A boomer meets her celebrity neighbors

When baby boomers move, especially when it’s into something like an all-adult residential complex, we have to learn more than our way around. We have to learn the names of our newfound friends. Writing from her own new home in Millsboro, Delaware, after moving down from New York, Paula Ganzi McGloin figured out a way to do it. How? By surrounding herself with celebrities.

My husband and I recently moved into a 55+ development. It has more than 450 homes. In light of the pandemic, activities have been canceled, so we walk around the neighborhood, always meeting others doing the same.

Smiles and salutations ensue. Casual questions are tossed about and met with enthusiasm. Where are you from? What model did you build? How long have you been here? Eventually this leads to some version of, I’m so-and-so, and this is what’s-his-face. It’s great to meet you!

The other couple responds in kind.

Seconds after walking away from a first encounter, Billy and I launched into our name game.

“Tina and Ed. Hmm, too bad his name’s not Ike,” I mutter. Nonetheless, we christen them Tina Turner and Ed Sheeran.

We’ve got a bevy of celebrities among us. Linda (Ronstadt) and Mitch (Ryder), Nancy (Pelosi) and Tom (Cruise). Some couples have no-brainer connections like Ken and Barb (we try never to call her Barbie).

Linda and Mitch

Though we still have to remember names, the famous ones we’ve substituted for the real ones are ingrained in our brains for decades. Whatever the science behind the strategy, it works.

Most times.

For people we don’t see often or in the right setting, the name doesn’t always click. We only remember Jean (Stapleton) and Rob (Reiner) if they’re actually right in front of their house, the blue one near Deb (Reynolds) and Elliott (Gould).

A few months after moving in, we hosted a socially-distanced hangout in our backyard and confessed to our memory-enhancing scheme.

“Who were we?” our new friends clamored from their tailgate chair.

When we told Jackie and Larry that we dubbed them Jackie Onassis and Larry Flynt, she was flattered, he was confused. “I usually get Steven Spielberg,” Larry said, stroking his salt and pepper beard.

Jackie and Larry

“It’s about the names, not the looks,” I assured him.

Some were disappointed that they weren’t given VIP nicknames. Bob and Brenda, living next to our lot, were our go-to contacts when we were planning our move, sending us pictures and videos of our house being built while we were still 250 miles away.

“What were our names?” Brenda asked.

“You and Bob didn’t need celebrity names, we always remembered yours.” (Alliteration within a couple, like Brenda and Bob, makes it easier too.)

It’s been ten months since we moved in and we’ve developed a wonderful circle of friends, whose names we have no trouble remembering. Though we’re no longer newbies, we’re facing a wave of newcomers during the development’s final phase of construction. With all these smiling faces finding their way around, our celebrity system comes in handy.

We were recently talking to a new resident outside his house.

“You’re from New York?” he asked.

“Is it my accent?” my husband laughed.

Paula and Billy

“No, your shirt,” he said, pointing to Billy’s Mets t-shirt.

“Where in New York?”

“Long Island.”

I introduced us. “I’m Paula, this is Billy.”

“Hi, I’m Ray, and my wife,” he said motioning toward his house behind him, “is Candy. It’s so hard to remember names, I’ve started using celebrity names.”

“Us too!” I laughed, already identifying him as Ray Romano. “So who will we be?”

Without missing a beat, he proclaimed: “Paula Abdul and Billy Joel!”

That works for us!


  1. How much fun is this? Walking around and about in Independence is a good way
    to meet our neighbors especially the newbies!

  2. Being in the same situation now for 4 years, remembering names is a problem. The path I’ve taken is associating the names of new friends with relatives. I jump for joy when meeting someone new who has the same name as an aunt or uncle, reverting to other old friends if no relatives fit the bill. In all of my life I never knew a Cookie or Dottie but since living at the Glen there are many. The winning names are Marie for women and Joe for men. There so many of each it becomes comical. You have to assign numbers and when two or three are together, what fun. Sort of like attending an Italian wedding when the both grandfathers are named Ralph, call out the name and everyone answers. Works for Tony, Joseph and Pasquale.
    Here’s a common fact, when you meet someone names and where you lived before are always mentioned, even what you did for a living but for some reason rarely is the last name give. With the last name you can look up the new acquaintance giving your memory a little help but without it you run the risk of forever just saying high, using now name.
    Believe it or not, as of yet I have not met either a Paula or a Billy but if I do I’m ready.

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