15 Celebrities Who Left The Spotlight Due To Tragedy

With so many people chomping at the bit to find notoriety, it seems almost unfathomable that the people who are fortunate enough to find fame would give it up easily. Sometimes it takes something awful to happen for someone who has reached a certain level of acclaim to step away from the warmth of the spotlight they call home. For this list, we’ll be taking a look at some of the most famous people who had stardom ripped away from them, or made the choice to remove themselves from fame for tragic reasons.

The rules for inclusion into the list were extremely simple. The person in question needs to have acquired a level of fame, so that a large amount of people were aware of them, no matter the country. Then, they need to have given up or lost their hallowed place in society as a result of something gone horribly wrong. Whether the tragedy came upon them personally, or was a more public matter, was of no concern. All that matters is that we could look at their situation and see that it was an extremely unfortunate incident that changed their lives forever.


15 Amanda Bynes, DUI

A sought after star of television and movies throughout the 2000s, it seemed like Amanda’s infectious personality and good looks were going to carry her to success in Hollywood as an adult. The track to continued fame and fortune she was traveling upon has unfortunately completely gone off the rails. The star of two television series, The Amanda Show and What I Like About You, she became popular enough to graduate to movies. Going on to star in popular films like Hairspray, Sydney White and She’s the Man, her most respected film work came as a part of the fantastic high school drama Easy A.

Announcing that she intended to retire from acting on her Twitter page, she said: "I don't love acting anymore, so I've stopped doing it” and we could embrace her choice if her life didn’t seem to fall apart. Acting erratically and regularly spewing venom through social media, things came to a head when she was charged with DUI after side-swiping a cop car, reckless driving, and a bunch of other charges. Placed under a mental health evaluation hold and forced to live under her parent’s control because of a conservatorship, Amanda seems to have serious mental health issues. The conclusion that her issues had a sizeable effect on her early retirement seems impossible enough to avoid that we’ve included her here and if she’d confirmed that suspicion she would have placed even higher.

14 Gary Busey, Motorcycle Accident


Considered a joke by many people today because of his strange statements and unusual appearance, Gary was once a respected actor who was capable of playing fearsome characters. Nominated for an Academy Award for his lead performance in The Buddy Holly Story, the other role of his that is most beloved was as part of Lethal Weapon. Then he got badly hurt in a motorcycle accident in which his skull was fractured and his brain was feared to have suffered damage. Able to recover enough to work, he remained a star for a number of years but his work became more erratic, explosive, and mocked. Now a has-been, he took part in the 2008 season of Celebrity Rehab where doctors suspected his injury altered his personality and caused him to act impulsively. No longer a star because of his altered looks, which can also be traced back to the accident and the behavior that now seems to have started because of the accident, Gary deserves far more respect.

13 Orson Welles, Media Opposition


Possibly the most talked about man in America at one time because of the hysteria his radio reading of “War of the Worlds” caused, Orson Welles received an incredible contract to try his hand at directing. After years on Broadway, he took the lessons he’d learned and an uncanny ability to tell stories and then wrote, produced, directed and starred in Citizen Kane, the film often cited as the best ever. Involved in only a handful of important films, despite his obvious intellect, including The Third Man, Touch of Evil and F for Fake which are considered amazing, why did his career hit the skids?

Despite the fact that he would appear in several new projects a year, he would never receive the opportunities or attention he deserved because of his decision to make an extremely powerful enemy. The film that Orson is best known for also caused his career to nosedive. Basing much of the story of Citizen Kane on the life story of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, he would find that the man he’d scorned would work hard to keep his film away from the public. Absolutely shredded by the critics under Hearst’s employ, the movie wasn’t allowed to be advertised in Hearst newspapers, something imperative to a film’s success at the time and was barely seen upon its release. Forced to battle his own studio to force them to release the film at all, it seems obvious that nobody wanted to take the same chance on him again and Welles’ spotlight all but fully receded.

12 Michael Barrymore, Drowning Scandal


An English comedian and television host, Michael may have never made much of an impact in North America but he was a pretty big deal in The U.K. during the nineties. The host of a show named after him that ran in between 1991 and 2000, called Barrymore, as well as game shows like Strike It Lucky, he was a major player on comedy stages and TV. Then everything went wrong after a party at his house in March of 2001. After news broke that a man by the name of Stuart Lubbock had been found dead in his pool, Michael found himself the subject of much gossip. Ruled to have died from drowning, the autopsy found traces of drugs and alcohol in his system and concluded he’d suffered severe injuries to his anus. The manner of Stuart’s death changed the way the comedian was seen.

Implied to have had some level of responsibility in the death of his guest by British tabloids, their claims that he held “drug-fuelled gay orgies” severely damaged his career. Never implicated by police in any way for the death and considering that Lubbock’s wounds were eventually found by pathologists to have happened after he left Michael’s home, his treatment seems anything but fair. The subject of public outrage, a Christmas special he intended to make was cancelled and he was fired by the network that he’d long worked for in the shadow of the incident.

11 Rebecca Gayheart, Vehicular Manslaughter

For those of you who weren’t around in the late-nineties and have no idea who Rebecca is, let us assure you that she was Hollywood’s “It” girl at one time. Cast in films like Urban Legends, Jawbreaker and Scream 2, to name just a few, she made her name in the horror genre. Also remembered for playing parts in shows like Beverly Hills, 90210 and several others, she should have become a big star. Then she was involved in an incident which resulted in vehicular manslaughter charges after she struck a nine-year-old child with her car. Now a tragic figure instead of an up and coming star, her career never recovered from the change in the way she was perceived.

10 “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Bribery Charges


An incredibly accomplished athlete who has the third-highest career batting average of all time and the sixth-highest single season average ever, Babe Ruth even said he modeled his hitting after Joe. Ranked thirty-five on The Sporting News magazine’s list of the hundred best players of all time and voted the twelfth best outfielder in a fan poll, he was a popular and beloved star. Then he and seven other White Sox players were accused of accepting bribes to throw the 1919 World Series and his was handed a lifetime ban from the MLB, which essentially ended his career.

Spending the final thirty years of his career telling the world he was innocent in the incident, there is evidence that seems to support his claims. Reported to have turned down the bribe, that would double his salary, on more than one occasion, he is said to have attempted to inform his team’s owner and even the others banned have said he was innocent. Additionally, his play in the games back up his claims and even the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution to have the MLB rescind his ineligibility for Hall of Fame inclusion. With so much evidence that he did nothing wrong, the fact that he went from celebrated celebrity to never-ending banishment, quite possibly though no blame of his own, is awfully sad. His plight was discussed in the popular 1989 film, Field of Dreams.

9 Linda Ronstadt, Parkinson's Diagnosis


A hugely popular singer and musician who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Linda was once named the “highest paid woman in rock”. Reaching her zenith in the late seventies and early eighties, she continued performing well into the late 2000s, including a Grammy nomination in 2006. Then in 2011, despite seeming like she was still going strong, she announced her retirement, only to later tell the world that she had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Confirming that her ailment has completely robbed her of her singing ability, she has made it abundantly clear that she misses her career and would continue to perform if she wasn’t physically incapable.


8 Whitney Houston, Addiction


From one talented and respected singer to another, Whitney has been named “the most awarded female act of all time” by Guinness World Records. Also “one of pop music’s best-selling music artists of all-time”, she scored seven consecutive Billboard number one hits and one of her songs, “I Will Always Love You”, remains the top selling song performed by a woman ever. Suffice it to say, she had incredible singing chops, the Midas touch when it came to picking songs and was loved and respected by nearly everyone. Then her behavior began to change and she became tabloid fodder as reports of her using drugs with her famous husband Bobby Brown, began to dominate headlines. Never able to conquer the demons that took away her career, drug dependency also took her life when she died in her bathtub in 2012. Ruled to have died of drowning when she was found unconscious by her husband, several drugs were found in her system and are considered “contributing factors”.

7 Darren “Droz” Drozdov, Paralysis


A former NFL player who made a name for himself when he puked on national television, Droz would transition to a career in professional wrestling after his days on the field came to an end. Hired by the WWE and thrust into a storyline with the Legion of Doom, a legendary Tag Team, in which he sought to take famed member Hawk’s place. Also remembered for the team he was a part of with Albert, the current head trainer in the WWE developmental system, there is no way to tell how far his unique look and over the top personality could have carried him. That is because he suffered a career-ending injury in October of 1999. Dropped on the top of his head when his opponent’s grip failed, he fractured two disks in his neck which resulted in him being paralyzed from the neck down.

6 Earvin "Magic" Johnson, HIV Positive


One of the most famous basketball players of all time, Magic was the type of athlete that would find himself on the walls of many sports fans. Remembered for his long-lasting and celebrated rivalry with Larry Bird, multiple league championships, winning the NBA Finals MVP in his rookie year, and other accolades, he was the man. Then, he called a press conference in 1991, at the height of his career, and announced he was retiring immediately after being diagnosed HIV positive. Brought back for the All-Star Game and competing as part of the “Dream Team” at the 1992 Olympics, some NBA players feared his presence and successfully pushed him to retire once again. If his career took place in current times, where ignorance about the disease is far less prevalent or if he’d never contracted the disease at all, he would have remained a star for many years to come.

5 John Landis, Death During Filming

One of the biggest film directors in the world during the nineteen eighties, John’s reputation was strong enough that he was the one tapped by Michael Jackson to direct his music video for “Thriller”. Known for shepherding classics like Animal House, An American Werewolf in London, Trading Places and The Blues Brothers into being, his career would falter after a horrible incident. While directing a segment for Twilight Zone: The Movie, his star, Vic Marrow, and two children the production were using as extras died when a helicopter lost control and crashed on them. Concluded to have happened because of an onset explosion, intended as a special effect, went off too near to the vehicle, Landis was charged with involuntary manslaughter. A horrible incident that anyone trying to be a storyteller would be horrified beyond belief to be a part of, we’re sure any guilt he felt was the worst part for him but his career was horribly tarnished. Eventually acquitted, he still only managed to direct one other hit, Coming to America, and generally wasn’t able to get the caliber of project he’d enjoyed beforehand.

4 Rick Moranis, Wife Fallen Sick


If you can look at an image of Rick Moranis and not crack a smile, then we just don’t get it. A star and writer in the hugely influential show SCTV, he would go on to be a part of some of the most celebrated films of his era, including Strange Brew which includes his character from the series. A pivotal part of Ghostbusters and its sequel, Spaceballs, Little Shop of Horrors, Parenthood and Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Rick was someone that was instantly loveable whenever he appeared on screen. Then his wife succumbed to breast cancer in 1997 and the man who’d enjoyed the kind of celebrity most only dream of made the choice to walk away from it all. Stating in an interview: "I'm a single parent and I just found that it was too difficult to manage raising my kids and doing the traveling involved in making movies.” He chose to value his family over the fame. Somebody who definitely belongs on this list, as the loss of your wife and mother of your children is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone, we love him more because he mourns his loss instead of his career.

3 Christopher Reeve, Paralysis


Whether you love or hate the version of Superman modern fans have seen appear in films like Man of Steel and Batman V Superman, you should know that for many, nobody will ever surpass Chris’ version. The star of four films focused on the character, sadly of declining quality, he became one of the world’s most recognizable actors overnight. Also remembered for roles in films like Village of the Damned and The Remains of the Day, he should have had the opportunity to create many more important characters. Instead, a horse he was riding in 1995 stopped suddenly which thrust his body over its head and his head struck a fence shattering two vertebrae in his spine. Paralyzed from the neck down, he would go on to star in a TV movie adaptation of Rear Window and cameo on Smallville and The Practice, a fraction of the projects he would have taken otherwise. Although he would use his situation as a stage to advocate for others in similar predicaments, it is clear that the attention he received greatly diminished.

2 Ke$ha, Abused Under Contract


A singer, songwriter and rapper who came to prominence in 2009, Kesha created a unique image and catchy sound that made her a huge hit. Guesting on songs by others like Flo Rida’s “Right Round”, her solo work was what really made her famous. Best remembered for “Tik Tok”, We R Who We R”, and several other hit songs, she is said to have sold more than sixty million albums worldwide. Checking into rehab in 2014, she hasn’t released any new albums since 2012 because of her ongoing issues with her producer Dr. Luke. Evidently, that isn’t for lack of recording as her third album was pirated and uploaded to SoundCloud but her lawsuit against her producer has stalled her career entirely. Alleging that he has "sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally" abused her, she is embroiled in an attempt to legally break free of her contract with him, which is something no performer should have to suffer.

1 Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, R*pe Charges


A former silent film actor, director and writer, Fatty Arbuckle was a huge star in the infancy of the genre when the odds of breaking through were minute. The star of several successful films, he became a reviled figure after he was charged with the manslaughter and r*pe of Virginia Rappe. Those close to him knew him to be caring and gentle, the fact that doctors found no evidence of r*pe and several witnesses later admitted to being forced to testify did nothing to stop the public from hating him. Held up as a symbol of the decadence of celebrity life and the subject of “yellow journalism” which sensationalized the case, the fact that he was found innocent did nothing to quell the anger. Found guilty in the court of public opinion without trial because of the initial testimony of a woman who was known to blackmail others, actual evidence points to Roscoe trying everything to help the deceased.

Sources: PBS, Telegraph, CNN

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