“’Candi Bimbo Doll,’” says Juliette Stray, aka Samantha Wood, “is something that resonates very strongly with me. And I am cognizant that sounds a little nuts. But it just makes me really happy.”
Wood is the legal name of transgender adult film star Juliette Stray — and “Samantha,” she says, is the name she selected when she transitioned as a teenager. “I don’t really have any particular attachment to it,” says the longtime Mission resident. “Juliette,” meanwhile, “is just a name. A name I chose. But it’s branding. Branding is nice to have. But branding doesn’t validate me.”
Wood’s path to validation culminated in her attempt to legally self-apply the name “Candi Bimbo Doll.” But it’s a path that has grown arduous of late. In July, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Gail Dekreon denied Wood’s petition.
“No person has a statutory right to officially change their name to a name universally recognized as being offensive,” wrote Dekreon, citing the 1992 case Lee v. Superior Court of Ventura County.
Quoting the Oxford English Dictionary, the judge defined “Bimbo” as “a derogatory term for ‘a young woman considered to be sexually attractive but of limited intelligence.’” She acknowledged the TikTok trend of “Bimboification” — which, she wrote, “encourages embracing self-love and claiming the word ‘bimbo’ as their own.” Yet, she once more cited the Lee case in decidedly slamming the door on “Candi Bimbo Doll:” “The Court should not lend the Great Seal of the State of California to aid a person in a ‘social experiment’ who proposes to change their name to a word or phrase that is determined to be vulgar and offensive.”
As Dekreon references the Lee case multiple times in a two-page order, it would seem the particulars of that case loom large. And, argues Wood’s attorney, Jim Reilly, in an Oct. 31 appeal of her ruling, they are not an analog for his client’s situation.
The Lee case, he argues, is in fact a fantastically ill-fitting citation. The Lee in question, Russell Lawrence Lee, was a Black man who had hoped to legally change his name to “Misteri N*****” so as to “steal the stinging degradation — the thunder, the wrath, shame and racial slur — from the word n*****.”
Whatever one thinks of that plan — which was denied, as the “proposed surname is commonly considered to be a racial epithet and has the potential to be a ‘fighting word’” — Reilly says it is not at all akin to his client’s request.
“The Court’s attempt to draw a parallel between Bimbo and the ‘N’ word is offensive,” he wrote. “The discrimination that African Americans have faced is the deepest scar on our nation’s history. The Court’s attempt to place its super wokeism and hypersensitivity with the word Bimbo on the same level as the discrimination and oppression African Americans have gone through is appalling and shocking.”
“Bimbo,” he continues, is not a “fighting word” — otherwise there would not be 16 California corporations with that name licensed by the Secretary of State. These include Bimbo’s 365 on Columbus Avenue, and Bimbo Bakery USA. Scores of Bimbo Bakery trucks, emblazoned with their distinctive teddy bear mascot, roll through San Francisco every day, Reilly says.
The attorney stated that other established precedents regarding spiked name changes do not apply in the matter of “Candi Bimbo Doll.” In the 1964 case In re: Weingand, an unknown actor named Eugene Weingand — who resembled the strange-looking character actor Peter Lorre — was forbidden from legally changing his name to “Peter Lorie” when the real Peter Lorre objected (after Lorre died in that same year, Weingand began doing this anyway).
In a 1984 case, a man named Thomas Boyd Ritchie III attempted to have his name changed to, simply, “III.” This, too, was denied, as the court held that “symbol” or “number” could not be a name without accompanying letters. “These cases do not apply to the matter at hand,” Reilly summed up.
He argued that the judge’s ruling was arbitrary and, considering the transgender status of his client, should be “closely scrutinized.”
When asked, specifically, why she desires this name, Wood noted that “some people are into electric trains, some people are into giant, flame-belching monstrosities that they haul out to the Nevada desert. I change my body and change my persona, and I wanted my identity recognized in a way that’s beyond the clothes I wear.”
She rejected the judge’s rejection of this term: “Bimbo, to me, speaks to a kind of vapid focus on the superficial and the hyper-feminized. I get that, and I get that should probably not be something I would want. But I think the judge is projecting: She is presuming to speak for what all women want, as opposed to what an individual woman wants. I acknowledge that this portrays me as vacuous and unintelligent and all those other things. That’s fine. I like that. The best I can say is that it thrills me. It makes me happy and excited when I think about it. It makes me feel validated.”
Wood’s appeal was filed Oct. 31. Her attorney, Reilly, says the court has 40 days from that point to write a brief answering it.