OH, BROTHER!: Is it cold in the shadow of fame?


Imagine living in Billy Ripken's cleats, which are lockered next to Cal's in the Oriole clubhouse. Cal takes home $6 million, plays and plays, and could run for governor when he retires. Billy earns a trifling $250,000, plays when asked, and could run for lieutenant governor when Cal retires.

What's it like having Cal for a brother and friend? Cornered in the clubhouse, Billy answers questions about his famous older brother without saying "Cal." Instead, Billy points with his eyes to his brother's locker. A bow, of sorts. Then William Oliver Ripken says, with a straight stubbled face, that having "him" as a brother is just horrible.

Sarcasm is allowed. Who can blame Billy for thinking, Gee, Mr. Reporter, what a refreshing and novel subject! The Utility Player probably doesn't think much about his relationship with The Iron Man except others KEEP BRINGING IT UP.

"What's it like being Cal's brother?" Billy repeats. "It's better than being your brother."

If he only knew.

The body of thought on brothers is scrawny. Relationships between men and women, men and men, girls and Barbie dolls and men and Barbie dolls have been deeply probed. But what about brothers and brothers? Dr. Sigmund Freud isn't much help. Freud, being Freud, probed sibling competition for parental love, not endorsements. Of course, he never had a big brother forever at short-stop.

Studies do show brothers don't tend to be as close as sister pairs. And brothers tend to be rivals. Rivalry, by way of Latin, translates to "having rights to the same stream." Which brings to mind Norman Maclean's "A River Runs Through It," a book about two fly-fishing brothers. The first thing brothers do, Maclean wrote, is find out how they differ. Brothers, it's also been said, sit across from each other all their lives.

Dr. Karen Lewis, a Rockville psychologist, works inside the brotherhood. She co-edited a collection of writings called "Siblings in Therapy." Chances are she was counseling some brother before getting to her phone messages.

"A relationship does not start at the point of fame," she says. "It's what happened before in the relationship."

If brothers were close as kids, they probably love and support each other when they're grown -- even if one brother's blue eyes are on T-shirts, billboards and milk ads. "If the one who is not famed feels he's playing his best, but his brother is playing super, he's likely to be real proud of him."

If brothers were never tight, well, this is a challenge. But don't tell Karen Lewis that brothers are born to be rivals, born to be distant.

"Men are hungry for relationships with their brothers."

History is stacked with famous bros -- from those bike mechanics from Dayton, the Wright Brothers, to John and Robert Kennedy. The Baldwin brothers act (which one is the young one again?), the Marsalis brothers make jazz, and the Gumbel brothers are glued to the tube. The Wilson brothers will always have the Beach Boys, and the Menendez brothers will always have prison.

John Wilkes Booth was an actor, as Marylanders know. But it was brother Edwin who was a legendary, 19th century actor and a great "Hamlet" (talk about a brotherly theme). Edwin's international fame drove John a little nuts.

Edwin's career was sidelined by John's dastardly performance at Ford's Theatre. Granted, John wasn't thinking, "Let's see, if I shoot Lincoln, that should cripple Ed's career." But clearly, John topped his brother in the fame department.

The Booth boys aside, "A person with a famous anybody always has to fight hard to find their own niche and to discover what makes them special," says Jane Mersky Leder, author of "Brothers & Sisters: How They Shape Our Lives." "And they have to be able to accept the notoriety of, in this case, their brother."

No problem. In John Waters' "Pink Flamingos," Divine nearly runs over a jogger played by the one and only Steve Waters. John's younger brother appears in many of John's movies. He has always pitched in, like when John was charging 99 cents to see his work. "Steve always took in the box office when we were on the church circuit," John says, "because I didn't trust anybody else."

Steve was the "actor" in the family. "I was in a theater club in high school. Nothing exciting, nothing risque." He remembers performing in Boys' Latin School's production of "Our Town." One could only imagine John remaking "Our Town." Grover's Corners would become Dante's Dundalk.

Like John, Steve also fancies black humor. Both brothers also tried out at the family business, Fireline Corp., a commercial fire-protection business.

"I worked one day there and we all knew this was not my calling," says John, 50.

"I heard it was a half-hour," says Steve, 44.

Having secured his niche, Steve still runs the family business knowing there's no threat that John will suddenly get a craving to work with fire extinguishers. "Film is his forte; I run a business. He gets the attention, and I get very little of it."

These Waters boys are just so well-adjusted.

Other brothers of famous brothers describe see-sawing emotions of pride and envy and wouldn't admit it at gunpoint. Others grow up. Even if he never hits over .300 again, Billy Ripken made it to The Show, and he got to the majors on his own. Calvin Edwin Ripken Jr. didn't hit or field or hustle for his kid brother.

For the record, Billy is the last guy to troll for sympathy or comparisons. But it's easy to feel a passing empathy for the likes of, say, Patrick McEnroe. Patrick could wax any one of us in tennis, but he is no match for brother John's legend. Paul McCartney's brother, Michael, has recorded songs and bet you can't name just one. And Jim Belushi is no Bluto.

People might not know Danny Simon taught comedy writing to brother Neil and to somebody named Woody Allen. Once upon a time, Danny handed Neil 14 pages of notes and told him to do something with it. Neil called his play, "The Odd Couple."

Later in "Brighton Beach Memoirs," Neil wrote lovingly of his older brother, who has said: "By Neil's standards of success, I'm a nothing. I've always been trying to prove something to people."

In 1962, Freddy Cole wrote a song called "I'm Not My Brother, I'm Me." Listeners couldn't help but notice how much he sounded like his older brother, Nat King Cole. Freddy probably never hears the end of it.

You can't hit, write, or sing your way out of a shadow. It's better to be yourself, and no one was better at that than Billy Carter. While presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon kept their brothers under wraps, Jimmy Carter let fly with Billy. Among other dubious achievements, the brother of our greatest ex-president had a beer named after him.

Roger Clinton's past was handed to the public on a platter when half-brother Bill ran for president. In 1984, Roger was picked up in a sting operation for cocaine trafficking. Bill Clinton, then Arkansas' governor, had signed off on the raid. Roger, jailed, was furious with his brother for not tipping him off.

The brothers eventually made their peace. Bill won the White House; and Roger got straight and married, and even recorded "Nothing Good Comes Easy."

We last saw him at the Democratic National Convention -- emerging from the shadows to hug his brother.

"Oh, you must mean August." All right, but first Mrs. Louis Cheslock of Baltimore removes an earring before talking on the phone. She's hasn't been asked about August in awhile, but the subject feels new to her. She and her late husband were dear friends of August and his older brother, Henry Louis Mencken -- ** who was in the newspaper from time to time.

"I don't think August ever had his picture in the paper," she says. "He would not be noticed on the street as anyone special."

She knew the brothers well. She knew that Henry was more outgoing and boisterous than August, but that both gentlemen were fun, smart company. They were definitely related. Both were rabid readers who collected interests like kids collect seashells. Henry married late; August never married. Both enjoyed cocktails, plural. Both loved eating steamed crabs or what Henry called those "big red things," Cheslock says. She never detected any rivalry.

"I wouldn't say August was in Henry's shadow," she says. "He had his own work, and I'm sure in his field he was quite distinguished."

August was a civil engineer, an architect of roads in the United States, Cuba and Mexico. August was also a writer and 'f collaborated with his famous brother. On a shelf too high for her to reach now, Cheslock has their signed books on passenger steamships and, of all things, a historical look at death by hanging. "By The Neck," they called it, perfectly.

"Oh, they were very close," she says, "especially when Henry got sick."

When Henry got sick. In psycho-babble, Leder says, this is a marker event. "It's often something that brings brothers back together or closer." Death, illness, divorce, marriage -- marker events can tie the brotherly knot.

In the late 1940s, a seizure had left "The Sage of Baltimore" incapacitated in his Hollins Street home. August stayed at his side, screened his brother's visitors, and encouraged him to keep exercising that fine mind. August was not only his brother's keeper, he became his brother's gardener. "Life went on and it was somehow made manageable with August's help," according Carl Bode's well-regarded biography "Mencken."

On a January evening in 1956, H.L. Mencken came down to supper. August had built "a cheerful fire as usual and his friend Louis Cheslock was present," Bode wrote. Mencken wasn't feeling well, but rallied to drink two Gibsons.

He died early the next morning. Naturally, August accompanied the body to Loudon Park Cemetery. August Mencken lived another 11 years, spending some of that time in the good company of Mrs. Louis Cheslock.

"August was, in a true sense, a brother."

We last saw Billy Ripken striding toward the batting cage two hours before the Orioles were to club the Seattle Mariners last month. If you've never loitered at a batting cage, do try it. Hall-of-Famers tend to drop by, as you stand there trying to look professional and invisible.

"Why does everybody else's bat feels nice except mine?" asks Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr., who happens to pick up Eddie Murray's bat for a quick feel. Griffey then jokes with the great tan one, Jim Palmer, as Murray lumbers into the cage to punch balls out toward the Inner Harbor. Let's see: Griffey, Murray, Palmer. And standing just behind the big names is Billy Ripken, waiting to take his cuts.

The same Billy Ripken who hit .308 for the 1987 Orioles and who has had his face silk-screened on T-shirts! "Yeah, that was cool," Bill says, back at the Ripken lockers. What could it hurt to ask him again about his brother.

"I realized a long time ago," he says, "that no matter what I did, no matter what I will do, somebody is going to say something about my brother.

"What can I do?"

But let it go. Let him go. Billy does have a game to play -- depending on tonight's lineup. One more thing: Have you ever heard of Carl Hiaasen? Oh yeah, know him well, Billy says, with his signature sarcasm. "I don't know any Carls."

Gee, Mr. Baseball Player, what a refreshing and novel response. Let's get this straight: you've never heard of Carl Hiaasen -- the best-selling author of "Stormy Weather" and "Strip Tease" -- yes, the same "Strip Tease" made into a movie co-starring Demi Moore's body?

The same Carl Hiaasen who frequents the "Today" show and is all chummy with Bryant and Katie? The same Carl Hiaasen who has a stilted, private home in the Florida Keys and one of those slinky, bone-fishing boats? The same Carl Hiaasen who has a much younger brother who writes deceptively well for The Sun?

The same Carl Hiaasen whose much taller brother stands before you now, clinging to a slumping story idea about brothers of famous brothers? Yes, THAT Carl Hiaasen!

"Never heard of him," Billy Ripken says.

This guy should be paid more.


Cain and Abel

Occupations: Tiller of the ground; keeper of the sheep

Remembered As: The first brothers; the first felon

Together: They had a model parent and unlimited potential for personal growth

Separate: God favored Abel; Cain over-reacted

Telling Words: "Am I my brother's keeper?"

Michael and Tito Jackson

Occupations: Singer; guitarist

Remembered As: Two-fifths of the Jackson 5

Together: The Jackson 5 was one of Motown's greatest acts. A great act, period. Sold 100 million records.

Separate: Michael became the biggest pop star of the last 20 years and, married Elvis' daughter. Tito begot sons, who formed a fairly successful group called 3T. Upstaged by his brother (and who wasn't?), Tito can now be upstaged by his sons.

Telling Words: "Michael's done well and I'm proud of him. But I would like to see the brothers get more credit," Tito told People in 1984.

Tommy and Dick Smothers

Occupation: Singing comedy team

Remembered For: "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," which brought us Officer Judy and presidential candidate Pat Paulsen.

Together: Their 1967-69 show was so hip and controversial CBS replaced it with "Hee Haw." The brothers still perform their stand-up act.

Separate: Tommy has been seen doing yo-yo tricks for laughs.

Telling Words: "Mom always liked you best."

@Hank and Tommie Aaron

Occupation: Professional baseball players

Remembered For: Hank broke Babe's record.

Together: He and Tommie hit 768 home runs.

Separate: Hank hit 755 of them.

Telling Words: "TOMMIE AARON: Half the answer to the trivia question, what brother combination hit the most homers?" according to "The Ballplayers," in which Tommie is also second to his brother alphabetically.

Dick and Jerry Van Dyke

Occupation: Actors

Remembered For: One was funny.

Together: Both had sitcoms in the 1960s. "The Dick Van Dyke Show" was a classic.

Separate: Jerry starred in "My Mother the Car."

Telling Words: "He bought the talking car because he didn't want to lose 'Mother,' " says The Complete Directory To Prime Time Network TV Shows.

Sigmund and Alexander Freud

Occupations: Dabbled in psychiatry; apparently just dabbled.

Remembered As: Sigmund was "The Father of Psychoanalysis."

Together: "Freud's warmest sibling relationship was with Alexander," according to "The Sibling Bond."

Separate: From the same book, "Alex dutifully and with good humor carried his older brother's bags."

Telling Words: "A small child does not necessarily love his brothers and sisters ... he hates them as his competitors," Sigmund once wrote.

Joe and Vince DiMaggio

Occupations: Professional baseball players

Remembered For: One married Marilyn Monroe

Together: Joe was considered the greatest baseball player ever, but Vince was no hack. He hit four grand slams in 1941.

Separate: Vince led the league six times in striking out.

Telling Words: "Vince ... could not hit like Joe," according to "The Ballplayers."

@Mick and Chris Jagger

Occupations: Mick does rock; Chris sings Cajun

Remembered For: Mick is the Rolling Stones; Chris has written for Rolling Stone

Together: Mick sang back-up on Chris' record, "Rock the Zydeco"

Separate: Two people heard it

Telling Words: "I guess you always compete for your mother's attention. ... Well, it wasn't much of a contest," Chris has said.

Jimmy and Billy Carter

Occupations: Politics; business

Remembered For: Camp David, Iran; lusting

Together: Under Jimmy's watch, Billy successfully ran the family peanut business; even had a beer named after him.

Separate: Billy appeared drunk at news conferences; made anti-Semitic remarks; received $220,000 for brokering a Libyan oil deal.

Telling Words: "How sad to be a Billy Carter, psychologically caught in a good brother-bad brother bind," wrote Joan Beck in the Chicago Tribune.

James and Livingston Taylor

Occupations: Musicians

Remembered For: A quarter century ago, older brother James made it big with "Fire and Rain." A quarter century ago, Liv made it medium with "Carolina Day" and later scored his own Top 40 hit, "I Will Be In Love With You."

Together: James was Liv's first guitar teacher. Both hair-lines in denial.

Separate: Liv sang this month at the CoffeeHouse at Mays Chapel; James sang last month at Merriweather Post Pavilion. James was once married to Carly; Liv is still married to Maggie.

Telling Words: "I've been given an amazing gift by my brother James," Liv told Acoustic Musician magazine. "I live in his shadow. As a result, I'm free to look out and grow."

Leon and Michael Spinks

Occupations: Professional boxers

Remembered For: Leon stunned boxing world by beating Ali in 1978 for title; Michael beat champ Larry Holmes in 1985.

Together: The Spinks brothers won gold medals in the 1976 Olympic Games.

Separate: Leon loses the Ali rematch, loses another 16 times; Michael's pro career going well until meeting Mike Tyson.

Telling Words: "Tyson leapt in with his own murderous punch which caught Spinks clean on the jaw. ... the great extravaganza was over in 91 seconds," says "A Pictorial History of Boxing."

Ira and George Gershwin

Occupations: Lyricist/composer

Remembered As: One of the greatest song-writing teams

Together: "Lady Be Good," "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "Porgy and Bess"

Separate: George died of a brain tumor; Ira outlived him by 46 years.

Telling Words: "Ira felt guilty, as if he should have been taken in place of his worshiped brother. Some say that he never recovered, that the rest of his life was a slow suicide," according to the British newspaper, the Independent.

Ronnie and Clint Howard

Occupations: Actors

Remembered For: "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Happy Days"

Together: The Howard brothers (Clint and Ron -- not Mo and Curly) were the busiest child-actor duo in early television, appearing in such forgotten shows as "The Baileys of Balboa," "The Cowboys" and "The Smith Family."

Separate: Clint did a fine turn as a space boy in "Star Trek." Clint also starred in "Gentle Ben" in 1967. Ronnie directed the popular films "Splash" and "Apollo 13."

Telling words: Ron Howard is the artist previously known as Opie.

Don and Phil Everly

Occupations: Musicians

Remembered As: The Everly Brothers

Together: In the 1950s, they introduced white country harmony to rock and roll. Their love-struck songs included, "Bye Bye Love" and "Wake Up Little Susie." The act eventually became old, and their relationship took a mean turn. (They did reunite in the 1990s.)

Separate: Publicly invisible.

Telling Words: "Before their [1973] concert was over, Phil smashed his guitar on the floor and walked off stage. Don finished the last two songs. 'The Everly Brothers,' he said, 'died ten years ago," according to the "Illustrated History of Rock & Roll."

Julius and Herbert Marx

Occupations: Actors

Remembered As: Groucho and Zeppo, half of the Marx Brothers

Together: They teamed with brothers Chico and Harpo to make "Cocoanuts" and "Animal Crackers"

Separate: Groucho, master of the ad lib, made more movies and was the host of TV's popular "You Bet Your Life." Zeppo had long gone his separate way.

Telling Words: "Zeppo was never a part of his brothers' shenanigans and played bland romantic roles in the team's Broadway plays and first five films," says "The Film Encyclopedia."

Ronnie and Reggie Kray

Occupations: Gangland leaders, folk heroes

Remembered As: The Kray Brothers

Together: The twins terrorized London's East End in the 1960s. They ran gambling and protection rackets and preferred sabers over fists. Both jailed for murder. Movie made about them in 1990.

Apart: With Reg in attendance, Ronnie's funeral last year was marked by a recording of Sinatra crooning "My Way."

Telling Words: "In 1965 the twins' bond began to break when Reggie fell in love with and married a local girl, and Ronnie began openly engaging in homosexual liaisons," wrote People.

Theodore and David Kaczynski

Occupations: Prison inmate/social worker

Remembered For: Ted is the accused Unabomber; David turned his brother in.

Together: Both share a love for nature and all its creatures.

Separate: Unabomber's package bombings killed three people and injured 23.

Telling Words: "Hey, you got this screwy brother. Maybe he's the guy," David's wife had joked to her husband.

Research librarian Robert Schrott contributed mightily to this chart.

Pub Date: 9/15/96

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