For the <3 of PA Art

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 at 9:30 AM
For the <3 of PA Art by Abby Badach
Commonwealth Media Service

Michael Keaton is not actually Batman. Or, for that matter, he’s not Bruce Wayne, either.

We don’t have to tell you this. You know this. You’re a smart person – one of the brighter light bulbs in the batch (you’re welcome). And it’s obvious that, though he’s known for playing the role excellently in 1989, Keaton is an actor, and name changes are part of the game.

But what if we told you that Michael Keaton is not actually Michael Keaton?

That’s right – the Coraopolis, Pa., native (and Governor’s Arts Awards “Distinguished Arts Award” recipient in 2008) changed his name for the sake of showbiz.
Born in 1951 as Michael Douglas, the-Keaton-formerly-known-as-Douglas opted to change his last name when he moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting. (The other Michael Douglas of “Fatal Attraction” fame called dibs on the moniker when he was born in New Jersey just seven years earlier.) Realizing that he wouldn’t be the only actor registered with Actor’s Equity as “Michael Douglas,” he opted to change his name to Michael Keaton. According to TV Guide Magazine, it’s because he was a fan of Diane Keaton and he thought the name just had a nice ring to it.

Before making it big with “Batman” and “Beetlejuice” in the 1980s, Keaton worked as a production assistant on Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, with fellow Governor’s Arts Awards winner Fred Rogers, the subject of last issue’s GAA profile. Keaton played one of the “Flying Zucchini Brothers” on the WQED-produced program. He valued his work on the Pennsylvania-produced show and even hosted the 2004 PBS memorial tribute program “Fred Rogers: Everyone’s Favorite Neighbor” after Rogers’ death.

And yes, Steel City loyalists, Keaton is still an avid Steelers fan. He grew up just a stone’s throw from former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher’s hometown of Crafton, Pa.

Keaton’s subtle shift from one last name to another reminds us all of the power of words, the power to define, to classify, to describe an identity – even in the fewest of syllables. That brings us to this week’s artful action, O vibrant everyday artists: this week, we invite you to consider the haiku.

We all remember the haiku. A simple poem made up of five syllables/seven syllables/five syllables, the haiku is a poetic form native to Japan (and to elementary and high school English classes everywhere). Traditional haiku use nature as their inspiration, but the structure also emphasizes  the importance on “cutting” – or, incorporating two contrasting images into the poem.

(Contrasting images, say, like Michael Keaton’s generally comedic and lighthearted demeanor juxtaposed with Batman’s dark, withdrawn character. But we digress.)
Let’s face it: we’re not all called to be novelists or published poets. But when we can’t shake an image or a phrase or a feeling from our heads, we turn to our tattered notebooks and beloved Moleskine journals or even bar napkins. Humans are communicators through language by nature, and finding just the right way to say what we want to say can be an art form.

So hit the GAA with your best haiku, readers. Let us see your expression of everyday art through your words. Goodness knows an Erie summer provides enough inspiration through Presque Isle sunsets, the gentle lapping of waves along Dobbins’ Landing, the whisper of windswept leaves at Erie Bluffs State Park or whatever natural hideaway to which you retreat to recharge.

Or maybe you want to write a haiku about clipping your cat’s toenails. That’s cool, too. We dig that. If you can articulate it in a haiku, we want to read it – let your creativity flow as freely as the beer from The Plymouth’s taps on a quarter draft Monday night.

Post your best Erie-related haiku to the Governor’s Arts Awards Facebook page through Aug. 7 and you’ll be in the running to win an Erie Reader and Governor’s Awards Important Person Package that includes an Erie Reader subscription ($50 value), an erieBrand We Love Erie beach towel ($19.99 value), the book “Fun Poetry” by founding member of the Erie County Poetry Committee and 2013 poet laureate candidate Chuck Joy ($16 value), a $25 gift card to The Nature Shop inside the Tom Ridge Environmental Center at Presque Isle, plus two tickets to both the red-carpet Governor’s Awards for the Arts at the Warner and Aftermath after-party at the Erie Art Museum on Sept. 20 (priceless!).

Happy haiku-ing!

Erie Reader: Vol. 7, No. 25
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