Old Celebrity Scandals The Media Would Freak Over Today
Classic Hollywood had its share of celebrity gossip, but aside from being less ubiquitous, the media was also more forgiving - especially in an age before Reddit, Twitter, YouTube, and endless parades of celebrity internet memes.
Sticky questions about "ethics" still occasionally plague contemporary conversations about famous celebrity scandals, but with up-to-the-minute Instagram and Twitter feeds detailing every move a famous person makes, it's hard to believe how much public figures were once able to get away with.
Below are just a few of the most shocking, and sometimes bizarre, celebrity scandals that would have headlined the internet and 24-hour media cycles, if such things had been around when they happened.
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The Tragic Death Of Judith Barsi
One of the most promising young talents of the 1980s was Judith Barsi, a precociously talented screen and voice actress. Barsi is best remembered as the voice of Ducky in The Land Before Time, and the voice of Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go to Heaven. Barsi was so mature and professional that she was frequently cast to play characters that were older than her - an extreme rarity for a child actor.
Behind the scenes, though, Barsi struggled with a tumultuous family life, including an abusive and alcoholic father. On July 25, 1988, Joe Barsi murdered his wife and 10-year-old daughter in their home in Canoga Park, CA, and then shot himself.
Friends reported that Joe had often made threats against Judith and her mother, but that no one had taken him seriously, making their horrific deaths all the more tragic.
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Technically, Myra Gale Brown was Jerry Lee Lewis's first cousin once removed. Lewis and his publicists insisted she was 15, but there's no denying that she was just 13 years old when they were married. At the time, Lewis was 22, Myra was his third wife, and the marriage was mostly kept secret until a British journalist outed them to the press.
Although the scandal practically destroyed Lewis's career, he later managed a slight comeback - and he didn't go to jail.
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Fatty Arbuckle was a comedic actor in silent films, known for his lovable, oafish persona. Off screen, however, he was a bit of a party animal, and though the details of what actually happened on September 5, 1921, remain unclear, his affinity for letting things get a little out of control seem to have caught up with him.
After a party at Arbuckle's house,youn g actress Virginia Rappe was rushed to the hospital, where she ultimately died. Rappe had suffered a ruptured bladder and other apparent physical trauma, and rumors quickly circulated that her demise had been the result of a sexual assault.
After one of Rappe's friends accused Arbuckle directly, the case actually went to trial. Arbuckle was exonerated, but his public image was ruined, and his career never fully recovered.
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In her heyday, Joan Crawford was one of the most powerful and in-demand performers in Hollywood. She was known for being a perfectionist, as well as for her extreme professionalism and powerful screen presence. Crawford was married four times and adopted a total of four children.
Despite many childhood photo-ops that suggested her children were living a fairy tale life of luxury, the two oldest adoptees, Christina and Christopher, were both highly critical of Crawford as adults. In 1978, shortly after Crawford's passing, her daughter Christina published a tell-all autobiography called Mommie Dearest, accusing Crawford of systematic emotional and physical abuse.
Christina's scathing memoir was later adapted in 1981 into a film of the same title, starring Faye Dunaway.
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In 1958, Lana Turner's daughter, Cheryl Crane, was accused of stabbing Johnny Stamponato, a small-time criminal Turner had been seeing romantically. Crane, who was 14 years old at the time, was tried for the murder, and was ultimately acquitted, claiming she had stabbed Stamponato after overhearing him threatening to kill her mother.
Many speculated that it had in fact been Turner herself who dealt the fatal blow, and then allowed the crime to be pinned on her young daughter instead. Others more sordidly suggested that Crane had been romantically involved with Stamponato herself. Crane published a memoir in 1988 called Detour, in which she detailed the incident and ensuing trial.
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John Lennon's Spousal Abuse
Though John Lennon's public image is one that is synonymous with hippie counterculture and musical revolution, there is documentation of the famous Beatle physically abusing of both of his wives and his son Julian.
Both Cynthia Lennon and Yoko Ono admitted that John routinely got physical with them when he was angry, and Lennon even admitted to this himself once or twice in interviews (though he always claimed the behavior was a thing of the past, and that it was no longer an issue for him).