It’s always titillating when celebrities get in trouble with the law, whether it’s a murder trial, like Phil Spector, Sid Vicious, or O.J. Simpson, or just your run of the mill drugs, drunk driving, and bad behaviour, like so many others. Justin Bieber is taking a beating in the media over his recent antics and legal issues, although this doesn't seem to affect his fan base much.
Fan adoration has a way of glossing over just about anything. Many celebrities have had issues with drugs and alcohol (Robert Downey Jr., Robin Williams, Keith Richards). And many have served jail time. In many cases the fans brush off their idols’ troubles, and support them in what they call their time of need. Justin Bieber’s fans have been doing just that in the days following his arrest for bad behaviour in Florida. This is the stuff that has always fired up the tabloids, from the days of Confidential to the National Enquirer to the Toronto Sun. Some of these celebrities overcome their problems and bounce back to success (Robert Downey Jr., Todd Bridges, Lindsay Lohan). Sadly some continue to spiral downward until it kills them (Dana Plato, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse). Why does is seem so easy for celebrities to get themselves into trouble? And why is it so easy to forgive them? Below are some of the top troubled celebrities and the stories of how they either rose above their troubles, or continue to struggle with them.
Russell Brand has openly told the media that he began doing drugs in his teens and was a junkie by the age of 19, starting off with pot, and then moving rapidly to meth, to cocaine, to crack, and finally to heroin. He’d been arrested at least a dozen times for various drug offences, had been kicked out of Japan, and banned, at one time, from both the US and Canada. He has since kicked his drug habit, and is a vocal advocate for addiction counselling. But his troubles with the law didn’t end there. He’d been arrested at least twice since then for his run-ins with paparazzi.
In one incident he shoved a photographer while running to catch a flight at LAX. And in another he pitched a photographer’s iPhone through a window. In both cases charges were dropped. The damage in the second incident nearly got Brand charged with a felony. Still, he remains one of the most admired, if not controversial, entertainers in the business.
Paris Hilton is famous for being Paris Hilton. She did some modeling and acting. But really it was playing herself on reality TV that made her a household name. That, and her brushes with the law. Her troubles started when she was in her teens. But when you’re a big girl, driving under the influence, speeding, and violating your probation conditions by, for example, driving without a valid licence if the one you had was suspended can get you a 45-day jail sentence.
Hilton’s stint in jail was hardly the stuff of Orange Is the New Black. She told Larry King that she actually appreciated the privacy and freedom that prison afforded her. And she told David Letterman that jail made her a stronger person. Since her time behind bars Paris has vowed to obey the law, and has been busy acting, DJing, and bringing out perfume and clothing lines.
Nicole Richie’s legal troubles mirrored those of her friend and former co-star Paris Hilton. In 2003 she was arrested for heroin possession and for driving with a suspended licence. In 2006, at the age of 25 (around the time she started dating her future husband), she was arrested for driving under the influence.
She’d been smoking weed and popping Vicodin, and was driving the wrong way on a California freeway. She was sentenced to 4 days in jail, but only served 82 minutes, was put on probation, attended anti-drunk driving classes, and cleaned up her act.
Amanda Bynes’ legal problems ended after a stint at a mental health facility. But they began with her retirement from acting. She was caught talking on her cellphone while driving, was busted for DUI (she had actually hit a police car). A couple of hit and run charges were dismissed after Bynes agreed to a “civil compromise” (the victims in both cases accepted a financial settlement). Her licence was suspended in September of 2012, but she was arrested days later for driving, of course, without a valid licence. She was sentenced to 3 months' probation.
She was arrested again in May of 2013 for criminal possession of marijuana, attempted tampering with evidence, and reckless endangerment; she threw a bong out of her 36th floor window, telling police it wasn't a bong at all, but a vase. She underwent a psychological evaluation, accused cops of sexual harassment, and was arrested again for allegedly starting a small fire in someone’s driveway. After more psychological assessments, she’s now under her parents’ care, is seeking counselling, and is studying fashion design.
Lindsay Lohan’s face was never meant to be in a mug shot. But drugs and alcohol started causing problems in her personal and professional life. She went to rehab, got picked up on a DUI charge, went back to rehab, was arrested again for drunk driving and for drug possession, and then went to rehab again. Her mug shots started popping up in the tabloids. There were court appearances, and a rather short stay -84 minutes- in jail. Then she was picked up for parole violations (another mug shot), got an alcohol monitoring bracelet, then another stint in rehab, a couple of failed drug tests, some more court dates, some more rehab, accusations of theft, house arrest, and a few hours of community service.
She continued to drink, failing even more alcohol tests, was arrested again in 2011, and released on $100,000 bail. By 2012 she seemed clean, and done with the courts… except for an arrest in a hit and run. Then she crashed her Porsche into the back of a truck, and was arrested for fighting at a nightclub. She recently announced that she was making a fresh start, promoting a new movie, and her reality TV show on the OWN network. And despite being seen in bars, she swears that she doesn’t drink anymore.
Mel Gibson, who once helped Robert Downey Jr. stay sober, bore quite the cross after his very public arrest for ridiculously drunk behaviour in Malibu. Gibson is not one of those celebrities who have been in and out of jail, but his arrest was a big one. The story of his anti-Semitic tirade, and the infamous mug shot, has dogged him for years. Gibson says he’d been drinking since the age of 13, and has sought help several times.
His troubles caught up with him in 1984 when he rear-ended a truck on a Toronto highway, and was banned from driving in Ontario for a short time. In 2006 he was pulled over after speeding down the highway, ranting and raging against Jewish people as he got out of his car. He eventually apologized and got help. He’s done a handful of films since then. But you’re more likely to see his 2006 mug shot, these days, than any promotional shot.
Randy Travis appears to be doing well following a severe health scare last year, which lead to 3 surgeries and a stroke. The country singer has always had a squeaky clean reputation despite a misspent youth that saw him in court several times for things like burglary and car theft. Fast forward through his highly successful music career to 2012 when Travis was arrested in his parked car with an open bottle of wine. A year later he was found drunk and naked, lying in the road near his car, which he’d crashed into a construction zone.
This, after walking into a convenience store, again, drunk and naked, asking to buy cigarettes. The clerk called the cops. But Travis left the store when he realized that he had no money to pay for the cigarettes. Of course, with no clothes on he’d have had no pockets to carry money in if he’d had money.
Charlie Sheen was the highest paid actor on television. His public implosion is the stuff of legend, with a mug shot to match. They say alcoholism is hereditary. And Sheen’s father, Martin, certainly had his issues with the bottle. Charlie tossed cocaine into the mix, and had been to rehab a handful of times with little or no success. His antics got him arrested several times on drug-related charges, and at least once for domestic abuse, and sentenced to rehab, probation, and anger management (not to star on the show of the same name, but to actual anger management).
A year later he was picked up after trashing his New York hotel room while under the influence. All of this against the backdrop of his very public firing from the CBS show Two and a Half Men, and his public and online rants that played out in the media as the ramblings of a slightly mad man. His nationwide tour, My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option, did little to dispel that myth.
Robert Downey Jr. is one of the most successful, coolest, and best dressed celebrities in Hollywood, one of the finest actors of his generation, and a superb singer-songwriter. His celebrity mug shot is also one of the most well-known. His drug addiction began at the age of 8. But his first public arrest came in April 1996, when he was caught speeding, in possession of several drugs and an unloaded handgun. He’d wandered into a neighbour’s house and fell asleep in one of their beds, spent 4 months in jail after missing a compulsory drug test, and was found wandering barefoot around an L.A. neighbourhood.
In fact, in the 5-year period between 1996 and 2001 he’d been arrested, jailed, and sent to rehab many times, even after he seemed to clean up his act after joining the cast of Ally McBeal, a time he talks about as his rock bottom. “It was my lowest point in terms of addictions, he said in an interview. “At that stage, I didn't give a f**k whether I ever acted again.” But act he did. With the help of people like his second wife, Susan, and his good friend Mel Gibson, he got sober, and staged one of the greatest comebacks in Hollywood history.
The problems began when he decided to pee in a mop bucket in a restaurant kitchen. In the past few weeks Justin Bieber faced assault charges, and was arrested in Florida for drag racing under the influence, driving without a valid licence, and resisting arrest. Some in the media, the blogosphere, and certainly his fans, are giving him a pass. He's just a kid, they say. Too much too fast, they say. “Today's been a tough day for him,” said one fan. “Being in jail, you know. Everyone chasing around him, paparazzi.”
He made bail, climbed on top of his SUV, waved to fans, and retreated to his hotel. What happens now is anyone's guess. He could be deported from the U.S. But his grinning mug shot, and Instagram video allegedly shot at the police station, prove that he has no idea what he's just gotten himself into. On the other hand, maybe it’s just marketing.