Did you know that Aiken is no stranger to the rich and famous? That’s right! Celebrities like Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Minnie Pearl (discovered her persona here), Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Andy Williams (to name a few) all were frequent Aiken visitors. Read on for some interesting facts about celebrity visits from Hollywood icons, sports greats, and genuine royalty.
Golf legend Hickory-Babe Didrikson played at the Aiken Golf Club. Harry Varden and Bing Crosby played at the Palmetto Golf Club. Bing Crosby also made news at St. Mary’s Help of Christians Catholic Church because the nuns would not allow Crosby to sing in the choir on a Sunday. The reason was he missed choir practice that previous Thursday.
Tommy Hitchcock, one of the prominent Aiken Winter colonists, was the source for F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Tommy was also one of the greatest polo players of his time.
Fred Astaire was known to dance down the steps of the Aiken Post Office after picking up his mail.
Minnie Pearl came to Aiken for a show and realized she had forgotten her hat, so she bought one downtown at a local shop, B.M. Surasky’s. When she was performing that evening, the tag fell out. Since she was an entertainer, she played along; and the rest is history.
Evalyn Walsh-McLean, owner of the Hope Diamond, wintered in Aiken. She was known to put the diamond around her dog’s collar during lunch parties and stored it in her lingerie drawer after parties. She wore the massive diamond as decoration on her gowns and her swimsuits wherever she went and even while gardening. Mrs. McLean’s heirs sold it to Harry Winston, who in turn donated it to the Smithsonian Institution. Today, the Hope Diamond is at the Smithsonian in the National Museum of Natural History.
Writer Pat Conroy, whose works included “Prince of Tides,” “The Great Santini,” and “Beach Music,” spent time in Aiken in 1973 doing research for “The Faces of South Carolina”. Owen Clary escorted the writer around town. Conroy was staying at the Commercial Hotel, now Hotel Aiken. He ran into one of his Beaufort High School 11th grade English classmates, Dr. Linda Bixon Clary. She introduced him to her husband and they ended up escorting Conroy all over Aiken including the Savannah River Site. Conroy ended up writing an article “Horses Don’t Eat Moon Pies,” which was about Aiken’s Winter Colony and the DuPont published in June 1973.
Star sightings keep a coming! Mark Wahlberg was spotted at a local restaurant in Aiken during the Masters. Jeffrey Jones and Big Boi, among other stars were in Aiken filming a move, ‘Who’s Your Caddy’. Eddie Murphy was spotted visiting during filming of the movie. So, next time you venture into downtown Aiken, be watchful of celebrities! You never know who you may see.
Want to know more about celebrity visits from Hollywood icons, sports greats and genuine royalty? Then, take the Aiken Trolley Tour in Aiken to learn about iconic places that have been brushed with fame!