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Unexpectedly Bizarre Photos of Historical Figures and Celebrities

Rosemary Giles
Photo Credits: White House Photographer/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain/ cropped, and George Bush Presidential Library and Museum/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain/ cropped

Ever since the invention of photography, humanity has spent significant amounts of time capturing their lives in these small snippets. Although the earliest technology was extremely time-consuming, it soon became much quicker and easier to use, resulting in the ability to take truly candid images. The following photos are delightfully strange, as they were taken of historical figures at unexpected times or with unexpected people.

Alice Cooper and Groucho Marx

Alice Cooper, the “Godfather of Shock Rock,” and Groucho Marx, the famous comedian and vaudeville performer, couldn’t appear to be more different. Cooper is known for his eccentric musical performances, long black hair, and heavy makeup, while Marx was known for making people laugh with his greasepaint mustache and thick eyebrows. However, the pair struck up an unlikely friendship after they first met.

Groucho Marx and Alice Cooper sitting at a table in conversation.

Groucho Marx and Alice Cooper at a celebrity fundraising event on the O’Neill family’s Rancho Mission Viejo in South Orange County, October 8, 1974. (Photo Credit: Orange County Archives/ Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY 2.0)

They met while performing a duet together at Frank Sinatra’s birthday party. Later in life, when they were both living in Beverly Hills, they became even closer. During episodes of insomnia, Marx would call Cooper late at night and the two of them would watch classic movies and drink beer until he was able to sleep.

Eleanor Roosevelt and Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple captured the hearts of Americans throughout the Great Depression when she was catapulted to fame while starring in multiple films at an early age. Eleanor Roosevelt was just as enthralled with the child as everyone else when they met in March 1938 when the first lady visited her on set.

Eleanor Roosevelt wearing a hat and holding a handbag sits beside Shirley Temple who smiles up at her.

Eleanor Roosevelt sitting beside Shirley Temple, July 1938. (Photo Credit: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain)

The photograph of Temple and Roosevelt was taken while they were watching one of her latest films during the studio tour. It was personally signed by the actress, who wrote, “To Mrs. Roosevelt; Love, Shirley Temple.” They met again when the young star was invited for a barbecue at the White House.

Prince Charles and Alan Alda

M*A*S*H was one of the top shows of the 1970s. It followed the medical staff at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. It was so popular, in fact, that the set was even the scene of a royal visit. King Charles III, when he was still a Prince, came to the US for a 12-city tour. One of the stops that he made was at the 20th Century Fox studio.

Alan Alda wearing scrubs smiles while he talks to Prince Charles.

Then Prince Charles and Alan Alda on the set of M*A*S*H when the Prince visited the set on his US visit, November 11, 1977. (Photo Credit: CBS Television/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain)

He had apparently shown interest in seeing the production process of the show, so was invited to have lunch with the cast as well as watch them while they filmed an episode. While he was there, it was reported that he spent time flirting with the women who played nurses.

Nancy Reagan and Mr. T

Perhaps the most shocking photo in this collection is that of the former First Lady Nancy Reagan kissing the head of Mr. T, dressed as Santa, while she sits on his lap. The display took place during a 1983 tour of the White House Christmas decorations. Mr. T had been invited personally by the first lady because of the anti-drug messaging that he promoted to children, something in line with her own campaigns.

Nancy Reagan kissing Mr. T on the head, sitting on his lap, while he is dressed like Santa.

Mr. T dressed as Santa Claus while Nancy Reagan sits on his lap after reviewing White House Christmas Decorations with the press, December 12, 1983. (Photo Credit: White House Photographer/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain)

After pleading with a number of reporters to sit on his lap, Reagan took pity on him and decided to do it herself. What she added, however, was the kiss on the head. Afterward, Mr. T said “Oh wow! Now that’ll start some scandals. Thank you Mrs. Reagan. Wow, she kissed me!” Her actions caused shock among the press in attendance, as this was completely out of character for her.

George H.W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger

In the winter of 1991, Arnold Schwarzenegger was invited to the presidential retreat, Camp David, by President George H.W. Bush. The president took it upon himself to teach the actor how to use an American sled, not an Austrian one like he was used to, which ultimately ended in disaster. Fortunately, there was a photographer there to capture the event.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and George H.W. Bush sledding together.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and George H.W. Bush sledding together at Camp David, January 13, 1991. (Photo Credit: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain)

The pair left the top of the hill completely out of control, only to crash into then- First Lady Barbara Bush, who ended up with a broken leg. To reminisce about the events at Camp David, Bush sent Schwarzenegger a copy of the photo with a personal inscription which read: “Arnold – Turn, damn it, Turn!!”

Al Capone

You would never know by looking at the face of this sweet five-year-old child that he would grow up to become one of the most notorious American gangsters of all time. Taken around 1904, it shows Al Capone alongside his brother. It was likely taken in Brooklyn, New York as that is where their family raised them.

Al Capone and his brother at five years old.

Al Capone and his brother at five years old, c. 1904. (Photo Credit: Unknown Author/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain)

Only nine years later, Capone would drop out of school after hitting one of his teachers. Before he even turned 16 he would be involved in his first gang, the James Street Boys, before joining the Five Points gang. Eventuall,y he would go on to become the boss of his own crime gang, the Chicago Outfit, earn himself the nickname “Scarface,” and be sent to prison – all before age 35.

Buzz Aldrin

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin might earn himself some accolades for the best selfie ever taken for this one – the first ever selfie to be taken in space. He took it when he was on the Gemini 12 NASA mission in 1966, the first trip to space that had astronauts working outside of the spaceship.

Buzz Aldrin selfie

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, pilot of the Gemini-12 spaceflight, takes a photo of himself with the pilot’s hatch of the spacecraft open, November 12, 1966. (Photo Credit: NASA/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain)

When a print of the selfie was put up for auction in 2015, it sold for an impressive $9,200. As cool as his selfie was, Aldrin earned himself another first as an astronaut, the first man to urinate in space, while on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. He was also the second man to walk on the moon.

Cary Grant and Amelia Earhart

Arguably the most famous female aviator in history, Amelia Earhart visited Cary Grant on the set of his 1935 film Wings in the Dark. The movie revolved around a female aviator who is drawn to a flying ace and inventor, played by Grant. 

Cary Grand and Amelia Earhart

British born actor Cary Grant (1904 – 1986) with American aviatrix Amelia Earhart (1898 – 1937), the first woman to single-handedly fly the Atlantic. (Photo Credit: John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)

The female aviator, played by Myrna Loy, was supposed to be loosely based on Earhart herself. It’s no wonder, then, that during filming Earhart was invited to the set to act as a consultant. Although Grant and Earhart met on set, and posed for a number of photos, there is very little else known about their meeting.

Bill Gates

Bill Gates, the creator of the massive technology company Microsoft, might be one of the wealthiest men in the world now, but he is really just like any other person. That includes getting into trouble with the police for traffic infractions.

Side by side mug shot of Bill Gates in a blue sweater.

Bill Gates mugshot taken by the Albuquerque, New Mexico police after a traffic violation, 1977. (Photo Credit: Albuquerque, New Mexico Police Department/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain)

More from us: 10 Historic Photos and Their Crazy, Creepy Backstories

While driving in Albuquerque, New Mexico he was pulled over by the police and brought to jail where he had a mugshot taken. He had failed to stop at a stop sign and was driving without a license.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.

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