We’ve all seen the throngs of screaming fans, lined up on either side of the red carpet and testing the tensile strength of those velvet ropes that barely keep them away from their beloved stars of the stage and screen. But do these superfans ever stop to consider the real actions of the real human beings behind those sparkling A-List facades? If so, they may not be willing to risk a trampling for an autograph or a selfie.
After all, there’s an old adage about the dangers of meeting your idols — and that’s probably because the law of averages states there’s a good chance that the person staring back at you from that poster on your wall isn’t worthy of your praise. On this list are some seriously seriously atrocious crimes committed by seriously big stars, many of whom walked away with a mere slap on the wrist. These are some of Hollywood’s most idolized celebrities, who’ve done terrible things.
Steve Jobs will no doubt go down as possibly the greatest marketing mind of any generation, but as a parent, Jobs probably won’t be winning any posthumous awards.
According to the New York Post, the late Apple CEO publicly denied he was the father of he and Chrisann Brennan’s child, despite reportedly being forced to take a paternity test that revealed that the probability of Jobs being the father was 94.1 percent. Jobs continued to deny the results, slamming his ex when he told Time magazine that "28% of the male population of the United States could be the father." Yikes.
According to the International Business Times, Jobs "swore in court documents" that he was "sterile and infertile." (He went on to have three children with wife Laurene Powell.) Meanwhile, Brennan and her baby girl were reportedly living on welfare. According to Fortune, Jobs eventually began paying $500 a month in court-ordered child support. A month after that order, "Apple went public … giving Jobs a personal net worth of more than $225 million."
The daughter he denied, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, later wrote an essay recalling her childhood memories with her absentee father. According to Fortune, she said her dad "would stop by our house some days, a deity among us for a few tingling moments or hours." Later in life, Jobs accepted Lisa as one of his own, increasing his financial support and including her in his multi-million dollar inheritance. She was reportedly at her father’s bedside when he passed away in 2011.
Forever immortalized as an R&B funk pioneer — and, later, a Chappelle’s Show skit — Rick James found success starting in the ’70s, but it all came crashing down in the early ’90s. By that time, James’ rampant cocaine addiction was tabloid fodder, but in August 1991, he crossed the line.
According to the Los Angeles Times, James and his girlfriend were arrested for "allegedly imprisoning and torturing a 24-year-old woman with a hot cocaine pipe over three days at James’ Hollywood Hills home." When the woman attempted to leave, James allegedly brandished a gun, threatened to kill her, then "tied the woman up and severely burned her about 20 times with the hot end of a crack cocaine pipe."
While out on bail for kidnapping and torture charges, James was arrested again for assaulting music executive Mary Sauger at a hotel in West Hollywood. According to the Los Angeles Times, James (once again with his girlfriend) beat Sauger unconscious, then threw "water on her to revive her," then "the two again slapped her about the face for several hours."
Despite facing 15 felony counts, James reportedly "dozed off while sitting in court, and began snoring audibly" during the Sauger trial. He was eventually convicted of two lesser charges and "sentenced to five years and four months" in January 1994, according to the Orlando Sentinel. He was released in August 1996, having "reportedly written 400 songs while in prison" (per E! News).
Cocaine is a helluva drug.
In 2009, just four years after his debut single, "Run It!" hit the airwaves, Brown viciously attacked his then girlfriend, fellow pop star Rihanna, so badly that she required hospitalization. The details of the assault are horrific, so if you choose to read them, you can get the full account per MTV News. Brown pleaded guilty to felony assault and was sentenced to five years probation and six months of community service, reported the Los Angeles Times.
The slap on the wrist didn’t sit well with domestic violence advocates and the general public alike, and in 2011, Brown didn’t do his image any favors when he appeared on Good Morning America to promote his latest album. When repeatedly pressed by host Robin Roberts to discuss the infamous incident involving Rihanna, Brown stormed off the set. "He looked like he wanted to kill somebody," an insider told the New York Daily News. "He went completely nuts. … ripped off his shirt and went into the room and threw a chair and broke the window."
Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of Brown’s downward spiral. According to People‘s exhaustive breakdown of the singer’s troubles in the years since the Rihanna assault, Brown has also been allegedly involved in multiple assaults, violently threatened another girlfriend, and investigated for a rape allegation in France.
Instead of being best known for her roles in Cry-Baby and Melrose Place, Amy Locane will forever remain infamous for the 2010 car crash that claimed the life of a 60-year-old New Jersey woman named Helene Seeman.
According to My Central Jersey, the trouble began when Locane rear-ended a vehicle, then fled the scene when the driver tried to contact police. That driver reportedly followed her "and saw her swerving and knocking down mailboxes" prior to slamming into the passenger side of Seeman’s vehicle as it turned into a driveway. Seeman was pronounced dead at the scene.
Locane’s "blood-alcohol level that was nearly three times the legal limit," reported People. She was convicted of vehicular homicide in 2012 and sentenced to three years behind bars, of which she served 2.5. In 2019, Locane was sentenced to another five years after prosecutors filed and appeal seeking resentencing, arguing her original punishment was "not severe enough" (per My Central Jersey). As of this writing, Locane remains free, pending her own appeal.
"There hasn’t been a day that has gone by that I didn’t think of Helene Seeman," the actress said in a 2017 interview with NJ.com. "I feel terrible for her family. I know that they are hurting. I know that they are grieving. I have said that I’m sorry over and over to them, but I feel like it falls on deaf ears."
Rap icon and headphones pioneer Dr. Dre has a long history of committing violence toward women.
In 1991, Dee Barnes had the audacity to criticize Dre’s group, N.W.A., on her Fox TV rap video show called Pump It Up. According to Rolling Stone, "Dre picked her up and ‘began slamming her face and the right side of her body repeatedly against a wall near the stairway’ as his bodyguard held off the crowd. After Dre tried to throw her down the stairs and failed, he began kicking her in the ribs and hands. She escaped and ran into the women’s restroom. Dre followed her and ‘grabbed her from behind by the hair and proceeded to punch her in the back of the head.’" Dre’s reasoning for such unhinged violence against a female critic? "People talk all this s**t, but you know, somebody f**ks with me, I’m gonna f**k with them. I just did it, you know. Ain’t nothing you can do now by talking about it. Besides, it ain’t no big thing — I just threw her through a door."
Dre’s ex-fiancée, Michel’le, claimed beat her so badly in multiple incidents that she needed plastic surgery. A third alleged victim of Dre’s, rapper Tairrie B, told The New York Times that he "punched [her] right in the mouth and again in the eye" after she insulted him in a song.
The only legal repercussions the hip-hop legend ever faced were community service, probation, and a fine, after he pleaded no contest to assault and battery charges related to the Barnes incident. Dre did, however, vaguely confessed to the other allegations when he apologized to "the women I’ve hurt." He also told The New York Times, "Twenty-five years ago I was a young man drinking too much and in over my head with no real structure in my life. However, none of this is an excuse for what I did. … I’m doing everything I can so I never resemble that man again.
You might know Felicia "Snoop" Pearson as the cold-blooded murderer of the same name on the legendary HBO crime-drama, The Wire. Famed horror author Stephen King even called her "the most terrifying female villain to ever appear in a television series."
In a terrible case of art appearing to imitate life, Pearson served six years behind bars after being convicted of second-degree murder in 1996 at the age of 14. According to The Washington Post, Pearson got into a fight with another teen named Okia "Kia" Toomer. Court records say Pearson "pulled out a gun and fired it. Twice. The crowd scattered. Kia ran, too. But a bullet pierced her left buttock, tearing through nerves, veins and arteries before it exited the other side." Kia died on an operating table at age 15.
Even after achieving success on the beloved Baltmore-based series, Pearson ended up implicated in a string of drug-related offenses, none of which stuck until her guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of "conspiracy to distribute heroin" in 2011 (via The Baltimore Sun). She received three years probation, but contended, "I pleaded guilty, but that doesn’t make me guilty. I made a decision in my life to do what was best for me without involving or implicating anyone else. Don’t use my background against me. Let me move on."
From crack dealer to CEO, some might argue that Jay-Z is the modern incarnation of the American Dream, but one man’s dream is another man’s nightmare. Don’t forget that in 1999, the hip-hop mogul was arrested for allegedly stabbing record executive Lance "Un" Rivera in the stomach at a Manhattan nightclub.
According to The New York Times, Jay-Z approached Rivera at the club and accused him of pirating and bootlegging his yet to be released Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter. A fight broke out and, according to court documents, Jay-Z stabbed Rivera ‘‘more than once in the back with a knife" and slashed his abdomen. Jay-Z pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and was sentenced to three years probation, reported MTV News.
Jay-Z reflects on the incident in his 2010 book, Decoded (via MTV News), saying that he "was blacking out with anger. The next thing I knew, all hell had broken loose in the club."
Before he was a funky one-hit wonder and underwear-model-turned actor, Mark Wahlberg grew up rough in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Mass. By the age of 13, he had a cocaine problem, and by 15, he was reportedly a virulent racist. He threw rocks and spewed racial slurs at black, fourth grade schoolchildren in 1986, reported The Smoking Gun.
It got worse. Way worse. According to Thought Catalog: "One year later, in a single day, he knocked Thahn Lam—a middle-aged man of Vietnamese descent—unconscious with a stick while calling him ‘Vietnam f**king s**t’ and, on that same evening, punched Vietnam native Hoa Trinh [in the face] … After being brought to the scene on the first charge, Wahlberg told officers, ‘You don’t have to let him identify me, I’ll tell you now that’s the motherf**ker whose head I split open.’" He also reportedly lobbed racial slurs during police proceedings. He spent 45 days in a correctional facility.
In 2014, Wahlberg attempted to get a full pardon for his crimes, which didn’t go over well. "I don’t really care who he is. It doesn’t make him any exception," Kristyn Atwood, one of the schoolchildren Wahlberg allegedly terrorized, told the Associated Press (via The Guardian), adding, "If you’re a racist, you’re always going to be a racist." Wahlberg later implied (via Mediaite) that he was coerced into applying for the pardon and that he regretted it. "I spent 28 years righting the wrong," he told reporters in 2016, adding, "I didn’t need a piece of paper to acknowledge it."
If you’re into comparing, Justin Bieber is nowhere near the terrible level of the other people on this list. But if you’re into tracking patterns of horrible behavior, the Canadian-born singer has a lot to answer for as a young man in his twenties.
There was the time he urinated in a restaurant janitor’s mop bucket. There was the 2013 arrest for drag racing a yellow Lamborghini while reportedly under the influence of marijuana and prescription drugs in Miami. Remember when he received two years probation in 2014 for egging his neighbor’s house? Don’t forget his 2014 arrest for assault and dangerous driving in Canada — the Biebs reportedly crashed into a man riding an ATV then tried to fight him. There was the 2015 arrest warrant issued by the Argentinian government after Bieber ignored requests to be interviewed regarding allegations that his bodyguards physically attacked a man. There’s also the video of Bieber using the n-word and singing about joining the KKK. You may also recall the time he was banned from entering China.
There’s more, but you get the idea. For his troubles, he’s been ordered to community service and probation, attended anger management classes, and shelled out hefty fines and charitable "donations" in relationship to his various guilty pleas, per CNN. So, how does Bieber explain how he let fame go so poorly to his head? "Drugs put a screen between me and what I was doing," he told Vogue in 2019, adding, "It got pretty dark."