55 Celebrities Whose Real Names Will Surprise You

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

Streckfus. Just…Streckfus.

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.

33. Dido

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.

34. Elvira

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?” Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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image – Louie/FX

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