World's Oldest Celebrity

After reading the thread Ralph started on the alleged 153-year-old Abkhazian, and the mention of Jeanne Calment in it, a question occurred to me that is tailormade for GQ:

Who is the oldest person famous for something other than being among the oldest people alive? To give a relatively trivial answer as an example of what I’m looking for, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. lived well into his nineties, but what made him famous was his expertise on legal positivism and his more than thirty years’ tenure, with numerous important opinions, on the U.S. Supreme Court. Pharaoh Seti I of Egypt is reputed to have lived to 100, but was famous for being a king of a country during an expansionist phase, not mrely for living that long. By contrast, most if not all of the Guinness Book recordholders for longevity are famous simply for living until or close to 120 years. (Mme. Calment is a very special case – not only is she the all-time confirmed recordholder, but she had minor fame beyond her advanced age in her own right, giving interviews about having known Vincent VanGogh in her youth, etc.)

I’ll accept your definition of “famous”, so long as you can bring some sort of evidence to bear on why your candidate would have been famous even without his longevity. If the world’s leading expert on Kazakh umbellifers died last year at 112, to make up an example out of whole cloth, he’d qualify as ‘famous’ within a limited niche, of botanists and ecologists, even though most of us would never have heard of him.

That said, what can people come up with for “S/He was famous for something other than living a long time”?

Leopold Vietoris was a pretty well-known mathematician, especially among topologists, and he died in 2002 at the age of 110.

John Wooden. (Granted, he retired 35 years ago.

Rose Kennedy (JFK’s mom) made it to 104.

Bob Hope.

George Burns is the first one I thought of. He lived to see his 100th birthday. Of course, after having played God, I would have expected him to be immortal.

George Burns.

Irving Berlin made it to 101.

Another famous scientist who made it to 100 was evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, who was one of the leaders in establishing the neo-Darwinian synthesis in evolutionary theory and in formulating the Biological Species Concept.

Oscar Niemayer, the architect who design a number of buildings in Brasilia, was part of the team that designed the U.N. headquarters in NYC, and a number of other well known buildings is still alive at age 102.

George Abbott, American theater producer, made it to 107.

Leni Reifenstal, Hitler’s favorite film maker and unrepentant Nazi lived to be over 100 and was still making movies when she was 100. Recall Star Wars, Ep IV where the boys are awarded medals at the end of the move in front of a big crowd. That scene was directly stolen from Triumph of the Will, a film glorifying Hitler at a Nuremberg rally.

Yeah, but Lucas also stole the trench run from Dambusters.

I would guess that the oldest living celebrity is Johannes Heesters, being born December 5, 1903.

Madame Chiang was 105, probably.

Eve Curie made it to 103, the Queen Mother to 101, Manny Shinwell to 101, Ernst Jünger to 102 and Francis Partridge to 103.

Dick Clark is immortal. I think he’s like 200 now.

He stands out for being one of the pioneers of rock and roll (through his weekly show, American Bandstand.)

Eva Zeisel, the incredibly influential Hungarian-American industrial designer, is still working at 103.

Clark is only 80. He is not famous for being old, but for having had a portrait painted by Basil Hallward, the same artist as the one who did Dorian Gray’s, sometime during his 20s, (although it appears that the painting was destroyed some time in the last ten years).

Hal Roach, founder of the eponymous movie studio, and producer of 1,200 movies (!), including the Our Gang comedies and most of Laurel and Hardy’s films, lived nearly to 101. He died in 1992.