Facts About '80s Heartthrobs That Made Us Say 'Whoa'

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Vote up the '80s heartthrob facts that are, like, totally b*tchin'.

Hop in your DeLorean to go back in time to revisit your favorite '80s heartthrobs and some of the strangest facts about them. Many look totally different from their Springsteen-blasting glory days, while others have stayed the same or gotten even better looking. (Matt Dillon, how do you do it?)

Beyond the big-hair makeovers and weathered looks, they've gone through marriages and divorces, and one has even married a... wall. The weirdest facts about '80s hunks are, like, really gnarly.

  • Jon Bon Jovi Has A Restaurant With No Prices
    Photo: Mercury

    Heavy metal rocker Jon Bon Jovi opened a restaurant, the JBJ Soul Kitchen, with an unusual payment policy: The eatery has no prices on its menu and asks only for a donation, if you can give one. 

    Bon Jovi was inspired to create JBJ Soul Kitchen after witnessing the poverty and homelessness in the many cities he saw on tour. He created the restaurant, which now has two locations in his home state of New Jersey, to feed anyone who is hungry, regardless of their financial or housing situation. The food is high quality and fresh, with some of the ingredients coming from the restaurants' own gardens. 

    The restaurants have served over 130,000 meals and counting. 

  • Christian Slater Donated His Paycheck From ‘Interview with the Vampire’ In Honor Of River Phoenix, Who Had Initially Signed On To His Role
    Photo: Interview With the Vampire / Warner Bros

    The last role River Phoenix signed on to play before his passing in 1993 was interviewer Daniel Molloy in Interview with the Vampire, a film adaptation of Anne Rice's novel of the same name, starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. 

    Christian Slater, who was cast to replace Phoenix in the role, donated his entire paycheck from the box-office hit to two of River Phoenix's favorite charities, Earth Save and Earth Trust.

    In a 2018 interview, Slater explained why he chose to donate the money on behalf of Phoenix: 

    It was hard. How to replace somebody that died in that way, and somebody that I admired greatly. I thought we’d be in this business forever and we’d be competing for the same roles and doing all these things and instead that tragedy happened. So it was very, very sad. I tried to deal with it in the best way that I could. It didn’t feel right taking money for it, so I ended up donating the money to charities and things that he was involved with.

  • As A Child, Bruce Willis Had A Severe Stutter
    Photo: Moonlighting / ABC

    Bruce Willis broke into the spotlight with his 1985 role on the TV series Moonlighting, playing David Addison. But few people know that he spent the first 20 years of his life grappling with a severe stutter that affected his ability to communicate. Even more interesting: Acting seemed to be his solution. 

    Willis discussed his speech impediment in an interview:

    I could hardly talk. It took me three minutes to complete a sentence. It was crushing for anyone who wanted to express themselves, who wanted to be heard and couldn't. It was frightening. Yet, when I became another character, in a play, I lost the stutter. It was phenomenal.

    Willis has also shared how much he struggled with his speech as a teenager, becoming the class clown in an attempt to distract from it. He's since had an incredibly successful career, with major roles in more than 70 films. 

  • Robert Downey Jr. Credits Burger King (And His Wife) With Getting Him Clean
    Photo: Less Than Zero / 20th Century Fox

    Robert Downey Jr. had a brief fall from his throne of '80s heartthrob royalty due to his addictions. He went to jail in 1999 and continued to struggle with drugs until 2003. 

    Apparently, a meal at Burger King helped Downey on his road to sobriety. He said in an interview

    I have to thank Burger King. It was such a disgusting burger I ordered. I had that, and this big soda, and I thought something really bad was going to happen.

    His feeling of impending doom led him to throw all the illicit substances he had in his car at the time into the ocean, finally cutting ties with his dependency. He's been clean ever since.

    To be fair, around the same time as this incident, Downey's future wife, Susan Levin, told him if he didn't clean up his act, their relationship wouldn't work. She told Harper's Bazaar, "I made it clear that to stay with me, nothing could happen." The idea of losing the love of his life combined with the perceived danger of a horrible fast food meal was enough to get Downey clean. Downey has said his wife changed his outlook on relationships: "Whatever I was hungry for when I met Susan, I couldn't have known how much more satisfying what I got would be."

    Downey Jr. is now known as the brash but lovable Tony Stark/Iron Man, along with many other leading roles he's played after his resurgence as an actor in his 30s and 40s. A scene in Iron Man even pays homage to his fast food moment, when he's given a Burger King cheeseburger after escaping imprisonment.  

  • George Michael Woke Up From A Coma With A Different Accent
    Photo: Columbia

    Foreign accent syndrome (FAS) is a phenomenon that happens when someone recovers from a brain injury with a different accent or manner of speaking from the one they've always had. 

    George Michael, frontman of the '80s band Wham!, went into a coma from a life-threatening case of pneumonia after ignoring his illness to continue performing on tour. When he awoke five weeks later, he had a West Country accent, even though he hails from North London. West Country accents in the UK are associated with farmers and pirates, unlike George Michael's typically posh London accent. 

    While doctors were alarmed, fearing that Michael had FAS, the singer had a different explanation. Before his illness, he'd been watching the BBC sitcom Nighty Night and discussing it every evening with a friend, doing the West Country accent featured on the show. When he awoke, he had the TV show on the brain and for two days spoke with the accent, to his sisters' delight and to his doctors' concern.

    Fortunately for his voice-dependent career, Michael eventually returned to his normal accent. In an interview with a London radio station, he described the humorous side of the alarming incident:

    The first thing I said when I woke up... They said "Do you know who you are?" and I said, "King of the World?"

  • Matt Dillon Was Discovered At His Middle School When Talent Scouts Were Looking For A Kid With A 'Tough Guy' Act
    Photo: Over the Edge / Warner Bros

    Matt Dillon had a number of career-defining "bad boy" roles throughout the '80s. His many roles in film adaptations of S.E. Hinton books (The Outsiders, Tex, and Rumble Fish) gave him his too-cool-for-shirt-sleeves rebel image. 

    Dillon was actually scouted for his first role in a relatively unknown film called Over the Edge. The filmmakers were specifically searching for a kid with a "tough guy" act, and teenage Dillon was the perfect fit.

    Talent scout Jane Bernstein told Vice about discovering him at a New York middle school as she and a friend followed orders to search for "the new James Dean":

    [O]n our last day... there was this one kid... who was soft and young but who had a toughness about him. He was skipping class, just wandering the hallways. He had this chipped tooth, and he was presenting himself as a tough guy from the wrong side of the tracks. Which was ridiculous. As we later learned, he was from a lovely family in a beautiful section of the suburbs of New York. 

    Although the studio was reluctant to cast an actor with no experience, director Jonathan Kaplan said he was sold after witnessing Dillon's attitude in the audition: "I asked what his parents did for a living. He said, 'My father is a f*cking stockbroker and my mom, she don’t do sh*t.'"

    Dillon himself described this time of his life in an interview, saying, "I used to cut class in high school, but then go to the library to read."

    A bad boy who secretly reads was destined for heartthrob status.