Surprising encounters between famous people in history
May 12, 2017 6:43 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for encounters (or probable counters) between famous people in history who we don't think of as connected. Like Hitler going to school with Wittgenstein and then meeting Orson Welles as a young man. Particularly interested in encounters between those from very different cultures and historical traditions. Like Pontius Pilate meeting the Roman emperor Caligula (allegedly).
posted by dontjumplarry to Society & Culture (49 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not sure this is exactly what you're looking for but over the course of his long and distinguished life Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. met John Quincy Adams, called Abraham Lincoln a fool during a Civil War battle, and at the end of his life met a young John F. Kennedy.
posted by saladin at 6:48 AM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]




As a teenager, Candice Bergen knew members of the Manson Family.
posted by mmascolino at 6:50 AM on May 12, 2017


Leon Trotsky lived with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera for a bit. He and Frida were lovers.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:50 AM on May 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


awesomepeoplehangingouttogether.tumblr.com

Not all of them are surprising.
posted by Xalf at 6:53 AM on May 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


Joaquin Pheonix had a serious car accident in 2006. Luckily he was rescued by Werner Herzog.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 6:55 AM on May 12, 2017 [6 favorites]






Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla were friends
posted by nickggully at 7:25 AM on May 12, 2017 [5 favorites]




Maybe not quite what you're after, but Ho Chi Minh worked in a suburban London pub.
posted by plep at 7:33 AM on May 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


One of Ronald Reagan's first jobs was as a radio sports announcer for University of Iowa football games. One of the games he broadcast was against the University of Michigan, and the center for the Michigan team was Gerald Ford.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:37 AM on May 12, 2017


Not sure if this is unexpected enough, but Harpo Marx was a regular member of the Algonquin Round Table.
posted by Mchelly at 7:38 AM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Tommy Lee Jones roomed with Al Gore at Harvard.

On a more historical note, Latin American revolutionary Francisco de Miranda, in addition to hosting pretty much all the key figures of the South American wars of independence at his house in London, befriended Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Catherine the Great, the Duke of Wellington and Jeremy Bentham, and helped pay for the medical education of Dr. James Barry.
posted by Diablevert at 7:40 AM on May 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Socrates taught Plato taught Aristotle taught Alexander the Great - pretty well-known.
posted by plep at 7:42 AM on May 12, 2017


11 Peculiar Meetings Between Famous People, including Edgar Allan Poe & Charles Dickens, Nikita Khrushchev & Marilyn Monroe, and Orson Welles & Adolf Hitler.

I don't know if Richard Simmons met Fellini, but he was an extra in Satyricon.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:42 AM on May 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


Hello Goodbye Hello has a lot of examples of this, and is a charming read.
posted by punchtothehead at 7:46 AM on May 12, 2017


Opposite ends of British politics filter - Michael Portillo and Diane Abbott appeared in a school play together.
posted by plep at 7:50 AM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Here's one from personal experience. I might be stretching the definition of "famous" here, but they're both famous enough to have Wikipedia pages, and are each the subject of various media articles. Musician Griffin House and convicted murderer Andy Mickel once shared a lunch table in high school with your humble commenter. When we were freshmen, John Stephens (better known to most of you as John Legend) was a senior.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:16 AM on May 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Jean Genet once tried to pick up Jacques Pepin, who didn't know who he was.
posted by praemunire at 8:21 AM on May 12, 2017


Garibaldi and Meucci lived together in a house on Staten Island. They survived by selling candles. At some point Marconi came to visit to see a regatta.
posted by Soliloquy at 8:24 AM on May 12, 2017


but, p.s.:

those from very different cultures and historical traditions. Like Pontius Pilate meeting the Roman emperor Caligula (allegedly)

Pontius Pilate was a Roman government official, Caligula was the head of the Roman government; I don't know if they ever did meet, but you could hardly get more identical cultures and traditions, so maybe I'm not understanding the question?
posted by praemunire at 8:24 AM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oh, Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle were friends.
posted by praemunire at 8:26 AM on May 12, 2017


Continuing off your Wittgenstein example, in 1987 the elderly British logical positivist AJ Ayer had a run-in with Mike Tyson, who was forcing himself on a young Naomi Campbell at a party. Ayer heard the commotion and told Tyson to cut it out.

Tyson: "Do you know who the fuck I am? I'm the heavyweight champion of the world."

Ayer: "And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic, We are both pre-eminent in our field; I suggest that we talk about this like rational men."
posted by Beardman at 8:35 AM on May 12, 2017 [25 favorites]


Richard Dawkins met his wife Lalla Ward (the second Romana from Doctor Who) at Douglas Adams' 40th birthday party. Not *super* surprising but I like the idea regardless.
posted by mskyle at 8:40 AM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Tom Stoppard wrote the play Travesties based on the possibility that Lenin, James Joyce, and Tristan Tzara may have met, since they were all living in Zurich at the same time.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 8:45 AM on May 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


"Dr. Livingstone, I presume"

Thus explorer Henry Morton Stanley famously greeted David Livingstone upon locating him in present day Tanzania in 1871
posted by Kwadeng at 8:46 AM on May 12, 2017


Jerzy Kosinski, after fleeing communism, found himself living next to, and becoming acquainted with, Stalin's daughter.
(He apparently took this as a sign, Zelig-like, that he was someone whose destiny was "to be a vessel through which the multi-foliate forces and manners of his age were brought into confluence." Source: James Park Sloan: Jerzy Kosinski, A Biography. Also a plot point in this new book about Kosinski.)

Samuel R. Delany opened for Bob Dylan one time in the Village.

And not quite what you're looking for, but Sam Shepard briefly played drums for The Holy Modal Rounders.
posted by Bron at 9:20 AM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


John Wilkes Booth's brother, Edwin, saved Abraham Lincoln's son, Robert, from being run over by a train, a few months before Lincoln died.
posted by at at 9:54 AM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Freud and Einstein wrote back and forth to each other.

Wallace Stevens punched Ernest Hemingway.

The economist John Maynard Keynes hung out with Virginia Woolf and with the Pre-Raphaelites.
posted by vacapinta at 10:02 AM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Phil Hartman designed the logo for Crosby, Stills, & Nash. Apparently, David Crosby liked him and Graham Nash performed at his memorial.
posted by mhum at 10:41 AM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


When Patti Smith was just a regular person (i.e., before she became OMG PATTI SMITH!!!), Allen Ginsberg bought her a sandwich at the Automat because he thought she was a teenage boy and he was trying to pick her/him up.
posted by scratch at 11:11 AM on May 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


Would the Manhattan project, JP Morgan or bankers funding companies, Tesla competing with Edison, or most artists getting apprenticeships under masters count or are you looking for the less obvious educational crossing paths?
posted by brent at 12:31 PM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


BBC2 did a series of imagined meetings between historical figures in the early 90s. My favourite was Jack Shepherd's In Lambeth, about an encounter between William Blake and Tom Paine (Mark Rylance and Tom Peck respectively). (And Catherine Blake, of course.)
posted by Grangousier at 1:10 PM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Ooh! Ooh! I know this one!

My favoritest-ever example of this kind of meeting is when Jayne Mansfield met Anton LaVey, the head of the Church of Satan.

Ah, to have been a fly on that wall.
posted by Dr. Wu at 1:57 PM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Not sure if this is the kind of thing you're looking for, but in 1977 the Hillside Stranglers picked up a young woman, intending to murder her. When they learned she was Peter Lorre's daughter, they let her go instead.
posted by Lexica at 2:26 PM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Somewhat inevitable, and definitely arranged, but here's a recording of Orson Welles and H G Wells talking about War of the Worlds.
posted by Hogshead at 3:28 PM on May 12, 2017


The poet Wallace Stevens and the linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf both worked for the Hartford Insurance Co. [PDF] in the same building at the same time, but aside from some misdelivered mail having to do with language, there's no evidence they met or knew each other.
posted by Wobbuffet at 6:35 PM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Leonardo Da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli had a brief partnership where they tried to sell military engineering projects to Italian noble houses.
posted by seasparrow at 6:37 PM on May 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Pontius Pilate was a Roman government official, Caligula was the head of the Roman government; I don't know if they ever did meet, but you could hardly get more identical cultures and traditions, so maybe I'm not understanding the question?

Oops ... same culture, yes, but associated with different cultural traditions, Christian theology vs salacious Roman history. A better example would be if Dante had met Kublai Khan.
posted by dontjumplarry at 7:45 PM on May 12, 2017


Studying Chinese history, I was kind of surprised that Mao Zedong attended the first congress of the Kuomintang. And when Chiang Kai-shek was the head of the Whampoa military academy, the KMT political rep (effectively his #2) was Zhou Enlai. And when Deng Xiaoping was studying in Moscow as a young man, one of his classmates was Chiang's son.
posted by zompist at 9:40 PM on May 12, 2017


Another semi-fictional of this kind of thing is the 1985 Nicolas Roeg film, Insignificance which is all about Joseph McCarthy (played by Tony Curtis!), Albert Einstein, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe meeting in NYC in 1954. Marilyn demonstrating to Einstein her understanding of relativity (with flashlights and toy trains) is pretty cool. Opens with the filming of the subway-grate scene and also has Chief Broom as an elevator operator.

Tommy Lee Jones roomed with Al Gore at Harvard
Two other pairs of famous roomies (or so I've heard) - Reed Richards & Victor von Doom, and Robert Heinlein & L.Ron Hubbard.

posted by Rash at 9:50 PM on May 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


I don't know, maybe this is common knowledge, but I was surprised to learn that Alan Greenspan was a member of a study group led by Ayn Rand.
posted by lakeroon at 7:32 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Perhaps not as peculiar a meeting as you're looking for, but David Bowie and Nina Simone.
posted by thinman at 8:40 PM on May 13, 2017


At some point in the future we'll look back and say, "What? Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong Un spent time together? Rodman held Kim's baby?"
posted by clawsoon at 10:47 PM on May 13, 2017




Groucho Marx and T.S. Eliot corresponded.

James Joyce met Proust once and it didn't go so well.

King Edward VIII was taught how to surf by Hawaiian surfer and Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku (aka The Big Kahuna).
posted by Marauding Ennui at 3:27 AM on May 18, 2017 [4 favorites]




Today I learned that Connie Britton's college roommates included Heather Graham and Kirsten Gillibrand.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:04 PM on May 28, 2017


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