I'm aware of only one other person with my name, and wouldn't you know it? He's a newspaper type who writes for The Boston Globe.
For 15 years, The Other Bob and I have been getting each other's press releases in the mail. For 15 years, I have picked up the phone to hear a Yankee accent say: "Hey, since when have you been at The Post?" For 15 years, Massachusetts congressmen have been inviting me to Boston Tea Party festivals, convinced, I'm sure, that there could be only one L-E-V-E-Y in this business.
I wasn't really irritated by the coincidence, though, until a few years ago, when a story of mine was picked up on the wire and carried on The Globe's front page. I understand that The Other Bob got a fair share of congratulations. Guess how many good words worked their way south.
Last year, the Bob and Bob Show got a little personal. Syndicated Globe columnist Ellen Goodman dedicated her most recent book to "Bob Levey." For weeks, friends at The Post would sidle up to me and whisper, "Say, I didn't know you and Ellen were, y'know, I mean . . . . "Much as I admire Ms. Goodman, honesty demanded that I nip that supposition in the bud.
Perhaps the oddest part of all this is that The Other Bob and I have never met, spoken or corresponded. And I'm not sure I'd want to change that. We've developed a solid system of detente, which is more than the Russians and the Americans can say. Why shatter it?
Which is exactly the question Bob Rosenthal of Northwest is asking these days.
No, not Bob Rosenthal the car dealer. That's the whole point. For Bob of Northwest, The Other Bob is the well-known area businessman who sells Chevys, Datsuns, Dodges and several other makes.
"As automotive Bob Rosenthal has prospered, so have my telephone calls, invitations, even bills," writes Northwest Bob.
"I have gotten calls from as far away as Rome, many after midnight. Numerous fund-raising drives have asked me to be honorary chairman, and, of course, there has been no end of solicitations for donations.
"On the other hand, I have been invited to the best of homes and to many diplomatic functions. One such invitation I attended and had a great time. My host appeared puzzled throughout the evening.
" . . . I hope that Bob Rosenthal does not engage in any more ventures, or I am going to begin charging him for secretarial services. Although I must say that when I make restaurant appointments I often am placed at the best tables and receive super service, and usually the waiter or waitress is in the market for a car."
In April, The Wall Street Journal carried a front-page story about Automotive Bob. Because Northwest Bob is the only Robert Rosenthal listed in the D.C. phone book, the Journal article produced a renewed surge of midnight inquiries and impassioned discussions of Impalas. They pushed Northwest Bob over the brink--and directly toward the telephone.
"I called Mr. Rosenthal . . . to complain about my burden," says Northwest Bob. "He tried to sell me a car over the phone.
"I guess that is why I am a retired attorney and he is a big-shot car dealer."