article

Famous Roommates

Social-networking sites have changed the freshman dorm equation forever. Plus, dishing with ex-roommates of Barack Obama, Madonna, and John Kerry—and a gallery of famous roomies.

Stephen Lovekin, WireImage / Getty Images

Stephen Lovekin, WireImage / Getty Images

Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones

As roommates at Harvard in late ‘60s, actor Tommy Lee Jones and former Vice President Al Gore were close friends, going to parties and chasing co-eds together. The duo even joined a country music band to try to woo ladies—they also reportedly served as the inspiration for the character of Oliver in Love Story, written by fellow Harvard grad Erich Segal. The men’s ties continued past graduation: In 2000, Jones gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention, where Gore’s presidential nomination was announced. And in 2007, after Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for An Inconvenient Truth, Jones co-hosted the traditional Nobel concert honoring the laureates.

Jeff Vespa, WireImage / Getty Images

Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson

In the late 1980s, Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson lived together as undergrads at the University of Texas at Austin, where they co-wrote the script for Bottle Rocket (1996)—winning them praise at Sundance and launching their careers. After graduating, the quirky duo went on to co-write the dark comedies Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, and collaborate on other films—most recently, Wilson starred in Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited. But they were making deals with each other long before they became famous: Anderson reportedly wrote a paper on Edgar Allen Poe's The Cask of Amontillado for Wilson, to land the better bedroom in their apartment.

Ron Galella, WireImage / Getty Images

Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve (Julliard)

Robin Williams and the late Christopher Reeve lived together while studying at Julliard in the early 1970s, forging a friendship that would endure until Reeve’s death in 2004. In his memoir Still Me, Reeve wrote that after his life-altering horse-riding accident, Williams was the first person to make him laugh—by pretending to be a Russian-accented proctologist. “My old friend had helped me know that somehow I was going to be okay,” he wrote. When Reeve’s wife, Dana, died of lung cancer in 2006, Williams offered to raise the couple’s orphaned son, Will, then 13-years-old—though he ended up being part of a large support system who’s helped to care for him.

Rick Stewart, Allsport / Getty Images; Elsa / Getty Images

Joe Montana and Charlie Weis

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana and Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis, were roomies at Notre Dame, class of 1978. Weis, who has four Super Bowl rings as an assistant coach in the NFL, used to play pranks on the future Hall of Fame quarterback.

Jeff Katz / Getty Images; Michael Grecco / Getty Images

Stanley Tucci and Ving Rhames

Does Ving Rhames have Stanley Tucci to thank for some of his acting success? While roommates and drama students at SUNY Purchase in the early 1980s, Tucci persuaded Rhames to shorten his birth name—Irving—to the decidedly cooler “Ving.” From there, the brawny Harlem native went on to land career-defining, tough guy roles in films like Pulp Fiction (1994) and Out of Sight (1998). While Tucci is having a career year—with a delightful performance as Paul Child in Julie & Julia, and a far darker turn this fall in The Lovely Bones.

AP Photo; John Lynn Kirk / Getty Images

David Lynch and Peter Wolf

While students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in the ‘60s, Oscar-nominated filmmaker David Lynch ( Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet) and Peter Wolf, former lead singer for the J. Geils Band, bunked together—until Lynch kicked Wolf out, so the story goes, for being “too weird.” Then again, during this period, Wolf did join a rock band called the Hallucinations…

AP Photos

Eliot Spitzer and Jim Cramer

In the early 1980s, the future New York governor and Mad Money host grew to be close friends while roommates at Harvard Law School, and remained close friends in the decades that followed. Over the years, Cramer used to defend Spitzer—who took a tough stance on corruption on Wall Street—among his stockbroker friends. But when news of the governor’s prostitution scandal broke in 2008, Cramer had a hard time standing up for his friend, especially since he was equally close with Spitzer’s wife, Silda, from their grad school days. “He’s a great guy, and I love him, and I really love his wife,” Cramer told Today following the scandal, nearly in tears. It’s just very sad. It’s very sad.”

AP Photo; Dziekan / Retna Digital

Dan Brown and Harlan Coben (Amherst)

There must have been something in the beer they served at Amherst College’s Psi Upsilon chapter: Bestselling thriller titans Dan Brown ( The DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons) and Harlan Coben ( Tell No One and the Myron Bolitar detective series) were fraternity brothers in the early 1980s, before going on to sell a combined hundreds of millions of copies of books. And like other former roommates, the authors continue to help each other out. On Coben’s website, Brown calls Coben “the modern master of the hook-and-twist—luring you in on the first page…only to shock you on the last.” Meanwhile, Coben called the The DaVinci Code, “fascinating and absorbing—perfect for history buffs, conspiracy nuts, puzzle lovers or anyone who appreciates a great, riveting story.” Brown wasn’t Coben’s only writer friend at Amherst—he also shared a dorm with David Foster Wallace.

Susan Ragan / AP Photo; John Jonas Gruen, Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Frank O'Hara and Edward Gorey

Poet Frank O’Hara and illustrator Edward Gorey were quite the undergraduate sophisticates: The men entered Harvard in the late 1940s, on the G.I. Bill, and “established their rooms as (in the words of a hometown friend) the spot to ‘lie down on a chaise longue, get mellow with a few drinks, and listen to Marlene Dietrich records,’” Dan Chiasson wrote in The New Yorker. The two artistic geniuses quickly developed reputations as “campus dandies,” according to Salon, “evoking the looks and mannerisms of Oscar Wilde.”

AP Photo; Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Lamar Alexander and Paul Tagliabue

As law students at NYU in the 1960s, Lamar Alexander (the former governor of Tennessee and current Republican senator) and Paul Tagliabue (the former commissioner of the NFL) weren’t exactly campus wild men. Shortly after Tagliabue became commissioner, Sports Illustrated asked Alexander if he had any dirt to dish from their grad school days. “Well, we were recruited by the same West Coast law firm,” Alexander told the magazine. “We turned in our airline tickets and rented a red convertible and drove to L.A. instead.” Any crazy stories? “We visited relatives on the way,” Alexander said. “We were hardworking, good grades kind of guys.”

Augusta National / Getty Images

Jim Nantz and Fred Couples

Theirs was a roommate fairytale: While undergrads at the University of Houston in the late 1970s, future CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz and golf great Fred Couples would fantasize about their careers—specifically, about the day when Couples would win the Masters, and Nantz would cover it. Nantz would even mock interview Couples about his hypothetical victory. Then in 1992, Couples actually won the Masters. And after signing the scorecard, tournament officials brought him to the CBS studio, to be interviewed by Nantz. Once they were off the air, the men hugged, with tears in their eyes. “The thing that is so amazing,” Nantz said, “is that, all those years ago, we always knew it was going to be the Masters and that Fred would win.”