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Mystery Photo Contest: Nearing the End!

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Cary O’Dell at the Library’s National Recording Registry runs our Mystery Photo Contest. He’s back with a batch of our toughest cold cases.

Regular readers know of our (thankfully shrinking!) collection of mystery photos. With your help over the past few years, we’ve knocked this particular list down from over 800 photographs of unidentified people or groups to fewer than 30. You all have done a fine job. Everyone gets a trophy!

But a few still linger. These are photographs from the entertainment industry that came to us in a huge cache of photos,and they seem so … so … solvable, but still remain unidentified. If you think you might have already seen these, it’s probably because we’ve posted all of them before. But because we don’t give up – and we know you don’t either – we’re giving some of them one final spin. Care to try your luck?

As always, please give us your best guess in the comments. We’ll let you know of any success stories.

This lady with the winsome smile was probably an actress in the silent film era, or maybe in the early talkies. It’s a professional head shot, so she at least got a start in the biz. But she could have been a singer, dancer, model or a regional theater actress who never got very far. Suggestions have included Jeanette Loff, Edwina Booth and Isabel Jewel. Alas, none are correct.

Ah, yes, this one. Everybody thinks they know this one. Except, it turns out, they don’t. It’s something of a record-setter for incorrect guesses, perhaps rivaled only by the “world’s most mysterious woman” photo, which we eventually identified.

This is a punk-ish/New Wave duo for sure. Gotta be the ’80s, right? Maybe the early ’90s? They’ve got that androgyny thing going, as we’re not sure if this is two men, two women or one of each. The vibe is totally musicians with attitude, but for all we know it’s a couple of leads from a TV pilot that never took off.

Here’s the aforementioned list incorrect guesses (we’ve checked with the people named). Take a deep breath: Wendy & Lisa, Joan Jett, Karla Bonoff, T-Rex, Heart, Suicide, The Throbs, The Slits, Scarlet Fantastic, Strawberry Switchblade, Sparks, Tik and Tok, Alannah Myles, The Motels, the New York Dolls, Christian Death, Love and Rockets, the Jacobites, Sisters of Mercy, Haysi Fantayzee, Book of Love, David Johansen, Dogs D’Amore, Dweezil Zappa, Face to Face, The Hangmen, Ian Hunter, Izzy Stradlin,  Kings of the Sun, L.A. Guns, Michael Des Barres, Mickey Thomas, Peaches, Paul Westerberg, Paul Hardcastle,  Richard Hell, Rough Trade, Suicide, Tom Keifer, and, finally, The Waitresses.


Meanwhile, I have inquired of, but not heard back from, the following acts, all of whom readers have suggested: 39 Clocks, Balaam and the Angel, Edn Ozn, Fashion, Faster Pussycat, Lady Wreckless, Main Street Preachers and The Cut.

One free can of hair spray to whoever figures out who these two are!

Oh, yeah. This guy. We’ve been all over the country trying to peg him. The various wall hangings have given us clues that range from New York to Nebraska, but we’re still at nada. The lapel pin and one of the certificates one the wall indicate he’s a member of the Masons, that’s about the only solid lead we’ve gotten. That looks like a contract that he’s pretending to look over. Our cache of stills included several people who worked behind the camera or in the front office of the entertainment industry. We’re guessing he’s one of those.

How can this group remain unknown? This band (we assume) never caught on with the masses, I guess.  But they must have played a few gigs someplace. Does anyone know who they are collectively or individually?  Bear in mind that they might not hail from the U.S.

This earnest-looking gentleman appears to been photographed at a news event of some kind, given the angle of the shot and the fact that he’s not posed. It’s in black and white, but it’s clearly in the modern era. We know he’s NOT the founder of Wendy’s, Dave Thomas (as many people have guessed). He is also neither Henry Kissinger nor William Rehnquist, two other guesses that have come down the pike. An entertainment lawyer announcing a merger? Your guess is as good as, and probably better than, ours.

The man with the camera remains a mystery to us. It’s a staged photo — nice lighting! — but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a famous photographer, cinematographer or director. It could have been part of his publicity kit. He appears young, so maybe he didn’t stay in the business that long. Hard to pin down the era, too, though the watch would be a clue.

Okay, so if the man above was likely behind the camera, it seems equally likely this lady was in front of it. Surely a performer of some type, and the pose suggests the opera or theater. The bouffant suggests a time period between World War II through the early ’70s. But again, a tough one. She might have been a regional performer. This glamour shot might have been for a project that never got off the ground. She’s one of the mystery photos that hasn’t drawn many suggestions.

There were several shots in our original batch of photos that showed this young woman showing off her various looks, as one would include in a portfolio.  That said, we don’t know if that portfolio ever resulted in any work. We know she is NOT Ashley Judd or “Alf” actress Andrea Elson (although that is a very good guess), but that’s about it.

Let us know your best guesses in the comments, we’ll run down any fresh leads and report back. Good luck!

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Comments (122)

  1. Young man with camera – Alfred Stieglitz?

  2. Robert Hazzard on the left of the two punk rockeres?

  3. The gentlemen with glasses and stripped tie is Ed Muskie.

  4. Could the punkers be Robert Mapplethorpe (left) and Patti Smith? I’m not sure Smith’s face was ever that full, but the gentle scowl suggests, well, maybe.

  5. Is the last photo Jill Hennessy?

  6. This last one could be Keri Russell. I googled Young Keri Russell and got a high school photo with similar nose and jaw line. She started on the Micki Mouse Club, 1991 to 1993. Leather jackets were still in, circa 1994-7.

  7. In the second photo, could the two women in sunglasses actually be men?

  8. Could the young woman in the cut-off shorts and shiny jacket be Debra Winger?

  9. Thanks for the suggestions so far. Keep ’em coming! I’ll reach out re: Jill H. As for photo #2–we don’t know if it’s two men or two women or one of each!

  10. The group with the woman, w/ four men behind her. The guy over her right shoulder looks like Andrew Wood from Mother Love Bone.

  11. The photographer may have been aspiring or a hobbyist because that looks like a teenager.

  12. Could the two rockers be members of the band Cinderella?

  13. The two “Punk rockers” look like Patrick Swayze and Lea Thompson just by the shape of the mouths. Then again…. hmmm

  14. The first picture is really like British golden age movie star Anna Neagle.

  15. The first photo is very like the British actress Anna Neagle.

  16. The leather jacket twins are two women

  17. hi, probably a daft suggestion:
    for the 1980s style duo in leather jackets – could the one on the right looking directly into the camera with mirror shades be sigourney weaver? something similar about the mouth/nose/jaw.
    am asking my gothier friends about the band. briefly thought of spk but they were a 3-piece and looked slightly different.
    good luck!

  18. The five member band picture – the man to the right of the woman looks like the singer of the band Men without Hats.

  19. The last photo reminds me of a very young Deborah Messing.

    Sigorney’s people said it was not her in that one photo. Keri R.’s people said it was not her in that other pic. 🙁

  21. The last woman in the jacket and shorts – Cote de Pablo?

  22. The opera/theatre lady might be Marge Rivingston. I only knew her later in life and have some younger photos of her from her book, but none from that angle

  23. The last picture reminds me of end-80s early 90s photoshoots by Ford Models. The high-waist short was a reminder of the 80s, the waistline dropped fast in the 90s. I’d peg it at around 1993. Aviator jackets were fashionable after Top Gun and Madonna brought the perfecto jacket style back to fashion around early 90s too. By the look of it, pretty sure it was before grunge.

    Pretty sure it’s a model book more than an actress book.

  24. Could the rocker couple be from the band Eve Moon?

  25. Last picture, a young woman in a jacket. Maybe Rebecca Schaeffer stared in “My Sister Sam” and was murdered by her stalker in 1989.

  26. Is the last photo of the smiling woman in the leather jacket Kimberly Williams?

  27. I think the man with the camera is Fernand Fonssagrives (French 1910 – 2003), using that image in a search the second photo I saw seems to be the same man older, similar pose with an old style camera, nose and face seem to be the same.

  28. Re: “This guy.” He’s at the desk with the papers. I only have Paint, but I turned the paper right side up and the top left appears to be a photo of him at a typewriter. The pencil sharpener on the back of the door might indicate a wordsmith of some kind…a publicist? Perhaps, someone with better software like Photoshop can make out the name of the company. The first word looks like 4 letters ending in “O.” Maybe Nino?? The second word looks like 2 letters… TO or SO?? The last word might start with an “H” or “K.” It’s in a funky font and is reversed. Is that a diamond wedding ring? Perhaps, an indication of a successful career?

  29. Second photo, two people in sun glasses. Going to take a pretty wild guess here, but I kind of think the person on the left looks like Jason Patric possibly right after Lost Boys was filmed, but prior to his next movie.

  30. The band with four men and a woman maybe the band Children of Bodom with Kimberly Goss or one of the variations like Sinergy that she has worked with.

  31. For the last photo, I would second the guess of Kimberly Williams, that smile seems very similar, likely around the time of Father of the Bride, for reference.

  32. Forget the ladies in the leather jackets, I want to know the identity of the guys reflected in the lady on the right’s glasses! 🙂

  33. Going to try for two at once here, last for the night. Going on the 2 head shots of the women. The first, Bette Davis, something about the teeth make me think that. The second, Jacqueline Logan.

  34. the new wave duo could be Ann and Nancy Wilson from Heart

  35. I was thinking the last girl looks like a younger Rebecca Ferguson from Doctor Sleep.

  36. I’m doubling down on the second photo being Jason Patric and the person the right being Jami Gertz, her nose seems similar. Now I’m done for the night.

  37. 2nd photo – could the one on the left be Cher?

  38. Could one of the duo in sunglasses be Frances McDormand?

  39. Any chance the last photo is Connie Young from Troll 2? She always reminded me of the actress from ALF.

  40. No help with ID, but just FYI saying “we’ve been all over the country trying to peg him” has a different meaning than you might intend.

  41. Could the last girl be Rebecca Schaeffer? The young lady from “My Sister Sam” who was murdered?

  42. The man on the left of the unknown band looks like a young Jeff Goldblum.

  43. The two hair rockers are Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, the members of the Jimi Hendrix ‘ “Experience”.

  44. For the androgynous punkers, have we considered early Carole Pope of Rough Trade? Or even Grace Slick.

  45. Regarding previous comment by Steven Davis, that is most definitely NOT Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone.

  46. The last photo HAS to be Jill Hennessy. The woman in the photo has a vein on her forehead that Jill H has well.

  47. Photo #3 It looks like Stephen Smith, former Middlesex County, Massachusetts legislator, but it most likely is his father or other relative.

  48. The Dwight Twilley Band for the two with the shades.

  49. Second pic of the “rockers”. If the right one isn’t Lea Thompson, back to the future era, I am shocked.

  50. The person on the right in the “two rockers” photo looks like a young Frances McDormond around the mouth and jaw.

  51. Could the second image be The Slits?

  52. I’m pretty sure the Mason’s “contract” says across the top “Memo to Recorders”. I Googled that phrase and got results related to the Knights Templar, but nothing concrete. See image at

  53. It took me a little while to place the bell that was ringing for me, but the person on the right in the goth/new wave couple seemed familiar to me. I know I’ve been warned that “everyone” feels like they know this one, but I’m still going to offer my guess– I think it’s Jean Louisa Kelly, the actress who played the teen niece of John Candy’s character in Uncle Buck. If I get it right, you can keep the Aqua Net!


  55. I think the photo you have listed as the glamour shot may be American actress Marie Wilson.
    Marie Wilson – IMDb

  56. I don’t have any guesses, but if you zoom in on the glasses of the right person in the punk rock pair, you can see the photographer. He is in front of a clapboard house and another person is with him.

    Definitely not a studio shot

    Maybe a newspaper shot for an article about an up and coming local band

  57. #2 is Michael Jackson on the left.

  58. I am still suggesting Suzi Quatro, and now also suggesting possibly with brother Mike Quatro, or one of her sisters from her band. Suzi toured Europe, Australia, and UK in late 1970’s, made some albums. I didn’t see her on your list of incorrect guesses or names awaiting a response, although I have suggested her once before. Sure would like to know if she was an incorrect guess.

  59. The man and woman at the top look like a young Robert Mapplethorpe with a young Patti Smith

  60. The leather jacket duo reminds me of an early Indigo Girls publicity still. While I sort of doubt it’s them, I am also ruling out anyone to do with CBGB’s. There were enough leather jackets floating around middle America in the 1980’s (check the sunglasses) that NYC is the wrong place to look.

  61. Not the Dwight Twilly Band. 🙁

  62. NOT the Slits either.

  63. Not Eve Moon. (Though a lovely lady to talk to.)

  64. The one of the two in sunglasses and leather jackets looks like Adrienne Barbeau and, I don’t know, a friend of hers.

  65. Just heard back from his office: neither of the New Wavers above is Jason Patric. 🙁

  66. I am increasingly convinced it’s the Indigo Girls. I Googled up an Epic Records still from 1991 where Amy also has her eyes closed. It’s plausible that the mystery shot is from a promo kit during their touring “salad” days, prior to their “big break.” Thus was never in wide circulation. Good luck, Cary.

  67. I think the rock and roll duo are the young Hall and Oates. They are definitely two men. The dark haired one has an open shirt beneath the jacket.

  68. Re:Comment 52. Thank you, David, for getting the memo header translated! Good job!

  69. For the couple we so desparately want to know, as I see my guess was incorrect. I’d like to add that if we go based on clothing it should be a man and likely a woman. The top snap on the left person’s jacket would make that a man’s and the one for the person on the right seems to make their’s a woman’s.

  70. Another guess for the couple: Nikki Sixx or possibly Tommy Lee with Tawny Kitaen they dated in 1985, though not really sure about that one. But Motley Crue being a glam band, makeup and leather was very popular.

  71. Not the Slits.

  72. Woman is NOT Lea Thompson. : (

  73. Second pic: woman on left could be Margo Timmins from Cowboy Junkies.

  74. The Mason guy has a tie tack, it looks like a face, like an actor symbol, but I can’t be sure. There is also a letter opener on the table to his left, it might have something inscribed on it, but I can’t tell with no special tech available to me.

  75. Not sure who both rockers are, but the front one looks like Freddie Mercury. The back one looks like Molly Ringwald, though, and I doubt that…

  76. Is the woman on the right in the photo of the 2 women in leather jackets Frances McDormand? It really looks like her.

  77. The last photo looks like a Dawson’s Creek-era Kate Holmes.

  78. Image Number 1: Is This …Gene Harlow???
    Approximately Middle Image: 2 Long dark-haired pair wearing black leather:Do not know their actual Identities, however I suspect that both are female.
    Last Image:I do not yet know her actual identity, but please pardon next cliche: She looks extremely familiar. …Am going to strive to deduce just whom the others are. …May I inquire IF you know the actual identities of all these, please?–Am not trying to trick you into disclosing clues. ByeBye!!

  79. No, we do not know who these people are and that’s why we are “crowd sourcing” for clues and answers and suggestions.

  80. The “darkwave” duo: Isn’t it The Neon Judgement?

  81. Just heard back…not Neon Judgement. 🙁

  82. Just heard back…not Frances McDormand. : (

  83. The first photo, the one of the silent film actress, looks a little like silent film actress Jane Novak.

  84. The woman in the leather jacket (part of the duo) reminds me of early-ish Kathy Mattea photos but once they had a makeup budget.

    Also reminds me of the Wilson sisters in Heart but more Nancy, except the hair color

  85. Not Robert Hazzard.

  86. If the man with the Sesostris Temple certificate has a “Memo to Recorders,” then he’s probably a Shriner Recorder (the official office of secretary).

  87. Just heard back: Not Suzi Q.

  88. Just heard back from his daughter, NOT Fernand Fonssagrives. 🙁

  89. Just heard back from his daughter: Not Fonssagrives.

  90. Ok….probably a shot in the dark for the 5 piece band- Naked and Famous?

    The leather duo the person on the right gives me a strong Frances McDormand vibe.

  91. The lady in the 7th one down (below the photographer guy) looks like a young Margaret Thatcher.

    The girl in the shorts and leather jacket looks like a young Debra Winger.

  92. The first photo – I was thinking maybe a WAMPAS Baby Star. Maybe Dorothy Revier (same looking nose to me!) or Betty Francisco?

  93. Could that group be some early Cass McCombs band? It has got to be something with Dave Grohl (far left) and John Turturro (far right) in it! (That last part is a joke.)

  94. The photo of the two goth rockers may be two members of the rock band, Faster Pussycat. Perhaps, Brent Muscat and Greg Steele? Worth looking at the cover of their first LP or promo photos of the band from around that time period.

  95. NOT Faster Pussycat.

  96. NOT Noel Redding.

  97. Hey Cary, I don’t know if you saw it, but the last comment on the post with the 5-person band is from a bobby w: “#9 is Kazu Makino in the centre and Simone and Amedeo Pace behind her, they perform as Blonde Redhead”

    I didn’t check the guys, but looking at pictures of her, I think he’s right and Kazu Makino is the woman in the center.

  98. Actually, I checked with Kazu and Blonde Redhead and they said it wasn’t her/them. If I have learned anything in this long process, it is that there are some major lookalikes in the world. Thx.

  99. Oh wow, she looks so similar! Thanks for confirming that it’s not her.

  100. Just a general question: have you had any success with reverse image searches? I tried looking up the woman in image #4 with Pimeyes and got a result that looks like it might be relevant (i . imgur . com/eD7uXvN . jpg). That’s about as far as I can get without shelling out money for a one-time use service…

  101. Hi Neat: Yes, we did try various search programs including Pimeyes. But I’m curious as to what you found. Feel free to email me at: [email protected].

  102. Could the last picture be Lisa Loring?

  103. The young woman wearing the leather jacket looks like Lucy Helyn Deakins from “The Boy who Could Fly”.

    I am probably wrong, but she does look similar.

  104. The two “New Wave” guys in leather jackets and shades are extra’s from the original Buffy the Vampire slayer movie.

  105. Hi Joe–Thanks for the “Buffy” lead. Is this a photo you’ve seen before or do you recognize it from the film? Thx.

  106. Joe–Feel free to contact me at: [email protected] esp. if you have a clip to this infamous duo in “Buffy.”

  107. The last one looks a bit like a pre-Sex and the City Kristin Davis

  108. Second photo (B&W 80’s). On the left could be Sandra Bullock?

  109. The first photo looks a lot like Sonya Henie

  110. The rockers look a lot like members of the band T. Rex. Especially Marc Bolan, and possibly Steve Currie.

  111. Woman with the Boufant: Diana Holman Hunt

  112. I think the young woman in the last photo is of actress Alexa Davalos when she was a teenager. Only person in my opinion that looks similar to that girl. Sometimes when I Google her those photos pop up. Could just be a coincidence tho. Hopefully someone can identify her soon.

  113. Photo #2. Likely, the person on the left is a boy. It can be seen from the hand, very manly. And, the person on the right, I’m not sure what the gender is. The more you look, the more confused you are made. But I’m pretty sure they’re both boys.

  114. I think the photo with the woman at center and four guys is of the band How To Destroy Angels. The woman definitely looks like Mariqueen Maandig.

  115. Will this be updated with new solves?

  116. #1 Has Virginia Bruce ever been suggested?

  117. Could last photo be Maura Tierney?

  118. New wave couple, man on left, could be Andy Taylor from Duran Duran. See his 1987 album, Thunder (version with his headshot on cover) for comparison of mouth, nose, adam’s apple. He definitely would know how to wear eye makeup.

  119. The gentleman, seated at the desk with a contract of some sort, I am convinced is most likely an agent. I put “old Hollywood agents logos and letterheads” into a popular search engine and came back with a lot of images that looked just like the letterhead on his “document” Surprisingly, the closest one to what we see on this desk is the letterhead for Chateau Marmont which would have been in its earliest heyday and it’s easy to imagine a scenario of “Hey Bob, we need a shot of you at work” he grabs the stationary in his suite, has his secretary type something up and the pic gets taken in his Chateau Marmont suite.

    Back in these days any Hollywood adjacent company must have gotten tons and tons of headshots from bands, actors etc and the vast majority of them from industry nobodies. As you get down to you last pictures the odds increase that these are performers who may have never performed in front of any audience larger than the seating capacity of a hip coffee shop or the happy hour open mic night at any local watering hole. I hope you find all these people. I bet they’d be stoked to have an old pic like this pop up and I’d love to be there when that happened

  120. Last one is Marianne Politte

  121. I think the second picture is Simon Gallup and Robert Smith from The Cure.

    OR It also looks like it could be Olli Wisdom and Johnny Melton from Specimen.

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