We’ve covered some of the side hustles that celebrities have had, but this is by no means a new trend. (1940s film star Hedy Lamarr, for example, basically invented WiFi.)
Numerous figures of note throughout history have achieved fame for one thing, while also making a name for themselves with some lesser known skills as well. Let’s take a look at 10 of the most remarkable.
10. Alan Turing Developed the Biological Field of Morphogenesis
History remembers Alan Turing as a WWII code breaker and the name behind the Turing Test, a method of evaluating the intelligence of a machine. He was a man of many talents while it is these realms, chiefly mathematics and computer science, for which he is remembered. But the man did have other interests and one of those was daisies.
His love of the flowers led him to take an interest in morphogenesis, the biological process that causes things to form in certain shapes and patterns. In Turning’s case, he was fascinated by the way daisies grew. He saw patterns repeat in nature, things like stripes on tigers and spots on leopards, and created a theory to account for it that was based on the idea of chemical interactions. This paved the way for an entirely new system of mathematical biology developed years before anyone understood DNA.
9. Paul Winchell Voiced Tigger… and also Patented the First Artificial Heart
You may not know the name Paul Winchell off the top of your head, but it’s almost certain you’ve heard his voice. Winchell was the voice actor who brought Tigger to life, as well as Gargamel on the Smurfs. He was also an accomplished ventriloquist and even won a Grammy for his voice work.
When he wasn’t bringing dolls and cartoons to life, Winchell had a real thing for science and medicine. Which isn’t to say he was a doctor who took up voice work, he was a voice work who just had a keen interest in medical science but no formal training. Despite that, he still managed to find the time to create the artificial heart.
It was his friendship with Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of Heimlich Maneuver, that inspired him to do more. After watching his friend perform a surgery, Winchell came up with the idea of a machine that could keep blood pumping. Heimlich offered advice during the design process and Winchell patented the device in 1963.
8. Shel Silverstein Wrote Country Songs
Shel Silverstein is best known as the author of The Giving Tree and other children’s stories. He may be slightly less well known for being one of the most intimidating looking children’s authors of all time. But that wasn’t the only thing he wrote.
When he was feeling a little more lyrical, Silverstein wrote country music. His most famous song was immortalized by the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. Silverstein was the writer of the legendary A Boy Named Sue.
That song ended up winning a Grammy, but it was not Silverstein’s only foray into music. Cash also performed Boa Constrictor and 25 Minutes To Go. Along with Kris Kristofferson, he wrote The Taker for Waylon Jennings. Queen of the Silver Dollar by Emmylou Harris and Loretta Lynn’s One’s the Way were also Silverstein tracks among others.
7. Lazar Edeleanu Gave us Amphetamines as Well as Refined Crude Oil
The name Lazar Edeleanu is not as well known as many others in the history of great inventions, but the Romanian chemist has left an indelible mark on the modern world in more ways than one.
Arguably, Edeleanu’s biggest achievement was the accidental discovery of amphetamines. He was the man who first synthesized amphetamines and, therefore, is the father of speed, meth, and ADHD meds like Adderall.
Edeleanu wasn’t interested in making stimulants, however. He dropped his research because he saw no use in it and it wasn’t picked up again for years. His chief interests were in oil and, despite the long-lasting legacy of his accidental discovery, he’s also known for discovering the modern method of refining crude oil.
6. Elvis Presley Was A Sharpshooter
You don’t get the nickname King of Rock ‘N’ Roll if you’re not rocking and rolling on the next level. Elvis Presley is estimated to have sold more than one billion albums worldwide, making him still the biggest selling artist ever. And when the man wasn’t swiveling his hips, he was playing with guns.
In one odd but infamous incident, Elvis was said to have shot his own television when Robert Goulet came on the screen. The rumor spread that Presley hated Goulet and, rather than change the channel, he just killed the TV. However, that story was refuted by Kevin Kern from the Graceland museum, who said Presley and Goulet were actually friends and that Elvis just liked to shoot stuff for no reason.
Presley famously enlisted in the army in 1958 and, during his time, he went through the same training as every other soldier. As he made his way through basic training, he earned a marksman medal and was classified as a sharpshooter with a pistol. That meant he was able to hit between 30 and 35 of 40 targets with a pistol, a level above marksman and just below expert, which required 36 hits.
His skill with guns became a lifelong fascination with the weapons and it was said he owned 32 handguns, one shotgun, and a machine gun.
5. King Louis XIV Was a Ballet Dancer
What does a king do to keep busy? Not many countries in the world have a monarchy and those that do are very tightly regimented so that everything the public learns seems to be vetted and regulated ahead of time. As such, we know the Queen in England really likes corgis. When she was younger, she liked to ride horses. She’s also apparently down with gardening and stamp collecting. Nice, quiet hobbies.
In France in the 17th century, King Louis XIV was also a man taken by hobbies, but one in particular. The King was a passionate and skilled ballet dancer. During his reign, he was known to have performed a number of popular ballets as well as had many others put on for his own enjoyment and those of his guests.
Reigning over France during one of its most prosperous periods, the King appeared in the ballet Le Ballet de la Nuit playing the god Apollo when he was just 15. This is the source of the nickname Sun King by which he is still known today.
4. Edward Rulloff had the Second Largest Brain in History… and Was Also a Killer
Edward Rulloff was a medical anomaly. Born in 1829, his major claim to fame, if you can call it that, is that he had one of the largest brains in history. The second largest brain ever measured, in fact. At the time of his death, it was said to weigh 1,673 grams while the average adult male brain is around 1,300 grams.
His work in life seemed to coincide with the idea that a big brain made you a smarter person. Rulloff was a man of many interests and worked at times as a justice of the peace, a physician, and a teacher. He was apparently a self-taught linguist and had allegedly mastered several different languages. To be fair, all of his jobs seemed to have been self taught, with that physician one likely being the most alarming.
Also alarming was that Rulloff, in between writing about the formations and developments of language, was also a full on murderer. He stood trial for the murder of a shopkeeper that happened in the process of Rulloff committing a robbery. He was also said to have killed his own wife and child. Though the bodies were never recovered, the fact that he fled to Chicago immediately after soured him for the jury who sentenced him to ten years.
His life of crime started years earlier. He’d been involved in a string of burglaries and robberies going back 25 years or so. The death of the shopkeeper was the final straw, and he was convicted and then sentenced to death. His final words before being hanged were “Hurry it up. I want to be in Hell in time for dinner.
3. Otto Skorzeny Was an SS Officer… and a Mossad Hitman
They say no one is the villain in their own story, but it seems hard to believe that’s true of people like Otto Skorzeny. The man was a senior SS officer for the Nazi regime and, when it toppled, he opted to become a hit man for Israeli intelligence. Try reconciling that in your head.
Skorzeny has been called Hitler’s favorite soldier. He engaged in daring and deadly missions, including dressing in US uniforms, to infiltrate behind enemy lines. He took a team of SS soldiers into Italy by glider in 1943 and rescued Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Hitler himself awarded Skorzeny the Iron Cross afterward.
After the war, he escaped prosecution and was recruited by Israel to hunt other Nazis. He agreed on the condition they not murder him. Former Nazi scientists were working with Egypt and Israel feared they’d achieved nuclear weapons. Skorzeny was recruited to kill the scientists, able to get in close being a well-regarded and famous Nazi himself. This after he was said to have trained Egyptians and aided the escape of numerous other Nazis.
No one ever did end up killing Skorzeny or bringing him to justice. He died of cancer in 1975 and it’s said that Nazis attended the funeral.
2. Attorney Paul Bergrin was Also a Prolific Crime Boss
It takes a lot for a lawyer to become famous in the real world, but Paul Bergrin had done just that. After a run working as a prosecutor, he became a defense attorney working high profile cases. His clients included mobsters, drug dealers and celebrities. He defended rappers like Lil Kim and Naughty by Nature. He was one of the biggest names in the country. And, it turns out, he was running a massive criminal empire.
In 2013, Bergrin got six life sentences for using his law firm to run drugs, a prostitution ring, racketeering and more. More shockingly, he was also convicted of conspiracy to murder a witness. In total, he was convicted on 23 charges. He appealed a year later and lost.He tried for a new trial in 2016, and that was denied. As of 2020, he was still trying to convince anyone who would listen that he had new evidence, but so far, he’s still riding out those six life sentences.
1. Porn Star Harry Reems Became a Real Estate Agent
Not a lot of people know the name Herbert Streicher, but for a certain audience in the early 1970s he was incredibly famous or, perhaps, infamous. Streicher achieved fame under the name Harry Reems. He was a porn star and featured in arguably the most famous adult film of all time: Deep Throat.
In total, he appeared in over 100 films and before retiring in 1985. In 1975, he was indicted for conspiracy to distribute obscenity and is widely regarded as the first man in America prosecuted just for being in a movie. His conviction was overturned on appeal.
Despite his fame, Reems spent much of his later life living simply as a real estate agent. He stopped drinking, which he blamed for many of his poor decisions earlier in life. He even found religion for a time, though he ended up leaving his church and going his own way in that regard. He regretted his earlier life but was still open to talk about it for many years after the fact as turned his life around to become, as one paper stated, a pillar of the community.