Rome wasn’t built in a day. And the same applies to celebrities’ careers. While it may seem that shooting to fame and superstardom happens overnight, it takes a lot more than just pure luck to build and maintain a successful career – for most celebrities, anyway. It takes a lot of hard work and patience, and sometimes years, to make it anywhere near where they want to be: Jeremy Renner began acting in the 1990s but didn’t get his big break till he starred in The Hurt Locker in 2008, and Céline Dion had recorded 14 albums before she recorded one of the best-selling singles of all-time, “My Heart Will Go On”.
But all that hard work can come undone if you make the wrong move, and your reputation will be damaged beyond repair. Just ask these three celebrities.
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1. Paul Reubens
If that name doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps this one will: Pee-wee Herman. While creator and portrayer Paul Reubens had not originally intended Pee-wee Herman for a child audience (his early shows heavily featured a lot of innuendo and adult humor), the grey plaid suit and red bowtie-clad fictional character quickly became one of the world’s most recognized and loved characters in children’s TV history.
However, in 1991, Reubens’ reputation was tarnished when he was arrested in Sarasota, Florida for “exposing himself” at an adult theater. He allegedly offered to do a charity benefit for the sheriff’s office “to take care of this”. The next day, Reubens’ attorney – again, allegedly – made the same offer to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune to not publish a story on the arrest. However, the newspaper declined what would otherwise be a rather generous and altruistic offer, and went ahead and published the story. When news broke out of Reubens’ arrest, CBS canceled all remaining reruns of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, Toys “R” Us removed Pee-wee toys from its stores, and Disney-MGM Studios even suspended a video from its studio tour in which Pee-wee explained how voiceover tracks were made. Reubens pled no contest to the charges and was sentenced to 75 hours’ community service.
While the general public appeared to sympathize with Reubens, he refused to give interviews or appear on talk shows and retreated from the public eye up until his comeback in 1999 when he starred in Mystery Men alongside Hank Azaria and Ben Stiller. Three years later, however, he was arrested again and charged with “possession of materials depicting children under the age of 18 years engaging in sexual conduct.” Reubens’ representative called it all a lie and claimed that the objects police found in his home were actually Rob Lowe’s sex tape and “a few isolated 30- to 100-year-old kitsch collectible images.” He claimed that he was a collector of, mostly homosexual, vintage erotica and often purchased bulked lots and, therefore, could not possibly know the content of each page. In 2004, child pornography charges against him were dropped in exchange for his guilty plea to a lesser charge; he then had to register his address with the sheriff’s office for three years and was not allowed to be in children’s company without their parents’ permission.
2. Charlie Sheen
After starring in several successful movies like Platoon, Wall Street, and The Three Musketeers, Charlie Sheen had undoubtedly made a name for himself before appearing as Charlie Harper in the hit series Two and a Half Man, a role that made him the highest paid actor on TV with a salary of $1.8 million per episode. In 2011, however, everything went south when he made derogatory comments about the show’s creator Chuck Lorre which ended up costing him his job and his already tarnished reputation.
Sheen entered rehab in January 2011, his third attempt in an alleged 12 months, and Two and a Half Men producers announced that the show will go on hiatus till his recovery. The following month, just a week away from restarting filming, Sheen gave a radio interview with Alex Jones and in an online interview on TMZ, and trashing Chuck Lorre in an anti-Semitic manner by saying: “I violently hate Chaim Levine” (a Hebrew twist to Lorre’s real name, Charles Levine). He went on to call him a “stupid, stupid little man and a p*ssy punk that I’d never want to be like.”
Following his little rant, CBS and Warner Bros. made the decision to cease production for the rest of season eight “based on the totality of Charlie Sheen’s statements, conduct, and condition”. This affected 200 employees and caused an estimated loss of $10 million in expected revenue from the season’s remaining eight episodes. Following his comments, Sheen continued to criticize Lorre and CBS, and was ultimately fired on March 7 and his character was killed off-screen in a subway accident in Paris.
He then went on to have a very public meltdown and made bizarre statements like being a “warlock” with “tiger blood” and “Adonis DNA”. But his rant didn’t end there and then – in November 2015 following the show’s series finale, he sent a rather threatening message to his old boss: “You must feel safe, mother*cker. You must feel safe where you are”.
3. Bill Cosby
The lovable father figure we all grew up watching on TV quickly became the least liked person in the world when stories began emerging of his alleged sexual assault allegations. From TV Dad to serial rapist, actor and comedian Bill Cosby has undergone a rather quick and drastic change.
Some 60 allegations have been made against Cosby of rape, child sexual abuse, drug-facilitated sexual assault, sexual battery, and/or sexual misconduct across 10 US states and one Canadian province, the earliest having occurred in December 1965. Kristina Ruehli did not publicly speak about her alleged ordeal until 2005 when she came forward in the Andrea Constand case as a witness and claimed that Cosby had drugged and assaulted her in his Beverly Hills home.
Constand had accused Cosby of drugging and fondling her in 2004, but the case was thrown out of court because insufficient credible and admissible evidence. She then filed a civil claim in 2005 with 13 women, including Ruehli, as potential witnesses.
Ten years later, on December 30, 2015, 78-year-old Cosby was charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault on Constand and an arrest warrant was issued in his name. He reported to the court and was arraigned on the charge with $1 million bail until his trial. In his deposition, Cosby admitted that he used Quaaludes to sedate a series of young women and have sex with them.
Eight related civil lawsuits are currently active against Cosby, and numerous organizations have severed ties with the once loved comedian while previously awarded honors and titles have been revoked. Meanwhile, colleges and universities like the Berklee School of Music and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have rescinded his honorary degrees, and reruns of The Cosby Show have been pulled from many organizations the world over.
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Can you think of any other celebrities who destroyed their own reputations? Let us know in the comments section below!