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11 Peculiar Meetings Between Famous People

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PA Photos/Landov

You'd expect famous people to know other famous people. But maybe not these famous people.

1. Nikita Khrushchev & Marilyn Monroe

In September 1959, during Khrushchev's American tour, he visited 20th Century Fox Studios. At a lunch banquet with hundreds of stars (including Frank Sinatra, Edward G. Robinson, and Gary Cooper), he was introduced to Marilyn Monroe. Wearing a low-cut, tight black dress, she delivered a line that Natalie Wood, a fluent Russian speaker, had taught her: "We the workers of 20th Century Fox rejoice that you have come to visit our studio and country."

Khrushchev was mesmerized. "He looked at me the way a man looks on a woman," Monroe said.

"You're a very lovely young lady," he said, squeezing her hand.

"This is about the biggest day in the history of the movie business," Monroe told the cameras. But later, she reportedly told her maid, "He was fat and ugly and had warts on his face and he growled. He squeezed my hand so long and so hard that I thought he would break it. I guess it was better than having to kiss him."

2. Samuel Beckett & André the Giant

In 1953, after the success of Waiting for Godot, playwright Beckett bought land in a French commune, forty miles north of Paris. He built a cottage with the help of some locals, including a Bulgarian-born farmer named Boris Rousimoff. Beckett and Rousimoff became friends, and would sometimes get together to play cards. Rousimoff had a son, André. At age 12, the boy was well over six feet tall and weighed 250 pounds. The local school bus couldn't hold him, and the Rousimoff family car wasn't big enough for him. So Beckett stepped forward, offering to give the growing giant a lift to school in his pick-up truck on his drives into town. Years later, André said that the two of them mostly talked about cricket.

3. T.S. Eliot & Groucho Marx

In the early 1960s, the poet and the comedian became unlikely pen pals. Eliot was a fan and requested a signed photo. In his letter of thanks, he called Groucho his "most coveted pin-up" and said, "Whether you really want a photograph of me or whether you merely asked for it out of politeness, you are going to get one anyway." Upon receiving Eliot's 8x10, Groucho replied, "I had no idea you were so handsome. Why you haven't been offered the lead in some sexy movies I can only attribute to the stupidity of the casting directors." After three years of occasional correspondence, the two finally met in London in 1964. Marx and his wife were looking forward to an evening of intellectually stimulating conversation, but all the ailing Eliot wanted to talk about was old Marx Brothers movies. "We didn't stay late," Marx later said, "for we both felt that he wasn't up to a long evening of conversation. Especially mine."

4. Federico Fellini & Stan Lee

During a visit to New York in 1965, the Italian film director caught a virus and was laid up in the Hotel Pierre. Someone brought him some comic books to read. Fellini was so taken with the exploits of Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk that he called the Marvel Comics office and set up a meeting with the company's honcho Stan Lee. Years later, Lee recalled that his receptionist said, "Stan, there's a Fred Felony here to see you." Fellini entered Lee's office with a four-man entourage, all of them clad in black raincoats. With a translator smoothing the way, Fellini and Lee had a lively chat. Mostly, Fellini wanted to know about how the comic books were made. The two creative geniuses stayed in touch, with Lee visiting Fellini's villa in Rome and Fellini attending Broadway shows with Lee in New York.

5. James Brown & Alfred Hitchcock

Remember when talk shows used to keep guests on the panel together? One afternoon in 1969, Mike Douglas played host to Joan Rivers, Rod McKuen, James Brown, and Alfred Hitchcock. At one point, Brown leaned toward Hitch and asked a strangely confounding question: "In the picture Homicidal [Brown meant Psycho, but was confusing the title with a William Castle-directed knockoff], at the very end, this fella takes his wig off, as though he had played the part all the way through. Did you actually use a girl or did you use a fella?" Polite Englishman that he was, Hitchcock didn't embarrass Brown by correcting him on the movie title. Instead he offered a winking response: "I wouldn't dare tell you. It's a professional secret. That's worth money. Do you want to ruin me? What about my starving wife and child?" He then added, "I'll tell you afterwards when we go off."

6. The Beatles & Elvis Presley

During their summer tour in 1965, The Beatles visited Elvis in California one night at his Bel-Air home. At first, everyone was awkward around each other. Paul, John, and Ringo sat on the sofa with Elvis. George sat cross-legged on the floor. Respective managers Colonel Tom Parker and Brian Epstein stood off to the side. The television was on with the sound turned off. Elvis showed the Fabs the first remote control switcher any of them had ever seen. Finally, Elvis joked, "If you damn guys are just going to sit there and stare at me, I'm going to bed."

That broke the ice. Soon one of Elvis's buddies brought in guitars, and an informal jam session commenced. What songs did they play? No one remembers exactly, but, reportedly, a hit of the day called "You're My World" and "I Feel Fine" by The Beatles were two. Then they traded some war stories from the road, and talked about their mutual love for Peter Sellers and the film Dr. Strangelove. A few hours later, The Beatles left, with a complete set of Elvis records, a gun holster with a gold leather belt, and a table lamp shaped like a wagon – gifts from the King.

Elvis, by then far-removed from the raw rock 'n' roller that The Beatles had loved as teenagers, was something of a letdown. To John Lennon, at least. He later said: "It was like meeting Engelbert Humperdinck."

7. Elvis Presley & Richard Nixon

nixon-elvis

In the late 1960s, Elvis Presley started a hobby that bordered on an obsession – collecting honorary police badges. On December 21, 1970, he went after his holy grail, a badge from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), charming his way into President Richard Nixon's oval office.

In a heartfelt appeal, the purple-suited Elvis spoke of his rags-to-riches story and his desire to give back by helping America in its fight against "the drug culture and the hippie element." Pulling out all the stops, he even pointed a finger at The Beatles, who he said had been "promoting an anti-American spirit."

Nixon was apparently perplexed by the visit, but figured an association with a performer as popular as Elvis couldn't hurt. At the extensively photographed meeting, Elvis showed Nixon some family photos and a collection of law enforcement badges. Later, Nixon awarded him a BNDD badge, which listed Elvis' position as "Special Assistant."

8. Edgar Allan Poe & Charles Dickens

In 1842, when Dickens visited the U.S., the relatively unknown Poe requested a meeting. In a hotel in Philadelphia, the two discussed favorite writers and the necessity for an international copyright law. But what Poe really wanted was help in getting his book Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque published in England. Dickens promised to do what he could. Nine months later, he wrote Poe an apologetic note: "I have mentioned it to publishers with whom I have influence, but they have, one and all, declined the venture...Do not for a moment suppose that I have ever thought of you but with a pleasant recollection; and that I am not at all times prepared to forward your views in this country."

Actually, according to Poe biographer Una Pope-Hennessy, the meetings between the two "proved sterile and closed coldly. Neither seems to have liked the other much."

Twenty-five years later, when Dickens returned to America for his second tour, Poe was already dead. In Baltimore, Dickens learned that Poe's mother-in-law was ill and living on charity. Dickens visited her and slipped her some cash to help her out.

9. Orson Welles & Adolf Hitler

In 1970, while being interviewed on The Dick Cavett Show, Welles recalled his long-ago encounter with an unknown Hitler. As a teenager studying in Germany and Austria, Welles had accompanied a teacher on a hike. "The teacher, as it turned out, was sort of a budding Nazi," Welles said. "And there was a Nazi rally near Innsbruck, in the days when the Nazis were a very comical kind of minority party of nuts that no one took seriously at all. This teacher wangled a place at the table with the great man of this tiny little party of cranks. The man sitting next to me was Hitler, and he made so little impression on me that I can't remember a second of it. He had no personality whatsoever. He was invisible."

10. Bob Dylan & Woody Guthrie

Bob Dylan has said that when he first heard legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie's songs, he decided he wanted to be "Guthrie's greatest disciple." In 1961, a 19-year-old Dylan – still Robert Zimmerman to the world – visited his ailing hero at the Greystone Psychiatric Hospital in New Jersey. Guthrie was being treated for erratic behavior, later diagnosed as Huntington's Chorea. The two struck up a warm friendship, with Dylan returning regularly to play songs, both Woody's and his own. One of those original tunes, called "Song to Woody," ended up on his debut album in 1962. Their friendship was later spoofed on an SNL skit in 1980.

11. Steve Jobs & Andy Warhol

In October 1984, a 29-year-old Steve Jobs attended a birthday party for Sean Lennon, son of Yoko Ono and the late John Lennon. Steve's gift to the nine-year-old boy was a Macintosh computer (it had debuted earlier that year). As Steve showed Sean how to use the mouse, and a program called MacPaint, a few party guests gathered, gaping at this amazing machine.

"Can I try?" asked Andy Warhol. Jobs gave Warhol a quick lesson, but Warhol didn't get how to use the mouse. He lifted and waved it, as if it were a conductor's baton. Jobs placed his hand on Warhol's and guided it along the floor. Finally, Warhol began drawing, staring at the "pencil" as it drew on the screen.

In his diary, Warhol later wrote, "I said that once some man had been calling me a lot wanting to give me one [a Macintosh], but I'd never called him back or something, and then the kid looked up and said, 'Yeah, that was me. I'm Steve Jobs.'"

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12 Things You Might Not Know About MAD Magazine
Mad Magazine
Mad Magazine

As fast as popular culture could erect wholesome depictions of American life in comics, television, or movies, MAD Magazine was there to tear them all down. A near-instant success for EC Comics upon its debut in 1952, the magazine has inspired generations of comedians for its pioneering satirical attitude and tasteful booger jokes. This month, DC Entertainment is relaunching an "all new" MAD, skewering pop culture on a bimonthly basis and in full color. To fill the gaps in your knowledge, take a look at these facts about the Usual Gang of Idiots.

1. NO ONE KNOWS WHO CAME UP WITH ALFRED E. NEUMAN.


Jamie, Flickr (L) // Boston Public Library, Flickr (R) // CC BY 2.0

MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman was in the offices of a Ballantine Books editor discussing reprints for the fledging publication when he noticed a grinning, gap-toothed imbecile staring back at him from a bulletin board. The unnamed figure was ubiquitous in the early 20th century, appearing in everything from dentistry ads to depictions of diseases. A charmed Kurtzman adopted him as MAD’s mascot beginning in 1954. Neuman later become so recognizable that a letter was delivered from New Zealand to MAD’s New York offices without an address: the envelope simply had a drawing of Alfred.  

2. THEY HAD TO APOLOGIZE ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.

MAD was conceived during a particularly sensitive time for the comics industry, with parents and watchdog groups concerned over content. (It didn't switch to a magazine format until issue #24.) Kurtzman usually knew where the line was, but when he was laid up with acute hepatitis in 1952, publisher William Gaines and others had to step in for him. Gaines thought it would be funny to offer a fictional biography of himself that detailed his father’s Communist leanings, his past as a dope dealer “near nursery schools,” and bouts of pyromania. When wholesalers were shocked at the content and threatened to boycott all of his titles, Gaines was forced to write a letter of apology.  

3. THEY PREDICTED JOHN F. KENNEDY'S ELECTION IN 1960.

But it was a cheat. In the run-up to the 1960 Presidential election, MAD printed a cover that featured Neuman congratulating Kennedy on his victory with a caption that read, “We were with you all the way, Jack!” But the issue was shipped long before votes had been tabulated. The secret? It was a dual cover. Flip it over and Neuman is celebrating Richard Nixon’s appointment to office. Stores were told to display the “right” side of the magazine depending on the outcome.

4. ALFRED BRIEFLY HAD A GIRLFRIEND.


MAD Magazine

A character named Moxie Cowznofski was introduced in the late 1950s as a female companion for Alfred. She made only a handful of cover appearances, possibly due to the fact she looked alarmingly like her significant other.

5. THEY DIDN'T RUN ANY (REAL) ADS FOR 44 YEARS.

From the beginning, Gaines felt that printing actual advertisements next to the products they were lampooning would not only dilute their edge but seem more than a little hypocritical. After some back-and-forth, MAD cut ads starting in 1957. The decision was a costly one—most print publications survive on such revenue—but led to the magazine’s keeping a sharp knife against the throat of seductive advertising, including cigarettes. Faced with dwindling circulation in 2001, Mad finally relented and began taking ads to help pay for a switch to color printing.

6. "SPY VS. SPY" WAS CREATED BY A SUSPECTED SPY.

Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias was disenchanted with the regime under Fidel Castro when he began working on what would become “Spy vs. Spy.” Because Prohias’ other newspaper illustrations were critical of Castro, the Cuban government suspected him of working for the CIA. He wasn’t, but the perception had him worried harm might come to his co-workers. To get out of the situation, Prohias came to America in 1960. With his daughter helping translate, he stopped by Mad’s New York offices and submitted his work: his sneaky, triangle-headed spies became regulars.

7. THERE WAS ONE FOLD-IN THEY WOULDN'T RUN.

Artist Al Jaffee, now 94, has been with Mad almost from the beginning. He created the famous Fold-In—the back cover that reveals a new picture when doubled over—in 1964 after seeing the fold-outs in magazines like National Geographic, Playboy, and Life. Jaffee has rarely missed an issue since—but editors backtracked on one of Jaffee’s works that referenced a mass shooting in 2013. Citing poor taste, they destroyed over 600,000 copies.  

8. THEIR MOVIE WAS A DISASTER.

With the exception of Fox’s successful sketch series, 1994’s MAD TV, attempts to translate the MAD brand into other media have been underwhelming: a 1974 animated special didn’t even make it on air. But a 1980 film venture, a military school spoof directed by Robert Downey, Sr. titled Mad Presents Up the Academy, was so awful William Gaines demanded to have their name taken off of it. (Renamed Up the Academy, the DVD release of the movie still features someone sporting an Alfred E. Neuman mask; Mad parodied it in a spoof titled “Throw Up the Academy.”)

9. THE APRIL 1974 COVER HAD PEOPLE FLIPPING.


MAD Magazine

MAD has never made a habit of good taste, but a depiction of a raised middle finger for one issue in the mid-’70s caused a huge stir. Many stores wouldn’t stock it for fear of offending customers, and the company ended up accepting an irregular number of returns. Gaines took to his typewriter to write a letter of apology. Again. The relaunched #1, out in April 2018, pays homage to this cover, though it's slightly more tasteful: Neuman is picking his nose with his middle finger.

10. THEY INVENTED A SPORT.

MAD writer Tom Koch was amused by the convoluted rules of sports and attempted to one-up them in 43-Man Squamish, a game he invented for the April 1965 issue. Koch and artist George Woodbridge (“MAD’s Athletic Council”) prepared a guide that was utterly incomprehensible—the field was to have five sides, positions included Deep Brooders and Dummies, “interfering with the Wicket Men” constituted a penalty—but it amused high school and college readers enough to try and mount their own games. (Short on players? Try 2-Man Squamish: “The rules are identical,” Koch wrote, “except the object of the game is to lose.”) For the less physically inclined, Mad also issued a board game in which the goal is to lose all of your money.  

11. WEIRD AL WAS A GUEST EDITOR.

In what must be some kind of fulfilled prophecy, lyrical satirist “Weird” Al Yankovic was named as a guest editor—their first—for the magazine’s May 2015 issue. Yankovic told Entertainment Weekly that MAD had put him on “the dark, twisted path to becoming who I am today … I needed to pollute my mind with that kind of stuff.” In addition to his collaborations with the staff, Yankovic enlisted Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, and Chris Hardwick to contribute.

12. FRED ASTAIRE ONCE DANCED AS ALFRED E. NEUMAN.

In a scene so surreal even MAD’s irreverent editors would have had trouble dreaming it up, Fred Astaire decided to sport an Alfred E. Neuman mask for a dance number in his 1959 television special, Another Evening with Fred Astaire. No one seems to recall why exactly Astaire would do this—he may have just wanted to include a popular cultural reference—but it was no off-the-cuff decision. Astaire hired movie make-up veteran John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) to craft a credible mask of Neuman. The result is … well, kind of disturbing. But it’s a fitting addition to a long tradition of people going completely MAD.

Additional Sources:
Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America.

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10 Tantalizing Tidbits About Star Trek: The Next Generation
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

by Kirsten Howard

When Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in September 1987, no one was quite sure what to expect. After all, this was a new Enterprise with a new crew trying to revitalize a franchise that had only lasted three seasons the last time it was on television. And while the movie series was still bringing in solid box office returns, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy would play no part in this new Trek.

The Next Generation was a gamble for Paramount, and for the first few seasons, it looked like one the studio was going to lose. But once the series got over some initial behind-the-scenes chaos, it blossomed into one of the most popular sci-fi TV shows of all time. Even as bigger and shinier installments in the franchise continue to come out, this is the definitive Star Trek for countless fans. So lean back in your captain's chair and enjoy 10 facts about Star Trek: The Next Generation.

1. THE SHOW GOT OFF TO A ROCKY START.

Things were tumultuous at best behind the scenes during the first season of the show, as writers and producers clashed with creator Gene Roddenberry over themes, characters, and ideas on a weekly basis. The in-fighting and drama became such a part of the show's legacy that William Shatner himself chronicled all of it in a 2014 documentary called Chaos on the Bridge (which is currently streaming on Netflix). In it, producers, writers, and actors recounted anecdotes about the difficulties they had dealing with Roddenberry's somewhat overbearing mandates, including his infamous rule that there never be any direct conflict between the Enterprise crew members (unless one was possessed by an alien, of course) and his habit of throwing out scripts at the last minute. This led to 30 writers leaving the show within the first season, according to story editor and program consultant David Gerrold.

As Roddenberry’s health began to deteriorate after the first season, his influence over the writers waned, freeing up ideas that were departures from the creator's original vision. He would pass away in 1991, but his presence would never completely leave the series. For years, a small bust of Roddenberry sat on executive producer Rick Berman's desk with a blindfold wrapped over its eyes. "Whenever they come up with a story I don't think Gene would like," Berman said, "I blindfold him when we discuss the story."

2. GENE RODDENBERRY REALLY DIDN’T WANT A BALD CAPTAIN.

'Star Trek' creator Gene Roddenberry
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

For years, William Shatner had cast the mold by which all future Star Trek captains would be judged. And it was that image of the confident, swashbuckling James T. Kirk that Roddenberry wanted to preserve when bringing a new captain in for The Next Generation. So when Berman wanted to cast Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the issue was clear: he was no Shatner.

Roddenberry was completely unconvinced that Stewart was right for the role, with Berman saying the Trek creator didn’t like the idea of “a bald English guy taking over.” But after countless auditions with other actors, Berman continued to bring Stewart up to Roddenberry, who eventually caved and agreed to bring him in for a final audition under one condition: he wear a wig. So Stewart had a wig Fed-Exed from London and auditioned for Roddenberry and Paramount Television head John Pike one final time. 

That audition was enough to win Roddenberry over, and Stewart was finally brought aboard as Picard with the wig cast aside. Roddenberry would eventually go on to fully embrace Picard’s follicular shortcomings, and according to Stewart, when a reporter at a press conference once asked him why there wouldn’t be a cure for baldness in the 24th century, Roddenberry responded by saying, “No, by the 24th century, no one will care."

3. ONLY ONE PERSON HAS EVER PLAYED HIMSELF IN STAR TREK HISTORY.

Stephen Hawking was visiting the Paramount lot during the video release of the film A Brief History of Time when he requested a tour of the Next Generation set. After making his way onto the iconic Enterprise bridge, he stopped and began typing into his computer. Suddenly, his voice synthesizer spoke: “Would you lift me out of my chair and put me into the captain's seat?"

Hawking asking to be removed from his chair was basically unheard of, so his wishes were granted immediately. Later, with writers having become aware that he was such a huge Trekkie, Hawking himself was written into the sixth season finale episode “Descent – Part I” by Ronald D. Moore, who would later go on to reimagine the Battlestar Galactica universe.

4. A WHOLE EPISODE WAS WRITTEN FOR ROBIN WILLIAMS.

Late actor and comedian Robin Williams was also a huge fan of the show and was desperate to appear in it, so an episode of the fifth season—"A Matter of Time"—was drawn up by Berman to allow Williams to shine at the center of a mystery about Professor Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a time-traveling historian from the future visiting the past to observe the Enterprise crew completing an historic mission.

Unfortunately, when it came time to shoot the episode, Williams found himself unavailable to appear in the episode. So Max Headroom star Matt Frewer was cast as Professor Rasmussen instead.

5. PATRICK STEWART APPROACHED BEING TORTURED ON SCREEN VERY SERIOUSLY.

In the episode “Chain of Command, Part II,” Picard has been captured by Cardassians and is subjected to a variety of torture methods by his interrogators. As a member of the human rights organization Amnesty International, Stewart did not want to shy away from the realities of torture, so he watched tapes sent to him that included statements from people who had been tortured and a long interview with a torturer explaining what it was like to be the one inflicting pain on others. Stewart also insisted on being completely nude during the first torture scene, so as not to betray the experiences of those who had undergone similar horrors.

6. THEY USED SOME PRACTICAL EFFECTS.

The transporter effect on the show may look completely computer generated, but in fact it’s all done quite organically. First, a canister is filled with water and glitter and then a light is shone through it. After stirring the liquid briskly, the resulting few seconds of swirling glitter are filmed and then superimposed over footage of the actor standing in the transporter area, with an added “streak down” effect to blur the glitter further.

7. LORE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A WOMAN.

Android Lieutenant Commander Data had many adventures during the series, on and off the Enterprise, but his evil twin brother, Lore, stands out for many fans as one of the show’s greatest antagonists. Surprisingly, Lore was originally created as a female android character for the show, but the actor who plays Data, Brent Spiner, came up with a different idea: an evil twin nemesis in the shape of a long-lost brother.

8. THERE WAS AN OPEN SUBMISSION POLICY ON SCRIPTS.

When Michael Piller took over as head writer on the show in 1989, an open submission policy was launched where absolutely anyone could submit up to two unsolicited scripts for consideration. Opening up the possibility of writing for TV to people outside of the Writers Guild of America and talent agency pool was unheard of at the time, and over 5000 spec scripts were received a year at one point. "Yesterday’s Enterprise," one of the show’s most popular episodes, was based off a spec script from the open submission policy.

9. SOME SCRIPTS WERE RECYCLED FROM THE SCRAPPED PHASE II.

A still from 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'
Paramount Pictures

A decade before The Next Generation debuted, there was a failed attempt at a revival called Star Trek: Phase II. Though a first season was mapped out, it never saw the light of day, and the movie series was produced in its place. However, the scrapped scripts and concepts lived on in various Trek projects over the years. For the second season premiere of The Next Generation, producers reclaimed the script for "The Child" as a way to get a story quickly into production during the 1988 writer's strike. The season four episode "Devil's Due" was also taken from the backlog of Phase II scripts. 

More elements from Phase II would influence Trek for years, such as the pilot being reworked into Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the now-familiar elements of the Japanese-inspired Klingon culture being introduced in the shelved episode “Kitumba.”

10. THE TRANSPORTER IS THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS.

In what was either a cost-cutting move or a sly Easter egg (or both), the ceiling of the Enterprise's transporter room in The Next Generation is actually the floor of the transporter room from the original series. That's far from the only recycling that went on between the Trek series. The orbital office complex from Star Trek: The Motion Picture was reused as the Regula I station in The Wrath of Khan, which was then itself reused as a number of different space stations on The Next Generation (plus Deep Space Nine and Voyager).

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