I feel guilty about pontificating about earprompters in a comment I just left on StoryActor's blog, so I'm going to try keeping this post short.
In response to a request from the same fine actor, here's the short-and-sweet about name changes and how I got my start:
I actually started in Hollywood. Went to school out there, graduated, and tried to fight my way through the wannabes (refusing to acknowledge I was one myself, of course) just hoping that persistence and pluck would pay off. I could say a HUGE amount about it, but I won't right now. Bottom line: I didn't have my union card, so I was an Abomination Before God.
So I looked around for a market that would give me more-results-quicker and allow me to get my SAG card. Ended up moving to Chicago, and nearly every experience Story is having sounds intimately familiar to me. Have to admit that it took a little while before I was able to sort out the difference between myth and reality (during which time I worked some fairly ignominious gigs), but eventually I landed a regional commercial (my Taft-Hartley gig) then a national about 8 months later (for which I joined SAG). Problem is, I didn't want to give up the momentum I'd built up in Chicago by moving back to L.A. (an almost guaranteed result), so I stayed where I was "successful".
Regarding my name, while I was living out in L.A. (a good five years of my life), I discovered there was a very well-known scene designer in the movie industry with my name. Only the middle initial was different. He was also a member of SAG (long story about that...later). Then I found out he had inserted the middle initial in his name because he was originally a stage actor in NYC, and someone with his first and last name (meaning mine as well) was already a member of Equity. So I realized fairly early that I'd have to change my name before joining the unions because, of course, I wanted to join them all.
When the time came to finally join (I joined AFTRA first, actually), I had already met and married Cherokee, so I took one of her names for my own (checking first to make sure that none of the unions already had such a person). So imagine the expletives that issued forth from my lips when I found out that, in the time between my joining AFTRA and then SAG, some kid with my name had joined SAG! And by "kid" I mean exactly that — he was some child actor who had gotten a single role in a SAG-jurisdiction project. So I ended up having to insert my middle name into the mix until this kid's parents finally decided (last year, in fact) that Junior wasn't going to be a star, and it was too expensive to continue renewing his Vanity Card (that's what we call people who hold onto their union card because they somewhat bizarrely think it confers on them credentials as... I dunno... a celebrity, I guess; SAG's full of 'em).
By the way, that's one reason there are so many "3-name actors" out there. The singer Tom Jones was already a member of SAG, so the young upstart by the same name had to become Tommy Lee Jones, for instance.
Well, I broke my promise and ended up blabbing at great length. Sorry. I'm off to rehearsal now. We're doing a put-in for one of the understudies.