It was bad enough when Harry Potter was just a popular series of books. But when the character became a movie star, life took a distinct turn for the worse for Scotia’s real-life Potter.
“It’s a real pain in the neck,” said Harry “Skip” Potter, a Glenville letter carrier who lives in the village. “I would like a half a percentage point of what that woman makes for the crap she puts me through,” he said, referring to author J.K. Rowling.
When each Harry Potter movie comes out, the latest on Wednesday, his phone begins to ring — during the day, at night, all the time. “I’ve even pressed charges against people,” Potter said. “It’s two, three o’clock in the morning, and it’s the drunks from RPI, Union, Sage, Saint Rose — all of them. Every time there’s a movie, I go nuts.”
He has sued several college students for aggravated harassment but has not won. The charge generally must involve a long series of actions by the same person, while Potter is facing harassment from a great variety of teenagers who, in the middle of the night, are suddenly struck with what seems like the hilariously unique idea of calling him up.
He’s not laughing.
“I’ve got Caller ID. I tell them I know who they are, every one of them,” he said gruffly.
But there are some perks.
“One time at the Outback [Steakhouse], I made a reservation for Harry Potter and when I got there, me and my wife got to eat for free,” he said. “They made me show them my I.D. They thought it was a prank call.”
And although he hates J.K. Rowling’s world for the trouble it causes him and he hasn’t read the books, he treats her youngest fans gently.
“During the daytime, it’s not so bad. They say they want to talk to Harry Potter,” he said with a smile. “You can tell how old they are. They tell me some other names. A lot of times they ask about Dumble-something.”
He plays along — in his gruff way.
“I say I’m a warthog and I’m going to turn you into a pumpkin,” he said. “Then I call back at 7 o’clock at night and I get their parents and tell them.”
That call quickly shakes children out of their fantasy world. When they realize they weren’t talking to their fictional hero, he often gets a soft, “Oops.”
He’s not the only one to face such popularity.
Harry E. Potter, 76, of Leonardtown, Md., has a scar on his forehead, starting between his eyes and snaking up his forehead in a line — just like the boy wizard created by Rowling.
He told The Baltimore Sun that he gets constant phone calls.
“Oh my lordy Hannah,” he said. “You have no idea what it is like to have this name. Just 15 minutes ago, I got a phone call from some girls who were about 13 or 14, and who giggled a lot. And you cannot be rude to them, you know that? You cannot be rude.
“That J.K. Rowling owes me something. I’m not sure what.”
He gets 3 a.m. phone calls from inebriated strangers and autograph hounds who never tire of hearing the story about the scar. (When Maryland’s Harry Potter was 5 years old, he was playing with his cousin, who struck him in the forehead with a hatchet.)
“Each time another book or movie comes out, the phone rings off the hook for about two months,“ says Potter, who retired from a career in food service management. “It does get tiring. I’m seriously thinking of changing my listing in the phone book to ‘H. Potter.’ ”
Scotia’s Potter wanted an unlisted number but balked at the price. He argued that, considering his situation, he should get it for free.
“Can you believe I’ve got to pay for an unlisted number?” he said.
But at least his namesake is the hero of the books. Imagine the situation for Maryland elementary school principal Tom Riddle.
No one was more surprised than the Catonsville, Md., resident to discover that Rowling had assigned the name that he’d gone by for all of his 58 years to her most evil character. Tom Marvolo Riddle is the boyhood name of Lord Voldemort, head of the Death Eaters, in Rowling’s books.
It’s tempting to wonder whether Riddle has ever capitalized on his association with “He Who Shall Not Be Named” to strike fear into the hearts of misbehaving pupils at Our Lady of Victory Elementary School.
It is to his credit that so far, he’s resisted.
“I always tell the kids that I’m very well aware that I have the same name as a character in the books that they’re reading in the library,” he says. Then adds, “But trust me, I’m not anything like him.”