Communications exec finds Googling himself a blow to the ego

Sunday, February 28, 2010; C03

Ed Nanas is a retired communications executive of a well-known Fortune 500 company that never knew about the brassiere article when it hired him because there was no Google back then.

I'm a geezer, born March 1, 1932 -- the day Lindbergh's baby was kidnapped. Elizabeth Taylor was born two days earlier in that Leap Year. Neither famous-person factoid qualifies me for any special recognition and probably won't be mentioned in my obituary. But some of us geezers wonder how and why we might -- or might not -- be remembered. Young and middle-aged folk, such as my daughter and grandson, make it clear that a person doesn't count for much these days unless there's a long list of accomplishments chronicled on Google and other miraculous search engines. If you can't find your name on a search engine, they say, you've left no "life tracks" and are very forgettable.

So being sentimentally inclined and with my healthy ego intact, I finally got around to "googling" myself . . . not only on Google, but also on AlltheWeb and Bing.

Why the ego? Well, for several years in the 1960s, I was a busy freelance writer, having produced more than 200 articles on assignment for national magazines. They covered a broad range of subjects -- action-adventure, fact crime, science, technology, automobiles, photography and a how-to article for Modern Bride about comfort in the marriage bed. An article I wrote even appeared in the same issue of the Saturday Evening Post that pictured Taylor and Richard Burton. (A newsstand sellout, but my article was about irradiated foods.)

When I sat down to "Google" myself, I had high hopes that a good sprinkling of articles with my byline might show up as part of a stellar Internet legacy cast in digital concrete for all time.

Uh . . . not quite. Alas, the outpouring of now yellowed pages from my old Underwood "mill" took place before there was an Internet or even the idea of a personal computer. In fact, only one of my articles seems to have survived into the Internet Age. As fate would have it, it's the one article I wish I hadn't written. (More accurately, I didn't mind writing it but should not have done so under my own name.) The article was featured on the February 1964 cover of Science and Mechanics: "Brassieres: An Engineering Miracle!"

At that time, Larry Sanders was editor of Science and Mechanics. As I remember it, Larry called me just before Thanksgiving 1963. The conversation went like this:

Larry: "Ed, I cover-blurbed an article and I need it fast, before Christmas."

Me: "Fine, Larry. What is it?

Larry: "Brassieres: An Engineering Miracle."

Me: "No way!"

Larry: "C'mon, Ed! It's being engraved on the cover as we speak. You have to help me out! I got the idea from Harold Robbins' 'Carpetbaggers.' The Howard Hughes character designs a bra to keep the Jane Russell character from bouncing all over the place."

Me: "I don't care where you got the idea. I know next to nothing about brassieres. And I'm not very good with panty girdles, either."

Larry: "Ha, ha. You'll learn! It'll be fun. You can write it with some tongue-in-cheek, but not too much. Play it reasonably straight. Do it for me!"

Well, I did. And it was fun. I researched the piece by visiting several brassiere manufacturers that populated New York's Fifth Avenue between 34th and 40th streets. The fitting rooms and the 34-B models indeed were interesting . . . academically speaking. of course.

When the article hit the newsstands, Larry issued a press release about it. Many newspapers picked up the release, making me out to be a "brassiere expert," including Newsday, my Long Island hometown paper. Newsday devoted a half-page to a purported "interview" with me that was based solely on the article. I didn't realize what had happened until old high school classmates started phoning to giggle about my newfound "female expertise," something I'd never exhibited in my pre-college youth.

Now, close to a half-century later, I sadly envision future generations stumbling upon my name in cyberspace and marking me only as a guy who wrote a half-baked brassiere article for Science and Mechanics back in the Dark Ages.

Such is my Internet legacy. Googling oneself can be a mighty blow to the ego.

-- Ed Nanas, Gainesville

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