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Expressway: A simple name that drives conversations

Tom Ford of West Islip says his last

Tom Ford of West Islip says his last name has always brought inquiries about what car he drives. (Photo: July 1, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

When I was growing up in a western Pennsylvania town of 50,000, my last name was not terribly common. There were four Fords in the phone book, but even through the age of 19, when I left home to join the Navy, I had never met any others.

It's true that Ford was the most recognizable auto name in the country -- and a few celebrities shared the name, too. By the time I was finishing grade school in that community of New Castle, I was used to being asked whether I was related to Henry Ford. Through the years, Henry was replaced with Whitey, Ernie, Glenn, Gerald and Harrison.

I soon realized that the Ford name was fairly common. And it always drew comments.

When I bought a sporty 1953 two-door Ford, people couldn't resist remarking on the coincidence between the car and my name. Once at a Sayville Ford dealer, a service manager joked while scrolling through a list of Ford-owning Thomas Fords. It made me wish my parents had christened me Cyrus.

The Ford name obliges me to pay keen attention in doctors' offices. Once in an examination room, a doctor asked me about an ailment I'd never heard of -- a condition listed in the file of another Tom Ford.

Luckily, I've never swallowed medicine meant for another Tom Ford. I did, however, survive an adventurous drive home from an optician's office in Bay Shore, wearing glasses belonging to a very weak-eyed Thomas Ford.

When people bring up my name, I good-naturedly accept their comments and jokes, and regard them as friendly, albeit unimaginative icebreakers.

The impulse to tell people how tiresome the routine has become is never absent, but I always squelch it. It's my annoying but modest cross to bear.

Sometimes I fantasize about getting a sizable check actually intended for designer Tom Ford. In my dreams of capitalizing on my name, I'd write a screenplay about the long-ago baseball commissioner, Ford Frick, get Francis Ford Coppola to direct, sign Harrison Ford to star, and use a sound track of Ernie Ford's old hits. Or I could write the sad tale of Bob Ford, the "Dirty Little Coward Who Shot Mr. Howard," aka Jesse James, in the song sung by Ry Cooder. Of course, I'd demand a cameo in either film. You just know they would be classics.


At a mall a couple of years ago, my wife and I were approached by a young lady offering samples of a new perfume by a "fabulous designer" named Tom Ford.

"Have you ever heard of him?" she asked.

It was too good to be true -- a mile-wide opening for me to amaze and confuse her.

But somehow I demurred.

With not one word did I address the coincidence. My wife couldn't believe that I let my big chance go.

There, when I finally had the opportunity to initiate my own tiresome name game, I chose not to participate.

Reader Tom Ford lives in West Islip.