Junkie-turned-Oprah-approved faith healer James Frey‘s story was too good to be true. His 2003 memoir A Million Little Pieces uncovered a layer of hell somewhere beneath rock-bottom, with our Hemingway-on-heroin hero relating his life of drug peddling, crack-whore sex, and oral surgery gone wrong. Truth was truly stranger than fiction–and Oprah hailed the Frey’s courageous attempt to tell it like it was.
Except it wasn’t. Mug-shot website The Smoking Gun smelled a rat. A rat with Frey’s trademark odor of snot, urine, vomit, and blood. Investigation revealed that Frey’s criminal record amounted to a few speeding tickets. His story was about as reliable as the Hitler diaries.
Hell hath no fury like Oprah scorned. In January 2007, she gave Frey an on-air dressing-down like we haven’t seen since Jon Stewart‘s Crossfire shit-fit. Frey’s work now occupies the fiction section of your local bookstore. — Charles Bottomley
After the jump, watch a clips of Oprah turning on James Frey.
“Crack,” the great Rick James once opined, “is a hell of a drug.” To which ex-Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry can only say, “Amen, bitch.” In 1990, the Democratic pol was videotaped by the FBI smoking rock with girlfriend Rasheeda Moore in a D.C. hotel room. The Feds busted Barry just as he tried to leave his hotel room-turned-crack den. As he’s read his rights, Barry shouts the now infamous line: “I’ll be goddamn … bitch set me up!”
After serving six months for possession, Barry successfully ran for City Council under the less-than-inspiring slogan, “He May Not Be Perfect, But He’s Perfect for D.C.” In 1995, he was re-elected mayor. But Barry still had an appetite for the sweet stuff. Coke and marijuana were found in his system during a 2005 drug test. We’ll be goddamned. — Charles Bottomley
Before Russell Crowe came along, Mel Gibson was the biggest Australian prick in Hollywood. Here’s Mel on homosexuality: “They take it up the ass … [That's] only for taking a shit.” When gay-rights group GLAAD asked for an apology, he told Playboy magazine, “I’ll apologize when hell freezes over. They can fuck off.”
Mad Mel became only more insufferable after replacing grog with God. Exhibit A: 2004′s The Passion of the Christ, which, in addition to grossing $604 million worldwide, depicts Jews in a way that would have made Adolf Eichmann proud.
Exhibit B: When Malibu policed pulled Gibson over for DUI in July 2006, Gibson told the arresting officer, “Fucking Jews … Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world. Are you a Jew?” At the booking station, the What Women Want star barked at a female officer, “What are you looking at, Sugar Tits?” The mug shot curiously failed to capture his hair plugs in a flattering light.
Gibson booked a confessional with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, although his apology was tempered by ramblings about his preoccupation with the war in Lebanon — and the bottle of Tequila on the floor of his Lexus. — Charles Bottomley
It’s 1988, and Rob Lowe‘s star is in the ascendant. Movies like Class (Lowe nails an older woman), St. Elmo’s Fire (Lowe nails Demi Moore) and About Last Night … (Lowe nails Demi Moore — again) made him the Brat Packer you’d most want to use as a seat cushion.
What better time, then, to go to the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta and have sex with two women, one of whom was only 16 at the time and may (or may not) have been a Dukakis supporter? And since it’s the 1980s, why not film it with one of those cool new camcorders?
As a consequence, Lowe was summarily blacklisted by Hollywood execs, but he stuck around to have the last laugh. SNL comedies like Wayne’s World and Tommy Boy let him play the heel, and the TV hit The West Wing made him seem like normal guy material. Perhaps most importantly, Lowe proved that a sex-tape isn’t necessarily a career ender, but a career booster. — Charles Bottomley
As a record producer, pint-sized Phil Spector created the sound of the 1960s, using a multitude of instruments to re-create the feeling of a first kiss and the fracture of a broken heart. Through the 1970s and ’80s, the reclusive Spector earned a reputation as a borderline psycho and gun-nut. He has waved pistols at John Lennon and Leonard Cohen.
Bad craziness undid Spector when, in 2003, a dead B-movie starlet was found in his home. Lana Clarkson had died of a gunshot wound that Spector blamed on “accidental suicide.” In an interview given a week earlier, he had described himself as “relatively insane.” Phil didn’t help his sanity’s cause when he appeared at his second-degree murder trial in a variety of wigs that made him look like everything from a blond pageboy to a collision between TV’s Screech and a bottle of Rogaine.
In 2007, a deadlocked jury resulted in a mistrial. In public, the jury is still out on Phil Spector. Phil is just out to lunch. — Charles Bottomley
Watch Tina and Ike Turner perform Spector’s “River Deep, Mountain High” below.
Many rockers shed their earthly vessels too soon. When the body of Rolling Stone founder Brian Jones was discovered in the bottom of a swimming pool in 1969, it kicked off a disturbing trend, with many prominent stars checking out for the great gig in the sky at the age of 27.
Following Jones’s mysterious death, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Doors’ Jim Morrison all died within two years of each other, all aged 27. Many wondered if the curse hadn’t been started by Robert Johnson, a legendary bluesman from the 1920s who had been poisoned when he was 27. Ironically, Johnson’s eerie records had inspired Jones to start the Rolling Stones.
In the 1990, rock stars began dropping again. Kurt Cobain was the most notable casualty, killing himself with a shotgun at age 27. Kristen Pfaff, the bassist in Cobain’s wife band Hole, overdosed on heroin at the same age. — Charles Bottomley
You know you’re in serious trouble when Reverend Al Sharpton rejects your apology and says you need to do more than just say “sorry.” That’s what happened after Michael Richards (aka “Kramer” from Seinfeld) spewed an n-word-filled tirade at some black hecklers at an LA comedy club in 2006.
Video of Richards’s bizarro meltdown, which opened with a reference to lynching, was captured on a cell phone camera and promptly beamed across the internet. Highlights include:
• “Fifty years ago, we’d have you upside down with a fucking fork up your ass.”
• “Throw his ass out. He’s a nigger. He’s a nigger. He’s a nigger.”
• And: “That’s what happens when you interrupt the white man.”
Richards was probably lucky the club’s patrons were armed only with cell phones, although he might have preferred receiving a deadly beatdown to what followed: Richards instantly went from universally loved (as Kramer) to almost unanimously vilified (as a racist, washed-up, talentless comedian). The incident now permanently resides in the pop lexicon, having been lampooned on both South Park and Family Guy — twice. — Tony Carbone
Orlando music mogul Lou Pearlman made his money the old fashioned way: He got little old ladies to sink their life savings into nonexistent companies, then pocketed the money. As if that weren’t bad enough, Pearlman then used some of those millions to help manufacture boy-band juggernauts Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC. The world would never be the same.
Pearlman, who was a first cousin to Art Garfunkel, set out to run airlines and travel agencies, although most of these companies existed only on paper. When New Kids on the Block chartered one of his planes, he launched his own personal star search that resulted in Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, LFO and Aaron Carter, all of whom later sued Pearlman for back earnings. In a Vanity Fair article, several anonymous band-members alleged his hands-on management style included naked hotel bed romps with his charges.
After *NSYNC sang “Bye Bye Bye” to Pearlman, feds took control of his one remaining company in 2007. The man the Orlando Weekly dubbed a “corpulent pusbag” fled to Bali, where he adopted the alias “A. Incognito Johnson.” In May 2008, the 53-year-old was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison, but his debts to cheated investors, which total some $300 million, remain unpaid . — Charles Bottomley
Few black musicians have been as influential as Chuck Berry, whose guitar-slinging in the ’50s inspired countless rockers, and whose razor-sharp lyrics made him the Jay-Z of his day. With classics like “Johnny B. Goode” and “School Days,” Chuck didn’t invent rock ‘n’ roll, but he did give it a brain to go with its balls. For his pains, the duck walker has endured near-constant hassle from The Man.
In 1990, Chuck was able to add “pervert” after “rock legend” and “tax evader” on his résumé. He was sued by several female customers of his St. Louis restaurant, who claimed there was a video-camera setup in the ladies’ bathrooms. Berry shut them up with a $1.2 mil payout. No idea what he did with the tapes. But we can presume that, like the guitar in his “Johnny B. Goode” hit, it involved ringing something like a bell. — Charles Bottomley
After the jump, watch Chuck in his prime performing “Johnny B. Goode.”
Payback, as Jesus Christ once said, is a bitch. Nobody knows that like Pentecostal preacher Jimmy Swaggart, cousin to Jerry Lee Lewis and the onetime head of a televangelical media empire that took in $150 million a year. In the mid-1980s, more than 2 million saps tuned into the gospel according to Swaggart — who preached against devils like Ozzy Osbourne. Another object of his divine wrath was minister Marvin Gorman, whom Swaggart accused of coveting a fellow pastor’s wife. In turn, Gorman in sicced a P.I. on Swaggart, and in 1988 the holy hypocrite was caught in a Louisiana love-nest with prostitute Debra Murphree.
After apologizing in an apocalyptic on-air meltdown, Swaggart was allowed to keep his TV ministry. But three years later, the California Highway Patrol caught him in a car with a whore of Indio, CA. This time Swaggart refused to say “sorry,” and his family promptly exiled him. Amazingly, the 73-year-old with a hard-on for Armageddon and loose women continues to preach and record gospel albums. — Charles Bottomley