6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

A person's Hollywood career pretty much banks on their name. Some of these stories, though, are just downright ridiculous.
6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

Probably half of the celebrities you know are using fake names, and we can't blame them since we're on the Internet, where the most popular male name is BoobGuurl69. But because famous people's careers live and die by how memorable their names are, there is often a convoluted and high-stakes game behind every well-known moniker.

And sometimes, the stories just get downright ridiculous.

Francis Ford Coppola + Marvel Comics = Nic Cage and... Mortal Kombat?

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

As a teenager, Nicolas Coppola changed his name to stop other actors from teasing him. No, they didn't tease him because his last name was Italian, or because it sounded like "copulation." Some people claimed he only had an acting career because he was related to Francis Ford Coppola. Considering that Nicolas says he would have joined the Merchant Marines if he hadn't been cast in his uncle's film Rumble Fish, perhaps those people weren't completely wrong. Or even a little wrong.


Nicolas, of course, looks nothing like a sailor. He looks like a horse. He also looks like a giant nerd, and in fact, he is such a huge nerd that he borrowed his new name from an obscure Marvel Comics character he liked:

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

We told you he was obscure.

Since "Nick Powerman" was clearly more awesome than he could handle, he had to settle for "Nicolas Cage." Cage would go on to play a few characters published by Marvel Comics (in Ghost Rider and Kick-Ass), but oddly enough nobody has cast him as Luke Cage yet.

Wait, it Gets Weirder:

In the early 90s two game designers were working on a fighting game centered around Jean-Claude Van Damme. When the project fell through, they reworked the concept into what became known as Mortal Kombat. They kept the Van Damme character (and some of his signature moves, like doing a split on the floor and punching the other guy's balls), but obviously they had to change his name. So they called him Johnny Cage.

HOLG noo

Since the character was a martial arts actor and they needed his name to sound as Hollywood as possible, it's very likely that they borrowed "Cage" from Nicolas. You know, the same name he chose a decade earlier to AVOID reminding people of someone famous.

This is just speculation, but keep in mind that before Nicolas became a celebrity, the name Cage was most commonly associated with an avant garde composer. We seriously doubt the creators of Mortal Kombat were trying to be evocative of a guy playing the piano with a pineapple. Also, according to Wikipedia Johnny Cage's real name is Carlton, which means that, like Nicolas, he was definitely teased as a teenager.

There's More:

As we've mentioned before, Nicolas Cage is a ginormous nerd. He is such an inconceivably colossal nerd, that he named his son Kal-El after Superman, one of his two favorite comic characters. The other one is Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider, of whom Cage even has a tattoo (which had to be covered up when he played Blaze in the Ghost Rider film, because what kind of douchebag has a tattoo of their own face?).


But of course Nicolas couldn't name his son after Johnny Blaze, even though Kal-El is much more likely to make the boy the focus of the ridicule Nic was trying to save himself from years ago. After all, going with Blaze for his naming inspiration would have given his son the most stereotypically Hollywood name of all time: Johnny Cage.

1955's Michael Fox Inadvertently Changes Own Name, Decades in the Future

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

If you ask Michael J. Fox what the "J" in his name stands for, most of the time he'll tell you it's for "Jenius" (which we know is a joke because our spellchecker just drew a squiggly line under the word).

Ww E 22 1enius WWWWWWW'


The truth is even more dyslexic--it stands for Andrew. That is the least stupid part of this story.

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

You know what else doesn't have a "J" in it, Doc Brown? The word "Gigawatts."

When young Michael Andrew Fox tried to register at the Screen Actor's Guild as Michael Fox, he found out someone had beaten him to it by about 30 years. There was a prolific veteran actor of the same name, with hundreds of film and TV roles under his belt. The Guild doesn't allow duplicates, to avoid confusion between actors.

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

Because someone could have thought this guy played Teen Wolf.

So, the future Marty McFly stuck the letter "J" in there. But the other Michael Fox guy? He debuted in the mid-50s, in the same era Back to the Future is set. In other words, if there hadn't been a Michael Fox in the 50s, Michael J. Fox wouldn't exist--which is exactly like the plot of the first movie.


Mike watches as a "J" eerily fades into his printed name.

Wait, it Gets Weirder:

When Marty travels to 1955, his father George McFly mentions being a huge fan of a show called Science Fiction Theatre, a knowledge his son uses to manipulate him into porking his mother. The show was most likely chosen because they needed to establish George as a huge nerd who had no chance of ever sleeping with anyone, and Star Trek wasn't around at the time.

But get this: the original Michael Fox played several roles in that same show, on the exact same year. Another episode, aired in 1955, featured a suburban couple finding out that their neighbors are time travelers from the future, hiding in the present of 1955--which is sort of like the plot of Back to the Future only seen from the opposite perspective.

Holy shit!

A CBS Saturday Morning Show is Responsible for Katy Perry

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

For many, Katy Perry is famous mainly for looking exactly like a Photoshop of Zooey Deschanel's face on a porn actress's body:

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

Therefore it's a little ironic that Katy has gone to great lengths to prevent being confused with a completely different famous actress.

Before she started singing about making out with other girls (and liking it), Katy used to sing about praising the lord Jesus Christ (and feeling satisfied with abiding it). At age 16, she released a Christian music album under her real name: Katy Hudson.

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

In the context of Christian entertainment Katy's name was unique, but when she made the jump to pop music (and the morally bankrupt world of mainstream media), she adopted the surname Perry to avoid confusion with Hollywood actress Kate Hudson.

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

Kate Hudson, whose main contribution to society is nothing. Nothing at all.

Katy has become pretty defensive of her fake name: In 2009, her lawyers tried to stop an Australian fashion designer called Katie Perry from opening a clothing store under her own name. You know, the name she was born with, which the other Katy only adopted a few years ago. And after Australian Katie had already started her business.

Aussies called shenanigans, and Katy was kind enough to drop the case at the last minute and allow the designer to continue using her birth name.

Wait, it Gets Weirder:

Katy Perry changed her name because of Kate Hudson, but Kate Hudson shouldn't even be named Kate Hudson. Why? Well, she's the daughter of Goldie Hawn and Bill Hudson--a performer from a 70s pop band/variety act called The Hudson Brothers. Between 1974 and 1975, at the absolute height of their fame, The Hudson Brothers starred in a Saturday morning show at CBS.

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Even if that's not a euphemism, we would rather not.

But before becoming a band, the members of The Hudson Brothers were known as the Salerno brothers since, you know, that's what they were really called. At some point after turning famous, Bill, Brett and Mark Salerno had their name legally changed to Hudson, so when one of them married Goldie Hawn and had a daughter, she inherited the fake name, causing another girl to have to change hers a couple of decades into the future.

There's More:

All this fuss, and Kate Hudson doesn't even like her surname. Bill Hudson may be her biological father, but to her and her brother, their real dad is the man who raised them: Kurt Russell. In fact, when she had a son with Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes, she named him Ryder Russell Robinson.

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

Yeah, we'd pick Jack Burton over our real dads too.

The Monkees/David Bowie Connection

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

Rock legend David Bowie is famous for his multiple alter-egos, such as Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke and Elton John (they're the same guy, right?). What most people don't know is that Bowie himself is an alter-ego. His real name is Jareth Goblinking.

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

A rare photo of Bowie without make up.

No, not really, but we wanted to get the Labyrinth reference out of the way fast. Bowie's real name is actually pretty boring: David Robert Jones, which doesn't sound like the name of a man who went through a lot of spoons and needles in the 70s, but rather someone who manufactures them.

At the beginning of his career, Bowie went by the remarkably unimaginative stage name of Davie Jones.

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

And that's probably what he would be called to this day, if it wasn't for this dude:

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

At the time Bowie was starting out, another Davy Jones (depicted above contemplating your rape) had gained some prominence at the London stage and would soon go on to become a member of The Monkees, the mid-60s equivalent to winning American Idol (complete with the undignified descent into obscurity). So, in order to make it as a performer, "Davie" was forced to change his surname. He chose Bowie after the bowie knife, itself named by Alamo hero Jim Bowie. Whose mother's maiden name was Jones.

Wait, it Gets Weirder:

While Bowie changed his dull real name to a far more interesting one, his son has done the exact opposite. Duncan Jones is a rising film and commercial director, whose film "Moon" earned him the prestigious BAFTA award earlier this year.


He is also one of the few people in the world to be born with a stage name: All through his childhood he was known by the name of Zowie Bowie. Which, shockingly, he hated. What sort of kid wouldn't want to named after cartoon sound effects? The kind who lives with junkie parents, apparently.

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

The only normal thing in this picture is that lamp.

At around age 12, Zowie began telling people to call him Joe. Given his background, he probably saw that as wacky and exotic. Later he settled on Duncan, which is actually the first name on his birth certificate (Zowie being the third, with Heywood awkwardly planted in between).

There's More:

Shockingly, Duncan did not grow up to be a mass murderer. After struggling his whole life to escape from his father's shadow, Jones has finally managed to achieve success on his own, thanks to a sci-fi movie about a lonely astronaut trapped in space, who-

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

Wait a minute, that's the plot of the song "Space Oddity"!

Baby Neglected by Harry Houdini Turns Michael Douglas Into Michael Keaton

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

There are rare cases where one person can be two different celebrities. The notorious Batman, for instance, is actually billionaire socialite Bruce Wayne in disguise.

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

Consider your mind blown.

On the off chance that you already knew that one, here's something you didn't know: Michael Keaton, known for playing Bruce Wayne, is in fact the secret identity of Michael Douglas, another rich man who witnessed his father's murder as a child (assuming he went to see the movie Spartacus when it came out and stayed til the end).

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities


OK, Keaton and Douglas aren't really the same person, they only happen to share the same birth name. Yep, Michael Keaton was born Michael Douglas, which probably didn't help him as much as you'd think when he was a struggling actor that kept getting turned down. You can imagine why people might have felt slightly disappointed after hiring the Academy Award winning son of a Hollywood icon only to watch some unknown dumbass show up for work.

Like Michael J. Fox, Keaton ditched his real name when he tried to register at Actors' Equity and found out that both Michael and Mike Douglas were already taken. He'd later say: "One of them is doing quite well from what I understand; the other is making cheap porn movies like Basic Instinct."

While flipping through a newspaper, Michael came across a picture of actress Diane Keaton and "liked the sound of name," so he adopted it as his own.

Wait, it Gets Weirder:

The more famous Michael Douglas wouldn't even be called Michael Douglas if his father, Issur Danielovitch, hadn't changed his name to Isadore Demsky and later Kirk Douglas, before becoming massively famous in the 40s. And the other Mike Douglas? A talk show host whose last name was really Dowd.

Also, the woman who inspired Michael to adopt the name Keaton wasn't originally called that. Diane Hall ("Annie" to her friends and family) switched to Keaton, her mother's maiden name, for the same reason Michael did: someone else was already using her real name. However, some say the change was partly inspired by her being a fan of legendary comedy actor Buster Keaton, after whom her cat is named, and whose films she tributed in Woody Allen's Sleeper.

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

And by the way, Joseph "Buster" Keaton was given his nickname at 18-months old, when Harry Houdini saw him fall down a flight of stairs without harm and remarked, "That's a real buster!" No, we did not just make that up.

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

We'll assume Houdini was cracking jokes while a baby fell down the stairs because he was too indisposed to, you know, HELP IT.

Incidentally, Houdini too was a stage name, inspired by French magician Jean Robert-Houdin, who had actually borrowed the Houdin part from his father in law, who- ah, we should probably stop this now or we'll be here all day.

There's More:

Diane Keaton went through the trouble of changing her real name... and then used it in her most famous starring role: "Annie Hall" the title character from the Oscar-award winning film of the same name, which is based on her real life relationship with Woody Allen. So, union rules forbid her from showing her real name on the credits, but it was OK to put it up on a marquee.

We need to sit down for a moment.

Mel Brooks Inspires Albert Einstein (through Johnny Carson)


Albert Brooks is arguably the funniest man alive. If you're having trouble remembering where you've seen his name, try picturing it on yellow letters opposite a black background.

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

Yep, besides being an accomplished actor, writer, director, stand-up comic and living person, Brooks is also the voice of some of the most popular one-time characters on The Simpsons, such as Hank Scorpio and the adulterous Jacques. Plus he's done some other obscure roles, like Cowboy Bob or the main antagonist of The Simpsons Movie.

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

However, the name credited at the end of those episodes was almost A. Einstein. Brooks's real last name is Einstein, and for some reason his parents thought it would be a good idea to name their son "Albert". Perhaps they simply didn't expect him to be funny at all, since his father Harry (a comedian who died while performing at a Friar's Club Roast for Lucy and Chachi) had to change his last name to Parke to go into show business. Albert's brother Bob is better known as "Super Dave Osborne," and his mother had three different names, none of which were Einstein.

To our knowledge, Brooks has never explained why he chose his new name. However, he has told the following story several times: When he was a kid, he went to Beverly Hills High School with fellow future overweight director and comedian Rob Reiner. The kids soon became good friends.


Aaron Spelling would later produce a show loosely based on their escapades.

Rob's father, Carl Reiner, was a regular guest at The Tonight Show. One time Johnny Carson asked him who the funniest people in the world were, to which he replied: "Mel Brooks and a 12-year-old kid named Albert Einstein." According to Albert, that quote "was a big deal" for him, so it's possible that he got his stage name from there.

As an adult, some 20 years later, Albert Brooks became became a regular guest of The Tonight Show himself, proving that Johnny Carson had an outstanding memory.

Wait, it Gets Weirder:

Of course, Mel Brooks's name isn't Mel Brooks--it's Melvin Kaminsky.

6 Insane True Stories Behind The Stage Names of Celebrities

Believe it or not THIS MAN IS JEWISH.

Who knows, maybe if Carl Reiner had answered "Melvin Kaminsky and a 12-year-old kid named Albert Einstein," those three additional syllables would have made the quote a little harder to remember for Carson and he wouldn't have invited the same kid on his show decades later.

There's More:

It's interesting to note that the "other" Albert Einstein (the unfunny one) has had almost as many guest appearances in The Simpsons as Brooks: He shows up on posters in Homer's college dorm and Bart's genius kids class, and as a zombie in a "Treehouse of Horror" episode. In another Halloween special, Lisa literally turns into Albert Einstein--in a way reversing the process Albert Brooks went through.


Maxwell Yezpitelok lives in Chile, and when he's not being harassed by earthquakes he likes to waste his time writing back to scammers or making stupid comics.

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For more in the celebrity world of naming, check out The 20 Most Bizarre Celebrity Baby Names. Or find out which stars had to change more than their names to make it big, in 5 Celebrity Careers Launched by Ethnic Makeovers.

And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 06.23.10) to find out which columnist's real name is Frances Q. Begonia.

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