The Kardashian family did not invent the socialite, but they did perfect it. They are the richest, most untalented family out there, and for that we stand in quiet admiration… and disgust. With so many of them in the clan, their star shines brighter than a thousand suns. Matriarch Kris Jenner, is a master media manipulator. Caitlyn Jenner will always be an icon, from Olympic triumph to gender-bending. And that’s just the parents! The Kardashian (and Jenner) kids make headlines with their groundbreaking fashion, fluctuating weight and romantic flings.
But trust us, they are not doing anything new. They are simply the “it” family for right now. Popular culture is rife with famous families that captured the public’s attention over the decades. Elizabeth Taylor’s family was filled with seven marriages, including one husband that died in a plane crash and one that was reportedly gay; plus, she stole the husband of her best friend, Debbie Reynolds. And let’s not forget her penchant for drinking, painkillers and binge-eating. The Wildenstein family is famous for excessive spending, and for Jocelyn’s $4 million plastic surgery that resulted in her looking like a cross between a panther and a burn victim. And the Fonda family was one the public loved to hate. Henry Fonda was a great actor, but a terrible father. Peter Fonda has aged terribly, and his days of Easy Rider glory are long gone. Jane Fonda might have been great in Barbarella but lost fans by supporting the Viet Cong.
So, we thought this list would serve to remind you of the pre-Kardashian days. There was a time when other families ruled the press, and were a whole lot juicier. Before the digital age, socialite families couldn’t simply post a pic and expect to get press. They had to behave badly – and behave badly they did! This list is chock full of famous families that committed sensational sins from violence to drug abuse to murder.
15 The Richie Family
Nicole Richie was a household name long before Kim Kardashian skyrocketed to fame with her s*x tape. She became uber-famous starring with then-BFF Paris Hilton, on The Simple Life. Richie is arguably more interesting than any single Kardashian. For starters, she had a drug problem that was captured on her reality show. Her meltdowns were epic, and continued off-camera. She was arrested for DUI, possession of drugs (marijuana and heroin) and for assault. Richie’s biggest claim to fame though, is something the Kardashian sisters have never had a problem with: being too thin! As soon as Richie hit it big, she dropped weight fast. Thus, it has been rumored that she suffers from anorexia. Even after all these years, the gossip persists because she’s still rail thin. Richie’s love life has also been the topic of tabloids. She dated D.J. A.M., was engaged to Kardashian step-brother Brody Jenner, and took up with Joel Madden after his split from Hilary Duff.
Once Nicole Richie became famous, her dad, singer Lionel Richie, enjoyed a career resurgence. What people were most interested in, though, were the skeletons he had in his closet. He was accused of cheating on Nicole’s mom, which left her in a terrible state of depression. He later married his mistress, but the union ended in a messy divorce that was highly publicized.
14 The Osbourne Family
The first family of reality TV is the Osbournes. They set the bar pretty high. Ozzy was loveable as the hapless, aged rocker, and Sharon was the real life mom everyone wanted. Nowadays E! only shows episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, but back in the day, MTV did the same thing with The Osbournes. The only problem with the show were the Osbourne’s talentless kids, Kelly and Jack. The world was somehow fascinated with these lackluster rich kids who seemed to spend most of their on-camera time whining and binge-eating in their parents’ mansion. But what the public enjoyed most was reading tabloid reports of the Osbourne’s off-camera antics. Ozzy fell off the wagon and Sharon had cancer. Jack and Kelly both had major addiction problems, and they reportedly came close to death more than once.
The juiciest piece of gossip was that there was a hidden Osbourne – daughter Aimee! Aimee bowed out of joining the show as she wanted to make a name for herself on her own merits. While we applaud her for standing on her own two feet, she has yet to hit it big. Stay tuned, because this family isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Sharon and Ozzy are currently in the middle of a divorce, Jack has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and Kelly keeps popping up as a talking head.
13 The Stallone Family
Sylvester Stallone is quite a guy. He has smarts and looks, and has parlayed them into a successful career that is still going strong. Sylvester was a box office giant and bedded many beautiful ladies, like Bridgette Nielsen, Jenna Jameson (supposedly) and Janice Dickinson. And let’s not forget he was king of the world back when Planet Hollywood was en vogue. But his family is wacky to say the least! His mother Jackie, is as odd as they come – which makes sense in a weird sort of way. She was a trapeze artist in a circus and a chorus girl in a nightclub. She also had her own TV show focused on exercise and weight-lifting. The public has been most fascinated by her belief in astrology. She published books on the subject, and even had her own psychic hotline. Jackie is also said to have invented the term of “rumpology” – which is reading people’s butts much like one would read someone’s palms. That talent is way more interesting than Kim Kardashian’s plump rear-end! Jackie also made headlines back in the day for hating Sylvester Stallone’s wife, Bridgette Nielsen. The two continued their feud when they starred in a reality show together in the 2000s.
The public was further fascinated by the Stallone family when his parents got into a heated confrontation on The Howard Stern Show. Jackie accused Sylvester’s dad of being lousy in the sack, and of wanting her to abort her pregnancy with Sylvester. Jackie reportedly faked the procedure, and the rest is history.
12 The Baldwin Family
Back before anyone ever heard of Ireland or Hailey Baldwin, the public was obsessed with the Baldwin family. The four brothers from Long Island, Alec, Billy, Stephen and Daniel, were celebrities through and through. In their heyday, they were hounded by the paparazzi. Everyone wanted to know about Alec’s relationships, as he dated Kim Basinger. Billy Baldwin dated Jennifer Grey of Dirty Dancing fame, and married Chynna Philips from the 90s girl group Wilson Philips. Stephen was often lampooned in the press for his terrible movies, like when he starred in Bio-Dome with Pauly Shore. Daniel is arguably the black sheep of the family. His rap sheet is pretty long, and includes drug charges, grand theft auto charges, and disorderly conduct (read: running naked through the Plaza Hotel screaming “Baldwin!").
The best tabloid fodder has got to be the family feuds the brothers have gotten into. Although reports have quieted down in recent years, these boys got into a ton of brawls in their younger years. They were even once reported to have gotten into a fist fight on their mother’s front lawn on Thanksgiving day. This sort of rowdiness was portrayed in an episode of The Simpsons when the Baldwin brothers got into it with the Sheen-Estevez clan.
11 The Gabor Family
We just had to include an oldie, but a goody. The Gabor Sisters made a splash when they came onto the American scene in the 1950s and 60s. They were viewed as exotic beauties, as they came from Hungary and had stunning European good looks and charming accents. You may remember Eva Gabor from her role on Green Acres. Zsa Zsa Gabor made a name for herself with her many marriages – nine in all which totally beats Elizabeth Taylor! She has been quoted as saying that a woman should marry for love, and keep marrying until she finds it. Kim Kardashian may be on her third marriage, but she still has a long way to go if she wants to compete with Zsa Zsa.
10 The Vanderbilt Family
The Vanderbilts have been socialites since the Gilded Age, and were once the richest family behind the Rockefellers. So, people have been following their trials and tribulations for years. Readers will be most familiar with Anderson Cooper, who is Gloria Vanderbilt’s son. He makes headlines all the time for being a newscaster, pundit and all around jerk. There was a lot of press around him when he came out as a gay man, but his mother is far more interesting.
Nowadays, the public only remembers the Vanderbilts for their university, their museums and, of course, their designer blue jeans!
9 The British Royals, Windsor Family
The Windsor family members are really the original socialites. People have followed England’s royal family ever since the country had its first King and Queen. There have been varying royal families that ruled England over the centuries, but the House of Windsor is where it's at. There are decades of gossip to re-hash, but we’ll stick to the most recent. In the 1980s, you couldn’t pick up a magazine or turn on the TV without seeing Princess Diana and Prince Charles – they were as overexposed as the Kardashians. Their tumultuous marriage was publicized around the clock, from Charles belittling Diana and bedding Camilla, to Diana hooking up with the “stable boy” and attempting suicide on more than one occasion. And let’s not forget all the wackiness from the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson. She was a wild one, and was frequently chastised by the queen for not being ladylike enough. The press loved to tear her apart, and constantly criticized her fashion choices (that was in the era before stylists), as well as her weight.
8 The Kennedy Family
England may have the Windsors, but America has the Kennedys. Patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy was a scoundrel – he was a bootlegger, had mob ties, was a big shot in movie business (back when it was rather shady) and was (big surprise!) a philanderer. So it’s no wonder that all his children turned out rather “unique.”
Joseph’s son JFK is the most famous, having been assassinated and having bedded Marilyn Monroe. So, it’s often forgotten that he was a rather inept president. He had trouble pushing things through Congress, and was also in charge of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. His wife Jackie was no angel. She had affairs, took “medicine” prescribed by Dr. Feelgood and spent money like there was no tomorrow – she didn’t care if it was Kennedy or Onassis money. There are also rumors that she carried on with John’s brother Bobby, and that John was such a terrible husband that she wanted to divorce him but that the Kennedy family paid her off. Bobby Kennedy was also rumored to have been with Marilyn Monroe – at the same time as John, if you catch our drift. And let’s not forget “Uncle Alchie,” Ted Kennedy. He was a trainwreck – oops! we mean car wreck – if ever there was one. Not to be glib, but there’s truth in the popular joke, “Ted Kennedy’s car has killed more people than my gun.”
It’s worth noting that the Kennedy curse is alive and well. A total of three Kennedys have died in airplane crashes, including JFK, Jr; one died in a ski accident; and another suffered from a lobotomy gone wrong. And there would be more to come. The clan has another murderer aside from Ted, and an accused r*pist. In addition, RFK, Jr.’s second wife committed suicide, and he has been blamed by the media for driving her to it. And his son, Conor Kennedy, had the misfortune of dating Taylor Swift! You heard it here first: the Kardashians will eventually fade away, but the Kennedys will be making headlines until the end of days.
7 The Barrymore Family
Modern audiences are familiar with the Barrymore family thanks to Drew Barrymore. However, the family has been creating news since the time of her grandfather, screen legend Lionel Barrymore. Lionel started acting in silent movies, but was able to make the transition to “talkies.” Today’s generation will remember him as the evil Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life. Lionel made headlines with his health, which deteriorated over the years due in part to hip fractures. It was reported that Louis B. Mayer would buy him $400 worth of cocaine each day to ease his physical pain. Despite his varying disabilities, Lionel even registered to serve in World War II and encouraged others to enlist.
The stories of Drew’s hard-partying ways starting at the tender age of nine are legendary – but true! She smoked at age 9 while frequenting Studio 54. Then, she graduated to drinking alcohol by age 11, smoking marijuana at 12 and snorting cocaine at 13. When she was 14, she attempted suicide, and also started to enter various rehab programs. Eventually she got clean, helped in part by David Crosby and getting steady acting gigs in Hollywood. Once she was an adult, Drew shocked the world by posing nude in Interview magazine, posing for Playboy and flashing David Letterman. This may seem tame today, but this was major news in the 1990s. She soon morphed into the Drew we love today, starring in movies like Charlie’s Angels and 50 First Dates.
6 The Cruise Family
The Cruise family is wackier than ever, thanks to patriarch Tom and his devotion to Scientology, failed romantic relationships, and box office bombs. Tom is actually getting weirder in his old age, as opposed to settling down, which is making the family quite notorious. He got bad press recently for walking the red carpet looking rather bloated in the face, making people wonder if he’s just paunchy or had some (bad) work done. His adopted son Connor, is also looking the worse for wear, as he’s gained some extra pounds due to late nights partying and working as a D.J. – his acting career never took off despite his “stellar” performance in the remake of Red Dawn. Tom has also gotten a bad rap for being an absentee parent to his daughter Suri, who he had with third wife Katie Holmes.
Nicole Kidman will always be linked to Tom, and it’s probably to her advantage since it’s the main thing that keeps her in the spotlight. The public is still reeling over why Tom divorced her, and she says that she has no idea either. It was a strange thing to watch unfold, as Tom and Nicole used to be the number one power couple in Hollywood. They filmed Far and Away and Eyes Wide Shut together. Some people hypothesized that Tom divorced Nicole just short of ten years of marriage to avoid having to give her half of his fortune if they divorced later in life. More creative minds have blamed Scientology.
5 The Sheen Family
Charlie Sheen is on everyone radar’s since coming public with his HIV diagnosis. But he and his family have been making headlines for decades. Martin Sheen has been acting since the 1960s. A reported family man, he has been a controversial figure due to the antics of his children. In the 1980s, his son Emilio Estevez was the big star of the family, as he was a member of the infamous Brat Pack (who were known for drinking and drugging). He also dated Demi Moore, and was married to Paula Abdul – back when both women were at the height of their careers.
Meanwhile, Charlie Sheen plugged away in the acting world. His big break came with Wall Street, a movie that also starred his father. While Sheen starred in Men at Work with his brother, and other hits like Major League and Hot Shots, his personal life was always the most exciting. Even in the 1980s, he was with p*rn stars like Ginger Lynn. By the 1990s, he had moved onto using escorts from notorious Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss. It was also during this decade that he accidentally shot then-fiance Kelly Preston, in the arm. He also became more heavily involved with drugs and alcohol. At one point he suffered a stroke due to overdosing on cocaine.
Charlie managed to keep acting during these turbulent times. He met his third wife Denise Richards, on set. Their relationship seemed doomed from the start, as Richards left him for a period of time while pregnant with the couple’s second child. The Charlie Sheen rollercoaster was not to be stopped. He went on to marry a fourth time. This marriage to Brooke Mueller was plagued by domestic abuse and addiction problems on both sides. This was also when Charlie started to exhibit erratic behavior. The rest is history, from the “winning” to the “tiger blood” to his “goddesses.”
4 The Griffith/Johnson/Banderas Family
When people see Melanie Griffith these days, they either recognize her as Dakota Johnson’s mom or marvel at how poorly she has aged. So, it’s hard to believe that she once ruled celebrity pop culture. Her mom is actress Tippi Hedren, who starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Griffith was best friends with Tatum O’Neal growing up, and is alleged to have hooked up with Tatum’s father, actor Ryan O’Neal. But it’s Melanie’s relationship with Don Johnson that made her tabloid gold. They started dating when she was 14 and he was 22. And they were married not once, but twice. In between, Griffith also had relationships with Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty. Griffith has been quoted as saying that she always wanted to be “with” someone – if she wasn’t, then she’d drink herself to sleep. Not only did she abuse alcohol, but she also struggled with an addiction to cocaine and painkillers. Griffith recently went through a divorce from Antonio Banderas. Their whole relationship perplexed many fans.
3 The Hilton Family
If you think the Hilton family only started to hit page six when “Paris the Heiress” exploded on the scene, then you don’t know your socialite history. Family patriarch Conrad Hilton, whom you may remember being portrayed on Mad Men, was constantly making the social pages. He married Zsa Zsa Gabor. Also, his son Nicky Hilton, was Elizabeth Taylor’s first husband. Their marriage lasted less than a year due to his alleged abuse of Taylor, as well as his alcoholism and gambling. The Hiltons were always in the news, but it wasn’t until Paris made it big on The Simple Life that the family reigned supreme.
Paris was the first of our generation to make the transition from debutante to full blown celebrity, coining the term “celebutante.” And of course, it was for all the wrong reasons. Coincidentally, the release of a s*x tape featuring her and Rick Solomon came out at the same time her reality show debuted. On the red carpet, she flashed her lady bits (seemingly on purpose), got into bar brawls, went to lockup, went to rehab, then went to lockup again, etc. She furthered her career by hanging with a similarly privileged group, including Lindsay Lohan and Tara Reid. Paris kept her name in the press with a string of beaus from Greek shipping heirs to athletes, tried her hand at singing, and promoted the Rock the Vote campaign (it was later revealed that she wasn’t registered to vote). Paris even loved to play the whole victim card by accusing boyfriend Nick Carter, of domestic abuse. Paris’ star has diminished, which is one thing we can thank the Kardashians for.
2 The Trump Family
The Trump family was in the news way, way before Donald Trump committed to running for office. And why not? When you’re one of the richest men around, with one of the biggest egos known to man, you are bound to fascinate the public. It certainly didn’t hurt that he was always surrounded by beauties, from his three wives to the Miss USA contestants. Trump’s heyday was in the 1980s, which was uniquely suited to showcase his excess. He donned expensive suits, and the women in his life had big hair and even bigger jewels. Donald lived the life, and built casinos, golf clubs, hotels and numerous other real estate ventures, many of which went bankrupt.
What held the public’s attention though, was when Donald was just being Donald. They loved his arrogance, and his self-promotion. People shrieked when it was revealed that Donald paid first-wife Ivana, only $1 a year – and all the dresses she could buy – to help him run his empire. People laughed wickedly when it was reported that Donald’s bodyguard cuckolded him by hooking up with his second-wife, Marla. And people sighed to watch his children grow up to help with the family business and TV show. And of course, Donald always had a penchant for public feuds. He bad-mouths everyone who disagrees with him.
1 The Jackson Family
No family is weirder, more sickening or more controversial than the Jackson family. The patriarch, Joe, was the stuff of legend. He let his children perform in strip clubs while they were perfecting their craft, and it was even reported that he made them practice until all hours of the night – while he pointed loaded guns at them. Jackson mother Catherine, wasn’t much better. She was a devout Jehovah’s Witness, yet seemed to allow her husband to reign terror on the family.
Of course, the nuttiest Jackson is Michael. The public followed his every movie, even when he was still black. Before Twitter, fans followed his relationships the old fashioned way – through magazines and newspapers. They loved to read about his bizarre friendships with TV’s Webster, Corey Feldman and Brooke Shields. They also loved to hear about his over-the-top lifestyle, with his home zoo and Disney characters visiting the Neverland Ranch. The one thing fans didn’t hear much about, though, was anything concerning Michael and women. Aside from his put-on marriage to Lisa Marie Presley, it’s hard to find evidence of a steady girlfriend or even a random hook-up with a lady. Fast forward to the allegations of child abuse that Michael faced again and again, and you’ll know what we’re hinting at. After all that, him sleeping in an oxygen tank and having Debbie Rowe impregnated seemed tame. Even in death, Michael remains a polarizing figure. Some still weep over the loss of an icon, while others think his death by the hands of Dr. Conrad Murray was a case of the postman always ringing twice.
But Michael’s brothers won’t be outdone, as they are also strange birds. They’ve been accused of just about everything, like being promiscuous as teens, having drug problems and being broke. Let’s just say it’s pretty scary when LaToya Jackson is known as being the normal one in the family. And the Jackson drama just won’t stop. Janet Jackson is reportedly pregnant at age 50 – just when she finally lived down that Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction. And Michael’s kids are old enough to make their own headlines. At first they just got bad press as a consequence of their dad’s actions. No one can forget when he dangled baby Blanket over a balcony. But now that Mike’s gone, it seems that his kids have gone further off the deep end. His daughter Paris attempted suicide, revealed being bisexual, and currently has an up-and-down relationship with her biological mother who is slated to undergo surgery for cancer.