The dating lives of famous people have long been public fodder - well before the creation of tabloids. But when two famous people get together, a power couple is born, and the fascination doubles. Some of these well-known figures had romances for the ages, and stuck together for the long haul. Other flames burned brightly but briefly - you might not even remember the celebs were an item. But they were all interesting enough that we're still learning about them (and talking about them) in 2021.
From the absurd to the funny to the dark, here are the salacious stories we heard this year about power couples of the past.
During Juan Perón's first presidency, Eva Perón (AKA Evita) became an important figure for the "shirtless ones" - the lower-income and working-class Argentinians who saw hope for the future with the Peróns. She'd been planning to run for the vice presidency before her failing health made it impossible; she passed from cervical cancer in 1952.
But Evita's story, and symbolic status, didn't end there. After a military coup overthrew Juan in 1955, the new regime worried that Evita's carefully embalmed corpse might be a rallying point for the opposition - adorers came in droves to hold vigils and leave gifts.
Military leaders played a bit of corpse keep-away for the next few years, hiding the body in various military locations and attics. Still, the mourners would manage to find it and drop flowers in the general vicinity. Eventually, the military decided to ship the body to Italy, where it remained for 16 years.
In 1971, after a government overthrow put Juan back in good graces, he had Evita's body exhumed and returned to Argentina. Now remarried to Isabel Perón, Juan kept Evita's corpse in an open casket on his dining table - until he built her a shrine in the attic. Lest you worry that the new wife might have some qualms about this unique centerpiece, Isabel combed the corpse's hair every day as a devotional ritual.
Frank Sinatra made headlines when he publicly left his wife for the already twice-divorced Ava Gardner. But their turbulent relationship began while Sinatra was still married.
Gardner biographer Lee Server details the beginning of the affair, when the inebriated pair left a studio head's party in Palm Springs, CA, in 1949. They drove off to Indio and stopped for a quick make-out sesh. Then Sinatra decided to pull out a few guns for some late-night shooting. He shot out streetlights while Gardner joined in on the fun and blasted through a hardware store window.
The two were eventually caught by police, but their studio persuaded the police department to drop any charges.
After Melinda Gates filed for divorce from the Microsoft founder in May 2021, details about Bill Gates's relationship with his ex, Ann Winblad, began to resurface. And these two had an awful lot of nice things to say about each other.
Winblad, a software entrepreneur and venture capitalist, dated Bill in the 1980s, and the couple only broke up because she was more ready for marriage. During their relationship, they enjoyed taking educational trips together and holding "virtual dates" over the phone where they'd watch the same movie.
Bill so admired and enjoyed his ex-girlfriend that he sought her input before proposing to Melinda. Once he was married, he and Melinda agreed that he could spend one long weekend per year with his ex at her cottage in North Carolina, which he did for more than a decade (at least).
As for the steamy details, Bill described to Time in 1997, "We can play putt-putt while discussing biotechnology."
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera had an emotional rollercoaster of a relationship, resulting in a marriage, divorce, and remarriage. And when they were together, it was best if they lived apart, in separate but adjoining homes.
Of the pair's many rumored paramours, several of them may have been shared. Paulette Goddard, Tina Modotti, and Dolores del Rio are suspected of having trysts with both spouses. Kahlo had a habit of developing friendships, and perhaps more, with Rivera's lovers, possibly as a means of neutralizing them.
Kahlo's other suspected extramarital affairs include notable names like Leon Trotsky, Nickolas Muray, Josephine Baker, and Georgia O'Keeffe. Meanwhile, Rivera cheated on Kahlo with her sister, resulting in the end of their first marriage.
- Photo: Overboard / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
To prepare for their roles in the World War II drama Swing Shift, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn decided to go out dancing to swing music in 1983. The only place they could find with that kind of music was The Playboy Club, so the duo went to the famous venue to get their swing on.
After dancing the night away, they both agreed they didn't want the night to end. Hawn had recently purchased a house she was planning to remodel, and invited Russell back to the empty pad. There was just one slight hiccup - Hawn didn't have a key, so they had to break in.
As Russell recalled on the talk show Harry:
We eventually found our way upstairs, looking around at imaginary furniture and we were in the imaginary bedroom, now, and we are realistically having sex when the police walked in... So next thing I [see] is the flashlight... and Goldie and I are both like "What, what?"... We were being told I guess to go get a hotel room, which we did. That was our first date.
There's still much speculation about what the gunshot at the end of Kelly Preston and Charlie Sheen's relationship meant. Sheen has stated he was downstairs making coffee when he heard a gun go off upstairs. At first he thought Preston (who passed in 2020 of breast cancer) had shot herself and that he would be blamed for her death.
But when he came upstairs, he found Preston in the bathroom injured, but still alive. He said she picked up a pair of his pants in the bathroom, and a revolver fell out of the pocket and went off when it hit the ground. The bullet supposedly bounced off the toilet and hit Preston. Sheen said:
For years, people thought... there was this discussion, this conversation about the time that I tried to kill Kelly Preston.
Their relationship, which ran from 1987 to 1990, ended shortly after the incident. But during Sheen's later public backlash, Preston defended her ex, telling People that despite everything, she considered him a great man and a beautiful person.