It seems like a universal thing. We all know someone who seems like they must carry loads of good luck charms on them based on how fortunate they appear to be. When it comes to the people in the world that come off like they are the most charmed, it has to be the celebrity set. Able to beat the odds and find enough success in their chosen field to become a star, their talents play a part in it. But, there is no doubt that there is a luck element to it as well. That is why it seems so shocking when things go the other way for them, and they are involved in an awful situation. Yet there are still some people who were famous at one time but are no longer enjoying the lifestyle they once had due to something truly terrible. Realizing that this is the case is what inspired us to put together this list of twenty celebrities who left the spotlight due to a tragedy.
In order for someone to be up for consideration for inclusion on this list, he/she first and foremost needs to have been famous at one time in the past. It doesn’t matter what he/she did to become a star, so people like actors, athletes, musicians, “reality” stars, TV hosts, or someone who has earned his/her name through any other means may be found here. Next, he/she need to have stopped being a celebrity of the highest caliber at some point. Finally, the reason why that celeb’s star power has faded needs to have something to do with a tragedy.
20 Rebecca Gayheart, Car Accident
The case of an actress that was just hitting her stride and making an ever larger name for herself when her life was forever altered, Rebecca Gayheart never quite hit the top, but the spotlight was finding her. Known for her roles in movies like Urban Legend, Scream 2, and Jawbreaker, she also played memorable roles in shows like Beverly Hills, 90210 and others prior to her life hitting the skids. Involved in a horrible accident in the year 2001, she hit a gentleman who was crossing a Los Angeles street which led to her being charged with vehicular manslaughter. Despite escaping prison time, this altered her image to such a degree that a great deal of luster was wiped away, and all of her momentum disappeared overnight.
19 Lisa Robin Kelly, Addiction
An actress who earned fame based on a single role and then had it taken away from her due to her behavior, the sad story of Lisa Robin Kelly could serve as a warning to anyone. Cast as Laurie Forman on the TV series That '70s Show in 1998, she would go on to play the character for five years before her bosses fired her and brought in a new actress to take on the role. Dismissed due to her addiction issues, the gig that made her was taken away because she couldn’t overcome her issues and production had to move forward. Horrible enough since she was suffering from a disease that many tangle with, it was made all the worse when she ultimately passed away in her sleep due to taking multiple substances.
18 “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Bribery Charges
A baseball player who played in the major leagues for twelve years, during the majority of his career, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was a highly-respected figure among league officials, fans, and fellow players. Great enough at the game that to this day his career batting average is the third-highest of any player in the history of the MLB, his accomplishments merit a place in the Hall of Fame. Instead, he is banned from such an accolade due to his alleged involvement in one of the biggest scandals the sport has ever seen. A part of a team that fixed the World Series, he was accused of having a hand in the event and was kicked out of the sport. However, when put on trial, he was found innocent since the evidence points to his innocence yet his career was already taken from him while he was in his prime, and he has never been given his due. Just imagine that.
17 Toni Braxton, Horrible Contract
A singer that had everything one needs to become a gigantic deal in the business, for a time, Toni Braxton was a superstar but it didn’t last nearly as long as it should have. Best known for songs like “Un-Break My Heart,” “You’re Makin’ Me High,” “He Wasn’t Man Enough,” and “Breathe Again,” among others, in the early nineties, her career was really taking off. Unfortunately, she signed a truly abhorrent contract which saw her forced into bankruptcy because she got a cheque for less than two thousand dollars even at her prime. Given forward after forward on future albums, she owed her studio a great deal of money which made it so she couldn’t support herself and give her passion for music her all, which cut her career short.
16 Whitney Houston, Addiction
From one immensely talented singer to another, this time, we’re looking at the legendary career of Whitney Houston. Reaching her zenith with the release of her cover of the song “I Will Always Love You” in 1992, the song was such an incredible success that it was the top song in America for fourteen straight weeks. Also known for other tunes like “Greatest Love of All,” “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” “How Will I Know,” and “Exhale (Shoop Shoop),” her powerful voice inspired millions of people to get up and dance. Then, she started to struggle with addiction issues which caused her performances to suffer and her voice to be taken away from the public as well as her untimely demise to the dismay of her many fans.
15 Linda Ronstadt, Parkinson’s Disease
A pop star and country singer that was a big star, author Andrew Greeley wrote about her that she was “the most successful and certainly the most durable and most gifted woman Rock singer of her era.” Best known for songs like “You’re No Good,” “Blue Bayou,” “Hurt So Bad,” and “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” among many others, Linda Ronstadt created a library of music that has stood the test of time. Clearly someone with a real passion for singing, it must have been a personal tragedy of sorts for her when she was forced to quit performing for her fans. Revealing that her singing voice was taken from her by Parkinson’s disease, she was quoted as saying that she “could no longer sing a note.”
14 Gary Busey, Motorcycle Accident
When coming across this entry, some may be thinking to themselves that Gary Busey isn’t quite gone as he is the guy that utters poetry at a moment’s notice and tries to inspire others these days. That may be true but he no longer has much to do with the career that brought him to the game, at least not on a serious level. An actor who, at one time, seemed poised to be one of the biggest of his generation, he proved himself capable of taking part in action films like Lethal Weapon, Under Siege, and Predator 2. Additionally, he was talented enough that he was nominated for an Oscar for his work in the stellar movie The Buddy Holly Story. Then, he was involved in a motorcycle accident that nearly killed him, and he suffered permanent brain damage. Believed to have had his impulse control damaged, as a result, his behavior is mocked sometimes but that isn’t right since there is a reason for it beyond him.
13 Orson Welles, Media Opposition
A celebrity whose life is one of the most fascinating in modern times, Orson Welles was blessed with good looks, brilliance, and artistic instincts that put him above the masses. Turned into a big deal when a performance he orchestrated of War of the Worlds on the radio caused a panic because some thought it was real, due to that, he was given a blank cheque in Hollywood. Going on to star in, co-write, and direct Citizen Kane under that deal, it has consistently been listed as the best film of all time by many. On the other end of the spectrum, however, in some major ways, it ruined his career. The film was based on the life of immensely-powerful newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst who hated it and saw it as an insult that he wanted to destroy. Going all-out in an attempt to have it scrubbed from existence, he failed in that regard but he was able to damage Welles’ career to such a degree that he spent the rest of his life in search of work.
12 Brett Butler, Addiction
Someone who is remembered by many for a single role, by the time Brett Butler got to star in a series, she’d already accomplished a lot. A former performer and writer for the variety show Dolly, she would go on to make a name for herself as a stand-up comedian. An era in which people making jokes on stage were sometimes handed the keys to the castle by TV execs, she became the star of a series called Grace Under Fire which was the highest-rated new show the year it debuted. Continuing to get solid ratings throughout most of its run, the show was canceled because of Brett’s behavior offending her co-stars and becoming publicly known which hurt the ratings. Understandable since she is said to have ranted and raved as well as flashed a twelve-year-old who played her son, her career was ruined. And several years later, she was homeless.
11 Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Career Cut Short
A basketball player who took the sport by force and became one of the best in the game and the hero to millions, Earvin “Magic” Johnson was a worldwide celebrity. Remembered for his incredible skills and long-lasting rivalry with Larry Bird, he was the subject of video games, advertisements, and posters to name only a sampling. Then, one day in November of 1991, he held a press conference in which he announced that he was HIV positive in a time where many people didn’t understand the disease, and that came to an end. Retiring publicly at the same time he informed the world about his status, he has since revealed that he hated stepping away from the game. However, he would go on to play at the Olympics and at the 1992 NBA All-Star Game but fellow players were publicly worried about their view that they were being put at risk. With that, aside from a short-lived comeback in the 1995-96 season, his career on the court was over.
10 Margot Kidder, Bipolar Disorder
An actress that became an international superstar when she landed the role of a lifetime, Margot Kidder will likely go down in history with the masses thinking of her as Lois Lane. Cast as the character in the film series that debuted in 1978, people adored her performance in it which seemed to be the perfect platform to make her career flourish. Also a part of other movies like Black Christmas, The Amityville Horror, and several more in the following years, at first, she took full advantage of the opportunity. Then she had a nervous breakdown which caused her career to hit the skids and never recover to again see the heights it once enjoyed. At least she has been able to land a number of roles in small projects and guest roles on television, one of which won her an Emmy in 2015.
9 John Landis, Death During Filming
If you are like us and are following the film world closely, then you’ll likely know that jobs are mostly given out based on what someone has done in the past. What that means is that if you have a record of involvement in hit films, then you can expect to be given big jobs in the future. That is why the career of John Landis is somewhat unique. The man behind hits like Animal House, The Blues Brothers, and Trading Places, as well as the seminal music video Thriller was a big deal. Then, the quality of projects he was allowed to take on went downhill seemingly overnight despite his movies still mostly doing well. The event that seemed to have led to that was the deaths that took place on a film he directed called Twilight Zone: The Movie. Overseeing a movie where veteran actor Vic Morrow and two extras that were six and seven years old died in a horrific accident where a helicopter crushed them tarnished his career.
8 Missy Elliott, Graves’ Disease
If you are like us and were around during the several years in which Missy Elliott was one of the most acclaimed rappers and record producers in the world, you may be wondering where she went as well. In fact, she disappeared from the music scene with such little fanfare that it was only years later when her music came up that we even thought about her absence. However, she was on top of the game at one point because of songs like “1, 2 Step,” “Work It,” “Lose Control,” “Hot Boyz,” and “Get Ur Freak On.” Revealing during an interview several years ago that she stepped away from the business due to being diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid, it is a real shame.
7 Rick Moranis, Wife Fallen Ill
An actor whose name is likely to inspire a smile on the face of those that were alive at the height of his career, Rick Moranis is a comedy legend if you ask us. One of the people behind the glorious sketch comedy show SCTV, that would have been enough for his legacy, but he went on to so much more. Best remembered for his lovable parts in movies like Strange Brew, Ghostbusters, and its sequel, Little Shop of Horrors, Spaceballs, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, the man was just plain funny. Then his wife suddenly died of breast cancer, and of his own accord, he stepped away from the business in order to focus on his children which further cements why we adore him so much.
6 Karen Carpenter, Anorexia
Someone who was made famous as one half of the group known as The Carpenters alongside her brother, Richard, Karen Carpenter’s voice could be heard on oodles of songs during her career. A duo that released eleven albums during their career, the pair is considered one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Anchored by the lovely voice of Karen, she was so talented that years later, Rolling Stone included her on their list of the 100 greatest singers of all time. Remembered for songs like “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Superstar,” “Top of the World,” their lovely and lilting tunes were welcomed by many fans. Then it all came to a screeching halt because of the fact that Karen struggled with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa to such a degree that it would ultimately take her life.
5 Michael J. Fox, Parkinson’s Disease
One of the most beloved actors for an entire generation of people Michael J. Fox made his name when he starred in the sitcom Family Ties but went on to even bigger things. Cast as Marty McFly, the main character in the Back to the Future franchise, that trilogy of films has a fanbase that is so passionate that he assured his place in history right there. However, he would also star in other movies like Teen Wolf and Doc Hollywood, as well as returning to TV when he landed the lead role in the sitcom Spin City.
Dealing with Parkinson’s disease during the vast majority of his career, he opted to keep that a secret for many years. However, while working on Spin City, his symptoms became more severe, and he decided that he would tell the world about it and become an outspoken advocate for fighting the disease. Eventually forced to step away from the sitcom entirely because he could no longer handle the production schedule, it was his illness that definitively ending his career as we knew it, at least temporarily.
4 Darren “Droz” Drozdov, Paralysis
A WWE wrestler that was not able to have the run with the company he seemed destined for, the man known as Droz had a lot going for him when it came to potential success in that industry. A colorful-looking person with several tattoos on his body and a purported ability to vomit on command, in the over-the-top Attitude Era, he had a lot of potential. Then, he took part in a match and was on the receiving end of a powerbomb that went gruesomely wrong. Landing on his head instead of his back as he should have, he was paralyzed from the neck down which immediately ended his in-ring career and put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Kept on the payroll of the WWE for several years, at least he did provide their website with written reviews of events and co-host a weekly talk show for it, but his time in the spotlight was over.
3 Christopher Reeve, Paralysis
Previously on this list, we looked at the life and career of Margot Kidder, the woman who brought Lois Lane to life in the classic Superman films. Now, it is time to look at the man who played Clark Kent. Just like his co-star, despite giving several admirable performances, Christopher Reeve is really known by most because of his one role as the man in red and blue, Superman. Still able to land a long list of roles in major movies in the years after walking away from that role, he was seen in films like The Remains of the Day and Village of the Damned, among others. Enthusiastic about horses, he took to riding the magnificent beasts but in an awful moment, was flung off the back of one and shattered two vertebrae in his back which led to paralysis under the neck. Becoming a passionate advocate for the cause of others that have similar health issues, it created a new career for him but mostly put an end to his acting career.
2 Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Criminal Prosecution
One of the earliest stars of the film industry, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle had a gigantic impact on the industry, and his importance should never be diminished. If you’re not sure of why we say that, you could watch the work of his that remains or reflect on the fact that he mentored Charlie Chaplin and discovered the likes of Bob Hope and Buster Keaton. If you are unaware of what happened to him, you may be wondering why we mentioned his work that remains and that is because some of it was destroyed when he was put on trial for a horrible crime. Accused of taking advantage of a drunk woman who was then said to have passed away under his weight, it ruined him which we would be happy with if he was guilty. However, it is abundantly clear that he wasn’t at fault and did not commit the crime he was accused of, so his fate is a tragic one.
1 Kesha, Horrible Relationship With Producer And Studio
A singer and rapper who seemed to come out of nowhere, one day, we had no idea that Kesha existed and then the next, her song “Tik Tok” was the song of the summer. Seeming like she was meant to be a one-hit wonder at the time as her unique image and over-reliance on autotune seemed like a recipe for it, we were shocked that she had several more hit tracks in her. For instance, she also put out upbeat tunes like “Timber,” “We R Who We R,” “Die Young,” and “Your Love is My Drug,” all of which helped make it seem like she would be around for a while.
Seemingly destined to dash our expectations, however, she largely disappeared from the radio and music video landscape because of her horrible relationship with her producer and studio. Accusing him of forcing himself on her, she wouldn’t work with him any longer which ruined her career as it put a stranglehold on new music when she was at her height. By the time she was finally able to put out new music, five years had passed, and it was no longer met with the excitement it would have had all those years ago.