In theory, being a celebrity sounds great. Having your name known around the world, getting paid just to show up to a party or wear a company’s clothing. There are plenty of great opportunities that one can only know after achieving a certain level of stardom, however there are plenty of horrors that come with fame as well.
Beyond losing any sense of privacy and being under scrutiny from thousands of people they’ve never met, celebrities also constantly run the risk of undergoing physical harm. Whether it’s a crazed fan or an envious observer of the glamorous life, there is plenty of potential for danger.
The brighter the star the bigger the target; there has been a wide range of incidents where celebrities have met with the less friendly side of a barrel. From rappers, to presidents, and even a Pope, plenty of the rich and famous have been shot and lived to talk about it. Here are their stories.
15 50 Cent
If he’s not the celebrity that’s taken the most bullets he’s definitely the one who has talked about them the most. Predating his rise to fame, Curtis Jackson was shot in April of 2000. He took 9 bullets at close range from a 9mm handgun. 50 was shot in the hand, arm, hip, both of his legs, chest and left cheek.
After 13 days in the hospital, 50 left with a newfound appreciation for his life and body. He began rigorous exercise regiments and transformed his body into the hardened steel he’s now known for. But the greatest transformation impacted him musically.
The shot to the face resulted in what would grow to become the rapper’s trademark slightly slurred manner of speech, as the doctor elected to leave a piece of the bullet in his tongue as removal was too risky. He would later be quoted saying that “Gettin' shot just totally fixed my instrument." And with that new instrument, as well as aid from Eminem and Dr. Dre, 50 Cent would grow to become the biggest rapper in the game.
Fame has a way of getting inside of you and effecting your judgment and actions. 2Pac’s skyrocket into stardom, as well as less than reliable teammates on his side, had a turbulent effect on the prolific poet. He began living his “thug life” persona and creating enemies left and right, which would ultimately lead to his own doom.
But before his fatal shooting, he took 5 bullets in a recording studio in Times Square in 1994. While the police took the assault as a mere robbery, Pac was convinced that Bad Boy Records labels, owned by Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, had set him up because he refused to join them. This ignited the “East Coast vs. West Coast” war that would end with both 2Pac and Bad Boy Records star Biggie Smalls’ death.
2Pac makes several references to the set up in the song “Against All Odds” off of his final album, calling out several of his enemies by name. Included is James “Jimmy Henchman” Rosemond who has since confessed to orchestrating the shooting, but cannot be tried as he admitted it while involved in a drug-trafficking investigation involving millions of dollars of cocaine, which he was later convicted of running.
13 Larry Flynt
Larry Flynt is one of the biggest publishers of adult entertainment, best known for the magazine Hustler. Being one of the early adopters of the “sex sells” ideology, Flynt ran into plenty of legal troubles, which resulted in him becoming an unlikely champion of civil rights for his unwavering defense of the First Amendment.
Flynt was shot outside of a Georgia courthouse by white supremacist Joseph Paul Franklin. The injuries were severe, causing permanent paralysis of his legs. After the shooting, Flynt renounced his enlightened Christian thinking and retreated to his Bel Air estate with his wife, developing dependence to painkillers until multiple surgeries deadened the affected nerves.
Joseph Paul Franklin later confessed to the shooting, claiming he was outraged by an interracial photo shoot in Hustler. He was charged in Missouri for eight counts of murders, suspected to be as much as 20, as he "targeted blacks and Jews in a cross-country killing spree from 1977 to 1980."
While he was put to death in 2013 via lethal injection, Flynt has stated that he did not want Franklin to be executed. "A life spent in a 3-by-6-foot cell is far harsher than the quick release of a lethal injection," he stated in a guest column for the Hollywood Reporter, "I have had many years in this wheelchair to think about this very topic."
12 Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol is an artist in every sense of the word. Drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, film, music, Warhol did it all. He even managed to dabble in computer-generated art shortly before his death in 1987. So who would want to shoot him? Why an “artist” of very different caliber.
Valarie Solanas was a radical feminist known for founding the “Society for Cutting Up Men,” of which she was the only member, as well as her self-published SCUM Manifesto in which she advocated the elimination of government, money, and the male sex. Solanas would have likely been forgotten by the annals of history had she not forced her way into the records.
Solanas had badgered Warhol to read her play two years earlier, and while he had little interest in her crazed scribbles, she did managed to gain an appearance in his 1968 film “I, a Man.” What set in motion these tragic events was Solanas requesting the return of her script, but it seemed it had been misplaced.
She then showed up at Warhol’s office and, without a word, fired a barrage of bullets at Andy and a business associate. While his friend sustained minor injuries, Warhol was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, his odds of survival 50/50. “One bullet had entered his left side, above his hip, gone around his rib cage and emerged from his back, after narrowly missing his spinal cord.”
Solanas turned herself into a rookie cop a few days later, claiming Warhol "had too much control over [her] life." She finally gained the attention she craved, but at a grave cost. Warhol recovered from the shooting but with both lasting physical and psychological damage. His newfound fear of hospitals prevented him from gaining medical attention for his gallbladder until the last minute. While the surgery was a success, he suffered from a fatal heart attack the next day.
Akon is one of those megastars whose fame just fizzled out over time. At the height of his stardom he was unavoidable, now you’d have to explain his entire existence to the new generation of music listeners.
Luckily it wasn’t a bullet that knocked the R&B singer out of the limelight. In 2004, Akon and his manager Robert “Screw” Montanez were meeting with rapper Capone of Capone-N-Noreaga to tape a promotion between the two artists outside of a New Jersey bar. A man, later identified as Almalik Ward, began trying to take Capone’s chain.
Akon’s manager got between the two and a fight quickly broke out between Ward and Montanez. They wrestled to the ground, but the fight ended with Ward firing his gun into Screw and then firing into the crowd, hitting Akon in the shoulder. While Akon may have been fine, Montanez did not survive the shooting.
10 Bob Marley
You’re probably wondering how an advocate for peace like Bob Marley could wind up in such a violent situation. It all stems from the two warring political parties of Jamaica at the time: the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP). Bob did his best to stay out of the political war, but being such a huge figure made it impossible.
In an attempt to bring the people together, Bob Marley was to headline a free concert called ‘Smile Jamaica.’ However, the event was organized by then Prime Minister Michael Manley of the PNP. People saw this as Marley aligning himself with the party. Two days before the event, gunmen attacked his home, resulting in Bob, his wife, and manager all sustaining injuries.
Marley was shot in the chest and arm. The doctors told him that if they removed the bullet from his arm, there was risk that he may lose control of his fingers. Unable to imagine a world where he couldn’t play instruments, the bullet stayed in his arm where it would remain for the rest of his life.
Bob Marley played the Smile Jamaica concert two days later, delivering one of his greatest performances for 80,000 people of Jamaica. When asked why he played the concert, the legend had this to say: “The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I?”
Rappers are known for flaunting what they’ve got, and Cam’ron is no exception, but sometimes it’s a good idea to keep your chain tucked, or in this case your Lamborghini in the garage.
In 2005, Cam’ron was driving home from a homecoming party in Washington D.C. He cruised through the streets in his royal blue Lamborghini Gallardo, wearing what a friend described as $200,000 worth of diamonds and other jewelry, when he stopped at a fateful red light. Another car pulled up next to him, and an armed assailant exited.
The gunmen tried to rob Killa Cam’s Lamborghini, but the rapper refused, instead cursing out his attacker and driving off, but not before receiving a bullet through each of his arms. Despite sustaining these injuries, the rap legend managed to drive himself to the hospital. After being released from the hospital he had this to say: "I got shot three times and my album comes out Nov. 22. It was a sloppy job on their part. They didn't get anything, I still got my car and my jewelry."
This is all happening in the midst of a feud between Cam’ron and Jay Z, but it is widely believed that Jigga had little to do with the attack.
8 Pope John Paul II
Here’s one sure fire way to earn a one way ticket to Hell. In 1981, Mehmet Ali Ağca stuck Pope John Paul II with four bullets as he rode through St. Peter’s Square in his Popemobile. Two of the bullets lodged into his lower intestine, the other two hitting his left index finger and right arm, as well as injuring two bystanders.
Ağca attempted to escape in the chaos, and even planned to set off a bomb to add even more confusion, but was apprehended by the Vatican security chief, a nun, and several spectators before he had the chance. An Italian court sentenced the would-be assassin with life in prison, however president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi would later pardon him after 19 years of his sentence upon the Pope’s request.
Mehmet was deported to his birthplace of Turkey, where he had escaped another life long prison sentence for the murder of left-wing journalist Abdi İpekçi, as well two bank raids that occurred in the 1970s. He was returned to jail, and The Turkish Supreme Court ruled that his time served in Italy would not be reduced from his sentence. It wasn’t until 2010, after nearly 29 years behind bars, that he was released.
After 6 hours on the operating table and four days in recovery, Pope John Paul II forgave his attacker, asking the people to pray for him. He even visited Ağca in prison two years after the attack to forgive him in person. Reportedly, Ağca even kissed the Pope’s ring at the end of their visit.
The two maintained a relationship, with Pope John Paul II meeting and keeping in touch with Mehmet’s family over the years, and the his attempted killer sending the Pope a letter during his illness in 2005 wishing him well. In December 2014, Mehmet returned to Rome and laid two dozen white roses at the pope’s tomb.
Ol’ Dirty B******, a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan and one of the wildest rappers to ever pick up a mic. ODB’s crazed antics landed him in plenty of legal trouble, but he also found himself in a number of violent situations.
While there was only one instance where the Wu-Tang Clan rapper was proven to have committed an act of violence, he was commonly the victim of attack. In 1994, he was shot in the stomach after a street argument with another rapper in Brooklyn.
Four years later, two assailants forced their way into ODB’s girlfriend’s apartment where they stole money and jewelry from the rapper before leaving him with another bullet wound as a parting gift. The bullet went through his back and out his arm, leaving no severe damage. After hours of treatment he ignored the hospital’s request for overnight observation and walked out of the hospital on his own.
While neither of his run-ins with gunmen were severe, ODB's luck would finally run out in 2004. Recording in fellow Wu member the RZA’s studio, ODB collapsed from what was later deemed an accidental overdose from a mixture of cocaine and prescription drug tramadol, just two days before his 36th birthday.
6 The Game
A lot of rappers borrow the persona of pistol totting gang members and other hardened thugs in order to tell a story from that perspective, or to just make them seem a lot tougher than they actually are. Game is not one of these rappers. Born and bred in Compton, Jayceon Terrell Taylor grew up to become a member of the Bloods street gang, known for terrorizing the streets of Los Angeles through their eternal war with rival gang the Crips.
Despite being raised in foster care for the majority of his childhood, The Game managed to avoid the street life for the most part. He was academically and athletically talented and managed to enroll into Washington State University with a basketball scholarship, only to be expelled for drug possession (though the university denies ever even having Taylor enrolled in their program). This is when he turned to the streets, welcomed by his older half brother, a leader of the Cedar Block Piru Bloods.
Game and his brother reigned over the Compton drug trade for a while, but it did not last long. In 2001, one of the brothers’ regular customers arrived at their apartment late at night accompanied by two other men. A fight broke out, and though The Game went to reach for his pistol he was too slow on the draw, instead ending up shot 5 times. He lay in his own blood for a bit before managing to use his cellphone to call an ambulance.
The Game was in a coma for 3 days, and when he came out he told his brother to buy him all the classic hip-hop records he could find. He studied all of them, ready to follow his childhood hero Eazy-E and NWA’s path and become a rapper. Surely he had no idea that years later NWA’s own Dr. Dre would sign him to his label Aftermath and bring the trash talking Blood into the spotlight.
5 Ronald Reagan
There are plenty of absurd things men do to impress women, but attempting to assassinate the president has to be the top of the list. After seeing the 1976 film Taxi Driver, loner John Hinckley, Jr. left the theater with two things. An admiration for Robert DeNiro’s crazed Travis Bickle, and an obsession with DeNiro’s co-star Jodie Foster.
Over the years, Hinckley wrote Foster multiple letters and managed to speak with her on the phone a few times, but despite her declining any interest in him he only become more determined. He was sure that if he managed to become a national figure, he would be on equal footing with Foster and she would finally accept him.
Just like Travis Bickle, Hinckley began stalking President Jimmy Carter, learning just how easy it was to get within range of a president. He was apprehended by at the Nashville International Airport for the illegal possession of firearms, but despite Carter being in the city at the time, the FBI did not connect the two and therefore the Secret Service was not notified.
A year later, newly elected President Ronald Reagan visited Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., where he recalled having a strange sensation of vulnerability while eyeing where President Lincoln had been shot. About a week later, Raegan delivered a speech in the Washington Hilton Hotel and then exited through the “President’s Walk,” an enclosed passage way built after JFK’s assassination.
Hinckley stood amongst admirers behind the ropes as Raegan walked through the passage and to his limousine. He passed right in front of Hinckley, and this is when he knew he had to act. He took out his revolver and fired six shots of explosive rounds in less than two seconds from about 10 feet away.
The first five bullets all either missed or were taken by secret service agents, but the sixth ricocheted off the armored side of the limousine and pierced the president in his left underarm, grazing a rib and lodging into his lung. This caused it to partially collapse, but also stopped the bullet nearly 1 inch from his heart. Because of Hinckley’s poor shooting, only one of the rounds exploded, but the doctors had to wear bulletproof vests while operating for fear of a latent explosion.
Thanks to the quick actions of the Secret Service, Raegan became the second president to walk off a bullet. John Hinckley, Jr. would not be found guilty by reason of insanity. After the trial he stated that the shooting was "the greatest love offering in the history of the world.”
4 Kelly Preston
In 1990, the Jerry Maguire actress was shot in the arm by her fiancé at the time, Charlie Sheen. Or so she led everyone to believe! It turns out that Preston actually shot herself. Kelly went to pick up a pair of Charlie’s pants in the bathroom when a revolver that he had in his pocket fell to the ground and discharged.
Sheen claims the bullet hit the toilet and a piece of either shrapnel or porcelain ricocheted and hit her. He says that he wasn’t even in the room when it happened, he heard the shot from downstairs and looked to the top of stairs to see a naked Kelly Preston covered in blood. Sheen also says that he immediately knew he’d be blamed for it.
The two broke off their engagement shortly after the incident, but Kelly Preston has since come out and admitted that it was not Charlie who shot her. Who knows why it took over 20 years for the truth to finally surface, but Charlie Sheen certainly is the perfect person to pin it on.
3 Brandon Call
The former child star known for playing T.J. Lambert on the CBS sitcom Step by Step was driving home after a day of taping when he noticed a car following him. He tried to lose it, but in doing so he made a wrong turn and winded up in a cul-de-sac. Call went to turn around, but that’s when they chose to open fire.
The 19 year old was shot in both arms, but managed to drive himself to the police station where they dressed his wounds and got him to the hospital. Brandon made a full recovery, though his career never did after Step by Step ended in 1998.
Teenager Tommy Eugene Lewis was eventually convicted of attempted premeditated murder, though the reason for his actions is unknown. Some believe it had something to do with a traffic dispute. Hopefully the rest of you LA drivers remember that.
2 Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt was a tough man. If the mustache doesn’t prove it, maybe this story will. While campaigning in Milwaukee, Roosevelt was shot by a saloonkeeper by the name of John Flammang Schrank. The bullet lodged itself into his chest, but not before passing through both his steel eyeglass case and the 50-page speech he was to deliver that day.
Being the hunter that he was, Roosevelt deduced that since he was not coughing up blood the bullet failed to reach his lungs, and therefore he would deliver his speech as scheduled. He opened with “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible,” followed by the punch line of “I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot.”
He unbuttoned his vest to reveal his bloodstained shirt to the aghast crowd. He then pulled out his hole-filled 50-page manuscript and proceeded to deliver a 90-minute speech. Roosevelt glared off his team from trying to get him to stop and go to the hospital, or when they readied to catch him if he fell. Only after finishing his speech did Theodore Roosevelt agree to be brought to the hospital.
1 Isaiah Washington
Isaiah Washington has a long history of running his mouth off. The Greys Anatomy actor got into some serious heat for his repeated use of gay slurs in 2000s, once about his co-star T.R. Knight who later came out as gay (awkward), and then again backstage at the Golden Globes. This would cost him his role on Greys Anatomy, as well as put his acting career into a tailspin, leading him to move to a village in Sierra Leone where he would become a chief known as Gondobay Manga II.
Before his mouth was damaging his career, it was damaging his health. Isaiah claims that back in the 1980s he was shot in the hip for “popping his mouth to the wrong person.” Just 19 years old at the time, Washington later went on to serve a four-year tour of duty in the United States Air Force before coming back to pursue an acting career.