When you have a name like Roger Simon, you don’t expect to share it with a lot of people. It’s not John Smith or Bill Jones, after all.
My parents — Ruth and Norman Simon — picked my name, which my mother later informed me she thought quite original, because my father was then serving as a flight surgeon in the Air Force. “Roger, over and out” — get it? I’m sure you do, but not quite with the repetitive glee of my fifth grade classmates during a stick ball game.
Anyway, I was born in New York Hospital on November 22, 1943 — JFK was assassinated on my twentieth birthday — but almost immediately transported to Stuttgart, Arkansas, where my father was stationed.
At about the same time, two other Roger Simons (at least) were being brought forth into this world, gainsaying my mother’s belief in the uniqueness of her progeny, or his name in any case.
But I lived in blissful ignorance — thinking I was humanity’s one and only Roger Simon — until the age of 13 when my parents uprooted me from my beloved Manhattan and moved to suburban Scarsdale, where I discovered another Roger Simon in my high school class. An old timer in the community where he had gone to grammar school, he was immensely more popular and better known than I.
Worse yet, he was interested in theatre, as was I, and in school politics, as was I. We both ended up running for school president against each other and losing. (A third guy, whose name I honestly don’t remember, won.)
Theatre was, however, considerably more important to both of us Roger Simons. It was our career path. The other Roger Simon — Roger Hendricks Simon, known as Roger H. — aimed for acting and directing and I — Roger Lichtenberg Simon, known as Roger L. — writing and, um, directing. It wasn’t a good augury for two high school boys, both with the same name, both to be interested in directing (the same play?). Thankfully we parted ways after high school, heading for different colleges.
I was again the only Roger Simon within view and soon enough I headed excitedly for graduate work at the Yale Drama School, as a playwriting major, when who pops up but Roger Hendricks Simon, as a directing major. Partly to get away from all this, I quickly began writing novels.
Meanwhile, off in faraway Chicago, yet another Roger Simon — this one with the temerity not to use a middle initial — was beginning a career in journalism and also writing books. Another writer Roger Simon, I thought. I needed that like the proverbial hole in the head.
Life was beginning to feel like the mirror scene from Duck Soup. (The three Grouchos, remember?) And I had yet to hear of Roger M. Simon — a Las Vegas ophthalmologist — and a second Roger L. Simon — an attorney in Denver specializing in motorcycle personal injury cases (I kid you not).
I thanked my lucky stars the latter two weren’t writers.
Life went on and I tried to put the writer Roger Simon out of my mind. At least he wasn’t writing fiction, as I was. Or movies. (By then I had made my way to Hollywood.) Still, his books often seemed to sell more than mine, the reprobate. On more than one occasion I would do book signings and people would come up with one of his, asking for me to sign it. Eventually I would just nod and sign anyway. It wasn’t worth the effort explaining that I was the writer of cheesy detective stories and he was the author of serious political stuff. (Jumping ahead: This was indeed the Roger Simon now writing for Politico.)