Browse around the checkout lanes of your local grocery store or magazine kiosk and you will find dozens of headlines featuring America’s rich and famous. The covers blast a variety of topics such as who lost a ton of weight, which couple is headed to Splitsville, and whose baby bump was spotted. Needless to say, we all have a soft spot for our celebrity idols. We watch them star in blockbuster films and sing to a sold-out arena boasting thousands of fans. We love them! So, of course, it makes sense that we would want to know every juicy detail about their lives on and off stage.
However, there is a stopping point, a line written in the sand in which, if crossed, a fan becomes something more. Sure, fame comes at a price. But, when infatuation with celebrities overcomes sanity and when laws are broken or their peace of mind is jeopardized, you have a stalker. Sometimes, stalker situations are entirely harmless: an eager fan simply wants the star to know just how great they are. Yet, fans must realize that there are boundaries. When fans take on an obsession with their idols—following them, showing up at their homes, threatening their significant others—an innocent admiration becomes deadly. Think of the tragic case in 1995 when Latin American singing sensation Selena Quintanilla Perez was shot and killed by the president of her fan club.
Sadly, most celebrity fans that go too far are driven by more than just their passion for their favorite star but often by mental illness. Licensed mental health counselor and author of Confusing Love with Obsession, Dr. John D. Moore categorizes celebrity stalking into three groups: simple obsessional, love obsessional and erotomania. Simple obsessional includes developing an infatuation for an individual that you may know in passing such as having a crush on your personal trainer. Love obsessional is being in love with a person that you don’t know at all. Finally, erotomania involves intense obsession in which the delusional person may erroneously believe that the celebrity is somehow reciprocating those feelings of love. The celebrities listed below had to deal with extreme cases of stalking that endangered their lives and the lives of others.
6 Jodie Foster
Perhaps one of the most extreme and historical cases of celebrity stalking involved Silence of the Lambs actress Jodie Foster and a madman by the name of John W. Hinckley, Jr.
While Foster was attending college at Yale University, she was completely unaware that she had gained an admirer who would go to great lengths to obtain her attention. Obsessed with the movie Taxi Driver in which the lead character attempts to kill a high-profile political candidate to get the attention of a socialite, the depressed and delusional Hinckley gets the bright idea to do the same. Since Foster played a key role in the film as a young prostitute, he directs his obsession towards her. Hinckley eventually stalked President Jimmy Carter in 1980 and then attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981—all in the name of love. He was declared not guilty by reason of insanity in court and committed to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.
5 David Letterman
Late night talk show host and comedian David Letterman has also had to learn to navigate the frightening and deadly waters of fans that go beyond simple admiration. Beginning in 1988 and lasting for many years was Margaret Ray’s infatuation with the TV personality. First, she stole the star’s Porsche and claimed to police that she was his wife when questioned. Then, there were repeated incidents of her being on his Connecticut property, sending him gifts. It turns out Ms. Ray was afflicted by schizophrenia, a devastating psychotic disorder that also reared its head in her father and other siblings. Her infatuation for Letterman ultimately dwindled and she began to obsess over astronaut Story Musgrave. Stalking of the two men landed her in prison and in a mental institution on several occasions. In 1998, Ray wrote a tormented letter to her mother before kneeling before a train and ending her life. She was the third of her mother’s children to commit suicide.
The Material Girl also dealt with her share of unwanted fan attention in the 1990s. Drifter and psychotic stalker Robert Dewey Hoskins trespassed onto Madonna’s Hollywood Hills estate in 1995. The homeless guy apparently vaulted over a wall and was shot by a bodyguard but not before threatening that the singer should marry him or else he would slit her throat from ear to ear. The star testified in a trial against her deranged stalker that led to him being sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. After his sentence, he was committed to a Los Angeles area mental health facility. However, the man escaped briefly in 2012 and set his sights on Halle Berry who he also threatened to kill. Fortunately, he was apprehended a week later and still remains there today.
3 Michael Douglas & Catherine Zeta-Jones
Many would say Michael Douglas was a lucky man for having a beauty like Catherine Zeta-Jones to call his wife. Well, one woman disagreed. The highly disturbed Dawnette Knight proved that she thought the actor should be hers—and she was willing to get rid of Zeta-Jones to make sure that happened. Starting in January 2003, the woman made threatening telephone calls and sent very unsettling letters to Douglas, his family members and friends claiming what she would graphically do to Zeta-Jones: “slice her up like meat on a bone and feed her to the dogs”. Knight wrote in the letters that Zeta-Jones was always being followed and referred to various ways she would kill the star including the Manson family murder of actress Sharon Tate, the death of President Kennedy, and Nicole Simpson-Brown. Douglas revealed in court that the threats caused Zeta-Jones to feel afraid and unsafe which led to the actress needing to take medications. Knight was charged with one felony count of stalking and three felony counts of making criminal threats and was sentenced to three years in prison.
2 Jennifer Lopez
Scary run-ins with overly obsessed fans can be the norm in Hollywood. However, when the celebrity stalkers actually follow through with their deranged plans, it becomes not only illegal but terribly traumatic. Retired fireman John Dubois took his infatuation for Jennifer Lopez one step too far when he gained access to an outbuilding at her estate, and stayed there for 6 days. The madman had posted lovesick photos about the star online and several were taken on the grounds of her mansion unbeknownst to the star or her security detail. He even documented his stay in the Southampton property by photographing receipts and other details that made it clear he was coming and going as pleased. When he was finally discovered living in the pool house, he told police that he was the singer’s ex-husband and father of her children. Lucky for her, Jen was not on the property during his stay and had no idea about her uninvited guest.
1 Selena Gomez
Most stars understand that the celebrity life comes at a price: loss of privacy, constant hounding by paparazzi, a magnifying glass on every single move they make. However, when it comes to home, they expect and deserve the right to privacy that all other humans demand. While Ms. Gomez’s stalker didn’t set up camp for days like Lopez’s, Cruz Che broke into her Calabasas guesthouse in March of 2014. He was apprehended, booked, and jailed for seven days. Then, less than eight hours after his release, the transient was spotted near the 21-year old pop star’s home yet again. Upon this second arrest, he faces up to four years in prison for felony stalking. What’s more, in 2011, Gomez encountered yet another terrifying serial stalker in Thomas Brodnicki. This guy had been charged for stalking others previously and traveled from Chicago to Los Angeles to visit the star’s place of work at least three times. Brodnicki was convinced that he had talked to God about killing the star.