also, Kevin McCarthy dies, aged 96.
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