First: Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in America. And while it is vitally important to remember the life and work of one man, let's keep in mind that what he did still needs doing, that what he was trying to accomplish is not yet close to complete. The day--and it is significant to have this day--is about equality for all people. That is far from the norm, so the work is not over. Whether you have the day off or not, it's a good time to think.
For reasons that aren't the least bit interesting or relevant (mostly as a way to avoid writing) I spent a little time trying to find out how many people in America share my name. Suffice it to say, I never did get a number. But that's not the point.
Along the way, I came across this chart, a list of people with my last name who are designated as "famous." And it was an interesting list. It does not deal with spelling variations, so Joel and Ethan Coen, for example, are not listed. But a good number of people--in this case, 250--are there, and they include some you would expect (Leonard Cohen comes in at #27 because a song of his was used in the soundtrack for Watchmen, which is just sad). The usual suspects are included, with Sacha Baron Cohen placing high and my namesake Jeff Cohen of the movie Goonies weighing in (sorry) at #3. The most famous person named Cohen is apparently Emory Cohen, and I've never heard of him. That's the way things go when you're old like me.
Still, 250 is a lot of names, albeit all the same at the end. So, as one does, I scanned the list for my own name.
Let's be clear about this: I don't consider myself to be within driving distance of "famous." Most of the people who buy my books never even see my name on them, because it's not there. I've made my peace with that and actually enjoy it sometimes. I didn't get into this business for the fame, believe me. Because 1)There isn't any and 2)Who would want that?
However, I must file just the slightest protest.
With GHOST IN THE WIND (now available in paperback and coming on audio Feb. 16!), I have now published 15 novels and 2 non-fiction books. At least eight more are coming in the future. So that's pretty good. And according to sales numbers I don't understand, the Haunted Guesthouse series alone has sold more than 140,000 copies. So the books are getting out there, and to some extent, so is my name. Many people with an interest in the crime fiction publishing biz will have a passing recognition of my name or a variation thereof if it comes up. That's sort of like being famous.
So if someone could explain to me how someone who served as "miscellaneous crew" on Ocean's Eleven is more famous than I am, I'd appreciate it (no offense, #125 Amy Minda Cohen).
One of the other Jeff Cohens, at #182, was the casting director for Till (sic) Human Voices Wake Us. The casting director? For a movie I have never heard of? That's famous?
This fame thing is a tricky business. No, I'm not envious of #192, Michael Cohen, who apparently is famous just for being himself, or #214 Sherm Cohen, who worked in the art department on The Spongebob Square Pants Movie. I'm sure they're nice people who do their jobs very well. But are they more famous than I am? It's a good question. Maybe they are.
To be fair, this list seems to have been compiled strictly by running a search on IMDb with the name Cohen in it, because all of the "famous" people are somehow tied to the film and TV businesses. For example, the famous gangster Mickey Cohen and ice cream mogul/activist Ben Cohen (who shares a name with my late grandfather) are not listed. Apparently there's famous and then there's movie famous.
In the end, it was interesting looking over the list and trying to figure out if I was more well-known than any of these 250 people. Probably not. And that's fine with me. Fame doesn't beckon to me: I prefer hiding behind E.J. and my keyboard. Let the books be famous.
But there were two interesting (to me) entries: #226 Eve Cohen, cinematographer for The Prometheus Project, shares a name with my daughter. And #246, Josh Cohen, writer of Scavengers, shares a name with my son.
Because he is my son.
P.S. Pitchers and catchers report in 31 days.