Vladimir Putin's recent re-election as president of Russia was met with accusations of electoral fraud at home and abroad. While the former KGB spook (below) is often demonised by Western media, under his watch, average Russian salaries rose sixfold and poverty more than halved. In 2010, a United States diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks summed up his role as prime minister by describing the man who had succeeded him as president, Dmitry Medvedev, as playing Robin to Putin's Batman ...
Since the caped crusader's first outing, in 1939, he has had various incarnations, ranging from the gloriously campy to the homoerotic and downright scary. In all but a few, he has been the alter ego of billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, a name the original writers, Bob Kane and Bill Finger, mashed up from those of Scotland's medieval Robert the Bruce and American war of independence hero 'Mad' Anthony Wayne ...
The statesman earned his sobriquet with audacious military exploits, the battle of Stony Point being the most famous. When asked by George Washington if he wouldn't mind storming the British encampment, Wayne replied, 'Issue the orders, Sir, and I will storm hell.' With no fewer than eight cities, 15 counties, a river, a bank and a brewery named after him, it's little wonder he crept into popular culture. Claiming to be a descendant of Wayne was Dick Diver, protagonist in the novel Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald ...
The author of The Great Gatsby was named after a cousin, Francis Scott Key, who wrote The Star-Spangled Banner, the US' national anthem. Another cousin, Mary Surratt, was in 1865 hanged for conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. One of Fitzgerald's short stories, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, was in 2008 turned into a Hollywood blockbuster starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, who caused a stir at the film's premiere by walking the red carpet in a gown she had had customised by Alexander McQueen ...
The late designer dropped out of school to apprentice as a tailor on London's Savile Row, where his bespoke clients included Mikhail Gorbachev and Prince Charles, to whom McQueen left obscene notes in the pockets of new suits. Months after his suicide, in 2010, McQueen's eponymous label was sued for misusing a trademark - his iconic skull design - by the Hells Angels ...
With 230 chapters in 27 countries, the Hells Angels are a formidable force. To join, candidates must be male, have a valid driver's licence, have an American-made motorcycle and not be black, be a child molester or have applied to become a police officer. For supposed tough guys, the gang's motto is a bit whiny: 'When we do right, nobody remembers. When we do wrong, nobody forgets', although that could serve equally as well for a Harley-tricycle owner who in 2010 was voted in as an honorary member: Vladimir Putin.