You might not have ever heard of “Maurice Micklewhite,” “Olivia Jane Cockburn” or “Diane Hall” — but you’ve certainly heard of the actors who were born with these names. When the Hollywood system started, people commonly took simplified versions of their names to make them easier for people to say. Doris Day is much simpler than “Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff” and Clayton Holmes Grissom picked “Clay Aiken” when signing up for American Idol — because it was just more memorable. Or if you’re Albert Brooks, there’s no fucking possible way you can use your real name — because…well, you’ll see.
Here are 55 people whose real names might surprise you.
1. Katy Perry
Real Name: Katy Hudson
The singer changed her name to avoid confusion with that other Hudson she shares a name with: Kate Hudson.
2. Demi Moore
Real Name: Demetria Guynes
Her exes were born as “Walter Willis” and “Christopher Kutcher.”
3. Albert Brooks
Real Name: Albert Einstein
The reason for the name change should be pretty obvious.
4. Meg Ryan
Real Name: Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra
Is it just me or is her real name close to being a Fiona Apple album title?
5. Natalie Wood
Real Name: Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko
Born to Russian immigration parents, the young actress changed it to blend into the Hollywood times, like the Swedish Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, better known as Greta Garbo.
6. Woody Allen
Real Name: Allen Konigsberg
Come to think of it, Allen doesn’t sound very Jewish, does it?
7. Louis C.K.
Real Name: Louis Szekely
Louis C.K.’s stage name is barely such. It’s just an easier way to say his actual last name, which is pronounced “See-kay.”
8. Joaquin Phoenix
Real Name: Joaquin Rafael Bottom
If he were gay, that last name would be perfection.
9. Garrison Keillor
Real Name: Gary Edward Keillor
See? Even NPR personalities use stage names.
10. Chevy Chase
Real Name: Cornelius Crane Chase
The actor got his name from the traditional English song “The Ballad of Chevy Chase,” which (unfortunately) was not about an old racist who is difficult to work with and derails brilliant shows.
11. Tina Fey
Real Name: Elizabeth Stamatina Fey
Like her 30 Rock character, Tina Fey’s real first name is “Liz.”
12. Ben Kingsley
Real Name: Krishna Pandit Bhanji
Like Barack Obama, Kingsley was born to a white mother and Kenyan father — of Indian Muslim descent.
13. Olivia Wilde
Real Name: Olivia Jane Cockburn
My last name rhymes with another word for a penis, which made Middle School rough. Olivia Cockburn, I’m here for you, if ever you need to talk.
14. Alan Alda
Real Name: Alphonso d’Abruzzo
Alda’s last name was concocted by putting together the first two letters of his first and last name. AL + DA = Alda.
15. Portia De Rossi
Real Name: Amanda Lee Rogers
I guess she figured that “Portia de Rossi” had more zest to it than “Amanda Rogers.” She was probably right.
16. Diane Keaton
Real name: Diane Hall
In real life, she shares a last name with her most famous character, Annie Hall.
17. Michael Caine
Real Name: Maurice Micklewhite
Michael Caine named himself after Humphrey Bogart’s character in “The Caine Mutiny.”
18. Larry King
Real Name: Lawrence Harvey Zeigler
King was born to an Austrian father and mother from Belarus, both of whom were Orthodox Jews living in New York in the 1930s. All of this sounds like the set up to a Woody Allen bit.
19. George Michael
Real Name: Georgios Panayiotou
He should have just changed his name to “Glory Hole.” At least it’s truth in advertising.
20. Whoopi Goldberg
Real Name: Caryn Johnson
Her stage name was concocted from her ability to fart a lot. (If you’ve seen her 1 in 3 commercials, you know she’s made quite the weird career out of bodily functions.) Her mother advised her to take a Jewish last name, arguing that it would help her career if people thought she was Jewish.
21. Hulk Hogan
Real Name: Terry Jean Bollette
If I wanted to scare someone, I’d tell them my name was Hulk, too.
22. Bea Arthur
Real Name: Bernice Frankel
Real Name: Her co-star, Rue McClanahan, was born with the first name of “Eddi-Rue.”
23. Rock Hudson
Real Name: Leroy Harold Scherer, Jr.
Either way, he was still ridiculously hot — and gigantic. He was “6’5,” which basically makes him a skyscraper.
24. Miranda July
Real Name: Miranda Jennifer Grossinger
I have nothing to say here, except that I love Miranda July, in all of her forms. Miranda Grossinger, I accept you.
25. Elvis Costello
Real Name: Declan Patrick McManus
What’s weird: He actually looks more like a Declan than an Elvis to me.
26. Joan Crawford
Real Name: Lucille LeSueur
It makes a lot of sense that she and Lucille Bluth would have the same first name, because they’re basically the same person.
27. Kirk Douglas
Real Name: Issur Danielovitch Demsky
I really like his actual name. There’s something appropriately commanding about a man named “Issur Demsky.”
28. Carmen Electra
Real Name: Tara Patrick
C’mon. There’s no way you thought anyone’s last name was “Electra,” unless that person is in a Sophocles play.
29. Audrey Hepburn
Real Name: Edda Kathleen van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston
Say that one five times fast.
30. Judy Garland
Real Name: Frances Gumm
However, Liza’s name is all hers. Her father was Vincente Minnelli, the classic musical director who worked with Judy in Meet Me in St. Louis.
31. Truman Capote
Real Name: Truman Streckfus Persons
32. Julia Child
Real Name: Julia Carolyn McWilliams
“Child” is actually her married name, so this one’s a bit of a cheat, but it’s odd to me thinking of Julia Child with any other name. She just is Julia Child.
Real Name: Florian Cloud de Bounevialle Armstrong
I almost wish that she had used that as her stage name, just to see that whole thing on a concert poster or an album cover. “Stan” by Eminem ft. Florian Cloud de Bounevialle Armstrong takes it to a whole other level.
Real Name: Cassandra Peterson
Did you know she was in a Bond movie and posed for a Tom Waits album? The woman has not had a boring career, that’s for sure.
35. Martin Sheen
Real Name: Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez
That makes Charlie Sheen’s real name “Carlos Estevez,” as witnessed in the Machete Kills trailer.
36. Courtney Love
Real Name: Love Michelle Harrison
You can change the name, but you can’t change the cray.
37. Fred Astaire
Real Name: Frederick Austerlitz
His famous dance partner, Ginger Rogers, was born Virginia Katherine McMath
38. Tea Leoni
Real Name: Elizabeth Tea Pantaleoni
Every time I see her real last name, I just think of the word “pantalones.”
39. Bruno Mars
Real Name: Peter Gene Hernandez
Trivia question: What is Bruno Mars’ ethnicity? He’s like the racial spam of people — a little bit of everything. He is Filipino, Spanish, Puerto Rican, Hungarian and Ukranian, is Jewish and was born in Hawaii.
40. Gene Simmons
Real Name: Chaim Witz
Half of the original members of KISS were Jewish. If I could ever get Gene Simmons to play “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah,” I would die a happy human.
41. Helen Mirren
Real Name: Ilyena Lydia Vasilievna Mironov
Ilyena Mironov would be a great spy name.
42. Shania Twain
Real Name: Eileen Regina Edwards
Twain is her stepfather’s last name.
43. Anne Rice
Real Name: Howard Allen O’Brien
I also like “Howard O’Brien” better. It has a nice George Eliot thing going on, although Anne Rice is no George Eliot.
44. Julianne Moore
Real Name: Julie Smith
Julianne is a portmanteau of her first name and her middle name, Anne.
45. Kim Cattrall
Real Name: Clare Woodgate
She was born in Liverpool, hence the name, but as evidenced by The Ghost Writer, she can’t do a convincing British accent anyway. Much like Madonna.
46. Stevie Wonder
Real Name: Steveland Judkins
47. Abigail Van Buren (aka Dear Abby)
Real Name: Pauline Ester Friedman
I just love how close to Paul Friedman this is.
48. Dezi Arnas
Real Name: Desiderio Albert Arnaz y De Acha III
Oddly though, Lucille Ball really was Lucy’s actual name. It fits her so well I assumed it had to be fake, but sometimes the gods are kind.
49. Cary Grant
Real Name: Archibald Alexander Leach
There really is no way to make “Archibald Leach” roll off the tongue, is there?
50. Marilyn Monroe
Real Name: Norma Jean Mortensen
According to Monroe, she used to get picked on in school for being ugly. So no matter how hideous you’re feeling today, remember that there was a universe in which Marilyn Monroe was not considered a golden paradigm of hotness. It gives you some perspective.
51. Dusty Springfield
Real Name: Mary Isobel Catherine O’Brien
If you’re reading this and you don’t know who Dusty Springfield is, you have a lot of YouTube-ing to do.
52. Michael Keaton
Real Name: Michael Douglas
Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be confused with cunnilingus cancer guy either.
53. Spike Lee
Real Name: Shelton Lee
Whenever Spike Lee acts like a royal brat, remembering that his real name is “Shelton” always puts things into perspective for me. “Sit down, Shelton. It’s time for a nap.”
54. Natalie Portman
Real Name: Natalie Herschlag
A dual Israeli and American citizen, “Portman” is her grandmother’s maiden name.
55. Harry Houdini
Real name: Ehrich Weiss
To be a magician, you have to have a catchy stage name — like David Kotkin, also known as David Copperfield. Would anyone watch “Christopher Sarantakos: Mind Freak?”