I Did NOT Have a Stroke

It was the OTHER James Garner who had a stroke over the weekend. We wish him a speedy recovery.

(Okay, that was in bad taste, and no one was really worried about my health.)

All my life, I’ve had a relationship with James Garner. Generally favorable, although he hasn’t put much work into it. I can remember ever since kindergarten the scene of someone reading my name off a roll, and making the obligatory joke about “Maverick” (and later “Rockford”). In Kindergarten, I had no clue what was going on. But at some point, when I was nine or 10, I saw “Support Your Local Sheriff” on TV and realized who this other James Garner was. And I was pretty impressed. Effortless cool, good acting, composure, humor. And when you read more about his life, you realize what a mensch he really is. War veteran, two purple hearts, civil rights marcher, auto racer, married to the same woman for 52 years. I often joke that I could do worse than sharing my name with him, and am glad I wasn’t named James Spader or James Woods. (I knew an unfortunate guy in high school whose name was Lorne Green. C’mon, the parents have NO excuse for doing something like that.)

I wasn’t named after the actor, thankfully. I was named after my Uncle Jim, who had a pretty interesting life. He died when I was about seven, but I remember enjoying my trips to his house in Chicago, where we got to drink “50/50” and bang on his piano while his wirehair terrier Skipper barked and chased after us. He always called me “Germs,” which is the only nickname I never bridled at.

When I joined SAG/AFTRA after a couple commercials 20 years ago, I was faced with the decision of what my professional name should be. I couldn’t go by James Garner, obviously. I stuck the “Finn” in there from a family name. So my snooty literary name was actually my snooty acting name first. Thankfully for all involved, the acting didn’t go much further. About a decade ago, I received one of his royalty statements in the mail (through AFTRA maybe? I don’t remember) and sent it to him at the correct address on the letter. Didn’t get a response. Typical of our relationship. I’ve had to do all the work.