These Historic Figures Should Have Been Famous for their Weird Habits
These Historic Figures Should Have Been Famous for their Weird Habits

These Historic Figures Should Have Been Famous for their Weird Habits

Khalid Elhassan - June 22, 2022

These Historic Figures Should Have Been Famous for their Weird Habits
A young Mao Zedong. Fine Art America

9. Mao’s Habit of Penning Old School Verse

As with most Chinese intellectuals of his era, Mao Zedong’s education was based on a foundation of classical Chinese literature. However, while most of his contemporaries moved on to modern styles and themes, Mao stuck with the old when it came to literature and poetry. From his youth, he got into the habit of composing poetry in the classical style, and he kept at it for the rest of his life. Indeed, Mao’s image as a poet was a significant part of his public persona as he rose to power in China.

Mao was actually considered a good poet. Not just by critics in China, who knew better than to pan his poetry, but also by literary critics outside China and beyond Mao’s clutches. Although a radical revolutionary in many aspects, Mao was artistically conservative, and stuck with traditional Chinese literary and poetic forms. His poetry tended to be on romantic end of things, rather than the more modern realist genre. It was reminiscent of Tang Dynasty style, from the seventh to ninth centuries.

These Historic Figures Should Have Been Famous for their Weird Habits
Young Mao Zedong statue in Hunan, China. Wikimedia

Alone I stand in the autumn cold
On the tip of Orange Island,
The Xiang flowing northward;
I see a thousand hills crimsoned through
By their serried woods deep-dyed,
And a hundred barges vying
Over crystal blue waters.
Eagles cleave the air,
Fish glide under the shallow water;
Under freezing skies a million creatures contend in freedom.
Brooding over this immensity,
I ask, on this bondless land
Who rules over man’s destiny?
I was here with a throng of companions,
Vivid yet those crowded months and years.
Young we were, schoolmates,
At life’s full flowering;
Filled with student enthusiasm
Boldly we cast all restraints aside.
Pointing to our mountains and rivers,
Setting people afire with our words,
We counted the mighty no more than muck.
Remember still
How, venturing midstream, we struck the waters
And the waves stayed the speeding boats?

Mao Zedong – Changsha

These Historic Figures Should Have Been Famous for their Weird Habits
The Kafes, or Cage, in the Topkapi Palace. Wikimedia

8. A Sultan Who Grew Up in a Cage

Ottoman Sultan Ibrahim I (1615 – 1648), or Ibrahim the Mad, reigned from 1640 to 1648. When his older brother Murad IV became sultan, he had the then-eight-year-old Ibrahim sent to the Kafes, or “Cage” – a secluded part of the Harem where male royal relatives were confined. There, they were kept under house arrest, under surveillance, and isolated from the outside world to prevent intrigues and plots. While Ibrahim was in the Cage, Murad executed his other brothers, one by one, until Ibrahim was the last one left, constantly terrified that he might be next. He remained in confinement until his brother’s passing without issue in 1640. When he was taken out of the Cage and told that he would be crowned sultan, Ibrahim refused at first.

He rushed back to the Cage to barricade himself inside, suspecting it was a trick to entrap him into saying or doing something that his fratricidal brother would take as treasonous. Finally, his brother’s corpse was brought to the door for him to examine. Even then, it still took the pleas of his mother, “who had to coax him out like a kitten with food“, for Ibrahim to come out and accept the throne. However, the years of isolation, and the ever-present fear of execution, had unhinged Ibrahim. His condition was worsened by depression over the passing of his brother, whom he loved in a Stockholm Syndrome type of way.

These Historic Figures Should Have Been Famous for their Weird Habits
Sultan Ibrahim. Imgur

7. A Worrying Habit of Feeding Fish With Coins

The new Sultan’s habit feeding of fish in the palace pool with coins instead of food was an early worrying sign. As it became clear that Ibrahim was crazy, his mother ruled for him. To keep him busy, the sultan was encouraged to spend as much time as possible in the Harem with his nearly 300 concubines. It was intended to keep him out of his mother’s hair and out of trouble, and to father male heirs since, by then, he was the last surviving male Ottoman. For years, Ibrahim took to the Harem with relish, fathering three future sultans and a number of daughters. As a contemporary put it “In the palace gardens he frequently assembled all the virgins, made them strip themselves naked, and neighing like a stallion ran amongst them and as it were ravished one or the other”.

The insanity never went away, however: one day he woke up, and out of the blue, ordered his entire Harem tied in weighted sacks and drowned in the sea. Ibrahim also had a thing for fat women. One time he got turned on by a cow’s vagina, so he commissioned gold copies and sent them around the empire, to find a woman with a similar-looking vagina. Searchers eventually found a 350-pound woman with matching parts, who became one of his favorite concubines. He also had a fetish for fur and decorated his clothes, curtains, walls, and furniture with it. He stuffed his pillows with the stuff and liked to have intimacy on sable furs.

These Historic Figures Should Have Been Famous for their Weird Habits
The execution of an Ottoman royal by strangulation. Quora

6. The End of a Mad Sultan

When Sultan Ibrahim saw the beautiful daughter of the Grand Mufti, the empire’s highest religious authority, he asked for her hand in marriage. Aware of Ibrahim’s depravities, the Mufti urged his daughter to decline. When she did, Ibrahim ordered her kidnapped and carried to his palace. There, he ravished her for days, before sending her back to her father. Eventually, he exiled his mother and assumed personal control of the government. The results were disastrous: after ordering the execution of his most capable ministers, Ibrahim spent like only a madman can.

Eventually, he emptied the treasury, even as he got himself into a series of wars and managed them poorly. By 1647, between heavy taxes, the bungled wars, and with a Venetian blockade bringing the Ottoman capital to the brink of starvation, discontent boiled over. In 1648, the population revolted, urged on by religious scholars, and was joined by the army. An angry mob seized Ibrahim’s Grand Vizier and tore him to pieces, and the sultan was deposed in favor of his six-year-old son. A fatwa was then issued for Ibrahim’s execution, which was carried out by strangulation.

These Historic Figures Should Have Been Famous for their Weird Habits
Rasputin. Time Magazine

5. A Lecherous Religious Charlatan Who Got His Congregation into the Habit of Prolonged Love groups

Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin (1869 – 1916) was a charlatan, mystic, holy wanderer, faith healer, blasphemer, and a notorious lecher who became one of Russia’s most powerful figures. An inexplicable ability to ease the pain of the child Alexei Nikolayevich, the hemophiliac heir to the Russian throne, earned him the gratitude of his parents, Russia’s Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra. That made Rasputin an influential figure in the Russian Empire’s final years. It was an unexpected rise. As a teenager, Rasputin was notorious for his relentless pursuit of women, from women of the night to respectable matrons. He had a magnetism that enabled him to rack up carnal conquests with ease.

Rasputin invented and led a religious cult that combined Orthodox Christianity with physical pleasure, plus bizarre rituals deemed heretical and blasphemous. A core belief of Rasputin’s cult was that nearness to God is achieved by a state described as “holy passionlessness”, which is best achieved via exhaustion. Such exhaustion was to be attained by a lot of intimacy – a religious doctrine he described as “driving out sin with sin“. So he led his cult into reaching carnal exhaustion via love groups. He and his followers got into the habit of indulging in prolonged bouts of debauchery by the entire congregation, in order to get base passions out of their system.

These Historic Figures Should Have Been Famous for their Weird Habits
Rasputin with Tsarina Alexandra and the imperial children. Wikimedia

4. A Holy Man’s Habit of Partying in Unholy Ways

Rasputin eventually made it to the Russian capital, Saint Petersburg, where he won the favor of Russia’s Tsar and Tsarina. There, he exerted his animal magnetism upon the capital’s women, and before long, he had a cult following, from lowly streetwalkers to wealthy aristocratic women. Soon, young women and old, maidens and matrons, were throwing themselves at Rasputin. They flocked to his apartment, and he was indiscriminate in his preferences, bedding working women and princesses alike. Many in high society, aware that Rasputin had the ear of Russia’s rulers, sought his favor. Some even sent their wives or daughters to seduce him into putting in a good word for them at court, or their female relatives did so on their own initiative.

These Historic Figures Should Have Been Famous for their Weird Habits
Rasputin surrounded by admirers in Saint Petersburg. Flickr

Many other women visited Rasputin simply for intimacy. Lots and lots of intimacy. Rasputin was, by all accounts, a carnal addict, with enviable stamina and staying power. His habit of getting it on with all women who crossed his path astonished contemporaries. Saint Petersburg’s authorities posted plainclothes policemen at his building, and their reports described dozens of women, from working women to high-ranking aristocrats, visiting his apartment. The police reports went on to describe loud noises of drunken revelry, parties with working women, beatings, violent intimacy, and orgies that lasted until sunrise and beyond.

Related: Rasputin’s Controversial Life Not Many People Know About.

These Historic Figures Should Have Been Famous for their Weird Habits
A contemporary anti-Rasputin poster, depicting him as the real power in control of the Tsarist crown. Pinterest

3. Overlooking This Holy Man’s Unholy Deeds Helped Set the Stage for Revolution

Reports of Rasputin’s unruly and unholy conduct – including the forced go at a nun – reached Tsar Nicholas’ ears. However, Russia’s ruler either dismissed them out of hand or laughed them off with comments such as “the holy are always slandered“. The Tsar’s confessor investigated the reports of Rasputin’s misconduct, concluded there was truth in them, and advised Nicholas to distance himself from the controversial monk. The Tsar, at the behest of his wife who was fiercely protective of the holy charlatan, sided with the Rasputin.

It was the Tsar’s confessor who ended up banished from Saint Petersburg. By 1911, Rasputin’s notorious misconduct had become a national scandal and turned the imperial family into a laughingstock. Eventually, word began to make the rounds that the unholy holy man had seduced the Tsar’s wife, Tsarina Alexandra. Whether or not that was true – and Rasputin boasted of having done so – it damaged the imperial family’s prestige. It set the stage for its overthrow in the 1917 Russian Revolution.

These Historic Figures Should Have Been Famous for their Weird Habits
Johnny Carson. TV Insider

2. Johnny Carson Was in the Habit of Abusing All and Sundry

John William Carson (1925 – 2005), better known as Johnny Carson, hosted The Tonight Show on NBC for three decades from 1962 to 1992. In that stretch, he set the standard format and template that has been followed by TV chat shows ever since, including the guest couch and studio band. Carson was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, won a Peabody Award, and six Emmys. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom – America’s highest civilian award – and received a Kennedy Center Honor.

Carson worked hard to cement his perception as the funny and neighborly Midwesterner, and perfected his friendly on-air persona. As a result, Americans welcomed Carson with open arms into their living rooms as the country’s favorite late-night host. However, when he was not in front of an audience, The King of Late Night Television, as Carson came to be known, was a bitter, bullying, and mean SOB. He was in the habit of abusing just about everybody and was so awful that many famous figures boycotted his show. However, they did so quietly, out of fear that he might damage their careers. Wayne Newton, as seen below, was an exception.

These Historic Figures Should Have Been Famous for their Weird Habits
Wayne Newton. Pinterest

1. The Time When Johnny Carson Got Slapped Around

While on the air, Johnny Carson was sunshine and sweetness, and the embodiment of the friendly guy you’d like to have as a neighbor. Away from the cameras, however, Carson was a total jerk who bullied and abused others and even physically assaulted people in fits of rage. Examples of Carson being a jackass include an attempt to strangle NBC colleague Tom Snyder, his refusal to visit his son who was institutionalized in a mental asylum, and his verbal and physical abuse of his wives.

Many celebrities abused by Carson stayed quiet to protect their careers from the notoriously vindictive icon. An exception was singer and actor Wayne Newton, who resented Carson’s cracking gay jokes about him on national TV. Newton thought that he and Carson were buddies, and begged him to cut it out. Carson persisted, however. So an incensed Newton barged into Carson’s office, and slapped him around silly. It wasn’t live at the Oscars, but it got Carson’s attention. It was one of the few times that the star TV host got his comeuppance. The gay jokes stopped.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Biography – Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Brook, Timothy – The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties (2010)

Bushkin, Henry – Johnny Carson (2013)

Culture Trip – 11 Bizarre Things You Didn’t Know About Imelda Marcos

Empire Times Magazine, May 4th, 2015 – Tolouse-Lautrec: The working woman Authority

Encyclopedia Britannica – James Boswell, Scottish Biographer

Cracked – Old-Timey Icons With WTF Habits

Factinate – 42 Unhinged Facts About Ibrahim, the Mad Sultan of the Ottoman Empire

Guardian, The, June 13th, 2012 – James Boswell and a History of Gonorrhea

Hertfordshire Life – The Dramatic Life and Passing of Prime Minister Lord Palmerston

History Collection – 10 of the Strangest Rules and Rituals for Royal Births Over the Centuries

IMDb – King Faroukh Biography

Kinross, Lord – The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire (1977)

Las Vegas Sun, January 24th, 2005 – Carson Had Long Vegas History

Mad Monarchs – Farouk of Egypt

Massie, Robert K. – Nicholas and Alexandra: An Intimate Account of the Last of the Romanovs and the Fall of Imperial Russia (1967)

Mote, Frederick W. – Imperial China, 900-1800 ­(2003)

Museum Facts – Egypt’s King Farouk or ‘Thief of Cairo’

History Collection – Strange Obsessions Shed New Light on these Historical Figures

National Post, April 18th, 2017 – ‘I Want to Harm You, Be Brutal With You’: How Mussolini’s Last Love, Fueled by Power, Shaped Him

National Public Radio – Dining Like Darwin: When Scientists Swallow Their Subjects

New York Times, January 24th, 1995 – Nijinsky’s Notebooks Are Published, Unexpurgated

Neville, Peter – Mussolini (2004)

Radzinsky, Edvard – The Rasputin File (2000)

San Francisco Gate, February 2nd, 1995 – Nijinsky Diaries Show Dancer’s Anguish

Short, Philip – Mao: A Life (2001)

Smithsonian Magazine, December 2005 – The Evolution of Charles Darwin

Spiegel, November 26th, 2009 – In Bed With Benito: Diaries Reveal Mussolini’s Soft Side

Tea in a Teacup – James Boswell and London working women

Vice – Whatever Happened to Imelda Marcos’ 3000 Pairs of Shoes?

Week, The, November 2nd, 2017 – Osama Bin Laden’s Surprising Video Collection – From Mr. Bean to Chicken Little

Wikipedia – Poetry of Mao Zedong

Wired – Inside Bin Laden’s Files: GIFs, Memes, and Mr. Bean