Katy Perry was born Kate Hudson, Nate Dogg was born with the name of an American Revolutionary, the truth behind Carrot Top and so much more.
For more than a century now, countless famous people have been changing their names and after digging through hundreds and hundreds to research this list, it appears there are two big reasons why someone uses a stage name. One, their name is too Jewish. Two, their name is too Italian.
Beyond that big two, there’s the R.C. Cola of reasons for picking a stage name: Some other famous person (or Screen Actor’s Guild member) already has your name locked down.
Not everyone on this list had that motivation for choosing a stage name, but many of them did. Others just wanted something more marketable or flashy or hip than their real name. But in all 11 cases, someone else with their real name rose to fame either before, during or after they did themselves.
Here are 11 celebrities whose stage names are other famous people’s real names…
1 | Katy Perry (born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson)
Katy Perry started her singing career as Katy Hudson (her first album, in 2001, is called Katy Hudson). She made that album right around the time Kate Hudson was in Almost Famous and, as a result, became actual famous. By 2003, Katy Perry was going with Katy Perry because Kate Hudson already had an iron-clad lease on all things “Kate Hudson.”
2 | Tre Cool (born Frank Wright)
The drummer for Green Day’s middle name is Edwin, not Lloyd, but I felt like it still really counts. If your name is similar enough that in school you wound up doing a term paper on the person — and I’d be willing to bet $17 and my cassette of Dookie that Tre Cool wrote a paper on Frank Lloyd Wright at some point in the first 15 years of his life — then you’ve got the same name.
3 | “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (originally Steve Williams)
Tiger Woods’s former caddy Steve Williams isn’t the only famous Steve Williams — there was also another famous pro wrestler, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams. But it felt kind of cheap to have two pro wrestlers on here against each other even though I know approximately 700 billion times more about pro wrestling than golf. I do know Tiger Woods left Steve Williams abruptly as part of his downward spiral period, that was a real — ahem — stone cold stunner.
4 | Richard Burton (born Richard Jenkins)
There’s no better way for me to lock down that 16-29 demo like giving 1/11th of this column to Elizabeth Taylor’s fifth and sixth husband and the guy who was amazing in The Visitor.
5 | Nate Dogg (born Nathaniel Hale)
I am kind of in love with the fact that Regulators was done by Nate Dogg — who has the same name as a legendary American Revolution figure — and Warren G. — who shares two-thirds of his name with America’s 29th president. It’s the G-funk era, funked out with a patriotic twist.
6 | Michael Keaton (born Michael Douglas)
Michael Keaton had to pick a stage name because Michael Douglas (and Mike Douglas) were both already using his real one. There’s a rumor he went with “Keaton” because he was a fan of Diane Keaton, but it was really because he was a fan of Buster Keaton. Meanwhile, Diane Keaton was originally born Diane Hall but used her mother’s maiden name, Keaton, because there was already an actress in the Screen Actor’s Guild named Diane Hall. Then she went on to play Annie Hall. The ratio of interesting information to confusing information in that paragraph is awful.
7 | Lil Jon (born Jonathan Smith)
Yes, Lil Jon has the same name as the Pocahontas guy. I believe John Smith was blond, tall, muscular, square-jawed and able to paint with a variety of colors of the wind in the movie. In real life he was certainly shorter, not blond, had a huge handlebar mustache, and, most likely, fabricated pretty much everything about his interactions with Pocahontas and her tribe. Yeaaaah?
8 | David Bowie (born David Jones)
He chose a stage name that distanced him from the lead singer of the Monkees (as well as pirate demon, although being associated with an undersea devil was probably far less of a stigma for Bowie than being associated with the Monkees). In theory, I could’ve put him on here again for naming his cosmic alter-ego Ziggy Stardust at least five years after Ziggy was already doing his lumpy, existential comic strip shtick.
9 | Carrot Top (born Scott Thompson)
Carrot Top picked his stage name because he was a marketing major in college — Florida Atlantic University, who knew? –and I think he accurately gauged that his style of comedy was ripe for a gimmicky name. I’m assuming he didn’t know about the other comedic Scott Thompson with Kids in the Hall. (Or some rugby player named Scott Thompson who really dominates Google image searches for the name.)
10 | Albert Brooks (born Albert Einstein)
I’m fairly sure Albert Brooks does consider himself the Einstein of comedy, but he went with Brooks anyway to forge his own identity — and because he was part of the “change your Jewish last name” comedy circles. (His brother, Bob Einstein, is better known as Super Dave Osborne.)
11 | Carmen Electra (born Tera Patrick)
This one took some digging. So Carmen Electra was born Tera Patrick — the name of a famous porn star. Carmen Electra was going by her stage name by the early ’90s; Tera Patrick’s porn career didn’t start until 1999. That means Carmen Electra didn’t back off her real name because it was already being used in porn — and as far as I can tell, Tera Patrick didn’t pick her porno name because it was Carmen Electra’s real name (although that would’ve had a tinge of postmodern commentary on who is and isn’t classified as a porn star). That Tera Patrick’s real name is Linda Hopkins, who’s a blues and gospel singer — and currently, at 89 years old, certainly has no idea about this weird daisy chain of fake names with her name at the very base.