CLOSE
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

7 Celebrities Who Lost Major Endorsement Deals

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

One of the most alluring things about being a celebrity has to be the lucrative endorsement deals. Appear in a few TV commercials and print ads, say how “product X” is the only one for you, and collect a fat check at the end of the day. It’s not a bad gig for a celebrity, so long as they don’t screw it up.

Celebrities lose their endorsement deals for all sorts of bad behavior. Sometimes an endorsement deal can go up in smoke simply because a celebrity had a loose tongue. Here’s a rundown of celebrities who took a pay cut after failing to choose their words a little more carefully.

1. SHARON STONE // CHRISTIAN DIOR

If ever there was a case of terrible timing, Sharon Stone found it in 2008. Over 69,000 people lost their lives when a massive earthquake hit southwest China on May 12 of that year. The Basic Instinct actress took the news as an odd opportunity to get political, suggesting that the earthquake was "karma" because of Beijing's treatment of Tibet. Stone later apologized, but it was too late. The backlash against the actress led luxury retailer Christian Dior to cancel Stone’s makeup modeling contract, with a spokesperson saying, “We don’t support any type of commentary that will hurt the feelings of our customers.” 

2. GILBERT GOTTFRIED // AFLAC


Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Comedy Central

Something about celebrities and natural disasters seems to be a recipe for public gaffes. For years, comedian Gilbert Gottfried lent his squawky voice to insurance company Aflac as the voice of their duck mascot. Gottfried’s voiceover work with the company came to an end in March of 2011 though, after he made a string of jokes on Twitter referencing a massive tsunami that had hit Japan. The dark humor didn’t sit well with Aflac, which reportedly does 75 percent of its business in Japan, and Gottfried’s contract quickly was put on the chopping block.

A day after he was fired, the comedian did apologize for his jokes, though he later claimed that the insurer profited from the controversy. “They fired me, got loads of free publicity out of it, and then hired a guy to imitate my voice for less money, thus bringing closure to a horrible tragedy,” Gottfried told Bloomberg TV.

3. HANK WILLIAMS JR. // ESPN’S MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

“Are you ready for some football?!!!” is not a phrase Hank Williams Jr. likely ever wants to hear again. The country music singer had sung the intro for Monday Night Football—an adaptation of his song “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight”—since 1989, but found himself permanently sidelined in 2011 over remarks he made about President Obama. While appearing on the morning show Fox & Friends, the singer criticized the then-president about a round of golf he played with Speaker of the House John Boehner, saying it would be like “Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu.”

Comparing Adolf Hitler to anything or anyone is always a bad move and ESPN called a penalty on Williams and dropped the song from its broadcasts of NFL games almost immediately. But it appears that time is able to heal wounds, and bans; in June, it was announced that Williams' tune will be back to serving as Monday Night Football's opening night tune. "I’m feeling at home and it’s a real good thing,” Williams told The Tennessean of its return. “I hope there will be some happy people on Monday night again.”

4. WHOOPI GOLDBERG // SLIMFAST


Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NYCWFF

Celebrities have the right to a political opinion, just like everybody else, but things can get dicey when they’re representing a brand and don’t filter themselves. Comedian Whoopi Goldberg found that out the hard way when she shared her opinion of President George W. Bush in 2004. While speaking at a Democratic fundraiser at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, the comic delivered a rather crude sexual zinger at the president. SlimFast, who she was a spokesperson for, expressed that they were "disappointed” with Goldberg’s remarks and deemed them too offensive to continue using her in their advertisements.

The comedian said she understood their decision, telling Bloomberg that, "While I can appreciate what the SlimFast people need to do in order to protect their business, I must also do what I need to do as an artist, as a writer and as an American, not to mention as a comic," adding that, "I've done material on every president in the past 20 years, from Reagan to Carter, from Clinton to Bush. It seems now that people from the other side are using this to further their own agenda."

5. CYBILL SHEPHERD // THE AMERICAN BEEF INDUSTRY

If you’re going to sign a contract agreeing to be a spokesperson for a product, it’s probably not a good idea to confess that you avoid that very product while giving an interview. Actress Cybill Shepherd made that mistake when she agreed to endorse the American Beef Industry in 1987 in a series of radio and TV commercials. All was going well until the actress confessed in a Family Circle magazine interview that part of her beauty regime was not eating red meat. Shepherd was adamant that she had been misquoted in the article and said that quotes given to the magazine by her publicist were to blame. The interview blunder understandably didn’t sit well with the beef industry and they moved away from using the actress in further campaigns.

6. MANNY PACQUIAO // NIKE


Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Title-winning boxer Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao had enjoyed the perks of a lucrative endorsement deal for nearly eight years before he made homophobic remarks in an interview with a Filipino TV station in 2016. The controversy quickly picked up steam in the sports press and Pacquiao apologized within hours of his interview. "Please forgive me for those I hurt," Pacquiao pleaded on Instagram. Nike made no excuses for Pacquiao’s remarks and issued a statement that noted, "We find Manny Pacquiao's comments abhorrent. Nike strongly opposes discrimination of any kind and has a long history of supporting and standing up for the rights of the LGBT community. We no longer have a relationship with Manny Pacquiao."

This wasn’t the first time the boxer had run into trouble with Nike over his words either. Similar comments landed him in hot water with the company back in 2012, only this time Nike had had enough and his endorsement was KO’d for good. 

7. RYAN LOCHTE // MULTIPLE SPONSORS

It really doesn’t matter how good you look in a Speedo or how many gold medals you have around your neck: if you make your entire country look bad at the Olympics, it’s a safe bet that any endorsement deals you have won’t be hanging around for long. Ryan Lochte played a crucial role in the success of the U.S. swim team at the 2016 summer games in Rio de Janeiro, but when he admitted to "exaggerating" a story that he and three of his teammates had been robbed at gunpoint at a gas station, there was little he could do to save face. Ralph Lauren, Speedo, Airweave, and Gentle Hair Removal all made the decision to terminate Lochte’s endorsement deals in the wake of the scandal.

“We appreciate his many achievements and hope he moves forward and learns from this experience,” Speedo said in a statement to the press. The company later donated $50,000 of Lochte’s earnings to the Save the Children charity to help underprivileged youths in Brazil. 

Oddly enough, the swimmer later picked up a new endorsement deal from a company called Robocopp—a product aimed at helping to prevent crime while traveling.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
arrow
entertainment
15 Festive Facts About Jingle All the Way
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

In all of Arnold Schwarzenegger's film oeuvre, Jingle All the Way might just be the one that most exhibits the ugliness of humanity. Set on a fevered Christmas Eve brimming with desperate last-minute shoppers, Schwarzenegger's Howard Langston and Sinbad's postal worker character Myron Larabee find themselves battling one another to make themselves look good to their sons by getting their hands on the elusive Turbo Man action figure. The comedic genius Phil Hartman; Rita Wilson; future young Anakin Skywalker, Jake Lloyd; Laraine Newman; Harvey Korman; Martin Mull; Curtis Armstrong; and Chris Parnell were the other willing participants in this cult comedy, directed by Brian Levant. Here are some things you might not have known about the contemporary holiday classic.

1. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER WAS ABLE TO PLAY THE LEAD BECAUSE OF A DELAY ON A PLANET OF THE APES REMAKE.

Arnold Schwarzenegger signed up to star in the Apes remake in March of 1994, but 20th Century Fox rejected multiple scripts for the movie, including one co-written by Chris Columbus (Gremlins, The Goonies). Columbus left the project in late 1995, and Schwarzenegger followed him soon after, freeing him to sign up for Jingle All the Way, produced by Columbus, in February 1996. Fox's Planet of the Apes reboot found its way into theaters in 2001, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Tim Burton.

2. SINBAD THOUGHT HE SCREWED UP THE AUDITION.

Sinbad in 'Jingle All the Way' (1996)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Filming was delayed so that Sinbad could follow through on his commitment to travel to Bosnia with Hillary Clinton. Even though Columbus agreed to wait for him, the comedian still thought he "messed up" his audition and told his manager-brother he was going to quit show business.

3. OFFICER HUMMELL WAS INITIALLY WRITTEN AS A WOMAN.

Though the role of Officer Hummell was written for a woman, the part went to Robert Conrad. Conrad's explanation was that the producers "wanted someone who could pull up next to Arnold and tell him to pull over and he pulls over."

4. IT WAS CHRIS PARNELL'S FIRST MOVIE.

The future SNL star played the toy store clerk. "Well, it was my first movie role, and I didn't know how they typically shot scenes," Parnell admitted in a Reddit AMA. "So I had to laugh a lot, and I sort of spent all of my laughing energy in the wider takes, so by the time we got to the close-up shots, it was a real struggle to keep that going."

5. MARTIN MULL STAYED ON SET FOR OVER TWO WEEKS LONGER THAN HE WAS SUPPOSED TO.

Mull (KQRS D.J. a.k.a. Mr. Ponytail Man) was told it would just be a one- to two-day shoot for him. Unfortunately, his part had to be shot on a rainy day, and it didn't rain in Minneapolis for two and a half weeks.

6. PHIL HARTMAN MADE UP A BACKSTORY FOR HIS CHARACTER.


20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Hartman (Ted Maltin) was probably joking for the film's official production notes, but you never know. "Ted is a guy who sued his employer for headaches caused by toner fumes and now hangs around the neighborhood and helps all the housewives," Hartman said. He also offered a take on how he was kind of being pigeonholed in Hollywood when he added, "Ted's another weasel to add my list of weasels."

7. HARTMAN ENTERTAINED HIS BORED YOUNG CO-STARS.

To keep young E.J. De la Pena (Johnny Maltin) and Jake Lloyd (Jamie Langston) from getting bored shooting a car scene all day, Hartman improvised songs designed to bring kids to hysterics. One tune contained the lyrics “You make my butt shine, the more you kiss it, the more it shines! The clock is ticking, so keep on licking, oh how you make my buttocks shine!”

"When you’re an 8 year old hearing that kind of potty humor, it was hilarious!" De la Pena remembered. "And we had a lot of fun."

8. JAMES BELUSHI HAD EXPERIENCE PLAYING SANTA BEFORE.

Belushi sort of trained to portray the Mall of America Santa in the movie by playing Kris Kringle for four years in "about 20" different homes, according to his estimation.

9. SHOOTING BEGAN IN MID-APRIL.

The Minneapolis/St.Paul areas were chosen because the producers figured they had the longest winter. But they also filmed in Los Angeles' Universal Studios for the big parade over a three week span, where it was typical hot California weather on the verge of summer. Sinbad remembered it was 100 degrees on the days when he wore the Dementor costume, and the water in his helmet had started to boil.

10. THE REAL TURBO MAN DIDN'T SWEAT.

Daniel Riordan's Turbo Man suit ensured he wouldn't have trouble with the scorching heat. He was wearing a vest underneath used by race car drivers. "They're very thin membrane vests that are filled with small, plastic tubing that's tightly coiled, back and forth, and they run cold water through it," Riordan explained. "So when they run it, it's like this cold water right up against your body and it was amazing. The sensation was fantastic."

11. TURBO MAN FIGURES WERE SOLD AT WAL-MART.

200,000 were originally produced and sold at 2,300 Wal-Mart shops for $25. They would have made more but, as Fox’s president of licensing and merchandising explained to Entertainment Weekly, there were only six and a half months to produce and promote Turbo Man toys, and it usually takes "well over a year."

12. THEY ALMOST SOLD DEMENTOR DOLLS TOO.

Sinbad recalled that the studio didn't sell Dementor action figures even though they tested high during research. "I had a prototype of the doll but they said 'give it back, we'll get you the real one when it comes out,'" Sinbad said." ...And dude, it NEVER came out!" Sinbad told Redditers his theory: "I think that they didn't want the competition between Turbo Man and my doll."

13. SOME PARENTS HAD ALCOHOL-RELATED COMPLAINTS AFTER TEST SCREENINGS.


20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Schwarzenegger and Sinbad talking at a bar over some alcohol, and the fact that reindeer also imbibed in beer, were among some of the problems mothers and other early viewers took issue with.

14. THE FILMMAKERS WERE SUED FOR PLAGIARISM, AND LOST.

Randy Kornfield penned the official script, but high school teacher Brian Alan Webster alleged his Could This Be Christmas? script was very similar. The publishing firm that had the rights to Webster's script won a $19 million lawsuit from 20th Century Fox, but the ruling was overturned in 2004. Webster's screenplay was about “the quest of a Caucasian mother attempting to obtain a hard-to-get action figure toy as a Christmas gift for her son. In the course of this pursuit, she competes with an African-American woman, similarly seeking to give the action figure doll as a Christmas gift.”

15. THERE WAS A SEQUEL STARRING LARRY THE CABLE GUY.

None of the original cast members nor characters returned in the straight-to-DVD Jingle All the Way 2 (2014). It was produced by 20th Century Fox and WWE Studios and featured wrestler Santino Marella. Sinbad expressed incredulity when a Redditer inquired if he was asked to return for it. "What they are doing a new version without me! Ain't gonna work!"

Additional Sources:

Schaefer, Stephen: "Sinbad leaps at the chance to go postal in Jingle All the Way," December 6, 1996; Des Moines Register

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images
arrow
Pop Culture
The Cult of Prince Philip
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images

For seven decades, Prince Philip has been one of the more colorful figures in Britain's Royal Family, prone to jarring remarks and quips about women, the deaf, and overweight children.

"You're too fat to be an astronaut," he once told a boy sharing his dream of space travel.

British media who delighted in quoting him are still lamenting the 96-year-old's recent retirement from public duties. But the people of the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu are likely to be optimistic he'll now have the time to join them: They worship him as a god and have based a religion on him.

Followers of the Prince Philip Movement, which started in the 1960s, believe that the prince was born to fulfill an ancient prophecy: that the son of an ancient mountain spirit would one day take the form of a pale-skinned man, travel abroad, marry a powerful lady, and eventually return to the island. When villagers saw the prince’s portrait, they felt the spirit in it, and when he visited Vanuatu in 1974, they were convinced.

Chief Jack Naiva, a respected warrior in the culture, greeted the royal yacht and caught sight of Philip on board. "I saw him standing on the deck in his white uniform," Naiva once said. "I knew then that he was the true messiah."

True believers assign large world movements to the machinations of Philip. They once claimed his powers had enabled a black man to become president of the United States and that his "magic" had assisted in helping locate Osama bin Laden. The community has corresponded with Buckingham Palace and even sent Philip a nal-nal, a traditional club for killing pigs, as a token of its appreciation. In return, he sent a portrait in which he’s holding the gift.

Sikor Natuan, the son of the local chief, holds two official portraits of Britain's Prince Philip in front of the chief's hut in the remote village of Yaohnanen on Tanna in Vanuatu.
TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images

The picture is now part of a shrine set up in Yaohnanen in Vanuatu that includes other photos and a Union flag. In May 2017, shortly after the Prince announced his retirement, a cyclone threatened the island—and its shrine. But according to Matthew Baylis, an author who has lived with the tribe, the natives didn't see this so much as a cause for concern as they did a harbinger of the prince's arrival so he can bask in their worship.

To date, Prince Philip has not announced any plans to relocate.

A version of this story ran in a 2012 issue of Mental Floss magazine.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios