12 Celebrities The Older Gens Are Surprised To See Being Treated as Legends Today

Everyone has a friend who far exceeded their childhood expectations. How did that guy become that guy? Fans of popular culture see certain celebrities in the same light. These celebrities have achieved legendary (or near-legendary) status, and many observers can only scratch their heads in response.

1. Tony Bennett

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World Tony Bennett
Image Credit: Rezolution Pictures.

Fans of the laid-back crooner genre dub Tony Bennett nothing more than an Italian lounge singer. Now, he's revered as one of the premier crooners of his generation. Mob ties?

2. Rick Astley

Granada Reports Rick Astley, Caroline Whitmore
Image Credit: ITV1.

Thou shalt not question the Rickroll.

3. Tom Hanks

A Man Called Otto Tom Hanks
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

It's not that Tom Hanks doesn't deserve the acclaim he's earned. From Big to Cast Away and Philadelphia, few actors have been as consistent or excellent as Tom Hanks. However, some remember Tom Hanks's earliest films and marvel at his rapid ascent into perennial Oscar territory. 

4. Neil Patrick Harris

Uncoupled Neil Patrick Harris
Image Credit: Netflix.

It is always surprising when a child actor maintains a second professional act. And then a third act. And then a fourth act.

Doogie Howser became Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother) and Count Olaf (A Series of Unfortunate Events). To the surprise of those who knew him first as Doogie, his career keeps rolling on.

5. Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton Queen Latifah Joyful Noise
Image Credit Alcon Film Fund LLC.

One music fan remembers when Dolly Parton was quaint, at least musically. A lovely lady, to be sure, but how many people projected that Dolly Parton would still be relevant in the 2020s?

6. William Shatner

Star Trek: The Original Series
Image Credit: NBC.

One Trekkie who thought William Shatner was “a mediocre actor at best” scratches their head at his long-running relevance. Shatner even went to space with Jeff Bezos! 

Billy Shatner deserves all the credit in the galaxy for keeping himself relevant well beyond the limits of his talent.


Image Credit: WireImage.com.

If you heard KISS' music, you would assume they'd come and go faster than the time it takes for Gene Simmons to extend that impossibly long tongue of his. However, Simmons and his bandmates successfully turned KISS into a cultural phenomenon (perhaps even more so than a band).

8. Robert Downey, Jr.

Avengers: Infinity War Robert Downey Jr.
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

RDJ is another actor that seasoned Americans remember acting teenager-ly, even going to rehab at one point. Turns out, Iron Man had to figure out some personal stuff before he could become Iron Man. Downey is more popular than ever, which is a testament to the power of cleaning up your life.

9. Betty White

The Interviews: An Oral History of Television Betty White
Image Credit: Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation.

Betty White transcended her status as an actress and comedian. Towards the end of her career, many younger Americans knew Betty White as just…Betty White. They couldn't name a film she ever appeared in, but they'd seen her in several commercials and loved her nonetheless. That's legendary.

10. Rob Lowe

9-1-1: Lone Star Rob Lowe
Image Credit: Fox.

Years ago, Rob Lowe was known for making it in Hollywood despite his acting “ability.” All looks, no substance was the rap that his critics were quick to spit. Lowe has proven shockingly long-lasting, still leading network TV shows and showing no signs of slowing down.

11. The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

The Grateful Dead are among the most revered musical acts in American history. Those who don't fully grasp the appeal of jam bands still don't get it. Even so, busloads of music fans follow the Dead, and its spinoff iteration Dead & Company, wherever the concerts lead.

12. Bob Ross

The Joy of Painting bob Ross
Image Credit: PBS Member Stations.

Who would have guessed that landscape painting, and a voice smoother than a can of Sherwin-Williams Pure White, would prove so timeless? Bob Ross would've guessed.

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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Sam Mire is a freelance writer who has manned a variety of beats over nearly a decade in the literary biz. He has spent weeks in the Alaskan wildlands, immersed himself in the world of Florida's homeless population, covered live sporting events, and served as a linchpin for media outlets in the legal, tech, and entertainment spaces. Sam has been published in Fast Company, Forbes, Entrepreneur, AP News, Fox News, and, most notably, Wealth of Geeks. In his free time, he enjoys boxing, woodwork, petting his dog, and reveling in good company.