Some of us tend to put celebrities on a higher pedestal than we would for those that are outside of the celebrity world. Which often leads people to quickly turn a blind eye to a celebrity’s dastardly deeds.
We admire celebrities because they live a lavish, expensive lifestyle that we dream about and aspire to live ourselves. We forget that behind the guise of the celebrity status, they are just simply normal people who make mistakes just like the rest of us. And sometimes, the mistakes that some of these celebrities make are more than just mistakes. Sometimes, they’re much worse.
From politically incorrect comments to outlandish crimes, plenty of the biggest stars in Hollywood have committed some of the worst offenses. It is rare for any star’s career to end without being in the limelight of controversy, and even rarer is it for that star’s career to plummet because of that controversy. Apparently, all it takes is to be a big star and anybody can walk away from a crime virtually scot-free without any major damage or set-back done to their career. And we’re usually quick to forgive them every time. It’s fair to admit that someone can stand as an exceptional artist, despite their crimes. It’s another thing to use their talents as a means to defend their crimes. Or worse, pretend like they didn’t happen. Which, for many of the celebrities on this list, is what their supporters have done in the wake of their most malicious crimes.
15. Rick James – Torture
When we hear the name Rick James, it’s easy to have a good chuckle when we immediately think about the widely acclaimed Chappelle’s Show skit he was featured in, but the controversies he found himself in during the 90s was no laughing matter.
In 1993, James and girlfriend (future wife) Tanya Hijazi were accused of holding a woman named Frances Alley hostage for six days and torturing her in various ways including raping the woman and burning her with a cocaine pipe. Around the same time, James and Hijazi were also charged in beating music executive Mary Sauger to a pulp. While he was cleared of his torture charge, the other incidents he was found guilty of resulted in two-year sentence at Folsom Prison. Not long after his release, he was charged with raping a 26-year-old woman, but the charges were later dropped.
While this did destroy his career, his professional life found a short rejuvenation after the aforementioned Chappelle’s Show skit. He died shortly after the skit was released, but seeing how willing the public was to bring James back into the public eye, he could’ve possibly made a comeback had he lived.
14. Dr. Seuss – Infidelity
While not the most heinous act on the list, it has to be the most surprising coming from the author of The Cat in the Hat.
Behind the lighthearted pseudonym of Dr. Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel was a man with flaws just like anyone of us. In a lapse of misplaced judgment, Seuss found himself having an affair with the woman who would later be his second wife, Audrey Stone Dimond. His wife at the time, Helen Palmer Geisel, grew depressed after catching wind of her husband’s cheating and already suffering from cancer for the past few years. She tragically committed suicide in 1967. The note she left to her husband read: “My going will leave quite a rumor, but you can say I was overworked and overwrought. Your reputation with your friends and fans will not be harmed.” She was right. As much of a stain this could’ve been on his legacy, the legacy of Dr. Seuss remains in high regard.
13. Mel Gibson – Racism/Homophobia
For much of Mel Gibson’s career, his mouth has got him in trouble in some way or another. In 1991, GLAAD came at him for some homophobic comments he made in an interview and claimed that he refused to answer their calls for an apology. Eventually, Gibson would express his regret by hosting a GLAAD event in 1997; citing vodka as the reason he made those comments. Alcohol would get him in trouble again in 2006 when he was pulled over for a DUI and made some anti-semitic slurs against the deputy who arrested him. In 2010, he was recorded telling then-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva that it would be her fault if she…well, you remember the audio. It’s far too graphic to repeat. In any case, Gibson was placed on a domestic violence-related restraining order by Grigorieva.
While these incidents have set back Gibson’s career just a bit, Hollywood still accepts him and he still has his fans. By pleading for probation and rehab, he’s avoided jail time. He’s still allowed to make movies on a grand scale. Most recently, his latest film, Blood Father, was released at the Cannes Film Festival alongside another controversial auteur on this list.
12. Woody Allen – Child Molestation
In the midst of a 1992 custody battle between Woody Allen and his ex-girlfriend of 12 years, Mia Farrow, she accused him of molesting their daughter, Dylan. Dylan herself accused Allen of molesting her when she was seven years old during a visit while the couple was separated. A case was made and later dropped in 1993, after a police investigation found no evidence to the crime. While Allen’s behavior towards Dylan was deemed “grossly inappropriate,” the medical team concluded that Dylan’s claims had a “rehearsed quality” to them. While Allen’s never been charged in the matter, Mia Farrow and her family continue to accuse him of molesting Dylan to this day.
Regardless of the accusations and despite marrying his step-daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, Allen has been a well-established member of Hollywood circles for the past few decades now. Most recently, releasing his latest film, Cafe Society, at Cannes alongside the aforementioned Mel Gibson film, Blood Father.
11. Emma Roberts/Evan Peters – Domestic Abuse
In 2013, celebrity couple Emma Roberts and Evan Peters had an argument in a Vancouver hotel that escalated to a full-blown scuffle. Roberts ended up being arrested for the altercation on accounts of domestic abuse. Peters was not arrested because, unlike Roberts, he had visible wounds that included a bloody nose and bite marks. Peters decided not to file charges and the two continued their relationship for another two years before breaking off their engagement.
This hasn’t slowed down either of the young actor’s careers nor has either party received major backlash. Roberts likely hasn’t been condemned by the public due to the fact that public opinion of spousal abuse against men is taken far less seriously than that against women. In Peters’ case, it could be that since he left no visible marks on Roberts, the media didn’t think the altercation was a major one or that he did more to restrain Roberts’ attacks than to attack himself. There’s also the possibility that since the couple tried to move on from the incident, so did everyone else.
10. Ingrid Bergman – Infidelity
Much like our previous entry, Ingrid Bergman had an ill-advised affair. The difference being that the backlash against Bergman at the time was much more extreme.
While married to Dr. Peter Lindstrom, Bergman started building a relationship with Roberto Rossellini, a director whose work she greatly admired. She was enthusiastic about working with him, and the pair filmed together on the set of Stromboli. There, they fell in love and he impregnated her with their son, Renato. Believe it or not, the scandal was big enough to get Bergman denounced on the floors of the US Senate and largely blackballed from working in Hollywood. She ended up leaving America for Italy and after a hugely publicized divorce from Lindstrom, she married Rossellini in 1950. The two would have an additional two children, twins Isabella and Isotta.
9. John Wayne – Racism
One of the most iconic and instantly recognized figures in pop culture history is actor John Wayne. The Duke has been so beloved over the years that this year, he was set to be memorialized with a California state-wide John Wayne Day. Those plans were quickly discarded once a 1971 Playboy interview had resurfaced.
“We can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks.” Wayne told the magazine. “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.” In that same interview, Wayne would go on to say derogatory and homophobic remarks towards the film Midnight Cowboy, calling it “perverted.” While it is easy to condemn Wayne for his beliefs today, his stance on race and sexuality must’ve been known in Hollywood for years. Only to be ignored either because it was the norm or because his acting success overpowered his negative philosophies. Even after the interview, Wayne was allowed to walk into the sunset time and again while his career remained successful until his 1979 death.
8. Chris Brown – Domestic Battery
For all of the chart-topping songs that Chris Brown has released in more than ten years on the music scene, he’s arguably most known for his 2009 domestic altercation with Rihanna that left the songstress visibly bruised. His punishment for the crime was five years of probation, which didn’t sit well with anti-violence organizations calling for a more severe sentence. He would later be charged to serve 131 days in jail due to a 2013 felony charge over an allegedly homophobic fight, but was released early in June 2014. Originally, he was sentenced to only serve time in rehab, but was kicked out due to violent behavior. In between all of this in 2013, Brown had a fight with Frank Ocean over a parking space outside of a West Hollywood recording studio where Brown allegedly threatened to shoot Ocean while one of Brown’s entourage shot homophobic slurs at Ocean. Ocean chose not to press charges.
7. Sean Penn – Violent Past
One infamous Hollywood legend tells us that Sean Penn beat, tortured, and battered ex-wife Madonna for nine hours straight when they were married in the late 80’s. While Madonna has recently come out and said that Penn never laid a violent hand on her in their four years of marriage, that doesn’t mean that Sean Penn isn’t notorious for other acts of violence.
Penn has a long history with lashing out at people. His earliest offense came in 1986 when a scuffle with songwriter, David Wolinski, put Penn on a 90-day probation. A year later, an attack against a photographer on a movie set left Penn with a 60-day jail sentence; he only served 33 days. He assaulted another paparazzo in 2009 and served 36 months probation with community service. These anger issues have never seemed to slow down the 2 time Oscar winner’s success in the slightest.
6. John Lennon – Abused First Wife
Before his image was cemented in our minds as a peace promoting, flower power loving hippie, John Lennon had a dark past with his first wife, Cynthia Powell.
Before her death in 2015, Powell went on record stating that Lennon had a rather aggressive side to him when they first met. According to Powell, Lennon was a jealous type that would grow increasingly possessive of her when they were together and at times would beat her out of fury. Lennon would later admit his violent behavior towards Powell and women in general during interviews and in the 1967 Beatles song, “Getting Better.” He would cite that recognizing his anger issues allowed him to become an advocate for peace. While there was a chance that not many fans in the 1960s were aware of Lennon’s aggressive past, they all may have simply forgiven Lennon after seeing that he was willing to change.
5. R. Kelly – Statutory R@pe
In relation to the infamous R. Kelly case, lyrics from his song “Bump & Grind” like “My mind is telling me no, but my body is telling me yes” sound uncomfortably apropos.
We all remember the infamous sex allegations against R. Kelly from 2002 that included half-naked photos of an underage girl found at Kelly’s house and a shocking videotape depicting R. Kelly having sex with and urinating on an underage girl. Whether you witnessed the trial firsthand or remember the Chappelle’s Show skit, “Piss On You”, is a different story, but at the end of the day, Kelly was acquitted due to lack of probable cause. Despite Kelly claiming he wasn’t in the video, it’s been pretty much a unanimous opinion among even his most devoted fans that he was in fact the man in the tape. History tells us that all it takes for fans to get over a singer’s shocking accusations is for the singer to release good music. Thanks to hits like “Ignition,” most people try to forget that he was linked to child pornography.
4. Mike Tyson – R@pe
In July 1991, Mike Tyson was arrested for raping 18-year-old Miss Black Rhode Island, Desiree Washington, and was convicted on February 10, 1992. There has been speculation that Tyson came off as unlikable to a biased jury, and Tyson claims that the sex was consensual. But nonetheless, Tyson served less than three years of a six-year sentence, was given a four-year probation, and was forced to register as a sex offender.
Normally, when celebrities get convicted of such a horrible crime, their careers are pretty much done. For Tyson, it didn’t take long before he was able to bounce back and reach the height of his fame. Upon his 1996 comeback as a boxer, he steamrolled through the opponents put in front of him with ease. Granted, he faced some career setbacks after losing two fights to Evander Holyfield–the latter fight being lost by disqualification after biting Holyfield’s ear–but as of now, he’s never been more popular. With a successful acting career that includes his own animated show, it seems the majority of fans have been able to put Tyson’s controversy in the past.
3. Roman Polanski – Drugging of a Child
In March 1977 on Los Angeles soil, Roman Polanski was charged with the raping, drugging, and sodomizing of 13-year-old Samantha Gailey. He was dismissed of all charges after taking a plea bargain and the least he could do was plead guilty to the lesser crime of sex with a minor. When he found out that there was a chance he could be deported and face imprisonment, he booked the first flight he could to flee to France and hasn’t looked back since. Apart from a 2009 arrest in Zurich that went nowhere, Polanski’s been sure to stay out of countries that would arrest him on behalf of the US.
Such a heinous crime should be the kiss of death for someone’s career, but Polanski’s career has actually been at an all time high as of late. One would assume that no one would want to associate with someone linked to this monstrous act, but actors jump at the chance to work with Polanski. He even won an Oscar for Best Director to a standing ovation in 2003; he couldn’t even attend the show. Surprisingly, several celebs in Hollywood were willing to sign a petition calling for his release from his 2009 Zurich arrest.
2. Justin Bieber – EVERYTHING
Celebrities are notorious for getting free passes and extra chances after doing something heinous. Justin Bieber is living proof of that.
Over the years, the Canadian pop star has been caught red-handed and linked to enough scandals to fill up an entire season of House of Cards. In 2014, Bieber was charged with drunk driving, street racing, and resisting arrest all in the same night. You can also add 2013 allegations involving Bieber spitting on his fans from above a balcony and paying a prostitute in Brazil later that year. To be fair, prostitution is legal in Brazil in the latter case while in the former, Bieber’s reps claimed that he didn’t spit on any fans. Which honestly, if you were a member of Bieber’s camp, would you really admit he did something so horrendous? However, the fact remains that any one of these offenses would have brought down many celebrities in the past and derailed their careers — but not Bieber’s. His career is as high as it was when he first stepped on the scene. Even when his actions do receive wide criticism, all is forgiven by the time he releases another hit track and sells out another stadium.
1. Donald Trump – Everything He Did Pre-Election
The difference between the previous entrant and the current Republican Presidential candidate is that no one expects Justin Bieber to have a squeaky clean image. We expect better, but we don’t expect a 22-year-old pop star to be anyone’s role model. We do expect more from someone who could be in office a year from now.
Trump’s campaign has been riddled with controversial quips from the man himself, but it’s nothing new. It’s just a change in setting as he’s been saying the darndest things long before he even hosted Celebrity Apprentice. This is the same man who said in his book, Trumped! The Inside Story of the Real Donald Trump, that “laziness is a trait in blacks.” He also verbally bullied several women (like Rosie O’Donnell) and he cheated on his first wife, Ivana Zelníčková, with his future second wife, Marla Maples. That’s only some of Trump’s career highlights. Yet nothing he’s ever said or done has created a major backlash and for the most part, people let his outrageous behavior slide.
At this point, it seems like there’s nothing that Donald Trump can say or do that could dampen his success or lose his voters.