Let us journey back in time, to a world where Britney Spears was beautiful and her golden locks were real (maybe). The year was 2003, the girls were decked out in white wedding dresses better suited for streetwalkers, and they only had eyes–or lips–for one lady: the Queen of Pop and Pointy Bras, Madonna. That September, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera joined their idol onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards and turned a regular performance into headline news when they each took turns tongue-kissing Madge while singing her timeless tramp anthem “Like a Virgin.”
The timing of their tonsil hockey was perfect, providing a much-needed jolt to Brit’s suffering career. It had been a tumultuous year of disappointing record sales, a high-profile breakup from Justin Timberlake (which inspired his #1 hit “Cry Me a River”), her disastrous film flop Crossroads, and the closing of her restaurant NYLA after just seven months. Plus she had a new album to promote, packed with horny dance tracks celebrating masturbation and other hot ‘n’ breathy behavior. Yup, a girl kiss is just what she needed. Britney later claimed she had “never kissed a woman before” — even though they had seriously rehearsed the smooch before the actual performance. (Sadly, an ass-slap from Madge was canned before they went live.) Still, that one sultry, same-sex lip-lock freaked the pundits and titillated our whole nation. And our girl finally became a (bi-curious) woman.
Notorious bigmouth Rush Limbaugh began his career in radio as a DJ in Pittsburgh, and didn’t start clogging the airwaves with Righteous blabber until the mid-eighties. His show went national in 1988, and when the Republicans swept Congress in ’94, his fat-cat pals named him “honorary member of Congress” in thanks for all he did to ensure their majority rule. And with that, the King of the Conservative Party was born.
But just because this cigar-fiend dished a diehard conservative creed didn’t mean Rush lived by his own rules. In October 2003 — the chunky chat-man confirmed National Enquirer reports that he was addicted to prescription painkillers and was headed for rehab. When prosecutors lobbied the court to trash his doctor-patient confidentiality rights so that they could interrogate his docs, Rush found an unlikely ally in the ACLU, who went to bat for him. He was eventually busted for “doctor shopping” (visiting multiple providers to score prescriptions) and turned himself in on April 28, 2006. Prosecutors agreed to drop the charges if he’d cough up $30,000 to cover the investigation’s costs, undergo therapy for 18 months, and submit to regular drug testing. Rush took the deal, and the case was closed.
While Limbaugh’s drug disgrace could have ensured his downfall, the hoopla surrounding his shady pill obsession proved to be a lot of hot air — just like him! In July 2008 Rush signed a contract extension that will keep him gabbing through 2016 — for a record-breaking $400 million.
He was just another regular kid with an ’80s icon dad and a hit reality show, when one stupid thrill-seeking move left his ass in jail, his family in ruins, and his best friend comatose.
On August 26, 2007, Nick Hogan – a trained Formula D driver, and son of wrestler Hulk – lost control of what he called his “pussy magnet” (a Toyota Supra) and slammed into a median strip while drag-racing with friends. He and his pal John Graziano, who was in the passenger seat, were taken to the hospital for treatment. Hogan walked out of there the next day. Graziano, however, sustained serious trauma to his brain that will keep him hospitalized for the rest of his life.
On NBC’s hit sitcom 30 Rock, Oscar/Emmy serial nom Alec Baldwin is straight-up hilarious – but the voicemail recording that leaked in April 2007, featuring the actor verbally assaulting his 12-year-old daughter Ireland, was anything but:
“YOU HAVE MADE AN ASS OUT ME OF FOR THE LAST TIME … PICK UP THE GODDAMN PHONE … I DON’T CARE THAT YOU’RE TWELVE OR ELEVEN OR WHATEVER, ARE YOU PIG ENOUGH TO PICK IT UP? I’M A GOOD FATHER, AND YOU’RE A PIG. I DON’T GIVE A SHIT. GOOD FATHER. YOU THINK THIS IS ABUSE? YOU THINK THIS IS ABUSE, YOU THOUGHTLESS PAIN IN THE ASS? GET MAD, YOU DAUGHTER-OF-A-BITCH . . . PIG. OH, ALSO, TELL YOUR MOTHER I SAID GO F*CK YOURSELF. This is Dad, ring me back when you get a chance.”
This over-the-top, foam-spewing tirade was clearly tied to Alec’s anger at his ex-wife, Kim Basinger. Their 1993 marriage had officially ended in divorce in 2002, and a gag order forbade the feuding stars from discussing their strife in public. He accused Kim of leaking the tape. She denied it. Amid the media jamboree he appeared on The View to express remorse for his brutal rant – and blamed it all on Kim: “I have been driven to the edge by parental alienation for many years,” he said. Miraculously, Baldwin’s career survived the stink, his work on 30 Rock distracting fans from his accidental role as Freakazoid Father.
On April 20, 1999, two Columbine High School students walked into their school in Littleton, Colorado, shot and killed thirteen people, and injured twenty-three others before turning the guns on themselves. The massacre shocked the country into a wave of introspection and accusation. Just who or what could have led these young men to commit such a gruesome act?
Fingers flailed and landed on a skinny man caked in face paint and dressed in gothic garb similar to that favored by the murderers. He also had a few hit albums under his black leather belt, but that didn’t stop critics from blaming Marilyn Manson for influencing the teens to kill. Pundits and politicians, including Senator Joe Lieberman, attacked Manson, labeling the artist a “shock rocker” whose band was the “sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company.” Manson fought back with a piece in Rolling Stone: “When it comes down to who’s to blame for the high school murders in Littleton, Colorado, throw a rock and you’ll hit someone who’s guilty. … when these tragedies happen, most people don’t really care any more than they would about the season finale of Friends or The Real World.”
In 2001, the band’s “Fight Song” video, featuring goth kids battling jocks, was alleged to be a commentary on the tragedy. Manson replied to the rumor: “People will put into it what they want if it helps them sell newspapers … Flak isn’t my job.” True. Now that he’s divorced from burlesque babe Dita Von Teese, his job consists mostly of feeding tabloids news of his romance with 19-year old actress Evan Rachel Wood. Even when it’s just about sex, Manson’s still scandalous.
Heath Ledger was one of those special Hollywood types which rarely surface in that land of vapidity and vanity — a freakish combination of rugged good looks, startling talent, and a desire to live a grounded life out of the public eye. So it was no surprise that the world reacted with straight-up shock to his sudden death from an accidental overdose of prescription pills one January afternoon in 2008 — and continued staring with mouths agape as the sordid details came tumbling out.
Prior to his death, the actor had recently split from fiancée and Brokeback Mountain co-star Michelle Williams, and had spent the fall partying at NYC’s most exclusive hot spots, wrapped in the arms of various supermodels. But when his masseuse, who also worked for Mary-Kate Olsen, phoned the tiny starlet upon discovering Heath’s body, a secret relationship between the actor and the twin was revealed.
Heath had admitted to struggling seriously with a sleeping problem while filming The Dark Knight, and posthumous medical tests revealed six different drugs in his system. Yet while his performance as the Joker has led to whispers of an Oscar nod, some have theorized that his devotion to the dark role may also have contributed to his battle with insomnia, and ultimately his tragic demise.
It wasn’t enough for ’80s pop star Paula Abdul to act a little loopy while serving as an American Idol judge. She had to go and boink a contestant (allegedly), revealing a darker, X-rated side to the family-friendly singing contest.
Two years after Corey Clark was kicked off the show for failing to reveal his legal rap sheet, the 24-year-old former contestant came forward to claim that he engaged in a “secret affair” with the 42-year-old Abdul. In an interview with the super-shady tabloid The Globe in May 2005, Corey provided voicemails from Paula as proof, accused her of seducing him in her guest room, and claimed she offered to fund his career to the tune of $2 million. According to the rag, the former Laker girl told the wannabee singer that she “wanted to look out for him and be his ‘special friend,'” but advised him, “Don’t screw me or you’ll be sorry.”
Corey continued to disobey Paula, dishing to Primetime Live about their supposed affair, conveniently coming forward right when his album and e-book were set to drop. All Paula would say is, “Not only do I never lie, I never respond to lies.” FOX defended their celebrity judge, and their internal investigation concluded that “no evidence was uncovered to resolve the conflicts in their accounts.”
While Corey faded into Idol-reject obscurity, Paula stayed on the show to make headlines again in 2007 when she appeared on a local news show giggling and slurring her words. She came forward with yet another denial, asserting, “I’ve never been drunk.”
Lindsay Lohan began in commercials at the age of eight and was a bonafide star by twelve, thanks to the 1998 Parent Trap remake. Amid family problems (her parents’ rocky road to divorce, her father’s jail time for DUI), her career soared with a three-pic Disney deal, hit flicks like Freaky Friday and Mean Girls, and famous boyfriends like Aaron Carter and Wilmer Valderrama. She was a near-perfect “triple threat” when a series of disasters proved she was just a plain threat — to herself.
Wherever Lilo went, the paparazzi followed. The once fresh-faced star was snapped partying at all hours of the night, and the constant drinking and drama landed her in the hospital in November 2004. “I was overtired and working myself to death,” she claimed. After her third hospital stint, while shooting Georgia Rule in 2006, she was chastised in a letter sent by the CEO of the film’s production company: “We are well aware that your ongoing all-night heavy partying is the real reason for your so-called ‘exhaustion.'”
Sex Pistols member Sid Vicious was only 20 when he met Nancy Spungen in 1977. British punk god and veteran American groupie bonded instantly over their mutual passion for extreme drug use. Less than two years later, both were dead.
The story goes that the couple holed up in Manhattan’s Chelsea Hotel after the Pistols broke up to binge on smack while planning Sid’s solo career. On October 12, 1978, Nancy was found in the couple’s bathroom, dead from a knife wound in her abdomen. Ten days later Sid slit his own wrist. He survived, but only to be charged with Nancy’s murder (the knife was traced back to him) before overdosing on February 2, 1979, at the home of his new girlfriend.
Speculation still swirls about both deaths. Some say that Sid’s overprotective mom injected him with a lethal dose of heroin to spare him from prison. Others maintain that it was drug dealers that stabbed Nancy. In his book Vicious: Too Fast to Live, Alan Parker argues that both were murdered by Rockets Redglare, an East Village actor and alleged drug dealer. Tragic? Yes. Totally sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll? Yeah, baby.
Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain charmed the world with his mopey outlook and striped t-shirts. It was a brief romance. Fans barely had time to memorize the lyrics on Nirvana’s third album before Cobain checked out, killing himself with a 20-gauge shotgun blast.
Conspiracy theories abounded. Was he moved to suicide by some bad heroin? Was he murdered? Skeptics pointed to facts such as the massive amount of heroin in Cobain’s system, which would have sapped him of the strength to pull a trigger. Handwriting experts also scrutinized the suicide note to see if Cobain really had written it.
Only the angels Cobain now sleeps with know the answer, and we have it on good authority that they’re Neil Sedaka fans. So while Cobain tunes his harp to “Laughter in the Rain,” we’re left with pondering the continuing spectacle of Eddie Vedder and the continuing decline of Courtney “Time for another box set” Love. (She’s said to have sold 25% of her interest in the back catalog for “an undisclosed sum”). Oh, what Nevermind hath wrought. — Charles Bottomley