In the days of social media, it seems like every single possible scandal that relates to the personal lives of movie stars ends up being reported and forgotten within a 24 hour period. With all of that access, though, perhaps stars are just better at hiding their true selves as they’ve gotten smarter as time has gone on. From having their partners sign non-disclosure agreements to really just not living as hard as stars of yester-year did, it seems like Hollywood just isn’t as dangerous as it used to be. So, with that in mind, let’s look at the Top 10 scandals in the history of Hollywood, for old time’s sake!
10. Heidi Fleiss and Charlie Sheen
In retrospect, perhaps it’s not surprising that Charlie Sheen contracted HIV as he was sleeping with prostitutes for as long as he’s been known as “Charlie”. The world learned this after the Little Black Book that “Hollywood Madam” Heidi Fleiss kept in the early 90’s after setting up her own escort service in 1990. She was extremely successful, reportedly earning her first million within a three or four month period in 1990 and at one point having to turn away multiple girls calling/showing up each day looking for work (she claimed that on her slowest nights she personally cleared $10,000). She got into tax trouble and then was arrested for multiple charges including “pandering”, which means the procurement of prostitutes for people. Fleiss was offered a lower sentence if she offered to name names in her book, but she refused and received a harsh sentence of 7 years for tax evasion. Despite her tight-lipped approach (after saying that naming names wasn’t her “Style”) Charlie Sheen’s name was released to the media and while it didn’t really hurt his image, as he was known as a bad boy, it seemed to trigger a nosedive in terms of the types of roles he was being offered. Because he gave Fleiss checks, he actually had to testify at her trial and admitted, while sweating profusely, that he had written seven checks for about $50,000 total. While this should’ve been seen as a wake-up call for Sheen, who probably didn’t need to pay for sex in the early 90’s, it only went downhill from there and spiraled into chemical dependency, which exacerbated a mental health condition and also lead to him contracting HIV.
9. Rob Lowe’s Sex Tape
Outside of the reality star sex-tapes that we’ve grown accustomed to in the 21st century, back before the advent of the internet and even the Pam and Tommy Lee sex tape, came the original Hollywood sex tape. This tape could’ve very well been the end of this actor’s career as one of the girls in the tape wasn’t exactly “of age”. A member of the “Brat Pack” in the 80’s, Rob Lowe dominated the movie scene of that decade with a serious streak of big roles. That almost came off of the rails upon meeting a pair of young girls at a bar in downtown Atlanta after appearing at the Democratic National Convention in 1988 to support, then candidate for President, Michael Dukakis. Being a star of film, Lowe decided to tape the three-some that he had with the two girls which would’ve been embarrassing and “bad” enough, but got into all sorts of terrible territories when it was discovered that one of the girls was only 16 years old. While that’s the age of consent in many states, you still can’t film someone under the age of 18. However, the laws weren’t as defined back then about those types of situations as people didn’t have acces to cameras and video capturing devices 24/7 back then. While his career was a bit touch and go for awhile, he did appear in Tommy Boy with Chris Farley and David Spade of SNL, which helped rejuvenate his career. He actually mocked the incident on SNL as well (which for awhile became the go-to for any star that’s had a scandal), which goes to show you that America loves a comeback kid.
8. David Carradine
Poor David Carradine. He spent his entire career building this reputation as a wise man who was rational and deep, and then he ends up going out in what has to be the most embarrassing ways to die possible. In 2009, the then 72-year-old actor, who was mostly known for his role on the TV Show “Kung Fu” and in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies, accidentally hung himself while also pleasuring… Himself. He was found in his hotel room in Bangkok, while there making a film and he was dressed in lingerie and a woman’s wig and connected to an intricate series of ropes. The rope that killed him was also tied around his genitals, so while the media initially reported that he had committed suicide (despite pleas from his wife) the police in Bangkok realized that it was something that wasn’t as sad but was just as worthless. His ex-wife, who definitely had an ax to grind, confirmed that it was indeed auto-erotic asphyxiation saying that he had engaged in “deviant” sexual behavior for most of his life and that some of that was “potentially deadly”. Unfortunately, someone released a picture of Carradine’s dead body which was the ultimate indignity to a man who came from a great Hollywood family and again, was extremely well respected and worked for decades to build a certain image. That’s why everyone says that auto-erotic asphyxiation is a bad idea, even with a “spotter” (someone who can help if things go dark), but if you’re ever thinking of traveling to Bangkok, putting on women’s underwear and a wig while tying ropes to yourself, just remember… Bring a friend.
7. The Fatty Arbuckle Fiasco
In the intro to this piece it was stated (or at least implied) that there would be a walk down memory lane as new movie star’s don’t really know how to live it up like the stars of yesteryear. So, let’s look at perhaps the original Hollywood scandal which involved one of the more famous actors of his time, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who was the highest paid movie star at the time of his trial for rape and murder in 1921. The long and short of it is that Arbuckle had a series of rooms at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco for a weekend of parties and hyper-lucrative contract signings (which were the most lucrative of all time, at that time… And by all-time we mean the previous 18 months as “motion pictures” were still a new thing). At one point, a young actress named Virginia Rappe ran screaming from one of the suite rooms, “ill and in distress”. While she startled many of the other people that were there to party, they assumed she was just drunk and thought that she would sleep it off. Days later, she ended up dying and Arbuckle was charged with her rape and murder. The prosecution’s story went as follows: Arbuckle assaulted Rappe so hard with a champagne bottle that he ruptured her bladder, which lead to the peritonitis that ultimately killed her. The first two trials ended with a couple of hung juries. In the third and final trial, he was found Not Guilty thanks to the fact that the prosecution had no evidence against him. Unfortunately for him, it ruined his career and he was blacklisted for a period. When the blacklist was lifted he might as well have been blacklisted as he found it impossible to find work. He died at the age of 46 and his best friend, fellow actor Buster Keaton, claimed that it was from a broken heart. Sad.
6. Death of Natalie Wood
Natalie Wood was one of the most promising young talents of her generation, being nominated for an Academy Award at the age of 17 for her role opposite James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause”. By then, though, she was already a veteran of the silver screen as she debuted in movies at the age of 9 in the famous Miracle on 34th Street. However, her career had slowed a bit after she married fellow actor Robert Wagner (Think the older version of Number Two from Austin Powers) and had his two children. Perhaps to rekindle their lost fame or just for some time away, the two took a boat trip on Thanksgiving Weekend of 1981 along with fellow actor Christopher Walken, who was starring in the film “Brainstorm” at the time with Wood. They planned on yachting around Catalina Island, but in the early hours on their second day Wood’s body was found face down in the water, apparently, having drowned sometime overnight. The coroner’s report showed that she did indeed drown, but rumors have persisted that she was murdered by her husband for various reasons. The main theory is that Wood and Wagner fought over her alleged flirtations with Walken and somehow Wagner knocked her out before throwing her overboard. For years both Wagner and Walken were silent about her death which just made rumors grow larger and larger. However, Wagner finally broke his silence in his autobiography, “Pieces of my Heart” and said that he was jealous of Walken at the time and that he did become angry that night about that subject. Perhaps because of that, the case of her death was reopened in November of 2011 when the captain of the yacht they had chartered came back to the police claiming that he had “new information” about the night of Wood’s death. However, that’s really the last thing we heard about it and it must’ve meant that the Captain was bluffing!
5. Mommie Dearest
There have been few actresses in the history of Hollywood that have been as successful and respected as Joan Crawford. Unfortunately, whatever made her a great actress also made her a terrible mother. Although she died while held in pretty high esteem, her reputation was forever altered when her adopted daughter, Christina Crawford, released the exposé that detailed what her life was liking growing up with Joan Crawford as her mother in the book (that became a great movie) Mommy Dearest. Joan had adopted Christina in 1939 and if you believe the book (as some of her siblings do and don’t), her mother was loving at first but that love essentially ended as Christina grew. Joan reportedly began to “assert her dominance” over her daughter and had trouble dealing with the fact that she was growing up. When Christina hit her teens they were fighting constantly and when Joan learned that her daughter wanted to follow in her footsteps and become an actress there really was no turning back. The best way to explain it is that Joan was jealous of her daughter’s youth and future full of potential, at one point getting her fired from the Soap Opera “The Secret Storm” so she could replace her. Christina never forgave her for that and while that could be why she wrote a “false” book, the fact that one of her siblings co-signed the other awful things she wrote about lends some credence to her story. This included things that showed just how self-involved, callous and abusive Joan was to her children (or maybe just her adopted children) and it was a huge story when it was first released in 1978. Thanks to the book, and the subsequent movie, celebrity tell-all’s became the “it” thing in the 80’s and really until this day and if you want to thank anyone for that, thank Joan Crawford.
4. Woody Allen and Soon-Yi
When it comes to some of the age-related scandal’s that are laid out in the list of movie industry scandals, this one is downright normal. There are perhaps no more respected writers/Directors in Hollywood than Woody Allen, who dominated the 70’s with film after film that was lauded with awards and box office returns. He often starred in his own films as well, typically playing the self-deprecating neurotic who often found himself in the middle of awkward situations. So, perhaps it’s no surprise that Allen found himself in the mother of all awkward situations after, get this, he left the woman he had been dating for years, to marry one of her adopted daughters (that they raised together). Mia Farrow, who is also an actress and dated Frank Sinatra before Allen, had a cadre of adopted children and had been with Woody for years. He was actually having an affair with one of her daughters, named Soon-Yi Previn who was 35 years his junior but was of age. After Farrow discovered nude photos of Previn in Allen’s home, all hell broke loose and tabloids and late night hosts had a field day. However, unlike most relationships in Hollywood, the relationship between Previn and Allen has survived, as they’ve been married since 1997 (although the relationship with Farrow for both will never, ever, ever ever ever, be repaired).
3. Mel Gibson’s DUI
Like Sinead O’Connor on the Top 10 Music Industry Scandals, there exists perhaps no better example of a single moment/set of decisions ruining someone’s career like the night Mel Gibson had back in 2006. He was arrested for driving under the influence, after coming into the new millennium as one of the most successful actors in Hollywood. After a 1980’s and 90’s filled with blockbuster films and even an Oscar Nomination for Best Director for Braveheart, Mel Gibson was pretty much untouchable in 2006. Which perhaps explains his behavior after being pulled over on the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu in the wee hours of that July night. There was reportedly an open bottle of tequila in Gibson’s car and he was initially cooperative with the female officer who arrested him. But, after getting handcuffed and placed in the squad car (that had a dash cam rolling, with audio) Gibson began asking the officer if she was Jewish, called her “Honey-tits” and also stated that Jews were responsible for every war in the history of man. Because Hollywood is run by a decent number of Jews, this was obviously detrimental to Gibson’s career, even though he did have a history of producing/paying for his own movies. He apologized, as people do, shortly thereafter and even met with prominent Rabbi’s in the Los Angeles realm but it was all for naught as Gibson has really only starred in a couple movies since. His case wasn’t helped when his former partner recorded phone conversations she had had with him in which he essentially went mental and threatened her while screaming so hard you can hear his vocal chords bleeding. His first big role seems to be coming from the sequel to Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg’s Daddy’s Home, so we’ll see how forgiving Hollywood and the public are when that movie comes out, but considered how powerful he once was it’s safe to say that this scandal ended Mel Gibson as we knew him.
2. Charlie Sheen’s “Winning” Streak
Charlie Sheen appears yet again on our biggest Hollywood Scandal’s list. He could be here simply for his HIV diagnosis and the ripples that it sent through Hollywood, but considering he stated that his entire substance abuse/getting fired from Two and a Half Men/”Winning” thing was all part of him reacting to the diagnosis, let’s focus on the “winning”. Either way, when Sheen was fired from CBS’ Two and a Half Men it was the biggest show on television at the time and Sheen was the highest paid actor on television, bringing in over two and a half million dollars per episode. However, he was notoriously hard to work with and the show had to be put on hiatus multiple times to deal with his substance abuse issues. The show finally had enough after Sheen really went off the rails (again, he says it was in reaction to finding out he had HIV) and after suspending him, the show’s creator Chuck Lorre ended up firing him in a much-televised dispute. That sent Sheen over the edge and he essentially lived for two things, cocaine and television interviews. Oh, and you can throw porn stars in there as well. Surrounded by those stars, whom he referred to as his “goddesses” Sheen was omnipresent on television and his own internet talk show as he broke social media records, especially on Twitter, where he became the fastest person to reach 1 million followers in the app’s history. Unfortunately for Sheen, people were more laughing at him than with him and even with his catchphrases like “Winning” and “Tiger’s Blood”, it was clear that he was falling apart. He had lost weight, appeared gaunt and was making terrible decisions left and right. He did end up with a large severance from CBS and made a ton more money with his follow-up show, Anger Management. However, his career and exposure were never really the same and he ended up coming out to tell people he had HIV after yet another woman threatened to expose him if he didn’t pay them millions. To avoid paying for that, he went on national television and vowed to “beat the disease” saying that the disease “picked the wrong person”. If you’ve read this far into the list, though, you’d know that it’s actually Sheen that picked the wrong girl, with the wrong disease.
1. Marilyn Monroe and JFK
Former President John F. Kennedy was known for his Playboy ways, having multiple confirmed affairs both before and after becoming President. Despite being married to one of the most beautiful and beloved First Lady’s ever, in Jackie Kennedy, JFK slept with every girl he could (including women married to his friends, and reportedly even the girlfriends of some mobsters). The most famous of his affairs is also probably the most (in)famous affair in DC and Hollywood history, which is quite a feat. It was reported that JFK (and his brother, who was the Attorney General during his brothers Presidency) both had affairs with the original Hollywood bombshell, Marilyn Monroe. That made it all the more awkward when Monroe, who had definitely slept with JFK at that point, sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” in the sexiest way possible about three months before his death. It’s because of that affair, and the affair with RFK, that her death is surrounded by conspiracy theories that mostly involve the Brother’s Kennedy in some sort of way to silence her from going public with said affairs. Either way, Monroe died about three months after performing “Happy Birthday” and if any Kennedy-related person had an actual motive, it’d have to be Jackie Kennedy, who couldn’t have enjoyed that sultry performance. Either way, this affair has stuck in the collective minds of the zeitgeist as recently some “pictures” of the two caressing in a White House window were released. While they ended up being fake, it was still something that showed how and why this was the biggest affair in pop-culture history.