STAR TWINKLE St. John, the baby born to Brenda Starr right plop in the middle of the comic strips on Sept. 14, was not named simply to carry her mother's byline. She is the namesake of a California social worker whose birthday she shares, and she carries a family tradition for a middle name.
Starr Rohrman is the 35-year-old daughter of Dale Messick, author of the Brenda Starr comic strip. While she was named for Ms. Starr, whom she calls "my big sister," Starr Twinkle was, in turn, named for her.
Rohrman was delighted with the birthday present, until she found out about the middle name. "I can't believe Mother would put that in the newspapers," she said. As Messick explained it, "You know how every family has a word for when the baby goes wee-wee or tinkles? Well, we used to say 'twinkle' for that. So it seemed very apropos.
"That's some birthday present," said Rohrman.
Messick plans to give her daughter the drawings of the birth as a belated gift. And Rohrman, who now lives in Penngrove, Calif., where it is "a sadness of my life that we never get to see 'Brenda Starr,'" is offering her collection of Brenda Starr drawings and paper dolls to the Smithsonian.
"I feel like Auntie Starr now," she said. But when she was growing up, she hated the name and invented the middle name of Susan to replace it. "Brenda was a hard act to follow. I always had to watch what I said. One time, my mother put some of my friends gorgeous and the other not so, gorgeous - Cynthia was on the fat side, and Mother always exaggerated everything - and Cynthia' family never spoke to me again.
"Then she put me in once, as 'Princess Valerie.' From then on, whenever I was in trouble, people would say, 'Who do you think you are - Princess Valerie?' You can imagine how I loved that. Princess Valerie had a prince in love with her, who was giving her a wonderful gift, all wrapped in jewels. I could hardly wait to see what it was. You know what it was? A beating heart. I stopped reading after that."
The name is where Rohrmans resemblance to the comic strip reporter ends, she said. "I worked a couple of summers as a copy girl for the Chicago Tribune," she said. It was not because she, like other little girls who grew up reading 'Brenda Sarr,' was hoping for a newspaper career. "It was just a job - all the copy kids had relatives who worked there. To tell you the truth, I studied social work instead, and now that her children, Kurt, 7, and Laura, 6, are in school full time, she plans to return to the field of aid to families with dependent children, which she left when her own were small.
Nor is she red-haired. "There's no red hair in the family, except Mother's, which comes from the bottle."
And as for the Mystery Man to whom Brenda is married, "I wouldn't touch a guy like that with a 10-foot pole. There's nothing behind the eye-patch."
Nevertheless, Starr Rohrman continues to have an influence on the comic strip, as she has since childhood, when her mother tried out the stories on her. It is she who advised that Brenda Starr nurse her baby, which Brenda is now doing all over your comic pages.
However, Messick is way ahead of that. She is working on a Starr Twinkle doll, to come out in time for the Christmas market. It will be wearing a gingham dress with a matcing gingham eyepatch, for Daddy, and stars coming out of the other eye, for Mommy.
But - will she twinkle? Wait and see, do not spoil the story.