“Oh, I know it’s hard to believe, but there’s a story behind my name. My grandmother was English and she was given a ticket in the balcony to see the American actress, Tallulah Bankhead, on the stage. The play was Sidney Howard’s “They Knew What They Wanted”, and she never forgot it. In America, in her old age, she used to watch her on television sometimes.
“No, I never saw her in person myself. She was just part of the family lore, like my parents coming steerage to America on a rattley ocean liner in terrible seas. I did hear a recording of her deep and husky voice once and it was unforgettable. She was a flamboyant character, lived on cigarettes and pills and handsome young men. And yet, with all that dissipation, she was known to be a terrific actress.
“She came from a distinguished family in Alabama. Her father was Speaker of the House of Representatives. One, maybe two, of her uncles were senators. Yet with all that dignity and decorum in-house, they couldn’t keep Tallulah down. She was wild as a child and wild she remained.
“No, none of this history-by-association rubbed off on me. I wish it had. When I was a child, I was quiet, studious—her very opposite. I think my grandma would have liked me to live up to my name.
“I’m usually called Tallu, and I like it. It’s distinctive. When I got here to assisted living I should have registered as just plain Tallu, because so many people ask me about my name. Although I’m used to being asked if I was related to her and I always answer them, and I’ll answer you before you ask,”No. I really like the association, but I was born in The Bronx and there’s no way I can pass myself off as an aristocrat from Alabama!”