Actress Lauren Bacall is the first cousin of current Israeli President Shimon Peres. Both changed their name from Perski, and no wonder.
Timothy Leary and G. Gordon Liddy debated each other frequently, as shown in the movie ‘Return Engagement’. Apparently, they were good friends despite their extreme differences of opinion.
Fidel Castro wrote a letter to FDR when he was twelve years old, asking him for a ten dollar bill.
David Lynch’s college roommate was guitarist Peter Wolf from the J. Geils Band. Lynch kicked him out because he was “too weird.”
Another Mark Twain one- his friendship with Nikola Tesla.
Speechwriter to former Presidents Reagan and Bush, père as well as impossibly twee Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan is the sister of former WWE “Security Director” and Super Troopers bit player Jimmy Noonan.
Two books you might be interested in:
First Encounters: A Book of Memorable Meetings by Nancy Caldwell and Edward Sorel, a beautifully illustrated collection of vignettes about actual unlikely meetings of celebrities; the pairing I best recall is F. Scott Fitzgerald trying unsuccessfully to shock Edith Wharton.
Twentieth Century Dreams by Nik Cohn and Guy Peellaert, an often whimsical showcase of paintings with the frequent theme of “What if these two had met?” Babe Ruth meets Albert Einstein, Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray meet as Strangers on a Train, young Orson Welles sneaks into a Harry Houdini show, and plenty more.
Well apparently Samuel Beckett and Andre The Giant were neighbours and Samuel regularly gave Andre a lift to school.
One of my favorite pics is of Tesla’s experiment with Twain’s radioactive bellybutton.
Not a definite one but the type of thing novelists love: Ho Chi Minh had a few “missing years” in his yoot when his movements are hard to trace, but he claimed to have been (and probably was) in some order a waiter/houseboy/bellhop/cook and other odd jobs in hotels and restaurants and wealthy houses in Harlem (when it was still a ritzy area), Brooklyn, Paris, Marseille and London in the years before World War I. It would be intriguing for a historical novelist to speculate on who he might have rubbed shoulders with in those places.
I’ll bet the lift wasn’t piggy back (not but once anyway).
Speaking of giants, the opposite of the Tom Thumb wedding was the wedding of P.T. Barnum’s giants, Confederate veteran Martin Van Buren Bates (7’9, 420 pounds) and the by all accounts charming and lovely Anna Swan (7’5, 390 pounds), who married in 1871. In this picture of the couple and other pics of them what’s amazing is how perfectly proportioned they are; were it not for the regular sized man you wouldn’t know they were giants.
By all accounts it was a love match and they were very happy save for the deaths at birth of their children (their daughter weighed 18 pounds at birth and their son 24 pounds!) but they at least did well enough to, like Tom and Lavinia Thumb, build a house and buy specially made furniture and clothing that was comfortable to them.
The reason I mention them here is that they met everybody during their travels in the late 1860s-1880s. They were particular favorites of Queen Victoria, who gave them several valuable gifts- most notably pocketwatches the size of salad plates and for Anna ropes of particularly large pearls and other stones. It’s an intriguing mental image to think of Victoria (or Brigham Young, or Charles Dickens, or Mark Twain, or others they are known to have met) dwarfed by the two. Both were said to be very intelligent and articulate and Anna was said to be a talented musician; one of the Vanderbilts commissioned a harp and a flute scaled to her size. (Apparently she had already found an organ that satisfied her.)
Anna died young (42) after which Bates remarried to a normal sized woman (though I don’t believe they had children). Amazingly the second wife insisted on moving into a new house instead of the “giant house”- something that would seem incredibly insensitive to me, but, whatchagonna do? Very unusual for a giant, Bates lived into his 80s. (Most men of his size die, like Andre the Giant or Robert Wadlow, in middle age or before.)
Annie Oakley toured Europe with Wild Bill Hiccok’s Wild West Show. In Berlin she asked for a volunteer from the audience and shot a cigarette from (the future) Kaiser William’s mouth. (WHile blindfolded?)
That tour is worth a book. Supposedly the show also showed the German military how to load trains faster. (It is still called “circus style.”) I love the idea of old horse calvary men and old indians playing cards and getting drunk together between shows.
The Bateses are buried very near where I live, and their graves are something of a tourist attraction. The locals were very protective of them.
Is their house still there?
Why on Earth couldn’t she miss just once?
I read an interesting article a while back about Wilson learning of this and having the U.S. circuses all confer with the American military as well. You’d think it was a no-brainer: who knows better how to load and unload and set up and strike basically a small city overnight?- but apparently it didn’t occur to anybody before the Germans.
Speaking of old cavalry men- I’ve mentioned this before but why not again? Teddy Roosevelt saw the Confederate cavalry general Joe Wheeler as a sort of mentor. They met through the friendship of TR’s mother and Wheeler’s sister, both of whom were Georgians living in NYC during the war (Wheeler’s entire family other than his father lived in New England or NYC, and Wheeler had only spent about 6 years of his life in the south but was a die hard Confederate for whatever reason).
Through his friendship with Roosevelt Wheeler- who was by this time a politician (eventually senator) from Alabama (where he moved after the war when he married an Alabama heiress he met during the war) became the only Confederate general to later become a U.S. general (albeit in the volunteers rather than the regular military). Serving as a general of cavalry in two armies isn’t a bad resume’ for a guy who graduated near the bottom of his West Point class for repeatedly failing cavalry courses.
Wheeler, then about 60, contracted malaria in Cuba and had a fever, but refused to miss the charge up San Juan Hill. This was after all a man who had endured more than 120 straight days of battle every single day on no rations and with constant bad weather during Sherman’s March. Per later accounts by men who were there the general- perhaps age, perhaps the fever, perhaps force of habit or perhaps a combo of all three- got a tad confused when they routed the Spanish armies and yelled to his men “C’mon boys, we got the damn Yankees on the run!” (Who knows if it’s true or not, but it’s believable and it makes a good story.)
Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Dickens met once. Dickens was in America to lecture on the importance of copyright laws. The US tended to ignore British copyrights, so most of the copies of his books here were pirated copies, which he obviously didn’t like very much. So, in March of 1842, Dickens was in Philadelphia, and Poe sent him a letter asking to meet. They met twice, talked about American and British literature, and Poe asked Dickens to help him get his work published in Britain.
As a big Burton fan, I’ve always been interested in this. YTou can read Burton’s account of this in his book The City of the Saints.
someone once told me that Young greeted Burton with the words “I understand you’ve done something like this before…” (referring to Burton’s pilgrimage in disguise to Mecca and Medina), but it’s not in Burton’s account. Young comes off as a respectable, knowledgeable leader, but not with that quirky vein of humor.
Burton ffound Mormon temple architecture revolting, and he compared Mormon polygamy unfavorably with Muslim polygamy. He wasn’t terribly impressed by the Book of Mormon, but he didn’t deride it, either.
Mark Twain met George Bernard Shaw, possibly twice. Shaw was a fan in person, but he seems less enthused about Twain in his preface to Saint Joan. According to Jack Chalker, Twain had attended a meeting of Shaw’s Fabian Society (many years before he met Shaw at his getting an honorary degree at Oxford, I assume), and after listening to several speeches about the Ideal Society, remarked that “It sounded like a herd of cows after they shot the last wolf.”
I don’t know if it’s true, but (as they say) It Ought to Be.
Vincent Price, while still a young man, met Bram Stoker’s widow. He was the only surviving person who’d visited the Stoker household that david J. Skal could find when he was researching his book on Dracula.
H.G. Wells met Orson Welles a couple of years after Orson Welles’ War of the World broadcast. They were both in San Antonio for some reason, and their discussion was broadcast (and recorded – you can still buy it). Wells originally disdained Welles’ adaptation, but he seems reconciled to it in the interview.
Sam Housyton, during the time after his governorship of Tennessee and his going to Texas, when he was running a trading post dressed as a Cherokee met democracy in America author Alexis de Tocqueville. He was apparently frequently drunk during this period, and de Tocqueville was not impressed.
There are a lot of these. Some magazine used to print about one such story of an unlikely encounter in every issue.
No, but the Seville Historical Society Museum has a lot of their stuff, and if you’d come up a couple of weeks ago, you could have gone to the GiantFest! I don’t know how well this came off; it wasn’t publicized too much.
I was about to mention this as well. A clip is available on the Mercury website (scroll near the bottom). Near the end HG asks Orson about his upcoming film: Citizen Kane.
Churchill met Gandhi briefly very early in their careers in 1906 when Gandhi was part of an Indian delegation from South Africa and Churchill was a junior minister in the Colonial Office. I don't think they ever met each other after that. An interesting sub-species would be examples of a young person meeting someone much older who is generally considered part of a completely different generation. Clinton and Kennedy is an example. Another one is Bertrand Russell and Gladstone. Russell belonged to famous political family and as a teenager was required to play the host to the grand old man. He writes about it amusingly in one of his essays and describes it as an utterly terrifying experience.
I also was going to mention this. I enjoyed H. G. Wells jokingly chiding Orson Welles for carrying an extra “e” in his surname, “which I hope he will drop as soon as possible.”