CULTURE

8 Celebrities Who Peaked Before They Were Famous

Because it turns out celebrities exist even before we hear about them.

So many celebrities seem to build their entire lives around careers in entertainment.

Good for them. They knew what they wanted to do, and they were actually lucky and talented enough to be successful. But for a lot of these people, it's hard to imagine how they would function in the world without their celebrity status. That's why people freak out when they find out that Taylor Swift can cook. She not only eats people food, she actually knows how to prepare it! Do you think she even washes her own dishes?!

But there is another class of celebrity. People who had full, interesting, and often insane lives before anyone had ever heard of them. People like...

Christopher Walken: Lion Tamer

Christopher Walken

Christopher Walken is known for the intense, contained energy of his performances and... the unique... cadence... and emphasis of his speech. But long before he was a living, breathing caricature of himself, he had a very different approach to show business. His time as a cabaret dancer shouldn't surprise anyone who's seen the way he moves in the music video for Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice," but the fact that Walken was working as a lion tamer in a circus at the age of 16 is completely insane. Of course he downplays it, saying that Sheba the lion was "Very nice. She'd come and bump your leg. Like a house cat," but he was still bossing around a giant predatory cat as a teenager.

Julia Child: Inventor

Julia Child

You may know Julia Child for her famous cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, or for her long-running public television show The French Chef. At the very least, maybe you've seen her portrayed by Meryl Streep in 2009's Julie and Julia. She was an early icon of TV cooking, making it approachable and fun, and her recipes remain popular more than 15 years after her death. But before anyone knew her for her cooking, she was working for the Office of Strategic Services—a forerunner to the CIA—helping to fight Nazis by... inventing shark repellent.

The effort was sparked during World War II in response to sharks attacks on military personnel who were waiting for rescue after ships and planes went down. Child was a member of the team that developed pellets to be included in soldier's rescue kits, with an odor that would keep sharks at bay. There's no telling how many lives those pellets may have saved, but apparently they went on to be used with underwater explosives targeting German submarines—so sharks wouldn't accidentally set them off—and even in space equipment that NASA designed for ocean retrieval.

James Lipton: Pimp

james lipton

James Lipton is not quite as famous as some of the people he's interviewed—basically every celebrity ever—but he hosted Inside the Actor's Studio for 22 years on Bravo, and had an amazing turn as Warden Stefan Gentles on Arrested Development. In his youth though, Lipton had a very different career in post-war Paris. At the time, there was little work available in France, and many women resorted to sex work to get by. Lipton was friends with one such woman, and when he was running out of money and told her that he had to return to the US, she offered him a job. Soon he was working in a bordello as a "mec," which he differentiates from the American conception of a pimp, "The French mecs didn't exploit women. They represented them, like agents. And they took a cut. That's how I lived." So... not easy, but necessary.

Jerry Springer: Mayor of Cincinnati

Jerry Springer

On the other side of the sex work equation was a young Jerry Springer. Long before he was exposing strangers' dirty laundry to the delight of a hooting studio audience, he was starring in his own personal scandal in Ohio politics. He had already served as an adviser to Robert Kennedy, and had a failed run for Congress before he was elected to Cincinnati's City Council in 1971. At just 27 years old, he may not have been ready for a life in politics, and a few years later he was forced to step down after being caught in a prostitution probe, paying for sex work with personal checks.

Surprisingly, Springer was able to come back from that scandal with a series of honest, apologetic ads that resulted in him resuming his seat on the city council and eventually serving a term as Mayor. He even ran for governor in 1982, before beginning a career as a local news anchor and coining his catchphrase "Take care of yourselves, and each other." At the time he was known for delivering thoughtful editorials, and became so popular that he was given a daytime TV show that slowly transformed, in its chase for ratings, to the pure trash that eventually made him famous.

Next Page
CULTURE

Racist Video Game YouTuber Implodes After Being Called "Cringe" on Reddit

Even the most seasoned cringe connoisseurs could never have foreseen the sheer depth of cringe that Krist was capable of sinking to.

Krist the 30 Year Old Boomer

"Krist the 30 Year Old Boomer" is actually 37.

He tells us as much in his latest YouTube video, "I Am Done," in which he asserts that after "supporting the gaming companies for as long as I can remember," he is never going to buy another console game in his entire life.

Keep Reading Show less
FILM

11 Classic Movies That Have Not Aged Well

Time to leave the past in the past.

20th Century Fox

When making a movie, writers, directors, and producers always need to consider longevity: Will this movie remain relevant to audiences in five years? Ten? Twenty?

Of course, some movies are made to capitalize on current trends, make a quick buck, and then slip away into the annals of zeitgeists past. You've Got Mail was dated even before AOL went out of style. But for every hacky "hey old people, check out this modern technology!" movie, there's a whole slew of movies that try to capture something honest and sincere in an attempt to appeal to audiences far beyond their era of creation.

Some succeed, earning the status of "classics" as viewers pass them down from generation to generation. But society changes with time, and our greater social ethos changes along with it. As a result, even some "classic" movies fall short when viewed with fresh eyes––and for some of them, perhaps it's time for their "classic" status to be revoked.

Dumbo (1941) and The Jungle Book (1967)

dumbo jim crow Disney

Both Dumbo and The Jungle Book were early, animal-oriented Disney films that imbued a surprising degree of racism into their otherwise still-relevant narratives. Dumbo featured a singing crow who was actually named Jim Crow after the segregation laws of the era. His character design, voice, and mannerisms all mimicked black caricatures of the time period.

The Jungle Book, which came out over 20 years later (but only two years after the end of Jim Crow laws), continued a similar stereotype with King Louie, a villainous orangutan coded as a black man who sings to Mowgli about wanting to act more human. To Disney's credit, the Jim Crow character has been removed from Dumbo entirely, both in the live action remake and the upcoming Disney+ streaming service release of the original.

One important point to note is that unlike many of the other entries on this list that should probably be retired completely, Dumbo and The Jungle Book both hold historical relevance. Their racist scenes are largely reflective of the larger, segregation-era and post-segregation-era sentiments in America during the 40s and 60s respectively. They continue to hold importance within the larger canon of Western animation but should be viewed with the caveat of being products of their time. The same cannot be said for many of the rest of the movies on this list.

Porky's and Animal House

animal house Universal Pictures

Consider this entry a catch-all for basically every "teen boys sexing it up" comedy of the late '70s and early '80s. All of these types of movies follow a group of raucous guys who engage in shenanigans revolving around sex with women. This would be fine if not for the fact that "sex with women" really means objectifying women, lying to women, peeping on women, and getting women very drunk and doing things to them without their consent. Female characters in these movies never seem like real people, existing entirely to fulfill the wishes of male viewers. It's no wonder that many of the men who grew up watching these movies still hold ridiculously toxic views about women.

Revenge of the Nerds

revenge of the nerds 20th Century Fox

Revenge of the Nerds is a lot like all the movies from the previous entry, except it goes a step farther by including an outright rape scene and passing it off as comedy. Here's the set-up: One of the nerds, Lewis, has a crush on Betty, the girlfriend of a jock named Stan. At a costume party, Betty waits in a bedroom to have sex with Stan. Lewis steals Stan's costume and has sex with her instead. Betty thinks she is having sex with Stan because she consented to have sex with Stan. She did not consent to have sex with Lewis. Therefore, Lewis raped her using deception. HAHAHA, right?

Of course, Betty is a non-character written by sexists, so she responds by falling in love with him. This has lead many other sexists to decide that this is not rape. They are incorrect. Rape by deception is rape. The act portrayed in this movie is rape. Anyone who disagrees is objectively a rape defender and a sexist. Feel free to out yourselves in the comments.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

ace ventura Warner Bros.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is just another wacky Jim Carrey romp where a big, loony goofball catches a murderer by...publicly removing her clothes to reveal that she's actually a pre-op transgender person? Wait. That's pretty messed up. Everyone gags and apparently this is supposed to be very funny? Looking back on it, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective basically boils down to a big "transgender people are gross!" joke. Lame.

Breakfast at Tiffany's

breakfast at tiffanys Paramount Pictures

Breakfast at Tiffany's features Mickey Rooney in yellowface performing what might be the worst hate crime against Japanese people ever committed to film. Why did they do this? Just...why?

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

indiana jones monkey brains Paramount Pictures

As an action film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom still holds up surprisingly well. The action continues to feel original and creative, even after being copycatted for decades. The portrayal of Indian and Hindu culture, on the other hand, is absurdly offensive. Essentially bastardizing foreign cultures for shock value, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom popularized long-lasting, incorrect myths such as the "Indians eat monkey brains" trope. Not cool.

Chasing Amy

chasing amy View Askew Productions

Imagine a movie coming out today in which a straight man romantically pursues an out lesbian in an attempt to "change her back" and then actually succeeds. Such a film would be unfathomable. But back in the late '90s when LGBTQ+ communities weren't nearly as visible in the public eye, Chasing Amy seemed not only plausible, but cutting edge. Unlike a lot of the other films here, Chasing Amy doesn't intend to turn marginalized people into jokes––it just fails to understand them.

Crash

crash movie Lionsgate Films

Crash was never a good movie. Crash never deserved its Best Picture Academy Award. Crash was a white director's shoddy attempt to boil down racism, race relations, and racial tensions into a simplified, melodramatic package meant for consumption by white people. Insane scenes delight in racially charged nonsense, like when a Persian shopkeeper, driven mad by racist slights, attempts to murder a Latino locksmith for no reason. Or when a racist white cop "redeems" himself by rescuing a black woman from a car crash after basically molesting her earlier in the movie. Crash was never and will never be anything better than stinky, stinky garbage. Please, throw Crash out.

Big

big movie 20th Century Fox

Big may be a fun Tom Hanks romp full of whimsy and keyboard dancing, but it's also a movie where a little kid uses magic and lies to seduce and sleep with a grown woman named Susan. Ultimately, Susan discovers the truth and watches Tom Hanks turn back into a child, after which she presumably kills herself. Seriously, this poor woman needs to live with the knowledge that her emotional maturity is on par with a twelve-year-old and that she slept with a literal child. Where does a person go from there?