Celebrities. Everyone’s greatest excuse not to aspire to great things. They’re too talented, too pretty, too perfect to convince any regular Joe to reach for the stars. Well, a wise man once said “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” Considering that, to this day, no one is quite certain just who William Shakespeare was, it seems perfectly acceptable that a man rose up from the masses, and became the greatest known playwright of all time. Whether or not that’s true, it is inspiring.
Well typically people are at least savvy enough to pick out which celebrities were born great, which achieved greatness, and which had greatness thrust upon ’em. Some are born with sliver spoons, some slog through the mire for years to find a career, and some are just given the keys to the kingdom, without ever wanting to sit on the throne.
Now here are twenty celebrities. It will be easy enough to suss out just which of these three categories they fall into. O.J. Simpson or Matthew Broderick could have been added to this list, but much of their current celebrity is based solely on the fact that they’ve killed someone (if the glove fits). This assortment of major and minor celebrities have this dastardly deed in common, and they prove that one needn’t be too talented, pretty, or perfect to achieve great things. Let this list inspire you to aspire; at least you haven’t killed anyone.
20. Vince Neil
This should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who knows anything at all about lead singer of Motley Crue, Vince Neil. It seems the front man managed to get himself quite drunk (shocker), and then decided to hop behind the wheel. With Nicholas ‘Razzle’ Dingley (drummer of the Finnish band Hanoi Rocks) in the passenger seat, Neil set out to the liquor store to keep the party going. Losing control of the vehicle, Neil slammed into another car, the passengers of which both sustained brain damage. Neil walked away… and Razzle died at age twenty four, after briefly celebrating Hanoi Rocks’ first ever American tour. Neil’s take on the whole ordeal? “I wrote a $2.5 million check for vehicular manslaughter when Razzle died. I should have gone to prison. I definitely deserved to go to prison. But I did 30 days in jail and got laid and drank beer, because that’s the power of cash. That’s fucked up.” Yes, yes it is, and there is someone who could have done something about that… Vince Neil could have taken it upon himself to give more, to show how what he did was horrible, and it should be prevented. But when one has the power of cash, they needn’t care, it seems.
19. Skylar Deleon
So, in spite of what so many might think, Skylar Deleon was not, and now never will be, a Power Ranger. A new source mistakenly reported that he was, but truthfully, he was no more than an extra on the show. Regardless, Deleon was convicted of three counts of first degree murder for the murders of Tom and Jackie Hawks. In 2004, he convinced the couple to take him on a test cruise on their yacht, on the pretext that he was interested in buying it. While at sea, Deleon tied the couple to the anchor and pushed them overboard, while they were still alive. He also happened to be convicted of the 2003 murder of Jon Jarvi as well, who was found in Mexico with his throat slit. Perhaps the only celebrity (minor as he was) to have graced this list and be sentenced to death in 2009. That being said, it truly means nothing. He will likely spend the rest of his time rotting in prison as California has not executed anyone since 2006.
18. Sid Vicious
Now this one is likely very well known, at least to those fans of the Sex Pistols. Bassist for the band, Sid Vicious, stabbed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, to death in 1978. When first questioned, he claimed to have found Spungen dead on the bathroom floor of their hotel room, not knowing just how it all happened. But after a time, he admitted that he was the one who stabbed her, but he was not, in any way, intent on killing her. Now this could be an oversight on the part of this author, but when a drug-addled punk star goes at someone with a knife… just what is the intention there? Agreed, one could simply want to injure, and not murder. That is a possibility… but also, Nancy was his girlfriend. It must take some heavy drug use to find a way to saying one wanted to give a good solid thrust to the gut, but with no intent of murder as she bled out before him. Though he was charged with her murder, Vicious never stood trial; he died of a drug overdose while out on bail. It would be interesting to know if he would have actually been convicted, given his celebrity status.
17. Phil Spector
Well, first off, this famed music industry producer (the creator of the Wall of Sound), had this to say about women— before he ever killed one: “Women are all fucking c*nts. They all deserve a bullet in their head.” Having had several women come out against him, it turns out that Spector had a compulsion to fly into a drunken rage when a woman wished to finally bring a close to the night… looking at the photos above, one can imagine just why that might be. Regardless, one night, Spector took it a little too far. Not just threatening violence, Phil pulled out his revolver and did, in fact, put a bullet in the head of actor Lana Clarkson. Now again, because of the incredible speed and efficiency of the judicial system, Spector walked free for six years on a one million dollar bail. However, come 2009, Spector was finally found guilty (though it’s a wonder how it took so long to find guilty a man who admitted to shooting a woman in the face), and sentenced to eighteen years, to life in prison. That’s likely where he’ll die, given that he’s seventy seven.
16. Michael Massee
Actor Michael Massee is the most unfortunate actor who accidentally shot and killed Brandon Lee (son of famed Bruce Lee) on the set of the cult classic The Crow. A prop gun on set, having been used two weeks earlier in the production, had remnants of the real bullets used in it. Having only a quarter charge of the powder, the force of the blast was not enough to propel the lead tip out of the chamber, and it lodged in place, until a subsequent shot was taken, directly at Brandon Lee. Massee said he still had nightmares about the event, long after the fact. “I don’t think you ever get over something like that”, he had said. It’s unfortunate to know that, had the gun been cleaned, like should be required of every gun after its use, Massee would never have had to live with Lee’s death on his conscience. Massee died just this past year, of cancer, but he lived with sorrow at the knowledge of his actions. Even though it was clearly not his fault.
15. Michael Brea
Now if anyone ever needed a reminder of just how bat-shit insane religious extremism can be, here is just that reminder. Actor Michael Brea decapitated his God-fearing mother, because he “didn’t kill her. [he] killed the demon inside her”. Amidst a whole lot of crazy talk about the free masons and the power of the ceremonial sword he stole from them, it was clear that Brea was absolutely certifiable. Having simply asked him to dump the water from a pot in which she was cooking some chicken, Michael stated, “I looked at these chickens lying dead in the pot and a voice told me it was a sacrifice. It was black magic,” So he went up to his room, without doing what his mother asked, and came at her with the sword, torturing her before death: “I didn’t want to kill her right away. I wanted to give her time to get right with God. I was slashing my mom and I heard the police knocking on the door yelling, ‘Michael, open up, Michael, open up,’ but I knew they wouldn’t open the door and stop me because the spirits were protecting me. I just kept cutting her. No one could stop me. I was doing the work of God. I’m named after a saint myself— Saint Michael. He was protecting the house from the police. They weren’t allowed to enter the apartment.” He was sent to a mental hospital, instead of a prison. This author would like to know how they judge differently all the religious crazies out there. Some get treatment, and some get the chair.
14. Lane Garrison
With a blood alcohol level of .20 and a good deal of cocaine in his system, actor Lane Garrison crashed his Land Rover SUV into a tree, injuring two fifteen-year-old girls and killing a seventeen-year-old boy. Pleading guilty, Garrison was charged with vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence, and driving under the influence causing injury. Though the incident occurred in 2001, Garrison was sentenced to forty months in jail, in 2007. After which, he would have four years of parole. He was also ordered to pay three hundred thousand dollars to the victims and their families in restitution for the incident. Then put up on charges after the fact, for domestic battery for hitting his girlfriend, Garrison managed to stay out of jail, in spite of his parole stipulations. This resulted in a set number of meetings at Alcoholics Anonymous, a restraining order, eight hours of community service, and thirty six months of probation.
13. Snoop Dogg
It appears that Snoop Dogg doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. Truly a gangsta after all, Snoop was charged with murder back in the early nineties. And since the court system moves so quickly, by the mid nineties, Snoop faced only a voluntary manslaughter charge, with an additional charge of conspiracy after the fact. Once the murder had been committed, Snoop evaded the police just long enough to announce a winner at the MTV awards. To be fair here, Snoop turned himself in, claiming self-defense. No, the twenty-five-year-old victim was shot to death… and there were two men present (Snoop and his bodyguard McKinley Lee). It seems to this author that the victim was outnumbered, and needn’t have been killed, but it remains to be known if the victim was “packing” or if he was killed in cold blood. From a rival gang out in the Palms District happening across two opposing players. It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
12. Keith Moon
In early 1970, famous drummer of The Who, Keith Moon, killed his close friend and bodyguard, Neil Boland. This was an accidental death, but the verdict is still a little off. Attempting to escape from some rather grabby pub patrons, Moon swung his car out into the road, not noticing his friend Boland in the way. When all was said and done, after only a flash of time, trying to escape fans (or foes, who knows?), Boland was dead, and Moon was up on charges. What charges? He was charged with: Boland’s death, driving without a license, driving without insurance, and driving under the influence. The death, of course, was ruled an accident, and Moon did plead guilty to the driving charges absolutely. However, in spite of vehicular manslaughter, there was no time served. Perhaps, to be fair, Moon was haunted by the ghost of his friend for the next eight years, until his own death in 1978 (from an apparently accidental overdose of Heminevrin— meant to battle alcoholism).
11. Johnny Lewis
Many may know actor Johnny Lewis from Sons of Anarchy fame, playing the role of Kip “Half-Sack” Epps. Well, like most of the non-redeemable characters in the popular biker show, Johnny Lewis gave everyone reason to dislike, disregard, and ultimately forget about him. In 2012, Johnny broke into the home of 81-year-old Catherine Davis, ransacked her home, and then killed her via strangulation and blunt force trauma. Not only that, but the clearly troubled man also beat her poor little cat to death as well. Witnesses then saw Lewis jump over a fence, assault a neighbour, and return to the Davis house. Having returned to the home, he fell off the roof to his death (which surely not many were sad about, given the circumstances). And that was not the first time he would have been in trouble with the law. Lewis had previously been arrested for burglary, assault, and battery. Lewis had been born into a Scientologist family and worked for the church’s drug rehab group Narconon. Despite a later history of drug use, an autopsy report showed that Lewis had no drugs or alcohol in his system when he died.
10. John Landis
One of Hollywood’s greatest directors of all time, John Landis, was sadly involved in one of the most terrible moments in film making history. A moment that will haunt him for the rest of his life to be sure. During the filming of The Twilight Zone Movie, a helicopter scene was shot where actor Vic Morrow said to two young children “I’ll keep you safe, kids. I promise. Nothing will hurt you, I swear to God.” Unfortunately, playing a scene isn’t quite the same as playing real life. Already working into the wee hours of the morn, and breaking child labour laws by not having a permit to shoot with the two children (ages six and seven) at such an early hour, Landis began shooting. Wanting the helicopter to fly lower, the misjudging of distance between the chopper and a series of explosives to go off, resulted in the tail rotor being struck, sending the chopper out of control, decapitating both Vic Morro and Myca Dinh Le (age seven). Renee Shin-Yi Chen (age six) was crushed to death by the falling helicopter. Their parents witnessed the entire thing. Landis, along with other members of the production, were charged with manslaughter. Landis was eventually acquitted, but he did pay $2 million to each family, and refused to talk of the incident, to avoid publicity from the tragedy.
9. Rebecca Gayheart
In the Summer of 2001, Rebecca Gayheart (then 29), swung into a two-way, left turning lane, after traffic had come to an obvious stop, which resulted in her hitting a nine-year-old boy who was jay-walking where traffic had come to a halt. Now this third grader should not have been jay-walking, true. But Gayheart should have considered the halted traffic, and used her beautiful blue eyes to see just what was going on. Not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Gayheart was questioned, and later charged with vehicular manslaughter, to which she plead ‘no contest’. She was sentenced with 750 hours of community service, a $2800 fine, three year probation, one year license suspension, and the making of a public service announcement. In addition she settled a suit with the little boy’s parents, and fully paid for the funeral expenses. She also offered to pay for counselling for the grieving couple. Gayheart herself found her way into therapy after the incident as she struggled to keep day after day, knowing what she had done. It’s nice to know there are celebrities out there who admit wrongdoing, are tortured by it, and will do whatever they can to make things just a little more right.
8. Jimmy Stewart
Who would ever have guessed that Jimmy Stewart, the lovable, morally upright, and classic actor could have ever killed someone? To be fair, Stewart was a pilot in the Air Force Reserve during World War II, so the fact that he killed people is at least sanctioned by the United States government (regardless of one’s feelings on war). During his time in the reserve, he participated in several bombings that resulted in the deaths of not just enemy soldiers, but also of civilians. This is still sanctioned by the government however, so the judgement will have to come from individual readers as to whether or not he should have harboured any guilt after the fact. Stewart received a number of accolades and honours for his service though. Among these honours were both the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak leaf cluster, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. So there it is: famed, and classic actor Jimmy Stewart has participated in the killing of an unknown number of men, women, and likely children, given that some of the bombings he was a part of were indiscriminate between soldier and civilian.
7. Howard Hughes
Famous Hollywood producer and avionics entrepreneur… oh and billionaire, Howard Hughes (on whom the character of Iron Man is based), ran over a man with his car, way back in 1936, at a street corner in L.A. The victim, Gabriel S. Meyer, was standing in the safety zone of a streetcar stop, which really makes one think just how he came to be a hood ornament on Hughes’ no doubt expensive car. After the incident, Hughes was taken to the hospital and certified as sober, though an attending doctor did make a note that Hughes had been drinking. A witness to the accident told police that Hughes was driving erratically and too fast, and that Meyer had in fact been standing in the safety zone of a streetcar stop. Hughes was booked on suspicion of negligent homicide and held overnight in jail until his attorney, Neil S. McCarthy, got him out. By the time an examination of the corpse had been completed, the witness had magically changed his story to state that Meyer had simply stepped out in front of Hughes. Strange how witnesses suddenly change their minds for billionaires. Hughes told reporters outside the inquiry, “I was driving slowly and a man stepped out of the darkness in front of me.”
6. Felicia Pearson
Actor Felicia Pearson, from The Wire fame, was convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Okia Toomer, when she was only fourteen (when Felicia was only fourteen and Toomer was fifteen at the time). Though she was sentenced to serve two consecutive eight-year terms, she was released after just six and a half years at the Maryland Correctional Institute. Pearson stated that Toomer attacked her at a shop with a baseball bat made of lead, “with murder in her eyes… if she caught me, I’d be dead”. Pearson allegedly tried to escape through the throng of people, but at some point in the struggle, she fired the gun she was carrying. Toomer died on arrival at hospital. Pearson claimed self-defense, of course, even though she was a fourteen-year-old on the streets “packing heat”. On carrying an illegal firearm she said: “I used to always. That was the streets. Every time you turn around, somebody getting killed… Sorry to say, you know, but I’d rather take somebody else’s life than mine, you know. Back in the day.”
5. Duane “Dog” Chapman
First off, this author cannot express the amount of contempt he feels for this incredible waste of oxygen. “Dog”, the bounty hunter, is an overwhelmingly horrible promoter of vigilantism in the streets of America (as if there weren’t enough issues to begin with). Having made bank by showing people it’s perfectly reasonable to go on the hunt for people with guns, bear spray, and many other tools… legally. Regardless, back in 1976, an accomplice of Duane’s shot and killed a man he was buying pot from. Duane was in the car, waiting for the weed at the time, but he was still charged with and convicted of first degree murder. That being said, he was only sentenced to five years in prison… and of that five years, he only served eighteen months. The incident led to him being banned from the entirety of the United Kingdom. And now, he “brings people to justice”, rather than being the one who should be.
4. Don King
Ok, so first off, Don King has not killed once, but twice. To be fair, the first killing was apparently in self-defense, after a man attempted to break into his gambling operation. Now, one does not want to alter facts, or point the finger elsewhere, but it seems to be that someone trying to break in, is not necessarily someone threatening violence. So does self-defense really apply here? As well, King was running a gambling operation… and one must assume that if King himself killed a man for attempting to break in, this was likely not a casino with security and legislation on its side. What time did he serve? Surely nothing. Then comes the heavy hitter (no, not Tyson). Over a debt of $600, back in 1966, King pistol-whipped Sam Garrett, and then proceeded to kick his head in with his pointed leathers. Magically, Don King was convicted of manslaughter… now this author struggles to understand how initiating violence over debt, followed by brutal killing, constitutes manslaughter. Even if it could be argued that King didn’t meet Garrett with the express intention of murder, the escalation to murder should have at least got King second degree. And now they may be naming a section of that very road after King…
Rapper C-Murder (born Corey Miller, brother of Percy “Master P” Miller, uncle of Lil’ Romeo, and cousin of producer Mo B. Dick) is currently serving a life sentence for murder. He was convicted of second degree murder following the 2002 beating and shooting of a sixteen-year-old fan, Steve Thomas, at the Louisiana Platinum Club nightclub. The sign on the door clearly says “Women 18 and over. Men, 21 and over.” And apparently breaking that overwhelmingly sexist code is punishable by death. Getting into an altercation with the young Thomas, due to the liability the club could face, having a minor in the place (in spite of all the under-aged women), C-Murder allegedly beat the kid and fired a single shot into his chest. That’s not the first time the gangsta rapper has shot someone, nor is it the first time he’s shot someone at a club. He was also put on charges earlier for attempted murder, after a bouncer refused to let him into a club in Baton Rouge, without first being searched. He pulled a gun and shot at the bouncer. Well… here’s hoping his rhymes are helping him get cigarettes in prison.
2. Christian Brando
Actor Christian Brando, son of (somehow famous) Marlon Brando, pleaded guilty to manslaughter after he shot and killed the boyfriend of his half-sister Cheyenne. Though Brando maintained that the May 1990 shooting was somehow accidental, he also said it happened during a confrontation about Cheyenne’s claim that the victim, Dag Drollet was abusing her. It seems unlikely that Christian would accidentally shoot a man for abusing his sister (especially if he learned anything from one of his father’s later films, The Godfather). Brando was originally charged with first-degree murder, but he ended up only serving five years of his ten-year sentence (it’s amazing what celebrity can do). Notably, Cheyenne Brando gave birth to Dag Drollet’s son, Tuki Brando, only a month after his death. Not five years after the fact, Cheyenne hanged herself, apparently plagued by the horror of the murder of her lover. She allegedly attempted suicide twice before her unfortunate success. Turns out murder kills more than just the initial victim.
1. Charles S. Dutton
As seemingly one of the sweeter actors to have graced television and film, Dutton has certainly had a troubled past. When he was only seventeen, while he was working a brief stint as a boxer, a man allegedly attacked him and, in self-defence, Dutton killed him. Charged and convicted of manslaughter, Dutton spent seven years in prison. Only months after his first prison term, Dutton was found to be in possession of a deadly weapon and was sentence to an additional three years. Several months into his second prison term, Dutton was sentenced to six days of solitary confinement, which allowed prisoners to take only one book. Apparently by accident, Dutton grabbed an anthology of African American playwrights. He enjoyed the plays so much that, upon his release from confinement, he petitioned the warden to start a drama group for a Christmas talent show. The warden agreed on the condition that Dutton get his GED. He did so, and pursued the arts like a fiend, ending up with a master’s degree from the Yale School of Drama, fifteen years after the start of his first prison term.