Intriguing meetings of famous or historical figures you don't usually associate together

It may be hard to describe what I’m talking about, but…
When Oscar Wilde toured America in 1882, a man derided for his velvet suits and wearing a sunflower in his lapel and for what we’d today consider flaming gay mannerisms, he said that the American he’d most like to meet was Jefferson Davis.
His uncle, one of the richest men in Louisiana (story there) had been a friend of Davis’s relatives and the Davis’s had actually accepted an invitation from Wilde’s mother when they were in England after the war (as Jefferson failed at one endeavor after another) but they canceled due to one of their children being sick. (Very possibly a convenient excuse: the Davises had a rather miserable marriage by this time and he had physical ailments [particularly his eye] so it was more likely they just didn’t feel like it.)
A few years later however Varina (Mrs. Davis) extended an offer to visit them at Beauvoir when he was on the southeastern leg of his tour. (I’d love to have witnessed his lectures; the same critics who called him every kind of fop and dandy for his lectures on aestheticism and interior decoration often gave a review afterwards similar to the Blue Man Group: “I can’t tell you why it was brilliant and enjoyable, but it was.”
So on June 24, 1882, Wilde arrived at Beauvoir. (It was their daughter Winnie’s 18th birthday, though strangely I’ve never read mention of this in any of the descriptions of the encounter.) Evidently Oscar thoroughly charmed Varina and Winnie but Jefferson- not so much. (When asked the next day why he hadn’t been a better host to their guest the 74 year old said bluntly “I didn’t like him”.) It is known that Varina drew a sketch of him and that he did some readings from his poems and lectures and went swimming with Winnie. He left autographed photos of himself for the family (destroyed by Katrina sadly) and in one of his next lectures praised Davis’s history of the Confederacy as “a literary and historical masterpiece”, but later said of Davis himself “He is fascinating, as are all failures”.
I always thought this would make an interesting play. His reason for mentioning Davis as the person he’d like to visit was because of his interest in Ireland’s bid for independence at the time, but there’s no record this was referred to during the evening. It’s known that he raved over the aesthetics of Beauvoir- one wonders if the fact it was decorated by its previous owner, who was likely Davis’s mistress and was thoroughly despised by Varina (who separated from him due to his relationship with her) was broached.

On a tour of India and other nations ca. 1928 (she mentions it in her memoirs but doesn’t give the date) Marion Davies and William Randolph Hearst met Gandhi. This had to have been fascinating; Hearst was not only the most powerful media lord on the planet but was probably the biggest conspicuous consumer, certainly of those not of royal birth. The man owned castles in Wales, Germany, and of course California, a medieval monastery still packed in crates in his warehouse (it’s in Floridatoday- the only medieval building in the state) as well as vast estates in Mexico and Italy (briefly- had to sell that one fairly soon after buying it) and mansions in Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Washington D.C., “The Shack” in Santa Monica (a 110 room beach house that’s now a country club), a 5 story penthouse in NYC (lived in by his estranged wife) and another luxury apartment there for himself, a 30 building Bavarian village called Wyntoon (Marian called it Spittoon) on 70,000 acres in northern California where not a tree could be touched even though he only spent a few days per year there (after the sons took over the timber rights brought in several hundred thousand dollars per year; Patty Hearst tells great stories of her time there as a girl when it was abandoned and was like a Bavarian ghost town), and of course the world’s largest collection of fine art, antiques, and bric a brac. Gandhi had a diaper and an un airconditioned ashram.
Marion gives little real insight into the meeting other than the Mahatma was very charming to them and laughed at her jokes. She bought a dachshund puppy later on the trip and named him Gandhi and was inseparable from him til his death.

Abraham Lincoln had several encounters with the Booths during his life, though none seemingly of any length. He attended plays of John Wilkes, Edwin, and Brutus Jr. during his presidency, and as a young man in New Orleans had paid an amount his father thought absurd (about $1) to see the old man, Junius, perform Richard III. Edwin famously saved the life of Robert Lincoln when he fell onto a train track before the assassination. Years after the assassination- in what may be apocryphal but certainly wouldn’t be out of character- Sarah Bernhardt claimed to have saved Mary Todd’s life on a ship to America (Sarah for one of her tours and Mary returning with the ailing Tad from her years abroad). Per La Belle Bernhardt Mary was extremely gracious until learning who she was, when she said something to the effect of “I detest theatre people” and walked away.

Walt Whitman said one of his earliest memories was of being picked up and kissed by the Marquis de LaFayette when he was 6 years old. For anyone familiar with the Marquis’s 1825 visit he probably met and shook hands with hundreds of thousands of people; the old man was exhausted because almost every evening was a banquet or ball in his honor in places that ranged from New York City and Philadelphia to Claiborne, Alabama (a town with one building at the time) and Creek villages in Georgia (where his carriage was literally borne on the shoulders of the braves to get it over a swollen stream).

An odd twosome: Ted Danson (Cheers, Becker) mentioned an old man he befriended in the cafeteria and the benches around campus when he was a student at Stanford in the 60s. He said the old guy spoke with what he thought was a Jewish/Yiddish accent and fed pigeons and loved to talk about the space race and the rudeness of the hippies but would not talk about his past. He didn’t learn until later the old man was Alexander Kerensky, prime minister of the Russian Provisional Government- the man who deposed the Tsar and was deposed by Lenin (and occasional visiting professor and researcher at Stanford- he later died in NYC).

Anyway, you needn’t go into great detail if you’d rather not, but what are some intriguing meetings or relationships between famous people you don’t usually think of together?

Jon Stewart and congressman Anthony Weiner were roommates after college.

Thats all I’ve got.

One of my favorite incongruous meetings was that between African explorer Richard Burton and Mormon leader Brigham Young. Burton had published books on exotic sexual customs of Africa and the Middle East, and wanted to visit the Mormons because of his interest in polygamy.

I’ve read about that one. It would have been a great one to eavesdrop on.

Young met pretty much any famous person who passed through SLC; he was incredibly accessible. Sam Clemens/Mark Twain (not yet famous but brother of Nevada’s attorney general) talked with him at length (then reported it in highly exaggerated style), and P.T. Barnum along with Mr. and Mrs. Tom Thumb and Chang & Eng came through after the war when the railroads were not quite connected.

Twain was a good friend and patron of Helen Keller. In her later years she suffered from senile dementia and often forgot who she was “talking” to (i.e. who was signing into her hand and who she was responding to) and would sometimes have “conversations” with Mark Twain, who had been dead for more than half a century. I always thought this also would be good for a play; there was little or nothing to remove any delusions she was having, so Twain may as well have been there (and it’d be a good plot device to remind people how ancient she lived to be).
(The men whose names would ultimately become) Malcolm X and Redd Foxx were friends when they worked together at a NYC restaurant. At the time they went by the nicknames Detroit Red and Chicago Red due to their hair color and where they said they were from (in fact Malcolm Little wasn’t from Detroit and John Elroy Sanford wasn’t from Chicago, though they had lived there). I don’t think they were bosom buddies or reconnected after Malcolm was released from prison, but he does reference Redd Foxx in his autobiography as one of the funniest men he ever knew.


This thread is the best thing I’ve read all day. Ted Danson and Kerensky?! Man, I never would have imagined it in a million years.

Meant to mention: in a bio of Tom Thumb it said that Brigham Young asked him how he was enjoying married life. Thumb (aka Charles Stratton) said he was blissfully happy (for anyone not aware his marriage to Lavinia Warren had been the social event of the year- Lincoln held a reception for them at the White House) but went on to say something to the effect of he couldn’t understand how any man could be happy with more than one woman. Supposedly Brigham Young stood up, patted him on the head and said “When you’re big as I am you’ll understand it better”.

During the same visit P.T. Barnum offered Young $200,000 per year to give lectures, but he declined. He didn’t need the money, was of course super busy with the church and the territory, and was probably afraid he’d be arrested (which he probably would have been).

Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were pals for a while. The friendship ended when Doyle, creator of one of the greatest critical thinkers of all time, fell hook line and sinker for any number of spiritualists after his son was killed in World War I, and his wife began “spirit writing” (basically writing gibberish on paper and looking for proof it said something). Houdini basically called “bullshit” (in terms not much kinder than that) and it caused a wedge between them.

Jerry Garcia and other members of the Grateful Dead became friends with Joseph Campell; Walter Cronkite told them how much he enjoyed thier music, Salvador Dali acted shocked when they (Grateful Dead) offered him LSD, and the band briefly met with Strom Thurmond when they took a tour of the Capitol in the 1990’s…

Well, there’s Elvis and Nixon.

Two music-related ones that I always find surprising and incongruous:

In college Chevy Chase played drums in a “bad jazz band” along with…Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, who would go on to become Steely Dan.

And then…

Would-be drummer Damon Krukowski borrowed drums from his roommate at Harvard in order to form the seminal band Galaxie 500. His roomate? Conan O’Brien!

They nearly shared a birthday. Nixon: 1/9/13; Presley: 1/8/35.

Wavy Gravy has written that he used to live near Einstein when he was about 5 years old, and that they used to go for walks.

Espn analyst Lee Corso roomed with Burt Reynolds while they both attended Florida State University. In recalling those days, Corso said that he never got action from as many beautiful women in his life, just as a result of hooking up with the girls that didn’t measure up to Burt’s standards…

Al Gore roomed with Tommy Lee Jones at Harvard.

Bill Clinton met JFK at the White House when he was a student.

William Golding and Pete Townshend were friends. They met when Pete was on the editorial staff at Faber and Faber.

One of Slate’s online sites had this interesting article about Bram Stoker (author of Dracula) interviewing Winston Churchill, early in Churchill’s career, and late in Stoker’s.

From the article:

“One of the striking things about Churchill is that he met the most astonishing range of people – everyone from Coco Chanel to Mark Twain to Greta Garbo to Billy Graham to Buffalo Bill. In Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, I include a list of many of the people he met, and I wish I’d known to add Bram Stoker’s name. What a strange combo.”

Bono and Pope John Paul II

My mom knew Burt (Buddy) Reynolds at FSU when she was a senior & he a freshman. She always said he was an ‘arrogant little sh*t’.

The future Duke of Wellington and Admiral Nelson met only one - sharing a waiting room.

Allegedly, the future Duke’s impression of Nelson was not initially favourable - the Duke thought the Admiral was incredibly puffed up with self-conceit. However, the Admiral did not know, initially, who the (future) Duke was. Once he discovered that the man he was talking to was also a military leader, supposedly his whole demeanor and conversation changed on a dime.


Stoker’s wife had previously been the significant other of (“engaged to be engaged” to) Oscar Wilde but broke off the relationship very suddenly. There’s of course a lot of speculation as to why, but it could have been as simple as deciding he was too self absorbed and or immature to marry. Stoker was a handful with his drinking and living at the beckon call of Henry Irving, but I think she probably made the right choice.

Elvis briefly met The Beatles. I’ve read mutually exclusive accounts of the meeting in different sources- there’s no way they can all be true; one account is they passed time by playing Monopoly, another is that the Beatles got stoned while Elvis ranted and railed about some grievance he had with Col. Tom Parker. By all accounts though it was anticlimactic; the Beatles worshiped Elvis but meeting him was something of a let down for all since they were all exhausted.

There was the old Kennedy and Clinton photo, but that technically might not count under the OP.