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.
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.’”
Playboy model. Senior citizen sex toy. The unholy love child of Marilyn Monroe and the Michelin Man. Anna Nicole Smith was created so the world could marvel at just how messed up one person could get and still not be Britney Spears. Just ask anybody who owns The Anna Nicole Show: The Complete Series on DVD.
The dust seemed to have cleared after the death of Smith’s 20-year-old son Daniel, from an overdose of prescription pills and methodone, and her commitment ceremony to lawyer and long-time pal Howard K. Stern. Then Smith’s lifeless body was found in a Florida hotel room in February 2007. The autopsy showed she had suffered an accidental overdose of prescription medication — none of which had actually been prescribed to her. Then things got really weird.
Stern took custody of Smith’s infant daughter Dannielynn, whose paternity was contested by ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead. After a court battle and DNA test proving Birkhead was the father, Stern surrendered custody. Then a book alleged that Birkhead and Stern were really lovers. And then our heads exploded. — Charles Bottomley
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
Although he was best known for his soulful odes to racial harmony and sexual bliss, singer Marvin Gaye‘s personal life was anything but laid back. At age 44, Gaye publicly admitted he was long-time “drug addict and sex freak”, a Safe-for-Work version of one ex-wife’s accusations that Gaye was a porn fiend and chronic masturbator prone to violence and coke binges.
Gaye’s double life mirrored that of his father, Marvin Pence Gay Sr., a fundamentalist preacher in Washington, DC. Despite vowing to wipe out vice in all its guises, Gay Sr. was also a cross-dresser who whipped his children. Unsurprisingly, tension and arguments were common under his roof. Marvin and his father had fierce brawls, the singer later changing his last name to “Gaye” to distance himself.
In 1984, in a house filled with guns, booze, and blow, the Grammy-winning singer and his father had their final skirmish, this time over misplaced business papers. After Gaye knocked his father to the floor, 70-year-old Marvin Sr. got up, retrieved the pistol his son had given him for Christmas, and shot him twice at point blank range, killing him instantly. In a jailhouse interview, Gay Sr. was asked if he loved his son. He responded, “Let’s say that I didn’t dislike him.”
By 1962, sex symbol Marilyn Monroe had racked up an impressive list of ex-lovers and enemies to go with her cinema successes: outfielder Joe DiMaggio, playwright Arthur Miller, singer Frank Sinatra, wiseguy Sam Giancana, President John Kennedy and his brother Robert, the Attorney General. And those were just the household names. So when Monroe’s body was found in her Brentwood, California home early on August 4th, an apparent victim of a drug overdose at 36, the media could be forgiven for cooking up few conspiracy theories.
While her cause of death was listed as “probable suicide,” forensics now shows her overdose was probably caused by a sedative enema – not a way most people prefer to go. Did one of her doctors give her a bad prescription? Or was the enema a murder weapon? Witnesses, ignored by the police, claim that RFK entered the home with some goons around the same time she was telling friends on the phone that she was going to reveal secrets about the Attorney General and his President brother. There were also reports of an ambulance coming and going from the house before the discovery of her corpse, also suggesting that her handlers had something to hide.
With nearly everyone involved now dead, it seems unlikely we’ll ever know the full story. But whether her “probable suicide” was an accident, Kennedy-sponsored murder or just what investigators claimed it to be, few who knew Monroe’s emotional issues and chemical addictions thought she would have lived much longer. As Miller later said, “It had to happen. I didn’t know when or how, but it was inevitable.”
Britney, light of our lives, fire of our loins! How do we love thee? Let us count the ways:
1. Your “One More Time” schoolgirl outfit. (Hands up, who rubbed one out to that?)
2. “Oops, I Did It Again.” The song that launched a thousand lazy Life & Style headlines.
3. Your 55-hour marriage to Jason Alexander, who later sold his story of shower-stall rutting to the tabs.
4. Swapping spit with Madonna at the MTV VMAs. (Our little skeez is all grown up now!)
5. Your reality show Britney & Kevin: Chaotic. Like I Love Lucy on Rohypnol.
6. F*cking Fred Durst. A mental picture that could make even grown men go “Ewwww!”
7. Driving with baby Sean Preston on your lap. Celebrities…they’re just like us!
8. Your impromptu tribute to Sinéad O’Connor.
9. Your VMAs comeback “performance.” (Still better than Bon Jovi.)
10. Your meth-fueled trips to Cedars-Sinai.
11. Dating one of the paparazzi who follow you around everyday. (And have a way of tying up our commute to the Scandalist office.)
12. The Blackout album. A lot better than most people think…[That's enough Britney Spears –Ed.] — Charles Bottomley
After the jump, watch Britney sleepwalk through her VMAs “comeback.”