A Beautiful Friendship
Ella Fitzgerald —whose centennial is April 25—connected with all kinds of people during her epic career as a jazz singer, but one particularly unlikely friendship changed her life. Here are 10 close celebrity pairs few would imagine as friends, starting with Lady Ella and Marilyn Monroe.
Photo by R Dumont
Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe
Back in the '50s, the Mocambo on Sunset Strip was a hot spot frequented by the Hollywood elite, but the nightclub avoided booking black performers. That changed when Marilyn Monroe lobbied aggressively on behalf of Ella Fitzgerald, promising to sit in the front row every night she performed, to generate publicity for the club. It was a turning point in Fitzgerald's career, she was forever grateful, and the jazz singer and the sex symbol struck up a friendship. Said Fitzgerald, "I owe Marilyn a debt."
Alice Cooper and Groucho Marx
Groucho called him "Coop." They once performed a duet of "Lidia the Tattooed Lady" at a benefit organized by Frank Sinatra. Groucho, a chronic insomniac in his 80s, often called Alice in the wee small hours of the morning, inviting him to drop by. Then the two of them—Groucho in his beret, smoking a cigar, Alice with a six-pack of Bud—would watch old movies until the eldest Marx brother fell asleep.
Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson
He's a conservative Catholic who built his own church. She's a lesbian and former child actor who grew up in Hollywood. Yet Gibson and Foster have been fiercely loyal to each other ever since they met on the set of "Maverick" in 1994. Foster even stuck by Gibson in 2006, at the height of his notoriety, after he went into a drunken, anti-Semitic tirade while bing arrested for DUI. Says Gibson, "I kiss the ground she walks on."
Photo by David Livingston
Don Rickles and Bob Newhart
The first time Bob Newhart and his wife Ginnie caught Don Rickles' act, the insult comic introduced them from the stage: "Here's the stammering comedian from Chicago and his hooker from Bayonne." The famously deadpan Newhart cracked up, and he and Rickles became best friends. When Rickles died, the Newharts put out a statement: "He was called 'The Merchant of Venom,' but in truth, he was one of the kindest, caring and most sensitive human beings we have ever known."
John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara
Despite rumors of an affair between these two, the fact is they were simply the best of friends. O'Hara turned to Wayne for comfort during a difficult marriage. Hollywood's macho icon once said, "I've had many friends, and I prefer the company of men. Except for Maureen O'Hara." Paired in films by director John Ford, O'Hara was, in her words, "the only leading lady big enough and tough enough for John Wayne."
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Helen Mirren and Russell Brand
Dame Helen Mirren and comedian Russell Brand became besties while working on the 2011 remake of "Arthur." Now 71, she's a class act who was completely believable in the title role of "The Queen." He's 41 and has played Captain Hook, but comes across more like Peter Pan. Still, they share a distinctly British sense of humor. Mirren explains: "It exists in a sort of other universe, our friendship. Where there is no sex and no age difference."
Photo by Jon Furniss
50 Cent and Bette Midler
The Divine Miss M and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson connected while working on the New York Restoration project in 2008. Though a musical collaboration is unlikely (Midler concedes she "really can't rap"), they're great pals and a dynamic duo in their efforts to improve New York. As 50 Cent once put it, "Look how beautiful things are and how nice it feels" to be around her.
Photo by Joe Corrigan
Courtney Love and Carrie Fisher
Close up until Carrie Fisher's death in December, Courtney Love and Princess Leia came from different worlds—Love's parents were hippies, Fisher's were Hollywood royalty—but they had certain things in common. Next-door neighbors, they both famously struggled with drug addiction. That may make them sound like a potentially combustible duo, but in fact Fisher was Love's mentor as well as her friend.
David Beckham and Snoop Dogg
The world-class athlete and the perpetually stoned rapper may seem like opposites, but before any of Snoop Dogg's music is released, it's likely David Beckham has listened to it first and given it his stamp of approval. When Snoop's kids decided they no longer wanted to practice soccer, the hip-hop artist called his BFF. Beckham dropped by and gave them private lessons.
Truman Capote and Harper Lee
Both became brilliant writers after growing up next door to each other in Monroeville, Alabama. Otherwise the shy loner who wrote "To Kill a Mockingbird" and the party-loving author of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" could hardly have been less alike. Yet they formed a close bond, and the late authors are now memorialized together by this fountain in their Southern hometown.
Photo by G.M. Andrews
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