Tom Cruise was once a famous movie star. He made great movies like Risky Business and Top Gun. But then he married Nicole Kidman. Hollywood’s most popular star and a tall blonde Australian? Nobody believed the marriage was real. Tom further alienated his public with his involvement in the Church of Scientology.
Tom put more nails in his own coffin following his 2001 divorce from Kidman. First he dated Penélope Cruz. Hollywood’s most popular star and a Spanish bombshell? Nobody could believe it was real. Cruise further alienated his public when he made movies like Vanilla Sky. Then Cruise dumped Cruz and announced he had fallen in love with Katie Holmes. Hollywood’s most popular star and the beauty from Dawson’s Creek? It stank like a publicity stunt.
But Tom was determined to prove the world wrong. While guesting on Oprah, he got so excited over his romance that he jumped up and down on her couch. “That’s how I feel about it! Really!” he cried. Sorry, Tom. Not buying it. And nobody wants to see a short man acting like a drunk leprechaun.
Cruise went on a rampage. He wagged his finger at Matt Lauer on Today as he preached Scientology’s anti-psychiatry gospel and slammed Brooke Shields for battling depression with meds. With “jumping the couch” entering the lexicon, getting people to see a Tom Cruise movie became a Mission: Impossible. Lions for Lambs was stillborn in theaters, and the upcoming Nazi flick Valkyrie is scheduled to open on the twelfth of never.
Zac Efron, we hope you’ve been paying attention. — Charles Bottomley
River Phoenix‘s 1993 overdose was not the first tragic death of a young actor nor the last, but you wouldn’t know it from the number of songs that have been written to honor and mourn the 23-year-old Hollywood casualty. Kurt Cobain, REM, Beyoncé, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rufus Wainwright, Tom Petty, and many others have paid musical respect to the handsome young star, whose death from a mix of heroin and cocaine helped highlight the rise of heroin chic.
River didn’t live long enough to become a true matinee idol (how many people have actually seen Running On Empty, which got him his Academy Award nom at 18?). But prominent roles in films ranging from My Own Private Idaho to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade promised a fascinating career for the Phoenix, who enamored many with his political activism. He had no previous drug history, and many were shocked when River died on the sidewalk outside of Johnny Depp‘s club, the Viper Room, following a night of hard partying. Brother Joaquin, who would eventually be nominated for an Oscar himself, almost quit acting after his desperate 911 call was played on TV.
Despite claims that River’s last words were “No paparazzi, I want anonymity,” a photographer broke into the funeral home, and sold a snap of his corpse to the National Enquirer for $5,000.
There’s a party at Rick James‘s house, so grab a friend and bring a crack pipe! Perhaps that’s what 24-year-old Frances Alley was told before heading over to Rick’s West Hollywood home one night in 1991.
Hits like “Give it to Me” and “Superfreak” made Rick one of the biggest Motown stars of the ’70s and ’80s, but his fame began to fade during the following decade. When M.C. Hammer sampled Rick’s “Superfreak” on “U Can’t Touch This” in 1990, Rick reportedly made $30 million off the song, which more than supported his alleged $15,000-per-week cocaine habit. It was during a coke binge that Rick and his girlfriend Tanya Hijazi tied Alley up, forced her to perform sexual acts, and burned her legs and abdomen with the hot end of a crack cocaine pipe. And then, a year later — while James was out on bail — music executive Mary Sauger testified that when she’d gone to his hotel room for a business meeting, Rick and Tanya proceeded to beat her and hold her prisoner for 20 hours.
Rick spent nearly three years in Folsom State Penitentiary and was released in 1996. He continued to release mildly successful albums, including Urban Rhapsody in 1997 and Anthology in 2002, but never quite regained his “Superfreak” status. He was found dead of a heart attack in his Burbank apartment in 2004 with traces of Xanax, Valium, Wellbutrin, Celexa, Vicodin, marijuana, cocaine, and Ecstasy in his bloodstream.
Never have so many known so little about one rumor. The words Richard, Gere, and gerbil became intractably linked over a decade ago, the story going like this:
Back in the early ’90s, Richard was allegedly admitted to a Los Angeles area hospital with a foreign object lodged in his rectum. Only he and the X-ray machine know for sure, but the object was reported to be a gerbil, either alive or dead (we’ll let you make the educated guess). According to the rumor, Richard had been participating in a sexual activity called “gerbilling,” wherein a gerbil is used in an attempt to attain auto-erotic stimulation. The incident, if true, would have taken place while Gere was riding high from his Pretty Woman success, and while married to uber-fox Cindy Crawford.
Though Richard has never directly addressed the rumors, they’ve persisted, making their way into the cultural consciousness — with everything from a South Park episode to the gerbil-in-question’s very own MySpace page.
In July 1991, Mike Tyson was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, but he was about to face the bout of his life — and give credence to his nickname of “Baddest Man on the Planet.”
Asked to judge an Indiana beauty pageant, the 25-year-old Tyson allegedly invited the 18-year-old Miss Black Rhode Island, Desiree Washington, back to his hotel room. From there, reports differ as to whether the sex was consensual or not, but on March 27, 1992, Tyson was convicted of rape and sentenced to ten years in prison, with the judge suspending the final four years. Tyson served half of his six-year-sentence, during which time he converted to Islam and reportedly endured the company of quite a few non-fans.
Since his release, the lisping pugilist’s career has never fully recovered, and has hit many major roadblocks — in the form of drug arrests, bankruptcy, and a face tattoo.
Q: What do you do if you are a floundering rock star and you want to be immortalized into an icon?
Elvis Presley had shot to fame in the late fifties with hit songs like “Hound Dog” and “All Shook Up,” which sent teenage girls howling at the pelvis-shaking wonder and made him the third-bestselling recording artist of all time. But twenty years later his star was fading — as fast as his dependency on painkillers, uppers, and depressants was rising. And then, in 1977, his fiancée Ginger Alden found the 44-year-old King of Rock ‘n’ Roll lying in a pool of his own vomit on the bathroom floor of his Memphis mansion, Graceland. He died of heart failure, thought to be related to drug use.
A former member of his backup band recalled how bad off the King had become shortly before his death: “He walked onstage [at a concert] and held on to the mike for the first thirty minutes like it was a post. Everybody was scared.”
It’s conceivable that Elvis could have made a comeback, but his shocking sudden death — followed by conspiracy theories and Elvis “sightings” that continue to this day — helped to secure his position as one of rock’s immortal icons.
By the mid-1990s, Hugh Grant had weaseled his way into our hearts, thanks to his bumbling courtship of Andie MacDowell in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Throw bombshell girlfriend Liz Hurley into the mix, and Hugh had it all. Imagine the shock when he stopped stammering long enough to be arrested in the company of Hollywood sex worker Divine Brown in June 1995. She was polishing Mr. Grant’s knob at the time. Overnight, he went from Hugh Star to Lewd Grant–but his Oxford education didn’t go to waste.
Grant went on Jay Leno to tell all. “I think you know in life what’s a good thing to do and what’s a bad thing, and I did a bad thing,” he said. “And there you have it.” Hugh also served up mea-culpa on Larry King. “I don’t have excuses,” he shrugged. The PR offensive worked. Fans held up billboards reading, “I would have paid you, Hugh.”
Still reeling from the incident, Grant and Hurley split up five years later. Grant’s career hasn’t been the same since, and he still cries himself to sleep thinking about films like About a Boy, Love Actually, and Bridget Jones’s Diary. Last year, Hugh had another run-in with the law after he attacked the paparazzi with baked beans. — Charles Bottomley
Actors: they think because they’re given a public forum, they should share their political views. However good their intentions, they’re often out of their depth — but that didn’t stop Jane Fonda. After becoming one of the nation’s sexiest thespians in her role as Barbarella, a futuristic stripping astronaut, Jane traveled to Vietnam in the winter of 1972 to investigate whether the United States had been purposefully bombing dikes to affect the water supply to more than 15 million Vietnamese.
She believed they had, and implored the American government to stop by going on Communist radio in Vietnam and screening a short film upon her return to the States. Jane was also photographed sitting astride a Vietnamese anti-air gun in a helmet, which she later apologized for. “I will go to my grave regretting the photograph of me in an anti-aircraft gun, which looks like I was trying to shoot at American planes. It hurt so many soldiers. It galvanized such hostility.” But it wasn’t just photos of Jane that incensed people. She remarked that American prisoners of war whom she had interviewed had not been tortured, despite claims to the contrary.
Jane was branded as a traitor, and she wouldn’t act again until 1977’s Fun With Dick and Jane. Pissed American veterans have had the last laugh, though: Fonda’s most recent starring turns have been in Hallmark-like dreck opposite Lindsay Lohan and Jennifer Lopez.
Having the Hell’s Angels handle your security is like having Michael Jackson watch your kids – you just know it’ll end badly. In support of their prophetically named 1969 album Let It Bleed, the Rolling Stones snorted and screwed their way across Woodstock era-America before deciding to play a free concert in California. Little did they know the show would climax with the death of a young fan.
Without a venue, the band settled on Altamont, an abandoned speedway, and 400,000 fans showed in just two days. The Angels, allegedly hired for $500 worth of beer, punched Jefferson Airplane lead singer Marty Balin in the face, lobbed beer cans at people’s heads (concussion time!), and used lead-filled pool cues to shove and prod the crowd. But this abuse wasn’t the worst of it.
By happenstance, the tumultuous scene was captured by filmmakers the Maysles Brothers, who were shooting a concert documentary (Gimme Shelter). In the chilling footage (initially savaged by critics as a glorified snuff film), Jagger implores the Angels to treat the audience with more respect, then distractedly mumbles through “Under My Thumb” as the Angels murder Meredith Hunter, an 18-year-old man who had brandished a gun. Goodbye peace and love.
Paris Hilton parlayed a sex tape and general dim-wittedness into something approaching a career, assuming “showing up” can be considered a job title. But the heir mattress had a bad habit of driving herself around, usually while tanked up.
In February 2007, Hilton was already on probation for a 2006 DUI arrest when she got pulled over for speeding. Police discovered she was driving with a suspended license, and Hilton was eventually sentenced to 45 days in jail for violating her probation.
America’s monosyllabic sweetheart had barely been in jail long enough to be made Big Mama’s bitch when an L.A. county sheriff reassigned her to 40 days home confinement. Even E! channel devotees were suddenly muttering about “special treatment.”
Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed. The day she was due to be begin her confinement, a judge sent her straight back to LA’s Century Regional Detention Facility. Hilton freaked out in court (“Mom, it’s not fair!”) and was hospitalized for a few days before she went back to prison. Thanks to “good behavior”, she wound up serving only 23 days. — Charles Bottomley