There’s a plaque hanging on the wall in the Richmond Register’s office which has always fascinated me.
Here’s what the engraving on it says:
Best Use of Graphics/Photo Illustrations
Daily Class 1
1998 Kentucky Press Association Fall Newspaper Contest
At first glance, I thought it was a misprint (trust me — the KPA has misspelled plenty of names on these kind of awards).
Small d. Apostrophe. Big A. Little r. Little t.
Was that really this person’s name?
The unique spelling stuck with me for years, until I eventually got some clarity on the subject.
Bill Robinson, who worked at The Register since 1980s — even back to when our office was located downtown — provided me with some interesting insight.
He remembered d’Art.
But, d’Art wasn’t really d’Art.
It was a pseudonym.
A fake moniker the photographer used to go by.
Sadly, Bill couldn’t remember d’Art’s actual name, or why he choose to hide his real identity from the readers of this newspaper.
For years, I’ve wondered about d’Art.
Was he in the witness relocation program?
Was he an eccentric, artistic person?
Or was he just a guy with an unusually twisted sense of humor?
If anyone knows, please contact me. I’d love to have more information.
I must admit, I’ve always felt a connection with d’Art, because I, too, have gone by an alias.
I can only assume, though, that my motivation was much different than his.
Let me explain.
In the fall of 1988, I was a sophomore at Frank W. Cox High School in Virginia Beach, Va.
One afternoon, our class was led to the school’s auditorium, and upon our arrival, our teacher seemed to disappear.
No one knew where he went.
That left a group of around 30 students in the presence of just two adults — a photographer and his assistant.
It was picture day.
Well, me and some of my friends couldn’t help but immediately notice the lack of supervision. It was also shocking to us that the assistant to the photographer walked down the line of students and handed out blank cards and small pencils.
You were supposed to write down your name and grade, then hand it back to her before you stepped on the stage to have your picture taken.
Perplexed, I remember saying to some of my classmates, “We could put any name on here. They don’t have any idea who we are.”
An idea quickly took shape.
Me and some of my friends would all pick out fake names to accompany our school photos. All of us were fans of the heavy rock music of that time period, so we decided to pay homage to some of our favorite musicians.
We had Dave Mustaine (incorrectly spelled Mustain)— lead singer/guitarist of Megadeth.
We had Vince Neil — lead singer of Motley Crue
And then there was me.
Yes, the lead singer of Guns N’ Roses.
We made our choices. Stood in line. Then confidently handed our cards to the photographer’s assistant.
She took it from me. Looked at it, then asked me, “Axl? Your name is Axl Rose?”
With a sheepish grin on my face, I falsely confirmed my fake identity.
The pictures were taken.
We went back to class.
I can’t speak for my other conspirators, but I can only assume all of us were under the impression the prank would be sniffed out by school administrators and our pictures wouldn’t actually appear with the names of our heavy metal heroes next to them.
I don’t think any of us really ever even talked about the stunt after that day.
Then, I was playing tennis in gym class one warm spring day.
That’s when I heard the teacher yell out, “HUTCHINSONNNNNNN.”
I walked over to him and he was holding a freshly released copy of the yearbook.
“When did you change your name?” he asked me.
At first, I had no idea what he was talking about.
Then, he showed me the picture.
I was speechless.
The teacher just shook his head and sent me back to the tennis court.
None of us faced any punishment for our yearbook hoax.
So, a year later, we did it again.
This time around, I was Steven Tyler – the lead singer of Areosmith.
I honestly can’t remember what fake names my other long-haired, metalhead friends chose.
I’m sure it was funny, though.
All these years later, our childish stupidity still makes me laugh.
I have no idea what happened to my pranking partners.
Maybe they are hanging out with d’Art.