Marriage is one of the oldest social institutions in human culture: the economic contract between two patriarchs, one with a teenage daughter he is tired of having to feed and one with a teenage boy who can begin making more children to work the fields. The bride’s family pays the groom’s family a dowry to “buy” the bride, and the two families make out better than when they started; everyone wins, except for the actual bride and groom who didn’t get the choice of whom to spend the rest of their lives with. At some point, it was decided that marriage had something to do with love, God’s plan all along apparently, and the institution was re-imagined as a religious union between two people loving each other almost as much as they loved their lord.
As a country founded by pilgrims seeking religious freedom, marriage translated to the United States as an important part of our daily world. And, like everything Americans hold sacrosanct, we soon began manipulating, ruining, and perverting it for our own selfish ends. While people who actually wanted to marry for love but couldn’t, like people from different races or same sex couples, had to fight for their rights in the court system, people who didn’t actually want to marry for love were allowed to do so all the time.
Maybe two people got married to commit tax fraud or medical insurance fraud, maybe two people got married because one of them needed citizenship in a foreign country, maybe two people got married because one or both of them were hiding homosexuality, or maybe two people got married simply because they were drunk and thought at the moment it would be a crazy thing to do. If marriage has any sanctity left, here is a list of celebrities that helped to famously degrade it. These 10 marriages were allegedly shams from the start.
10. Michael Jackson and Debbie Jeanne Rowe
If you grew up in the 80s and early 90s, you knew Michael Jackson. Even if you weren’t a fan of pop music, Jackson was such an influential celebrity that his music was ubiquitous. I grew up on the West Coast of the United States, the same coast where Jackson lived, and when he flew to New York or some place we would have to set our clocks ahead an hour because he was literally the center of the pop culture universe. Debbie Rowe was one of Jackson’s nurses, helping Jackson’s doctor administer medication Jackson was taking for his skin ailments. She traveled with him on tour and, according to sources including Jackson’s first wife, he allegedly made a deal with her: marriage (the deal was that she’d receive a ton of money in a divorce suit) in exchange for children. Michael and Debbie got married when she was pregnant with Jackson’s son, and a few years later divorced after Debbie had a second child with the King of Pop. Debbie got rich, Michael got his kids, and the institute of marriage was completely disregarded.
9. Liza Minnelli and David Gest
Liza Minnelli‘s life has been a bit of a train wreck, with the former actress and singer consumed with addiction problems. When she announced an upcoming marriage with David Gest though, she seemed genuinely happy and excited. That puzzled everyone else because Gest was allegedly gay. Did any one think this marriage would work? Minnelli’s friends and relatives hoped Gest would stabilize her day to day routine; Gest maybe wanted to hide his alleged sexual preference. Only Minnelli seemed to actually go into the marriage for the right reasons. Of course the marriage fell apart almost immediately, but due to Minnelli’s alleged physical abuse of the groom. Maybe we were all wrong about Gest, but the circus of the wedding (Michael Jackson as the best man) made the whole affair feel like a sham.
8. Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries
Kim Kardashian will do just about anything to stay famous, since she has no discernible talents other than being famous. Before her marriage to Kanye West, she briefly married Kris Humphries, a pro basketball player. I’m sure everyone remembers it, because it was reported all around the world. Kim and Kris were super “in love;” a supposed match made in media heaven. When they divorced a few months later, Kris declared that the whole marriage was a sham, conceived to drive up ratings for the Kardashian TV show, and asked to change his divorce to an annulment. Maybe he is just bitter, but a sham marriage would be the least of Kim’s manipulations to make us obsess over her.
7. Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman
If Christians really want to uphold the sanctity of marriage, they should concentrate their efforts against Las Vegas, a city which has commercialized marriage like no other place on Earth. One couple caught up in the idea of marriage used to break up the monotony of bar crawling was actress Carmen Electra and former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman. I’m not sure Rodman has ever made a genius decision, but his idea to marry Electra while he was completely smashed drunk and she was grieving over the death of her sister and mom in 1998 was one his more famous mistakes. Electra was suffering from depression at the time, and Rodman filing an annulment a week later, I’m sure, didn’t help. The two did decide to try marriage since they were already married, but it was only a few months later they realized their marriage was a sham and divorced for real.
6. Britney Spears and Jason Alexander
Britney Spears, while hanging out and getting wasted in Vegas, married her bud Jason Alexander just for kicks, rubbing her disregard for her Baptist upbringing in the faces of every one who actually respects marriage. Spears was not dating Jason, nor was she in love with him or have a reason to marry him. Anyway, they annulled it a few days later, but the damage was done. Not to Spears’ career of course, just to the institution of marriage itself. The pop singer herself would admit this marriage was a total sham from the start.
5. Rudolph Valentino And His Wives
Here is an old one: Rudolph Valentino was one of cinema’s first sex symbols. The Italian stunner starred in many silent films, and amassed a massive following of love struck women who, in some cases literally, could not live without him (following Valentino’s sudden death from an infection after a routine surgery, women actually committed suicide). These women must have been devastated both times Valentino got married, but they shouldn’t have been. Both of Valentino’s wives, Jean Acker and Natacha Rambova, were lesbians, who allegedly married the star to hide their sexual orientation from the public. Both sham marriages ended after a short period of time, but the real mystery is why Valentino played along. It seems like he was heterosexual according to the people who actually knew him, so maybe he was just helping these women out as a true hero might do.
4. Dennis Hopper and Michelle Phillips
Dennis Hopper was a wild card actor, with a great eye for the craft, while Michelle Phillips was a vivacious pop star, rocking out with the rest of her band The Mamas and the Papas. Their union was a strange one from the outset, but once the nuptials were solemnized things really got weird. Hopper and Phillips, like a lot of celebs at the time, were no strangers to drugs, and it seems like the first few days of the marriage Hopper wasn’t sober. Claims of unwanted bondage and drug-filled sexual deviance led the two to get divorced only after a few days. Not the way to treat a revered social contract.
3. Rock Hudson and Phyllis Gates
Rock Hudson was a major movie star in the 1950s and 1960s, and an important TV star in the 1970s. A dashingly handsome ladies man, Hudson played the romantic lead to many a lucky actress. He was loved by the public, but when rumors started to spread about him being homosexual, he magically met the girl of his dreams and married her almost immediately. Phyllis Gates wasn’t just a lucky girl, she was the secretary of Hudson’s agent, who somehow convinced Gates to go beyond the call of duty for her job and marry Hudson, who allegedly was secretly gay. This sham marriage didn’t last long of course; after the rumors died down the two divorced. Hopefully, Gates got paid a lot of overtime for helping Hudson and her boss use marriage as a career preserver.
2. Robin Givens and Svetozar Marinkovic
Robin Givens, a gorgeous and talented actress, had already had one marriage nightmare when her husband, boxer Mike Tyson, was allegedly abusive toward her, leading to their much publicized divorce. This doesn’t really justify what happened next in her life when she decided to marry her tennis instructor: Svetozar Marinkovic. After the happy nuptials, Givens and Marinkovic realized something was wrong and separated, before going to the wedding reception. Yes, they separated minutes after getting married and divorced weeks later. Were they high? Did Givens misunderstand that when Svetolzar was talking about “love” he was using it as a tennis term? My guess, she couldn’t pronounce her new husband’s name. Anyway, this can’t be seen as anything other than a sham. I’m sure Givens would agree this marriage never should have happened.
1. Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley
The King of Pop marries the daughter of the King of Rock and Roll. The headlines were too good to pass up, the idea too absurd not to obsess over. The union makes so much sense from a media standpoint that it was hard to take seriously. Maybe Michael and Lisa Marie Presley were actually in love – they were good friends after all – but the marriage happening so soon after Jackson had dodged child molestation charges came off as forced. I would like to believe that Jackson was sincere, and Presley seemed to be part of this for positive reasons, but their divorce just a couple years later didn’t help prove the marriage wasn’t anything other than an alleged sham.
The most damning evidence though was when the couple appeared together on the 1994 MTV video music awards. The appearance seemed to be a stunt to show that the marriage was real, as Jackson and Presley came out together on stage and then preceded to bump their faces together. We were meant to interpret that movement as “kissing,” but it seemed more like when two goats crack skulls together, expect without as much passion. We may never know what was real or artificial about the relationship, but it felt like a sham at the time.