9 Hollywood Scandals Long Before Lindsay, Paris and Britney

I'm pretty sure 95 percent of the tabloid-y magazines this week (and last week, and the week before, and next week) are all about Britney Spears. Does she have mental health issues? Did she get a restraining order against her paparazzo boyfriend? When was the last time she saw her kids? How many Rite Aids has she visited this week?

And although Lindsay has been lying low (for Lindsay), there's still talk of whether or not she's really sober and who she's dating now and how bad her last movie was. Then there's dear Paris. Making out with Jared Leto at Sundance. Sigh. There goes the very last bit of my teenage crush on Jordan Catalano.

These girls are far from the first to be scandalized in the tabloids, though. Let's take a look back at nine Hollywood scandals before Paris was a glimmer in her daddy's eye. In fact, before her dad Rick Hilton was a glimmer in HIS daddy's eye"¦ and some stories before Barron Hilton was a glimmer in Conrad Hilton's eye. OK, I'll stop.

1. 1901 "“ Evelyn Nesbit

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At the turn of the century, Evelyn Nesbit was one of the most sought-after models in New York and became one of the famous Gibson Girls. Her modeling career turned to acting when she starred as one of the Floradora chorus girls at the age of 16. That's where 47-year-old married architect Stanford White started wooing her. It's said that he is the one who, uh, deflowered her. He then moved on to younger, more virginal girls while Evelyn got pregnant "“ twice "“ by John Barrymore (Drew's grandpa). Although Stanford White wasn't romantically involved with Evelyn at the time, they were still quite emotionally attached and he paid for her to go away and be treated for "appendicitis". It's disputed as to whether she actually had the baby or had an abortion.

She married a jealous, terribly abusive man, Harry K. Thaw, at the age of 20. In 1906, the couple ran into Evelyn's old lover, Stanford, at the rooftop theater of Madison Square Garden where Thaw shot Stanford point-blank in the face three times, yelling either "You will never see this woman again!" or "You ruined my life!" or "You ruined my wife!" There seems to be controversy over his actual words. Evelyn was presented with a deal: if she testified that Thaw was only avenging her virtue because White had raped her, Evelyn would receive a divorce settlement of $1 million. She did, but was denied the money. She tried to commit suicide several times over the course of the rest of her life, but ended up dying in a nursing home at the age of 82 in Santa Monica.

2. 1924 - Thomas Ince and William Randolph Hearst

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Obviously Mr. Hearst is not without his share of scandal. But murder? Maybe. Actor, director, producer and screenwriter Ince was celebrating his 42nd birthday on Hearst's yacht when he died. The official reason is that he ate too much and drank too much and simply had a heart attack. The rumor, though, is that Hearst shot him because either Ince was making a movie on Hearst's mistress, Marion Davies, or Charlie Chaplin was and Hearst confused Ince for Chaplin on the dark boat. I guess only a couple of people really know for sure. His granddaughter Patty Hearst wrote her vision of how it happened in the novel Murder at San Simeon, but makes sure to let the reader know that she has no idea what really happened.

3. 1926 "“ Rudolph Valentino

stacy12.jpgIf we think it's hard for a public figure to be openly gay these days, imagine what an uproar even mere rumors would have caused in 1926. Valentino's first wife, Jean Acker, was a lesbian who admitted she only married him to save her career. He wasn't aware of her sexual orientation until she locked him out of their hotel room on their wedding night and fled to her girlfriend's house. There were lots of rumors that his second wife also preferred women and that he was a homosexual who kept marrying lesbians so he didn't have to consummate any marriages (neither rumor was true). It was suggested that he had relationships with at least five other actors. Journalists were constantly saying he was effeminate based on his style of clothing and hair. He took great offense to this and even challenged a reporter when he noted that a vending machine in a men's bathroom in Chicago was dispensing feminine pink talcum powder and blamed it on Valentino's influence. Valentino challenged him to a boxing match (the journalist declined). Supposedly when he was suffering from a perforated ulcer on his deathbed in 1926, Valentino asked the doctor if he thought he was a Powder Puff. The doctor is said to have replied, "No, sir, you've been very brave."

4. 1927 "“ Marion Parker /Edward Hickman

marionparker.jpgWilliam Edward Hickman terrorized L.A. in 1927 and 1928 when he kidnapped the daughter of a prominent local banker, Perry Parker. His method was scarily simple: he waltzed into the 12-year-old's junior high school and told the administrator that Perry was ill and wanted to see his daughter. The administrator probably should have realized something was up when Hickman a) didn't know that Parker had twin daughters and b) didn't know the names of either of them. Nevertheless, the administrator handed over Marion for some reason. Hickman demanded $1,500 in ransom money, which he promptly received. Instead of sending Marion home safe and sound, though, he returned her minus her arms and legs and internal organs. Police caught him a week later and Hickman was executed in October, 1928.

5. 1932 - Peg Entwistle

pegentwistle.jpgPeg Entwistle was an actress whose career wasn't going so hot. In fact, her life really wasn't going so hot. Her widowed father was killed in a traffic accident shortly after the two of them immigrated to America from Wales. His accident left her completely broke so she earned money by working on Broadway. Unfortunately, the Great Depression hit and people could no longer afford to spend money on extras like the theater. Peg started drinking heavily and headed to L.A. to pursue acting in April 1932. She received a role in the movie Thirteen Women, but her screen time ended up getting drastically cut. Right around this time, RKO Pictures decided not to renew her contract and didn't even invite her to the September premiere of Thirteen Women. The night of the premiere, she told her uncle (whom she was living with) she was taking a walk. She headed for the famous 50-foot Hollywood sign (which still said Hollywoodland at the time), folded her coat, placed it on the ground next to her purse, climbed the maintenance ladder of the "H" and jumped. Her body was found two days later; sadly, her uncle said that the day she was found, a letter arrived offering her the lead role in a stage production. Her character would have committed suicide in the final act.

6. 1934 "“ Mary Astor

maryastor.jpgMary Astor might be one of the first child stars to be taken advantage of by her parents. When she was only 14, she started making movies with some big name people, including John Barrymore, and earned $500 a week. She moved from Paramount to Warner Brothers to Fox, who increased her salary to $3,750 a week. Her parents bought a mansion in the Hollywood Hills and lived the good life on Mary's money. She escaped her parents when she married Kenneth Hawks in 1928, but the happiness wouldn't last long: he was in a fatal plane crash in 1930, just about the time her movie career started going under because her voice didn't translate well to "talkies". She had a nervous breakdown and ended up marrying the doctor who attended to her.

By 1933, she was pretty broke and had to get the Motion Picture Relief Fund to pay her bills. Her parents didn't have much sympathy "“ they sued her in 1934 for more financial support. She testified that all of her money had gone directly to their bank accounts even after her first marriage. It wasn't until Hawks died that Mary decided she needed to look out for herself. She did, however, give them the home that they had purchased with her earnings. She also gave them $1,000 per month. When she hit hard times in '33, she told her parents she couldn't afford to support them unless they moved to a smaller house "“ the house they lived in was bigger and more expensive than the one Mary lived in with her family. She also offered them $100 a month, plus food and utilities, but they refused to leave the mansion.

Mary said in her memoirs that in 1947 she sat with her delirious mother on her deathbed in the hospital. Because of dementia, her mother spent hours complaining to Mary about her selfish, horrible daughter Lucile (Mary's real name). Mary read her mother's diaries after she died and said she was surprised to know how much her own mother hated her.

7. 1935 "“ Loretta Young

loretta.jpgEverybody knows about Gable and Lombard, but Gable and Young? Yup. Loretta Young and Clark Gable had an affair in 1935 while they were filming Call of the Wild, despite the fact that Gable was married to Texas socialite Ria Franklin Prentiss Lucas Langham (say that 10 times fast). Loretta disappeared to Europe to have the baby quietly; nineteen months later she showed back up and said she had adopted a daughter, Judy. When the baby got older, it was very clear that she looked exactly like Loretta Young with Clark Gable's ears. It wasn't until 1958 that Judy confronted her mother, who, after throwing up, admitted that Judy was Clark Gable's daughter. Prior to Gable, Loretta had an affair with Spencer Tracy.

8. 1943 "“ Frances Farmer

farmer.jpgPoor Frances Farmer was in and out of mental hospitals so often, she's like the original Girl, Interrupted. In 1936, after only a year with Paramount, she had top billing in two B-movies, had married actor Leif Erickson and was cast in her first A-list movie opposite Bing Crosby. She began to get frustrated that she wasn't being cast in challenging roles, only "pretty girl" roles. By 1939 she was becoming known for her erratic behavior and excessive drinking. She and Erickson divorced in 1942 (he remarried the same day). She was arrested a few months later for driving with her headlights on in a war-time blackout zone. Police suspected she was drunk and put her in jail overnight.

The following year, Frances was arrested at the Knickerbocker Hotel when her hairdresser said that Frances had dislocated her jaw in a fit of rage on set. At her trial, she shoved a policeman down, hit another and threw an inkwell at the judge. She was transferred to the psychiatric ward at L.A. General Hospital where she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She was given shock therapy but escaped the hospital within nine months. Eventually Frances was handed over to her mother's custody, but that didn't work out so well - she assaulted her mother, who had her committed to Western State Hospital in Washington. It was there that she received electro-convulsive shock treatment. A few months later, in 1944, it was announced that she was totally cured. The talk of the town was that the "cure" was a lobotomy, but that has been denied by multiple sources. Apparently the cure wasn't permanent, because she was found wandering around Antioch, Calif., Anne Heche-style, and was recommitted to Western State Hospital for another five years. She did return to showbiz for several years but by 1964 she was having extreme mood swings again. She died in 1970 of esophageal cancer.

9. 1953 "“ Gene Tierney

gene.jpgFormer New York debutante Gene Tierney became incredibly successful on Broadway by the age of 20. She soon found herself in roles opposite Rory Calhoun, Rex Harrison, Tyrone Power, Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart. It was Bogart who discovered how deep Gene's mental problems ran while they were filming The Left Hand of God in 1953. He encouraged her to seek help, so when the movie wrapped she was admitted to Harkness Pavilion in New York and then the Institute of Living in Hartford, Conn., where she received 27 shock treatments. It was too much for her and she tried to escape the asylum, but she was caught and reinstitutionalized. She tried to commit suicide in 1957 by jumping off of a ledge but was stopped just in time. It was thought that her bipolar disorder was triggered when she gave birth to her first daughter, who was born deaf, partially blind and had some mental handicaps. Tierney's close friend Howard Hughes saw to it that her daughter received the best care possible. Although she never admitted to an affair with Howard Hughes, she did have affairs with John F. Kennedy and Tyrone Power while separated from her husband, Oleg Cassini (one of Jacqueline Kennedy's favorite designers).

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Zach Hyman, HBO
10 Bizarre Sesame Street Fan Theories
Zach Hyman, HBO
Zach Hyman, HBO

Sesame Street has been on the air for almost 50 years, but there’s still so much we don’t know about this beloved children’s show. What kind of bird is Big Bird? What’s the deal with Mr. Noodle? And how do you actually get to Sesame Street? Fans have filled in these gaps with frequently amusing—and sometimes bizarre—theories about how the cheerful neighborhood ticks. Read them at your own risk, because they’ll probably ruin the Count for you.

1. THE THEME SONG CONTAINS SECRET INSTRUCTIONS.

According to a Reddit theory, the Sesame Street theme song isn’t just catchy—it’s code. The lyrics spell out how to get to Sesame Street quite literally, giving listeners clues on how to access this fantasy land. It must be a sunny day (as the repeated line goes), you must bring a broom (“sweeping the clouds away”), and you have to give Oscar the Grouch the password (“everything’s a-ok”) to gain entrance. Make sure to memorize all the steps before you attempt.

2. SESAME STREET IS A REHAB CENTER FOR MONSTERS.

Sesame Street is populated with the stuff of nightmares. There’s a gigantic bird, a mean green guy who hides in the trash, and an actual vampire. These things should be scary, and some fans contend that they used to be. But then the creatures moved to Sesame Street, a rehabilitation area for formerly frightening monsters. In this community, monsters can’t roam outside the perimeters (“neighborhood”) as they recover. They must learn to educate children instead of eating them—and find a more harmless snack to fuel their hunger. Hence Cookie Monster’s fixation with baked goods.

3. BIG BIRD IS AN EXTINCT MOA.

Big Bird is a rare breed. He’s eight feet tall and while he can’t really fly, he can rollerskate. So what kind of bird is he? Big Bird’s species has been a matter of contention since Sesame Street began: Big Bird insists he’s a lark, while Oscar thinks he’s more of a homing pigeon. But there’s convincing evidence that Big Bird is an extinct moa. The moa were 10 species of flightless birds who lived in New Zealand. They had long necks and stout torsos, and reached up to 12 feet in height. Scientists claim they died off hundreds of years ago, but could one be living on Sesame Street? It makes sense, especially considering his best friend looks a lot like a woolly mammoth.

4. OSCAR’S TRASH CAN IS A TARDIS.

Oscar’s home doesn’t seem very big. But as The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland revealed, his trash can holds much more than moldy banana peels. The Grouch has chandeliers and even an interdimensional portal down there! There’s only one logical explanation for this outrageously spacious trash can: It’s a Doctor Who-style TARDIS.

5. IT’S ALL A RIFF ON PLATO.

Dust off your copy of The Republic, because this is about to get philosophical. Plato has a famous allegory about a cave, one that explains enlightenment through actual sunlight. He describes a prisoner who steps out of the cave and into the sun, realizing his entire understanding of the world is wrong. When he returns to the cave to educate his fellow prisoners, they don’t believe him, because the information is too overwhelming and contradictory to what they know. The lesson is that education is a gradual learning process, one where pupils must move through the cave themselves, putting pieces together along the way. And what better guide is there than a merry kids’ show?

According to one Reddit theory, Sesame Street builds on Plato’s teachings by presenting a utopia where all kinds of creatures live together in harmony. There’s no racism or suffocating gender roles, just another sunny (see what they did there?) day in the neighborhood. Sesame Street shows the audience what an enlightened society looks like through simple songs and silly jokes, spoon-feeding Plato’s “cave dwellers” knowledge at an early age.

6. MR. NOODLE IS IN HELL.

Can a grown man really enjoy taking orders from a squeaky red puppet? And why does Mr. Noodle live outside a window in Elmo’s house anyway? According to this hilariously bleak theory, no, Mr. Noodle does not like dancing for Elmo, but he has to, because he’s in hell. Think about it: He’s seemingly trapped in a surreal place where he can’t talk, but he has to do whatever a fuzzy monster named Elmo says. Definitely sounds like hell.

7. ELMO IS ANIMAL’S SON.

Okay, so remember when Animal chases a shrieking woman out of the college auditorium in The Muppets Take Manhattan? (If you don't, see above.) One fan thinks Animal had a fling with this lady, which produced Elmo. While the two might have similar coloring, this theory completely ignores Elmo’s dad Louie, who appears in many Sesame Street episodes. But maybe Animal is a distant cousin.

8. COOKIE MONSTER HAS AN EATING DISORDER.

Cookie Monster loves to cram chocolate chip treats into his mouth. But as eagle-eyed viewers have observed, he doesn’t really eat the cookies so much as chew them into messy crumbs that fly in every direction. This could indicate Cookie Monster has a chewing and spitting eating disorder, meaning he doesn’t actually consume food—he just chews and spits it out. There’s a more detailed (and dark) diagnosis of Cookie Monster’s symptoms here.

9. THE COUNT EATS CHILDREN.

Can a vampire really get his kicks from counting to five? One of the craziest Sesame Street fan theories posits that the Count lures kids to their death with his number games. That’s why the cast of children on Sesame Street changes so frequently—the Count eats them all after teaching them to add. The adult cast, meanwhile, stays pretty much the same, implying the grown-ups are either under a vampiric spell or looking the other way as the Count does his thing.

10. THE COUNT IS ALSO A PIMP.

Alright, this is just a Dave Chappelle joke. But the Count does have a cape.

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iStock
A New App Interprets Sign Language for the Amazon Echo
iStock
iStock

The convenience of the Amazon Echo smart speaker only goes so far. Without any sort of visual interface, the voice-activated home assistant isn't very useful for deaf people—Alexa only understands three languages, none of which are American Sign Language. But Fast Company reports that one programmer has invented an ingenious system that allows the Echo to communicate visually.

Abhishek Singh's new artificial intelligence app acts as an interpreter between deaf people and Alexa. For it to work, users must sign at a web cam that's connected to a computer. The app translates the ASL signs from the webcam into text and reads it aloud for Alexa to hear. When Alexa talks back, the app generates a text version of the response for the user to read.

Singh had to teach his system ASL himself by signing various words at his web cam repeatedly. Working within the machine-learning platform Tensorflow, the AI program eventually collected enough data to recognize the meaning of certain gestures automatically.

While Amazon does have two smart home devices with screens—the Echo Show and Echo Spot—for now, Singh's app is one of the best options out there for signers using voice assistants that don't have visual components. He plans to make the code open-source and share his full methodology in order to make it accessible to as many people as possible.

Watch his demo in the video below.

[h/t Fast Company]

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