Hollywood is notoriously unforgiving, and a good scandal can ruin an actor’s decades-long career faster than the legal system can prosecute all of Tinseltown’s inevitable child star DUIs. Sex tapes, leaked photos, drug arrests — tabloids live for the moment a celebrity falls from grace. A Disney star’s mugshot is rarer than the Holy Grail and worth just as much in AdSense revenue.
Luckily for celebs, actual fans aren’t nearly as fickle. If they love someone enough, they’ll do anything to pretend a scandal never happened — at least that’s the only way to explain Chris Brown’s baffling, award-winning career. The music star racks up disturbing domestic assault allegations and convictions like they’re Grammy Awards. In other cases, celebs really do change. The Mark Wahlberg of today is a far cry from his past as a troubled teen (including a few less tattoos). Reese Witherspoon doesn’t deserve to lose her crown as America’s sweetheart just because she lost her cool that one time, and it’s never — never — too soon to stop talking about Matthew McConaughey playing bongos naked. In fact, we’re still actively trying to block that one from our memories. You catch our drift? These once-disgraced stars endured some pretty big scandals, but for one reason or another, everyone pretends they never happened.
Bruno Mars was two dance moves away from becoming a felon
Bruno Mars has hit every possible career milestone a musician could hit. He’s performed at the Super Bowl, amassed a mammoth collection of Grammys, and even charmed the nation in an episode of Carpool Karaoke – the true test of "making it" in the biz. It seems like everything Mars touches turns to 24K Magic. Yep, we all like to pretend the Marvin Gaye reincarnate can do no wrong (never mind all those copyright lawsuits.) As much as our memories would like to forget, there was once a time when Bruno Mars almost uptown funk-ed up his entire career with a felony cocaine charge.
In 2010, Mars was arrested in the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel after he was nabbed with 2.6 grams of what E! News describes as a "white powdery substance believed to be cocaine." Shocker: it was, in fact, cocaine. He was charged with felony cocaine-possession, but that was dismissed after he performed 200 hours of community service, paid a $2,000 fine, and underwent eight hours of drug counseling, reported E! News. Much like the judge who let Mars off easy, we’d all prefer to think of this superstar in the context of serving us strawberry champagne on ice rather than skiing down the dangerous white slopes of cocaine abuse.
Reese Witherspoon was totally not arrested for disorderly conduct
We refuse to acknowledge or admit that America’s sweetheart — the same woman who starred in wholesome family features such as Legally Blonde and made a heartfelt, empowering speech at Glamour’s Women of the Year Awards — could ever get arrested. In the same breath that Elle Woods wouldn’t be caught dead with poorly plucked, uneven eyebrows, Witherspoon doesn’t appear to have a disorderly bone in her body. Yet, here we are begging Reese Witherspoon’s pixelated mugshot to just be someone else.
Witherspoon was arrested for disorderly conduct in 2013 after her husband, Jim Toth, was pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence. To make matters worse, our fair lady of Sweet Home Alabama pulled the "Do you know who I am?" card — a move favored by child stars who’ve gone off-the-rails. Witherspoon was arrested on a Friday, and by that Sunday night, the Wild star had released a heartfelt apology. "I clearly had one drink too many and I am deeply embarrassed about the things I said. It was definitely a scary situation and I was frightened for my husband, but that is no excuse," she said, adding "I’m very sorry for my behavior."
Witherspoon wound up getting nominated for an Oscar not long after that debacle, and The Washington Post even claimed the arrest saved her career (which we weren’t aware needed saving in the first place). Today, it’s just a blip that we confuse with something that happened on Big Little Lies, rather than real life.
Matthew McConaughey’s naked bongo incident was just a bad dream
Over the last couple years, we’ve managed to completely wipe Matthew McConaughey’s naked bongo incident from our brains. He’s been so busy repping Lincolns that we’re more apt to think of him as an Uber driver rather than that annoying frat kid from Freshman year who incessantly bragged about making a bong from an apple. Remember, his certified best role was as David Wooderson in Dazed and Confused. Are you completely sure David Wooderson wasn’t the one walking around in the buff slapping some bongos?
Unfortunately, it was actually McConaughey who did this baffling deed. In 1999, he was busted on suspicion of marijuana possession. According to the infamous police report, he was dancing around naked playing bongo drums while another man cheered. The charges were dropped, and McConaughey nonchalantly described his visit to the slammer as somewhere he wouldn’t want to "rent a place" but "it was a nice stay for a night."
These days, McConaughey mostly keeps his clothes on. He’s even managed to transition into heavy roles in flicks such as Dallas Buyers Club and the HBO series True Detective. And though most of us forgot about it, he doesn’t regret a thing.
"What’s wrong with beating on your drums in your birthday suit? I have no regrets about the way I got there," he told Playboy (via the New York Daily News).
Ashton Kutcher is too busy saving the world to worry about an affair
Ashton Kutcher is a modern day superhero. The actor even took a reprieve from Hollywood to fight human trafficking, an endeavor he calls his new "day job." Kutcher is the chair of Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, an organization he founded with then-wife Demi Moore in 2009. With all the good work Kutcher’s done (he helped law enforcement identify 6,000 trafficking victims in just six months), it feels petty to harp on the years-old cheating rumors that once graced national headlines and sparked Moore’s alleged mental breakdown.
In 2011, reports surfaced that Kutcher cheated on Moore with two girls in a hot tub on his sixth wedding anniversary. Actor Jon Cryer claimed one of the infamous women was his then-girlfriend. Kutcher went on to divorce Moore, marry actress Mila Kunis, and have a couple kids. K-squared is a match made in TV heaven (Kutcher was Kunis’ first kiss as co-stars on That ’70s Show), so most of us have completely forgotten Moore was ever in the picture. Kutcher even joked about those infidelity rumors while accepting an award for being an astounding role model. During the 2017 speech, he mentioned that he "may or may not" be an adulterer and gave nod to the time he was arrested for "felony burglary" after trying to break into his high school. Then, he dedicated the award to Kunis and everyone melted.
So, no one is going to acknowledge Chris Brown’s insane SWAT team standoff?
Chris Brown is known for some pretty abhorrent things. There’s that time he brutally battered Rihanna, and the time he was slapped with a restraining order after allegedly threatening to "beat the s**t" out of then-girlfriend Karrueche Tran. Amidst all those negative relationship headlines, it’s easy to forget that Brown also had a day-long standoff with a SWAT team.
The incident began when Brown allegedly pulled a gun on a woman. She ran outside, where she was allegedly told she could get back her phone if she signed a non-disclosure agreement. She refused, snatched the phone away from Brown’s associate and ran, reported the Los Angeles Times. Brown reportedly followed her in a Jeep, but she escaped into a neighbor’s yard and hid under an SUV. The neighbor called the police. Brown reportedly refused to let law enforcement in his home without a warrant, so police set up camp outside, as Brown embarked on a bizarre police standoff-slash-Instagram rant as helicopters circled overhead. Brown was eventually arrested for felony assault with a deadly weapon.
All that, and yet fans seem to wear blinders when it comes to Brown’s behavior. He went on to win Grammy and MTV Awards after the incident involving Rihanna, and when Spotify removed numerous abusers from its official playlists in May 2018, Brown’s catalog remained untouched.
Rob Lowe had a threesome with a 16-year-old and escaped unscathed
In the #MeToo era, it’s pretty shocking that everyone seems to ignore the 1989 sex tape Rob Lowe shot with an underage girl. According to Yahoo, the St. Elmo’s Fire alum was in his early 20s when he picked up two women at a club after partying with fellow Brat Pack members Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson. The girls agreed to be videotaped, and Lowe filmed their enthusiastic romp. The video was circulated around the world, which wouldn’t necessarily have been a huge deal had one of the participants not been 16 years old.
Lowe believed the girl was at least 21 because he picked her up at a club. Unfortunately, after the video surfaced, he was slapped with a lawsuit by the teen’s mother, and his scandal was plastered across tabloids. He received a mere 20 hours of community service for taping a sexual encounter with a partner under 18, and his career barely suffered. The following year, Lorne Michaels let Lowe host SNL, and everything was more or less forgotten. Today, Lowe is better known for his work on Parks and Recreation than his sex tape, which was the subject of more than a few jokes at his Comedy Central Roast. It’s almost like he didn’t actually have a threesome with a 16-year-old, right?
Vanessa Hudgens’ nude photo scandal has no place at Coachella
The year 2007 was the start of something new for High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens. The then 18-year-old found her face plastered across tabloids when her nude photos leaked online. Tabloids love a good story about a Disney star gone bad, but the scandal was traumatic for the actual Disney star. If the sting of having the nation gawk at your barely legal nudes wasn’t enough, Hudgens had to endure the embarrassment of telling her mom (who was pretty cool about the whole thing) and issuing an apology so Disney wouldn’t drop her from High School Musical 3. "That was just a really s****y situation that sucked," she told Glamour. "That was by far the worst moment of my career."
Today, no one really cares that Hudgens showed us her junk. It was forgotten just as quickly as the Wildcats’ graduated high school (as if Disney Channel was going to drop the star of one of its most lucrative made-for-TV films). Today, Hudgens is better known for romping around Coachella in flower crowns than she is for disappointing the oh-so powerful house of mouse.
Are we all just going to pretend Tim Allen is dad of the year?
Tim Allen has crafted a career based on his image as a family man — he’s the wholesome all American dad you can’t help but love, but the lovable pop is better suited for a role in Bad Santa than The Santa Clause. Before he became Tim Taylor, Allen served a 28-month sentence for trafficking cocaine, and it could have been a whole lot worse.
According to Defamer, Allen was nabbed by undercover state troopers at the Kalamazoo airport after selling one-and-a-half pounds of cocaine for a whopping $42,000. He ended up taking a plea deal in exchange for information. As a result, the most serious charges were dropped, saving him from a mandatory life sentence (which means we’d never have gotten Home Improvement and life would have no meaning). After the experience, Allen swiftly turned his life around. He went from jail time to Tool Time, and today most of us either don’t know about his sordid past or pretend the entire thing never happened. How could the same mane who lent his voice to Toy Story’s heroic Buzz Lightyear be a high-volume drug dealer? "Infinity and beyond" doesn’t begin to describe the amount of forgiveness Allen’s been given.
Mark Wahlberg’s rap sheet is almost as long as his IMDB page
Mark Wahlberg should be a case study in how to rehab an image. The former rapper transformed himself from violent, teenage criminal to an Oscar nominee, restaurateur, and all-around adorable dude with a charming Boston accent (making a Boston accent charming is a feat in itself). The Mark Wahlberg of the 1980s wasn’t nearly as endearing.
Before the young star rose to fame as Marky Mark, he had a hand in a string of violent hate crimes and felonies. The most violent occurred just weeks shy of his 17th birthday, reported the Daily Beast. In 1988, Wahlberg was charged with attempted murder after striking a Vietnamese resident in the head with a stick and calling him a "Vietnam f*****g s**t." The man was knocked unconscious. After fleeing the scene, Wahlberg was approached by a Vietnamese bystander, who he punched in the eye. The man was left partially blind. Wahlberg pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to two years in prison. He served 45 days.
Since then, Wahlberg has apologized and petitioned for a criminal pardon. He has lasered off most of the tattoos he associated with his troubled youth, and he’s aligned himself with sappy, family comedies such as Daddy’s Home. The horrific, racially-charged murder attempt is just a relic of his troubled upbringing, so his publicist probably deserves an award.
Saying ‘I did it’ saved Hugh Grant’s career
With disgustingly charming roles in heart-melting rom-coms such as Love, Actually, Bridget Jones Diary and Music and Lyrics, it’s almost impossible to imagine Hugh Grant as the kind of guy who’d pick up a prostitute. How would that even go? "I’m terribly sorry, miss, but if you wouldn’t mind, maybe you could possibly allow me to pay you for some sex. If that’s quite all right?" Who knows, but it definitely happened.
The summer of 1995 was difficult for Grant. It’s hard to tell which was worse: His performance in Nine Months or the fact that he paid a prostitute $60 for oral sex and was promptly arrested. Though he apologized (to the public and longtime girlfriend Liz Hurley), his mugshot was plastered across every tabloid. To make matters worse, the sex worker spilled the beans (and toast) about their back-alley romp. She claimed Grant told her he "always wanted to sleep with a black woman," reported The Guardian.
On the legal side, Grant’s issues were short-lived. He had to pay a $1,000 fine (nothing to a mega-star). It’s his image that would momentarily suffer, but in a move The Independent hailed as "the greatest PR move of all time," Grant simply went on TV, admitted his faults, and that was that. Today, his arrest is like some weird British-themed fever-dream we can’t really say happened for sure (unless we take a peek at some vintage Jay Leno).
Lisa ‘Left-Eye’ Lopes burned down her boyfriend’s house for revenge
TLC was one of the most successful girl groups in history. With hits such as "Waterfalls" and "No Scrubs," the ladies have sold more than 65 million albums worldwide and count four Grammys among their numerous accolades. Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, who tragically passed away in a car wreck days before her 31st birthday, left behind a legacy — one that most of us forget includes felony arson.
In 1994, Lopes had a dispute with her then-boyfriend, football star Andre Rison. When Rison attempted to leave, Lopes allegedly threw his shoes in a bathtub and lit them on fire. The mansion burned to the ground. Lopes turned herself into the police, was tried for felony arson, and received a $10,000 fine with five years’ probation in a halfway house. About a year later, Lopes and TLC filed for bankruptcy after being sued by Lloyd’s of London, the company that insured Rison’s home.
TLC managed to claw its way back to the top, and after Lopes passed away, most of us forgot her scandal all together. TLC even launched a Kickstarter to crowdfund its first (and final) album without Lopes, which raised more than $400,000. Moral of the story: do go chasing waterfalls because they might put out the fire you started in your ex’s house.