Will the real Deborah Weiner please stand up?
You could call it, “A Tale of Two Deborahs.” Or perhaps, “You say Weener, I say Winer, let’s call the whole thing off.”
But there they were together, finally, on Feb.19 at The Ivy Bookshop in Mount Washington, Deborah Weiner, news anchor of WBAL-TV, and Dr. Deborah R. Weiner, Jmore history columnist and co-author of the recently published “On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore” (Johns Hopkins University Press).
“It’s so bizarre that we’d never met before,” Weiner, um, the one whose face has graced local TV screens for years, told Jmore. “Baltimore is such a shtetl. It’s extraordinary that we never met at some point in the village. But she was truly wonderful. I kind of feel like she’s the smarter Deborah Weiner.”
Modesty aside, Weiner said that a friend informed her of the author’s talk at The Ivy last week, “so right away I put it in my calendar. When I walked in, I got the strangest looks from people.”
One of those was from Dr. Weiner herself. “I was very surprised to see her — and intrigued,” she said. “I have a lot of respect for her as a broadcaster. She’s better known than I am, and people often expect a TV anchorwoman when I speak somewhere. So I was surprised she gets the same kind of thing that I get. It’s good now that people won’t hopefully confuse us anymore.”
In a recent Facebook post, Weiner, again the one of TV fame, wrote that she was absolutely flummoxed to finally meet her nomenclature “doppelganger.”
“We have orbited each other for years — two Deborah Weiners passing in similar circles in Baltimore, but until this week never meeting face to face,” she wrote. “We hadn’t even talked, or texted or emailed. When she has scheduled speaking engagements, people think I am coming and often, vice versa. And when her erudite works are published, people think I wrote them.”
Meeting her namesake, she wrote, was akin to “a case of Freaky Friday, Weiner-style.”
The two women chatted after the conclusion of Dr. Weiner’s talk while the latter was signing copies of her book. They also later spoke by phone. Turns out they have a lot more in common than just their given names.
“Here is what I have come to learn,” the news anchor reported on Facebook. “Deborah and I are both 5 feet, two inches tall. We both are storytellers and love good characters. Most people now call us Deb, but we grew up as little Debbies. I graduated from college in Chicago, the other Deborah Weiner was born in Chicago.
“Our grandparents came from Poland and the Ukraine/Russia. She is a close friend with a woman I knew from graduate school. Deborah Weiner and I are 5 years apart. She is the oldest of four, I am the youngest of 3. Her brother is a ratings analyst for NBC. I work for an affiliate of NBC and sometimes ratings could send me to an analyst. We both rescued dogs, dogs in desperate need of a good trainer, [who] in turn rescue us. Her dog is named Minnie. My dogs are minis.”
Oy gevalt. But what truly blew the mind of the genial TV personality was that both had parents who worked in the TV talk show biz.
“The other Deborah Weiner’s father directed the Phil Donahue show for years in Chicago, and my mother served as a producer for Oprah when she lived in Baltimore, and then freelanced in the Windy City from time to time. That’s kind of crazy, right?”
In the long run, she described meeting Dr. Weiner as “immensely fulfilling … Thank you, Deborah Weiner, for indulging me and answering so many of my questions. … Here’s hoping that one day you will come to my book signing too and we will hug once again. I promise to save you a seat. Us Deborah Weiners have to look out for each other.”
Of the tete-a-tete, Dr. Weiner said, “It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed meeting her. She’s a very warm and genuine person, very approachable. And I’ll definitely come to her book signing.”
One matter that didn’t come up at the harmonic convergence of the Deborah Weiners, however, was the correct pronunciation of their common (and frequently problematic) surname. “Whichever way you pronounce it,” lamented Dr. Weiner, “it’s just not a great last name to have.”
Said the other Deborah Weiner on the topic: “We didn’t have that discussion … yet.”