Did You Know?
It's National Trivia Day! To mark the occasion, here are 20 fun facts about celebrities past and present—starting with Christopher Walken, whose early career path took a surprising turn.
Christopher Walken Worked as a Lion Tamer
At the age of 16, Walken did a stint as lion tamer with the circus. Apparently the job was less dangerous than it sounds. "The lion's name was Sheba," recalled Walken. "An old girl. Very nice. She'd come and bump your leg. Like a house cat."
Sean Connery Knocked Out Lana Turner's Mob-Connected Boyfriend
Hollywood hoodlum Johnny Stompanato was dating Turner when he heard rumors of a romance between her and the future James Bond on the set of 1957's "Another Time, Another Place." In a fit of jealousy, Johnny Stomp—an enforcer for Mickey Cohen's crime family—crashed the set, shouting threats and aiming a pistol at the Scottish actor. After wrestling the gun away from him, Connery knocked out Stampanato with a right hook.
She Had a Mutation
The violet-eyed screen legend was blessed (if that's the right word) with an abnormal double set of eyelashes. It was caused by a genetic mutation called distichia.
Tom Cruise's Classmates Saw Him as a Loser
He's remained a top gun at the box office for more than 30 years. Yet Cruise's high school classmates voted him "Least Likely to Succeed."
Bruce Lee Was a Prize-Winning Cha-Cha Dancer
The future star of 1973's "Enter the Dragon" won the Hong Kong Cha-Cha Dance Contest in 1958. On his way to becoming a kung fu master, Lee would trade dance instruction for martial arts lessons.
Vivian Leigh Hated Kissing Clark Gable
Gable had false teeth, the result of a gum infection when he was 32, which left him with a permanent case of halitosis. "Kissing Clark Gable in 'Gone With the Wind' was not that exciting," said his co-star Vivian Leigh. "His dentures smelled something awful."
Hattie McDaniel Suffered Segregation—at the Oscars
Although she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work in "Gone With the Wind," McDaniel—the first African-American to receive an Academy Award—was seated separately from other cast members at a small table in the back of the "whites only" Coconut Grove Hotel.
Jack Nicholson Thought His Mom Was His Sister
Until the age of 37, Nicholson believed that his mother was his sister and that his grandmother was his mother. Nicholson learned the truth from a Time magazine reporter who was writing a profile of the actor timed to coincide with the 1974 release of "Chinatown," which involves a similar sister/mother family secret.
Marilyn Monroe Had a Thing for Einstein
As a young starlet, Monroe shared an apartment and close friendship with fellow actress Shelley Winters, and the two exchanged fantasies about who they'd most like to sleep with. While Winters came up with names predictable like Frank Sinatra and Tony Curtis, Monroe's top pick was Albert Einstein. (Also on her list was Jerry Lewis.)
Robert Mitchum Didn't Mind Being Locked Up
In 1948, Mitchum was busted for possession of marijuana at the Hollywood home of actress Lila Leeds. Caught red-handed by the cops, he responded with the classic, "Whoa, daddy!" Mitchum was sentenced to 43 days. "I'm beginning to like it here," the actor said of county jail. "Something doing all the time." He described the place as "like Palm Springs, but without the riffraff."
Bela Lugosi Was Buried in His Dracula Cape
It wasn't his idea. The request came from his fifth wife and Bela Lugosi Jr., who said that this was what his dad—the star of 1931's "Dracula," who died in 1956 at the age of 73—would have wanted.
Demi Moore Was Cross-Eyed
As a child, she rocked an eye-patch until the problem was corrected after two operations.
This "Little Rascals" Star Was Shot Dead With a .38
Carl Switzer—you know him as Alfalfa—was shot and killed at age 31 while trying to collect $50 that he claimed was owed to him. A welder named Moses "Bud" Stiltz said he was "forced to shoot" after the former child star, who was down on his luck, hit him with glass-domed clock and charged at him with a knife. The death was ruled a justifiable homicide.
Screen Goddess Hedy Lamarr Was Also a Brilliant Inventor
During World War II, the Austrian-born star developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes—a precursor to current-day Bluetooth technology. Lamarr was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
Hollywood Execs Weren't Initially Wowed by Fred Astaire
After a first screen test in 1933, an MGM studio executive wrote of Astaire: "Can't act. Can't sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little."
Gloria Grahame Married Her Stepson
In 1960, the Oscar-winning co-star of 1952's "The Bad and the Beautiful" married the son of her second husband, director Nicholas Ray. The relationship reportedly began when her stepson was 13 years old and Grahame was still married to his father.
George Sanders Was as Cynical and Jaded as Addison DeWitt
The sophisticated British leading man who played poison-penned theater critic Addison DeWitt in 1950's "All About Eve" (and later "Mr. Freeze" on TV's "Batman') committed suicide in 1972 at age 65. Sanders left behind a note: "Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck."
Audrey Hepburn Risked Her Life During World War II
This may be a detail from her youth, but it's hardly trivial: As a teenager in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, Hepburn acted as a courier for the Dutch Resistance, delivering papers and money. Had she been discovered, she might have faced execution.
Ronald Reagan Lost a Film Role for Not Looking "Presidential"
In 1964, a year or so before he switched from acting to politics, Reagan was rejected for the role of a U.S. president in "The Best Man." A United Artists executive didn't think he had "that presidential look."
Brad Pitt's First Job Required Him to Dress Up as a Chicken
Soon after moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting in the 1980s, Pitt got a job dancing in a chicken suit outside an El Pollo Loco restaurant on Sunset Boulevard.
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