the name game

Welcome to the Weekly Guest Spotlight

Justin Bog (and Zippy)Tonight’s guest is writer, (and all around great guy) Justin Bog. For more about Justin, click here to visit his website.

I was born Gregory Justin Bogdanovitch, a twin, on July 23rd, 1965, a bit reddish, squalling at the world, but probably silenced in quick fashion. I was an inquisitive child of Ukrainian descent. My unknown grandfather, my father’s father gained entry to the USA by fighting in WWI. He had been a troika driver, horses harnessed to taxi people around. As a new citizen he worked in New Jersey, for the water department. His relatives, who also came over to the States, owned a liquor store. When my father was nine, his father fell from a water tower to his death, and my father told me recently that he still wishes he could know this man. I do too. 
My father grew up close to Seaside Heights — now made famous by those MTV reality show boozers. Yes, my father also took his dates to the boardwalk, rode The Octopus, and reveled in telling his five little Bogs the story of one date who lost her cookies on that ride. He was an artist. He went to several Universities pursuing his painting dreams, and accomplished many creative goals; met my mother in art school at The University of Iowa grad school — home to what is touted as the best creative writing program in the country, Iowa was the first American institution of higher learning to accept creative work for academic credit, and developed the Master of Fine Arts degree. I followed in my parents’ huge creative footsteps. Even though my mom has passed, my father’s still painting at almost 80 years of age, producing 100 smaller paintings in his Assisted Living Home this past year alone. He’s always been driven to create. I share this drive. We had family vacations, but they were short so my father could get back to painting and teaching at Denison University in Ohio. 
In the fifties, to make money, my father applied for a job at a prophylactic company. The Red Scare decade made the interviewer demand that my father shorten Bogdanovitch to Bogdan. My father refused, walked out, and got a job in an insane asylum. His favorite novel is The Magic Mountain. Today, my father supports my decision to shorten Bogdanovitch to Bog as my pen name. He gets it. 
I grew up a bookworm of epic proportions, a child named after two martyr popes, one stoned for speaking his mind, and I keep up with the heritage of this name. There has always been a search for justice in my make-up, and this search is unfulfilled in the majority of instances, past moments of angst. Bogdanovitch means “gift of God” and I love the way people try to say the name at Safeway when I’m checking out. No one who has tried to pronounce Bogdanovitch gets it right. Even after I say it with the accent on the third syllable, the way I was always taught, people cannot duplicate the word. Twelve simple letters strung together: Bog - da - NO - vitch. Try it! 
If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me if I was related to the director, Peter Bogdanovich, I’d be a wealthy man. Because I’m in the writing field, some people don’t believe me when I tell them I am not related. I say, “No, I’m the son of the artist, George Bogdanovitch (see his art here:” Only once did I lie and say, “Yes, but I don’t really talk about him much. He’s directing a movie somewhere and it’s always hush hush.” Didn’t make me feel good lying. Forgive me. I was drunk at a college party, drinking way too much, and while stumbling home I almost knocked myself out after hitting my head on a street sign — that’s karma. 
But the questions about my last name never stop. I took a horror film class at the University of Michigan, undergrad, and one of the early films shown was Targets, Peter Bogdanovich’s first film. The professor in the large class was terrific, found the nuggets of greatness in the horror genre, showed all the classics, from Dracula, The Haunting (the 1963 Robert Wise version), The Exorcist, on up to Alien and Halloween. Loved the class, and even though the professor promised that no Teaching Assistant would ever grade our essays more than once, I found myself stuck with a TA who didn’t appreciate me, my writing, or my name. When I spoke with her about her grading, she mentioned my name and assumed I was related. I met with the professor before the Final. I did fill him in on the lack of family connections.
“What can I do for you?”
“I’d like you to be the one to grade my final. No one else. No TA. Just you, if at all possible.”
His curious look had a tight edge to it. “Why is that? That’s a strange request.”
“I don’t believe I’m getting a fair shake with ______.”
“Because of my last name.”
“What is that?”
“Oh. I see.”
A funny coincidence: My favorite comedy of all time was directed by Peter Bogdanovich — What’s Up Doc? I just watched it again, maybe for the 50th time, two weeks ago, and laughed just the same.
So, I had trepidations when I finally told my father I was shortening Bogdanovitch to Bog as my pen name. He said, “Good for you, just this morning, one of the nurses mangled the hell out of it.” We laughed.
My new eBook is out, Sandcastle and Other Stories, and it will also be published by Green Darner Press sometime in the near future. 
Erica, thank you for allowing me to blather all over your wonderful blog. I love you and your writing very much. 
Just a side note…I knew Justin and I would become long-time friends from the moment we discovered our mutual love of What’s Up Doc…among other things. I hope you take the time to check out Justin’s new book, and his blog, so you can discover why he’s one of my all-time favorites.
Until the next time…I’ll be enjoying a lazy weekend at home!
Copyright © 2000-2018, Erica Lucke Dean. All rights reserved. Any retranscription or reproduction is prohibited and illegal.
Posted on June 8, 2012 .