A good video can make a career. “Bad Romance” launched Lady Gaga into superstardom. “Ain’t nobody got time for that” snagged the charismatic Sweet Brown several commercials, including one for a dentist and one for a car insurance company. In a few short minutes, or occasionally a few short seconds, a performer can captivate the nation’s collective imagination. If he is more than a fluke, he is allowed into the Pantheon of American Gods in Los Angeles, California.
However, as with any extreme, there is a counterpoint. In his book The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory, John Seabrook says that the careers of Kelly Clarkson and Rihanna are intensely choreographed, even though they try hard to seem unrehearsed and natural. Beyonce, in a 2013 GQ interview, admitted that she has a room in Manhattan with virtually every frame of her ever captured. An unflattering video can, with a flick of the wrist, unravel all the painstaking crocheting celebrities do to their public persona.
Artists playfully refer to the constructedness of their persona. On “Mine” off of BEYONCE, Beyonce sings, “Been having conversations about breakups and separations,” challenging the staunchly gripped-to notion that she and Jay Z are the inseparable King and Queen of Hollywood. It titillated people. But when something happens outside of the celebrity’s planned control, it sometimes does damage too severe to repair.
Are you ready? If so, stick around for the Hollywood’s 13 most career-ruining recordings.
13. Solange Knowles BEATS UP Jay Z
As Beyonce quips on the remix of “***Flawless”: “Of course sometimes s**t go down when it’s a billion dollars on an elevator,” referring to her and Jay Z’s combined fortune of over a billion dollars, but also to the elevator security camera footage that emerged in 2014 of Solange Knowles, Beyonce’s kid sister, beating up Jay-Z. Beyonce just stands there and watches, by the way. Solange had a budding career, having recently dropped the track “Losing You” that performed well on the indie circuit. But since the incident, there has been radio silence from sibling Solange, meaning her career is effectively over.
12. David Hasselhoff DRUNK and HUNGRY
In May 2007, David Hasselhoff’s career ended for the foreseeable future. A video recorded by his daughter Taylor-Ann showed him drunkenly taking on a Wendy’s burger and arguing with his daughter over his drinking habits. She pleads him to stop drinking before he loses his part in the Vegas production of “The Producers;” he tells her to stop whining before he cusses her out. After the video became public, the Hoff lost visitation rights with his daughters, which he was probably none too disappointed about because she low-key stabbed him in the back and she’s also the world’s youngest ball-busting nag.
11. Mel Gibson RANTS
In August of 2006, Mel Gibson was charged with a DUI in Los Angeles. Reports emerged that he had hurled anti-Semitic remarks at his arresting officer. That was the beginning of the downfall of the Passion of the Christ direction. The final nail in the coffin came in 2010 when recordings surfaced of Gibson psychotically berating his ex-girlfriend and daughter’s mother over the phone. In the recordings, he tells her that she resembles a pig in heat and that she deserves to get sexually violated by a “pack” of black men (he didn’t put it that nicely…) He’s gotten a couple parts since then, but nothing to match the leading roles of Braveheart and Conspiracy Theory.
10. Ashlee Simpson LIP SYNCS On SNL
Ashlee Simpson’s first album, Autobiography, sold over 400,000 copies in its first week. Her latest album, Bittersweet World, sold about ten times less (47,000) in its first week and only ever reached 126,000 overall. What happened in between? One Saturday night in 2004, Simpson was scheduled to perform on SNL, “L” being the operative initial. The music for her first song “Pieces of Me” came on, along with pre-recorded vocals. All of America immediately realized she had lip-synced. Although most people know that singers do this, seeing it with such undeniable proof was really offensive to many people. After a later off-key performance at the 2005 Orange Bowl, the crowd booed.
9. R. Kelly Accused of PEEING On Girl
In 2002, a video was mailed to the Chicago Sun Times that appeared to show R. Kelly engaged in perverse acts with an adolescent girl. Not only that, but at the beginning of the video, the man hands her some money. In 2008, R. Kelly was tried in front of a jury. After only a day of deliberation, he was found not guilty. But people still believed that it might be him. He is, after all, known for the sexual themes of his music, for instance “Bump n’ Grind” and “Trapped in the Closet,” and his album 12 Play. After the outcome, people continued to make jokes at his expense.
8. Rob Lowe Films UNDERAGE Sex
In the 1980s, Rob Lowe was a regulation heartthrob. Oxford Blues familiarized everyone with his handsome face. St. Elmo’s Fire turned him into a ladies’ man. He started dating appropriately beautiful women in real life, including Nastassja Kinski and Princess Stephanie of Monaco. But, in 1988, the cakewalk ended. Rob Lowe made a sex tape of himself with two girls in a hotel room, one of whom was 16. A year later, the girl’s mom pressed charges. He stopped getting leading roles for around two decades, appearing only in bit parts in comedies. His other roles were mostly on TV, a big fall from grace for a once A-List movie star.
7. “Kony 2012” Director Recorded touching self in PUBLIC
In March of 2012, just a few months after the “Kony 2012” video came out, the director Jason Russell was detained in San Diego for “being drunk in public and masturbating.” Shortly after the story broke, video footage emerged, taken from a balcony overlooking one of the intersections Russell stopped at. He can be seen shaking his booty and making vaguely sexual thrusting movements. Although long before this video was shot people started suspecting the “Kony 2012” project was shady, this story sucked any remaining credibility right out of it.
6. Ray Rice KNOCKS OUT girlfriend then DRAGS Her From Elevator
On February 19th 2014 footage proved that what been argued as a “minor altercation” between Ray Rice and his then-fiancee was actually aggravated assault. It showed him pounding her twice in the side of the head then dragging her limp body from the elevator. For some reason, a month and a half later, the two got married. On July 24th, the NFL suspended him for two games. There was a huge backlash, with people claiming it was too lax a punishment. In response the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, beefed up the domestic violence policy for all staff. On September 12th, Rice was given an indefinite suspension. Goodell told the NFLPA that it was for providing them with a different account of that night than what could be seen on the tape, but really it was because he had already been punished for beating her.
5. Alec Baldwin: “You Are A RUDE THOUGHTLESS LITTLE PIG” To Daughter
On April 11th, 2007 Ireland Baldwin missed a phone call from her ill-tempered father Alec. At the time, she was 11 (or 12? – If Alec Baldwin doesn’t even know, why should we?) In the ensuing voicemail, he calls her “a rude thoughtless pig” and threatens to come over to L.A. for the day just to straighten her out. Does that mean scream more drunken-stepfather style insults at her or resort to physical violence? Although Alec’s friends and his spokespeople weighed-in in the wake of the leaked voicemail, testifying to the press that Kim Basinger, Ireland’s mom and Alec’s ex-wife, had done all she could to keep the child from her father, it still gave Baldwin the reputation for being aggressive and childish.
4. Trusted News Anchor Brian Williams LIES About Experience In Iraq
In March of 2003, Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News, first told the story of how he was aboard a helicopter in Iraq that was hit and forced down by rocket-propelled grenade. Since then, he has told the story many times, it becoming one of the most popular in his annals. He repeated it once again in 2015 at the NBC coverage of a public tribute for a retired soldier at a Rangers game. Crew members on the 159th Aviation Regiment’s Chinook, which actually was hit, heard the story (again; it wasn’t the first time) and told Stars and Stripes that Williams had arrived on the scene only about an hour later in a helicopter that had most certainly not been hit. Brian Williams fessed up that he may have been mistaken and attributed his ‘mistakes’ to a “fog of memory.” He lost most of his credibility, an anchor’s bread and butter.
3. Tom Cruise JUMPS on OPRAH’S Couch
In 2005, Tom Cruise went on Oprah to promote his forthcoming movie War of the Worlds. However, instead of promoting the film, Cruise threw himself on the floor and jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch declaring how much he loved his girlfriend Katie Holmes. He also shook Oprah, a big no-no for a woman with documented personal space issues. In 2006, Viacom’s chairman Summer M. Redstone, decided not to renew Cruise’s Paramount contract. “His recent conduct has not been acceptable…” He said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. In the wake of Tom Cruise’s wacky behavior, the previous leading man became a laughing stock (but continued, somehow, to gross great numbers.)
2. Sinead O’Connor RIPS UP Picture of POPE
In October of 1992, Sinead O’Connor went to perform on SNL. Without warning the producers beforehand, she pulled out a picture of the Pope and ripped it apart, an alleged statement about the multiple child-molestation scandals in the Catholic Church. But at the time, people didn’t really know that this was going on. The world’s fourth largest Cathedral is in New York; to most Americans, it just seemed like O’Connor was being unnecessarily incendiary. The incident caused a huge scandal and largely extinguished the singer’s promising career. Two weeks later, she was booed off the stage at a Bob Dylan tribute concert.
1. Michael Richards SCREAMS The N-WORD
“Fifty years ago, they’d have you hanging upside down with a [blank] fork up your [blank.] Throw his [blank] out! He’s a [n-word!]” Those are some excerpts from Michael Richards’ demented racist tirade at the L.A. Laugh Factory in 2006. Kyle Doss, a black man in the audience, had been playfully heckling Richards when all of a sudden the comedian burst out and starting insulting him. The man responded by telling Richards: “that was uncalled for.” In the tape, Richards rambles on a little bit more, and then Doss tucks into him, disparaging his career after Seinfeld, Richards’ acme. Since the incidents at the Laugh Factory, Richards has been viewed as even more of a has-been and has gotten hardly any noticeable roles.