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Mystery Photo Contest: Nearing the End!

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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