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Celebrities with hidden, incredible talents?
December 14, 2011 7:14 AM   Subscribe

What are some good examples of celebrities with hidden talents? I love discovering things like Tom Green rapping, Barbara Mandrell playing steel guitar, Karen Carpenter playing drums, Charo playing flamenco guitar, Dudley Moore playing piano, or non-musical talents like Phil Hartmann's artwork or Geena Davis' archery skills. Or maybe not a skill, but a significant accomplishment (e.g., Abe Lincoln earning a patent). I love that kind of stuff. What are some other examples of people generally know for one thing, but holy cow, they could have just as easily been famous for doing another?
posted by holterbarbour to Media & Arts (141 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
 
Winston Churchill and his watercolours.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:15 AM on December 14, 2011


Bruce Dickinson is an airline pilot.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:17 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Queen guitarist Brian May's recently acquired PhD in astronomy?
posted by TheOtherGuy at 7:19 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


My favorite thing like this is Hedy Lamarr's excursion into missile guidance systems.
posted by theodolite at 7:19 AM on December 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


Condoleeza Rice plays piano.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:21 AM on December 14, 2011


Sen. Al Franken can draw the U.S. map from memory.
posted by Flamingo at 7:21 AM on December 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Steve Martin is apparently quite a skilled banjo player, he's written a couple of books and plays as well.

Peter Weller, according to Wikipedia..."In 2004, Weller completed a Master's degree in Roman and Renaissance Art at Syracuse University and occasionally teaches courses in ancient history at the university. In 2007, Weller was finishing a Ph.D. at UCLA, in Italian Renaissance art history. He expects to complete his dissertation in 2012."

Wallace Shawn (Vizzini in the Princess Bride, among many other roles) is also a playwright.
posted by lemniskate at 7:24 AM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a billionaire heiress.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:24 AM on December 14, 2011


Decently well-known, but Hugh Laurie is quite the pianist...
posted by pupdog at 7:25 AM on December 14, 2011


Formula One driver Adrian Sutil is an accomplished pianist.
posted by teriyaki_tornado at 7:27 AM on December 14, 2011


This is probably already well known, but Leonardo da Vinci and his inventions.
posted by daydreamer at 7:28 AM on December 14, 2011


2 of your examples don't really work as hidden talents. Dudley Moore was a renowned piano player long before his film career started. Karen Carpenter was famous for being in the Carpenters, in which she was the drummer.
posted by epo at 7:30 AM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson on Parks & Rec) is a skilled woodworker.
posted by troika at 7:31 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dr. Ruth was a sniper.
Vincent Price was a gourmet and wrote a cookbook.
posted by tomwheeler at 7:32 AM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Epo, I know those were borderline, but I think most people perceive(d) Karen Carpenter as a singer and Dudley Moore as a comedic actor, and their musical talents often come as a surprise to many.
posted by holterbarbour at 7:34 AM on December 14, 2011


Richard Gere composed and played the piano piece in one of the scenes from Pretty Woman.
posted by wg at 7:35 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is Christopher Walken's dancing too well-known to qualify?
posted by McCoy Pauley at 7:36 AM on December 14, 2011


Tony Bennett is quite the painter.
posted by jbickers at 7:37 AM on December 14, 2011


Hugh Laurie is an accomplished pianist and vocalist
posted by jeffch at 7:37 AM on December 14, 2011


Dolph Lundgren has a Master's in chemical engineering and got a Fulbright to do doctoral work at Ph.D.
posted by griphus at 7:37 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


...at MIT, rather.
posted by griphus at 7:38 AM on December 14, 2011


Woody Allen plays the clarinet in a jazz band.
posted by vacapinta at 7:39 AM on December 14, 2011


Danica McKellar's math skills (and Erdos-Bacon number) are unknown to a lot of folks.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:39 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gene Hackman has written several novels.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:40 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Adolf Hitler had, in every sense, hidden talents as a painter.
posted by epo at 7:41 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actor James Franco has an MFA from Columbia, is a PhD student in English at Yale University, and has been accepted to the University of Houston for the doctoral program in literature and creative writing.
posted by lovermont at 7:44 AM on December 14, 2011


Freddie Mercury actually went to college for art.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:44 AM on December 14, 2011


Matt "Eleventh Doctor" Smith was apparently on his way towards a successful sports career before an injury turned him towards acting instead.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:44 AM on December 14, 2011


Danica McKellar has a degree in Mathematics, and is down in Mathematics history for having proved the Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theorem. (Who says beauty and brains don't go together?)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:45 AM on December 14, 2011


More examples of Freddie's stuff - some was better than others and he was definitely a better musician than artist, but still quite a good artist.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:45 AM on December 14, 2011


Danica McKellar's math skills (and Erdos-Bacon number) are unknown to a lot of folks.

As is Mayim Bialik's work in neuroscience.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:47 AM on December 14, 2011


David Lynch, primarily known as a weirdo writer and director of film and television, is also a fine artist, wrote the lyrics for Julee Cruise's Floating Into the Night, sang two songs on Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse's Dark Night of the Soul(specifically Star Eyes(I Can't Catch It) and Dark Night of the Soul), cowrote and performed on Blue Bob, directed a short stage play(musical) called Industrial Symphony no. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted, and recently released a solo album called Crazy Clown Time.
posted by owtytrof at 7:51 AM on December 14, 2011


Addendum: there are at least two other artists named David Lynch out there, one is a musician and one is a painter out of Memphis. It can be easy to get confused as to which David Lynch you're checking out, so be careful!
posted by owtytrof at 7:53 AM on December 14, 2011


Hugh Laurie is an accomplished pianist and vocalist

Not just that. From Wikipedia:
Like his father, Laurie was an oarsman at school and university; in 1977, he was a member of the junior coxed pair that won the British national title before representing Britain's Youth Team at the 1977 Junior World Rowing Championships. In 1980, Laurie and his rowing partner, J. S. Palmer, were runners-up in the Silver Goblets coxless pairs for Eton Vikings rowing club. Later, he also achieved a Blue while taking part in the 1980 Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. Cambridge lost that year by 5 feet.

My dream man. Sigh.
posted by peacheater at 7:58 AM on December 14, 2011


James Toseland, MotoGP motorcyclist, is also an accomplished pianist.
posted by afx237vi at 8:03 AM on December 14, 2011


Robert Crumb (banjo) and Terry Twigoff (cello) are in a band together.

20 celebrity patents: Eddie Van Helen, Zeppo Marx, Harry Connick, Jr., Penn Jillette, Michael Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Julie Newmar, Marlon Brando, Lawrence Welk, Jamie Lee Curtis, Gary Burghoff, Mark Twain, Hedy Lamarr, Walt Disney, Harry Houdini, Danny Kaye, George Lucas, Charles Fleischer, Prince, Paul Winchell

A few more: Kevin Costner, Christie Brinkley
posted by hydrophonic at 8:05 AM on December 14, 2011


Ron Wood is a decent artist.
posted by davebush at 8:06 AM on December 14, 2011


Billy Connolly is a pretty damn good banjo player. What is it with comedians and the banjo?
posted by wwax at 8:09 AM on December 14, 2011


Zooey Deschanel sings quite well.

Also, see this thread on famous people who are also musicians.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:11 AM on December 14, 2011


Sam Rockwell is a dancing machine.
posted by missmobtown at 8:11 AM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jane Seymour is an accomplished painter, and most interestingly, a happy little painting disciple of PBS icon Bob Ross.

British-born, California-based actress and artist Jane Seymour brings her fine art to Art Trax Gallery in Mississauga, Ontario’s Port Credit, from November 4 to November 19. SheKnows talked to the lovely Jane about her 2010 Canadian Exhibition and her life as an artist.
posted by lstanley at 8:13 AM on December 14, 2011


Patton was an Olympic athlete.
posted by Etrigan at 8:16 AM on December 14, 2011


Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) has a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering, and got a lorry driver licence in case his acting career didn't take off.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:17 AM on December 14, 2011


Rocker Bryan Adams is an accomplished photographer who has been featured in Vogue, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar and more.
posted by yawper at 8:17 AM on December 14, 2011


Ooh, thanks for that thread, hydrophobic; I had completely forgotten about Clint Eastwood and Louis Farrakhan.
posted by holterbarbour at 8:20 AM on December 14, 2011


Natalie Portman has at least one peer-reviewed journal article on her CV.
posted by knile at 8:21 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh! Leonard Nimoy is also an accomplished photographer.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:21 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


David Byrne is quite active in the visual arts. It's not so surprising, considering that he met Chris Frantz at RISD.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:27 AM on December 14, 2011


Gibby Haynes (of the Butthole Surfers) graduated college as an accountant. So did Bob Newhart. Mick Jagger studied accounting (at the Royal academy of London, even), but didn't graduate.
posted by Gilbert at 8:32 AM on December 14, 2011


Both Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry have written novels (Laurie at least two, Fry several). Fry also has written autobiography and The Ode Less Travelled, about poetry.
posted by Logophiliac at 8:34 AM on December 14, 2011


Nick Cave is also an author.
posted by Windigo at 8:34 AM on December 14, 2011


Gibby Haynes (of the Butthole Surfers) graduated college as an accountant.

I could be wrong, but I believe he was also a college football player.
posted by griphus at 8:38 AM on December 14, 2011


Anthony Hopkins is apparently a near-concert-standard pianist as well as an actor. BTW, Harry S. Truman was, as a, child, a promising enough pianist that a professional career was a realistic prospect--I want to say he was introduced to Paderewski as a prodigy, but that may be my faulty memory.
posted by Logophiliac at 8:40 AM on December 14, 2011


Greg Graffin of Bad Religion has a PhD in zoology (IIRC) and teaches occasional courses

Peter Weller has a second half-career doing history / art history and teaches occasional courses

Ilan Mitchell-Smith (Wyatt in Weird Science) went on to get a lit PhD and now teaches full-time at (looks) CSU-Long Beach

Jimmy Doohan landed on D-Day and had most of a finger shot off (wikipedia sez by another Canadian, oops) and went on to earn a reputation as the craziest pilot in Canada.

After already having been an actor, Jimmy Stewart flew B-24s over Germany, taking part in the costly Schweinfurt raids.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:51 AM on December 14, 2011


Roddy McDowall was a photograph (see his book, Double Exposure). Jack Lord was a painter.
posted by bentley at 8:52 AM on December 14, 2011


Ken Jeong is a doctor.

Harrison Ford was a carpenter.

Ricky Williams teaches yoga.
posted by hmo at 8:56 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bruce Dickinson is not only an airline pilot but a competent fencer. From Wikipedia:

"Dickinson's interests include literature, writing, fencing (at which he has competed internationally, placing 7th in Great Britain)"
posted by Decani at 8:57 AM on December 14, 2011


Two to throw in here..

1) Neil Patrick Harris is a demon close up magician.

2) Peter Butterworth (of the Carry On Films) was an accomplished "stooge" in the Stalag Luft WWII prisoner of war camps. What makes this fun is that when they came to film "The Wooden Horse" (synopsis, brit POW's buid a gym horse and put it right next to the wire, and tunnel out from inside the horse over a period of six months or so, rather than the barrack block 200 yards from the wire)), he was turned down as one of the stars... which he was very polite about, and only later mentioned that he was turned down to act as himself in the POW camp vaulting over the titular horse.
posted by ewan at 9:05 AM on December 14, 2011


NBA legend Patrick Ewing has a degree in fine art and, among other artistic pursuits, illustrated a children's book about painting. His artwork also appeared on a special edition Discover Card credit card.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:13 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


John Lennon and Kurt Cobain went to art school and were avid visual artists. Lennon's drawings have of course been published, and I believe Cobain did a lot of art direction for Nirvana.

All the Beatles acted in their movies; not all of them were skilled actors, but Ringo Starr was considered outstanding and continued acting outside the Beatles. Mick Jagger has acted in some movies though I'm not sure any of them have been great. (I watched a clip of The Man from Elysian Fields on YouTube, and he seemed to be a fine actor trapped in a forgettable movie.) Courtney Love is a great actress who's been in some very good movies (in fact, I'd say acting is her main talent, so I'm not even sure that counts).

Another rock musician with a Ph.D: Dexter Holland (the singer for The Offspring).

Mike Huckabee and Keanu Reeves play electric bass. Actually, it's so common for actors to develop other skills that I'll bet if you choose almost any famous actor you can find a non-acting skill. (I'd be more surprised at an actor who could say: "I'm not good at anything else.")

Steve Martin's banjo playing has been mentioned, but he's also a prominent art collector.

There's a YouTube clip of Stephen Colbert singing the Ben Folds Five song "Best Imitiation of Myself," and he turns out to be a pretty good singer. (Sorry, I don't have time to add all the links right now.)

Linda McCartney was best known as a vegetarian chef and a member of Wings, but she was also an excellent photographer.

William F. Buckley wrote many novels.
posted by John Cohen at 9:22 AM on December 14, 2011


Daniel Day Lewis is also a cobbler of some note.
posted by saladin at 9:24 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Milo Aukerman of The Descendents has a PhD in biochemistry.

A number of celebrities have held public office: Clint Eastwood, Sonny Bono, Fred Grandy, Arnold, Ronald Reagan. Why can I only think of Republicans?

Gilberto Gil, who was once imprisoned and exiled by the Brazilian government, has had a long political career and was Minister of Culture from 2003 to 2008. He's been a strong advocate for open-source technology.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:32 AM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Alexander McCall Smith is best known as the writer of the highly successful No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books.

His day job was Professor of Medical Law at Edinburgh University, but now he's Emeritus Professor there. He was also chairman of the British Medical Journal Ethics Committee, vice-chairman of the Human Genetics Commission and a member of the UNESCO International Bioethics Commission. He also plays the bassoon and co-founded an amateur orchestra.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 9:37 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


A number of celebrities have held public office: Clint Eastwood... Why can I only think of Republicans?

Actually, Clint Eastwood seems to go back and forth between the Republican and Democratic parties, and he's hardly a conservative Republican.

posted by John Cohen at 9:37 AM on December 14, 2011


Actor Richard Edson played drums for Sonic Youth and Konk.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:41 AM on December 14, 2011


James Blunt is best known as a soft-pop-rock singer-songwriter.

He was a captain in the Household Cavalry, where he served as an armoured reconnaissance officer during NATO's 1999 action in Kosovo. His unit was ordered to take Pristina International Airport, but finding the Russian army already there, he disobeyed orders to avoid a major international incident. He was also the champion skier of the Royal Armoured Corps.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 9:45 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dr. Frank (Frank Portman) of The Mr. T Experience is an author of young adult novels.
posted by zoetrope at 9:47 AM on December 14, 2011


Neil Young is an avid model railroader (or whatever they call themselves).
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:53 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


During the war, actor Jimmy Stewart "flew as command pilot in the lead B-24 on numerous missions deep into Nazi-occupied Europe."
posted by Rash at 10:11 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Frankie Muniz (of Malcolm in the Middle fame) went on to become a legit, pro race car driver.

Also, Jeff Bridges is pretty serious with a camera.
posted by teriyaki_tornado at 10:27 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Edgar Allen Poe set the distance record for swimming in the James River (Richmond, VA). I have read that his record (6 miles) still stands today.
posted by machinecraig at 10:38 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jason Newsted, former bassist for Metallica, is now a painter.
posted by Atom12 at 10:41 AM on December 14, 2011


Michael Stipe of R.E.M. is a renowned visual artist, focusing on sculpture and photography, as well as film production.
posted by Kitty Cornered at 10:45 AM on December 14, 2011


Kris Kristofferson excelled at athletics in college, got a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford, joining the army after graduation, becoming a helicopter pilot and completing Ranger school. He decided to turn down a position as English professor at West Point, and pursue music in Nashville, writing songs for the likes of Ray Price, Johnny Cash, and Janis Joplin, and doing his own performing on the side. This led to some opportunities among some influential Hollywood folks, where he made a mark acting in some memorable motion pictures, and continues to this day hobnobbing with a wide array famous people, doing the occasional gig when he sees fit, earning accolades from a long and productive carreer.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:46 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Speaking of race car drivers, Paul Newman finished second in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
posted by chrchr at 10:54 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Winston Churchill was also a bricklayer. Zero Mostel also painted (in fact, he considered himself a painter, first, then an actor).
posted by kimdog at 10:54 AM on December 14, 2011


Just realized that the article I linked to about Zero features several other celebrities who were also artists.
posted by kimdog at 10:55 AM on December 14, 2011


Ice Cube: rapper, actor, architect.
posted by chrchr at 10:58 AM on December 14, 2011


Actress Tippi Hedren (The Birds) basically started the nail salon industry in the United States in order to help Vietnamese refugees.
posted by xingcat at 11:12 AM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Joni Mitchell is a painter.
posted by kirst27 at 11:13 AM on December 14, 2011


Depending on your perspective, Creed Bratton is either a rock star from the '60s who happens to be able to act, or a character on the American version of The Office (also named Creed Bratton) who happens to play guitar.
posted by John Cohen at 11:20 AM on December 14, 2011


Rod Stewart and Gordon Ramsay were both nearly professional football (soccer) players.
posted by Occula at 11:29 AM on December 14, 2011


Vincent Price was an art historian and renowned collector, educated at Yale.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:39 AM on December 14, 2011


Creed Bratton is either a rock star from the '60s

He was in a top-40 band that had a few hits, but nobody knew his name, at the time -- doesn't actually qualify as 'rock star' IMO.
posted by Rash at 11:46 AM on December 14, 2011


Neil Young is very much a model railroad enthusiast, and hold several patents for model railroad equipment.
posted by illenion at 11:59 AM on December 14, 2011


There is a French expression for this, and a painting by the same name: Le Violon d'Ingres. I will let John Sessions explain.
posted by Idle Curiosity at 12:07 PM on December 14, 2011


My favorite thing like this is Hedy Lamarr's excursion into missile guidance systems.

Sorry to nitpick, theodolite, but Hedy Lamarr's patent was about secure communications (frequency-hopping radio), not missile guidance. Missile guidance quite obviously requires secure communications (anyone ever want to see a DDOS attack on a Saturn V launch?).

Brilliant, beyond beautiful, a talented actress, and someone who abandoned it all to escape life with Nazis, even though as a Nazi's wife, she probably could have stayed comfortable... only to have so much talent she rose to the top again.

Sigh...
posted by IAmBroom at 12:36 PM on December 14, 2011


Let's try that link again: Jimmie Stewart.

Rash, in this context I prefer to refer to him as Brigadier General James Stewart.

Marion Morrison, better known as the macho John Wayne, had the same medical rating as Jimmy, but used his to avoid service. James asked his senator to get him in, so he could serve even before Pearl Harbor happened.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:43 PM on December 14, 2011


Rod Stewart is also a model train enthusiast who works on his sets even while on tour.
posted by vespabelle at 12:48 PM on December 14, 2011


Viggo Mortenson plays music and writes poetry.
posted by meggan at 12:52 PM on December 14, 2011


Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of Tool, makes wine.
posted by neushoorn at 12:57 PM on December 14, 2011


Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays bass (and covers Madonna)
posted by The Whelk at 1:38 PM on December 14, 2011


Another rock musician with a Ph.D: Dexter Holland (the singer for The Offspring).

Greg Graffin of the band Bad Religion did his PhD at Cornell here in Ithaca (in biology if I recall correctly), which they frequently mentioned in the local news because it is incomprehensible to some folks that a musician could be a serious scholar.

Keeping with the musician theme, my understanding is that John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants was a successful graphic designer in NYC before the band got popular.
posted by aught at 1:38 PM on December 14, 2011


Maybe most people already know this but Lisa Kudrow has a degree in biochemistry and worked for many years in her father's laboratory before success as an actress. I recall in some interview, probably NPR Fresh Air, she talked about how her dad and brother were serious biochemists and she would have gone to grad school for the same thing if it hadn't been for acting.

The grad student or celebrity thing also brings to mind Tracey Chapman, who left a grad program in anthropology to pursue music. Also Mick Jagger's time studying at the London School of Economics.
posted by aught at 1:46 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Julia Child, during WWII, worked in the intelligence services coordinating secret broadcasts in Asia (for the OSS, which evolved into the CIA) and according to Wikipedia got some sort of medal for her work, though I imagine once the Allies won the war a ton of medals were given out.
posted by aught at 1:53 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


aught, even if they were, a ton of medals were deserved. "Never before have so many..."
posted by IAmBroom at 1:58 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dana Carvey is a drummer
posted by quiet coyote at 2:06 PM on December 14, 2011


James Toseland, a former MotoGP motorcycle racer (MotoGP is the elite racing class, the fastest guys in the world) is also highly talented piano player. Here he is playing at the 2008 Indianapolis races.
posted by workerant at 2:11 PM on December 14, 2011


Rosey Grier's Needlepoint For Men.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:29 PM on December 14, 2011


> Alexander McCall Smith ... co-founded an amateur orchestra.

Though it's not exactly one that is entirely serious about its art.

> What is it with comedians and the banjo?

The banjo is frequently retuned between songs, and players have to do something to keep the crowd amused.
posted by scruss at 2:39 PM on December 14, 2011


Mike Rowe (host of "Dirty Jobs") is also a classically-trained opera singer.
posted by aheckler at 3:19 PM on December 14, 2011


John Cage, of course, was a devoted mycologist, even winning 5 million lire on an Italian game show by answering questions about mushrooms (rumor is he used his winnings to buy a Volkwagen bus for the Merce Cunningham dance troupe).
posted by daisystomper at 3:20 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Katey Sagal was a backing vocalist for Bette Midler (and Gene Simmons), has released a couple of albums and gets to sing one cover version per series of Sons of Anarchy
posted by nicktf at 3:20 PM on December 14, 2011


Julie Andrews has written some children's books, a few under the pen name Julie Edwards, so I don't think they're the typical celebrity books.
posted by wsquared at 3:49 PM on December 14, 2011


Jonathan Kellerman is a psychologist and is currently a professor of pediatrics and psychology at USC's school of medicine. He is much better known for his mystery novels.

Don't forget Jesse Ventura - Navy SEAL turned professional wrestler turned actor turned Governor of Minnesota.
posted by SisterHavana at 5:03 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Michael Jackson could draw.
posted by girlmightlive at 5:36 PM on December 14, 2011


Geena Davis is an archer
posted by dogmom at 6:59 PM on December 14, 2011


Tom Smothers was the Yo-Yo Man.
posted by cazoo at 7:21 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Marilu Henner is one of around twenty people identified as having hyperthymesia, "a condition in which the individual possesses a superior autobiographical memory, meaning they can recall the vast majority of personal experiences and events in their lives."
posted by bdk3clash at 7:26 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Viggo Mortensen is also quite a gifted photographer/painter/visual artist. Speaks a bunch of languages, too.
posted by lemniskate at 8:17 PM on December 14, 2011


Johnny Vegas has a third class degree in ceramic design. This may not strike you as a sign of talent, but one of his teapots is part of the Victoria & Albert Museum collections. He was also commissioned to redesign the Old Spice bottle back in 2000.
posted by howfar at 9:02 PM on December 14, 2011


Rosey Grier's Needlepoint For Men.

Rosey Grier has had a great life. He was one of the first black football stars, he did his needlepoint thing, he starred in several movies (including the great The Thing with Two Heads), he was a soul singer (his song In My Tenement is a Northern classic), and now he's a minister (notably, O.J. Simpson confessed to him, though the testimony was thrown out).

Plus, when RFK was assassinated, Grier was his bodyguard, and he was the man to tackle Sirhan Sirhan.
posted by vathek at 10:48 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Justin Bieber was a pretty impressive drummer for his age before he sang.
posted by rosken at 11:19 PM on December 14, 2011


Willard Scott created and was the first person to play Ronald McDonald. He was also Bozo the Clown in Washington DC.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:59 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


After his pancreas exploded, Duff McKagan, guitarist for the rock band Guns N' Roses, miraculously recovered, went to college, and is starting a financial service.
posted by Cranberry at 12:01 AM on December 15, 2011


There are plenty of examples of athletes being smarter than we give them credit for. Of particular interest may be the various accomplishments and endeavors of hockey "enforcers" (very few NHLers often get into fights). George Parros has a degree in economics from Princeton. Former NHLer Donald Brashear plays classical piano, and Todd Ewen wrote (and drew) at least one children's book that got published.

And there might be some interesting stories of what pro athletes did back in the old days when they actually had to work during their offseasons.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:01 AM on December 15, 2011


John Stamos regularly tours with the Beach Boys during the summer, playing drums and guitar.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:29 AM on December 15, 2011


It's still acting, but I think a lot of people would be surprised that "the guy who played Luke Skywalker," Mark Hamill, voiced the Joker on various animated Batman series (and games).

Brent Spiner, TV's Data from TV's Star Trek: The Next Generation, crooned some '30s/'40s standards on "Ol' Yellow Eyes Is Back" back in '91. (His fellow male cast members sang backup on this track, but Jonathan Frakes apparently did not play trombone on the album.) And I'm seeing that Spiner voiced the Joker in a current youth-oriented DC spinoff series.

Also, there are some notable celebrity poker players, such as Gabe Kaplan, Tobey Maguire, Jennifer Tilly.

And Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who it may be easy to forgot were Oscar winners for their work as writers, on Good Will Hunting.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:49 AM on December 15, 2011


Gary Numan is a fully qualified aerobatics instructor - well, he was, I don't know if he's current.

Queen Elizabeth II was a car mechanic.
posted by Devonian at 1:53 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure Greg Graffin's Phd is in evolutionary biology, though I could be wrong.

Maynard Keynes of Tool was also a Greco-roman wrestler in college. On YouTube, if you look for it, there is a video of an overly rambunctious fan getting on stage during a show. Keynes doesn't miss a single note while taking the guy down an choking him unconscious. He keeps singing, and the fan keeps rocking out until he finally passes out.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:58 AM on December 15, 2011


Not sure if you call it a talent, but Vidal Sassoon was a tough anti-fascist street fighter.
posted by Abiezer at 5:06 AM on December 15, 2011


Mira Sorvino graduated Harvard magna cum laude in East Asian Studies. As I recall, she wrote her thesis on racism in China in Chinese.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:22 AM on December 15, 2011


Harpo Marx was an avid croquet player. Inducted in, the founding class of the U.S. Croquet Hall of Fame, in fact, along with his friends Alexander Woolcott and George Kaufman. Samuel Goldwyn was in there, too.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:37 AM on December 15, 2011


And to follow on celebrities who play banjo, if memory serves, Christopher Plummer does as well, but I'm not finding anything online to confirm that.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:44 AM on December 15, 2011


Jesus was a carpenter, Marcel Duchamp was a semi-pro level chess player, and Nabokov was a Lepidopterist
posted by resiny at 10:52 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, there are some notable celebrity poker players, such as Gabe Kaplan...

The reason Kaplan dropped out of the public eye and played poker for twenty years after Welcome Back, Kotter is that he invested his standup and TV money really, really well, so there's a third thing. Oh, and he was invited to spring training with the San Francisco Giants, but wasn't good enough for the major leagues. So he's pretty much the greatest renaissance man since the actual Renaissance -- not even Thomas Jefferson got a tryout with the Giants.
posted by Etrigan at 2:47 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ted Willams, the 'greatest hitter who ever lived' was an ace fighter pilot in WW2 and Korea. He has one of the most impressive career lines in baseball history, and he was at flying combat missions for 3 or 4 of his peak years.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:54 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ian Anderson, lead singer for the band "Jethro Tull" is an accomplished motorcycle trials rider and a successful businessman.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 4:35 PM on December 20, 2011


Maynard Keynes of Tool was also a Greco-roman wrestler in college.

And still had time to found modern macroeconmics? Busy guy.
posted by howfar at 6:11 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


David Bowie has a respectable acting career.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:52 PM on December 20, 2011


Gary Numan is an airplane pilot who is licensed to teach aerobatics to other pilots.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:46 AM on February 11, 2012


Oops... sorry Devonian. I should have previewed.

Tim George Jr was a chef before becoming a stock car driver.

Patrick McNee was a patrol boat captain in WWII before becoming an actor and starring in The Avengers.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:23 AM on February 11, 2012


I just heard this on the news tonight - Marilu Henner is one of the 30 or so people in the world with an autobiographical memory. That is, she is just like the character on the tv show Unforgettable (she is a consultant for the show) - she can remember just about anything with uncanny speed and accuracy. She remembers the date and the weather and the events for just about every day that she's been alive.
posted by iconomy at 9:04 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Robert Downey Jr can sing! (Also writer/composer) The Futurist.
posted by TangerineGurl at 9:02 PM on February 16, 2012


Adam Curry of MTV, Mevio and No Agenda Show is a licensed pilot (plane/chopper) and speaks 3 languages.
posted by TangerineGurl at 9:08 PM on February 16, 2012


Forgot about this one earlier, but MythBusters' Jamie Hyneman's Renaissance man qualities are often alluded to on the show. Along with his more well-known special effects background, Wikipedia has these details:

He earned a degree in Russian linguistics from Indiana University.[5] He also received an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from Villanova University. On 25 November 2011, Hyneman was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Twente (Enschede, Netherlands) for his role in the popularization of science and technology.[6]

A variety of careers fill his resume, including scuba diver, wilderness survival expert, boat captain, linguist, pet shop owner, animal wrangler, machinist, concrete inspector, and chef.

posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 2:15 PM on February 19, 2012


Harrison Ford is a pilot, licensed to fly fixed wing and helicopters.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:36 PM on March 13, 2012


Poet, playwright, lyricist and singer Vinicius de Moraes, one of the central figures in the birth of bossa nova, had a day job as a diplomat.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:53 PM on March 13, 2012


Archer Prewitt of The Sea and Cake is a cartoonist.

Sam Prekop, also of The Sea and Cake, is a visual artist.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:38 AM on March 14, 2012


Linus Torvalds enrolled in the officer training program to fulfill the mandatory military service of Finland. In the army he holds the rank of second lieutenant, with the role of a ballistic calculation officer. After returning to his academic career, he developed the Linux operating system.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:15 AM on May 30, 2012


Iain MacLeod was able to support his playboy lifestyle by playing bridge before joining the military during WWII, and then getting elected to the British House of Commons. He was, briefly, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and coined the word, "stagflation".
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:11 PM on July 15, 2012


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