It’s hard to keep up with the number of celebrity scandals these days. It seems like every week there’s a new celebrity divorce, tasteless advertisement, or past Tweet that can ruin a celebrity’s career.
Since we can barely remember what happened last year, it’s interesting to look back and see what the biggest celebrity scandal of every year has been. Do you even remember which legendary soul singer’s murder topped headlines in 1984? Read on to see which celebrity scandal was the biggest of every year.
1980: Brooke Shields Poses In A Controversial Calvin Klein Ad
Before the days of JonBenet Ramsey and Honey Boo Boo, people weren’t used to seeing younger women looking much more adult than they were. That all changed in 1980 when a 14-year-old Brooke Shields posed for Calvin Klein jeans.
The photos themselves weren’t scandalous, but it was accompanied by the lines “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” People were absolutely outraged that a 14-year-old might not be wearing underwear.
1981: Natalie Wood Mysteriously Drowns
At first glance, the death of actress Natalie Wood was tragic but not exactly scandalous. She was declared dead on November 29, 1981, after drowning while on a yacht with husband Robert Wagner and co-star Christopher Walken.
Things got weird when conflicting witness statements were unable to determine how Wood even ended up in the water. There were some bruises found on her body and drugs found in her system.
1982: Ozzy Osbourne Bites The Head Off Of A Bat
One of the greatest showmen of rock and roll took it a step too far for most of his fans during a performance in Iowa. Ozzy Osbourne wasn’t planning to bite the head off of a bat during that show in 1982.
He was in the middle of a performance when a bat landed on the stage. Seeing his opportunity, he picked up the poor creature and began to chow on its head. The stunt shocked audiences and Osbourne later admitted he didn’t know the bat was real.
1983: Vanessa Williams Stripped Of Her Miss America Crown
1983 was a landmark year for the Miss America pageant when the first African-American queen was crowned. Vanessa Williams’ reign was cut short though when Penthouse published naked photos that Williams had posed for years earlier.
Williams had not given them permission to publish the photos, but still, it was her that had to deal with the consequences. She was pressured to concede her crown and it wasn’t until 2017 that the Miss America pageant apologized to Williams.
1984: Marvin Gaye Is Murdered By His Father
The famous soul singer of the ’80s was tragically shot and killed on April 1, 1984. Marvin was shot by his own father, Marvin Gay Sr. After his murder, it came to light that Gay Sr. had shot Marvin in cold blood after Marvin had intervened in an argument.
Marvin’s mother and brother both witnessed the murder and Marvin actually died slowly in his brother’s arms. His father later said at his trial that he “didn’t mean to do it.”
1985: Sean Penn Goes Full Bad-Boy
Sean Penn was known for playing troubled characters and being Hollywood’s resident bad boy, but he proved his on-screen image isn’t too far away from his real-life persona. Penn was handed down a 60-day jail sentence in 1985 for assaulting a paparazzi photographer trying to take a photo of him and Madonna.
It wasn’t known at the time, but three years later rumors began to swirl that he domestically abused Madonna as well.
1986: Jack Nicholson’s Love Children Come Forward
1986 was a year where all of actor Jack Nicholson’s past mistakes came back to haunt him. Nicholson had been with actress Anjelica Huston since 1973, but it was revealed he had many side relationships. One woman, Susan Anspach, said that her son Caleb was fathered by Nicholson.
It was later revealed that he also had a daughter named Honey with Danish model Winnie Hollman. The 1985 allegations didn’t stop Nicholson though, and he later fathered two more children with another actress.
1987: Matthew Broderick Kills Two Others While Driving
The star of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was driving with actress Jennifer Grey on a dark, stormy night when he lost control of the car and crashed into another vehicle. Broderick ended up with a broken leg and Grey was covered in bruises, but sadly the two passengers of the other car died.
Anna Gallagher and her mother, Margaret Doherty, were both killed on impact and Broderick was charged with dangerous driving causing death and was later convicted of careless driving, but was only charged $175.
1988: Rob Lowe Made A Tape With A 16-Year-Old
Back before Lowe was our favorite extra-tan, extra-fit cast member of Parks and Rec, he was a wildly famous child star. Lowe was also very into politics which is what made his 1988 scandal even worse. A tape was discovered of Lowe having sex with two women.
The problem was one of the women turned out to be underage, only 16 years old, and the tape was made the night before the Democratic National Convention. Lowe ended up slammed with a huge civil suit from the woman’s mother.
1989: Pepsi Cancel’s Their Deal With Madonna
It isn’t often that a major company outright cancels an advertising deal with a celebrity as popular as Madonna, but her music video for “Like A Prayer” was just too controversial.
Looking back, a burning cross and sexualization of religious symbols might be pushing things, much like the music videos of today, but back in 1989, it got a lot of folks very angry. So many conservative adults were angry over the video that Pepsi pulled all of their Madonna advertising.
1990: Donald Trump And (First) Wife Separate
1990 was a sign of things to come. It was in this year that real estate developer and not-yet-president Donald Trump divorced his wife, Ivana. While high-profile divorces are nothing new, it was scandalous because The New York Post published a headline that Marla Maples said her affair with Donald was the “BEST SEX I’VE EVER HAD.”
Maples would later say it was a total lie, and it would be the first of Donald’s many scandals.
1991: Pee-Wee Herman Arrested For Indecent Exposure
Who could forget the rollercoaster ride of 1991 when the world found out the beloved kid’s show host was caught pleasuring himself in a movie theater? As the story goes, Pee-Wee a.k.a. Paul Reubens, was at an XXX rated adult movie theate where detectives, who had been tailing him for a while, caught him with his pants down.
Pee Wee allegedly offered to perform a children’s benefit to have the charges dropped, but thankfully the police didn’t take that deal.
1992: Princess Diana’s Phone Calls Are Leaked
In 1992, the British tabloid The Sun leaked a transcript of a phone call between Princess Diana and her secret lover, James Gilbey. The phone call revealed Princess Di’s awkward pet name (Squidgy) but it was mostly notorious because she was still married to Prince Charles. Mind you, he was in his own affair at the time with Camila Parker-Bowles.
Princess Diana completely revolutionized the relationship between the media, paparazzi, and celebrities, so it’s no wonder she was the subject of a scandal featuring leaked phone calls.
1993: Michael Jackson Accused Of Sexual Assault
The accusation that the King of Pop had sexually assaulted a 13-year-old boy was not only the top scandal of 1993, but it also made headlines for the entire decade. The accusations forced M.J. to cancel his work tour and pitted fan against fan.
Jackson ended up settling the case outside of court for $23,000, but this wouldn’t be the last of his worries. In 2005, Jackson would again be put on trial for assaulting a young boy.
1994: Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes Sets Her Boyfriend’s House On Fire
There are almost too many scandals in 1994 to count, but this one featuring the TLC rapper tops the list. Lopes was known for her crazy behavior since she began dating Atlanta Falcon’s star Andre Rison.
After reports of abuse and an overall rocky relationship, it all culminated on Jun 8, 1994, when Lopes threw Rison’s shoe collection in the bathtub, set it on fire, and sent the mansion up in flames.
1995: The O.J. Simpson Trial Ends
The infamous trial where O.J. Simpson was accused of killing ex-wife Nicole Brown and her boyfriend, Ronald Goldman, defined a generation. The White Bronco car chase, the televised trial, and the race tensions of the early ’90s all culminated in a “not guilty” verdict.
A poll in Los Angeles showed that the majority of African Americans were happy with the verdict, while most whites were upset. The ‘not guilty’ verdict wouldn’t last long though as O.J. was slammed with a civil suit and found guilty two years later.
1996: Tupac Is Shot And Killed
The death of rapper Tupac Shakur was notorious back in 1996 and is still questionable to this day. Tupac and fellow rapper Biggie Smalls were in an ongoing feud when, in September, Tupac was shot in a drive-by. Biggie was blamed for the murder until, less than a year later, he was also killed in the same way.
The shootings have inspired numerous conspiracy theories, documentaries, and even the belief that Tupac faked his own death.
1997: Woody Allen Marries His Step-Daughter
1997 was a year of tragic celebrity deaths — Princess Diana and Notorious B.I.G. were killed that year — but the biggest scandal involved famous director Woody Allen. Allen was married to actress Mia Farrow for twelve years. Farrow had previously adopted a daughter, Soon-Yi Previn.
In 1992, Allen and Previn made public their relationship and five years later they were married. The strange marriage is still a point of contention in Hollywood since she was his step-daughter and is 40 years his junior.
1998: Bill Clinton’s Affair Is Made Public
In a scandal that almost ruined a presidency, Bill Clinton was proven to have begun an affair three years earlier with a White House intern. Monica Lewinsky was only 21 years old at the time of the affair.
An affair had been rumored for years, but 1998 was even more dramatic because Clinton had previously denied the affair with his famous statement that he “did not have sexual relations” with Lewinsky.
1999: Parents Blame Marilyn Manson For The Columbine Shooting
1999 marked the year that brought mass school shootings to the forefront of American life with the Columbine shooting. Two seniors murdered twelve other students and one teacher at their high school.
People were quick to look for any answer they could find. Many parents said Marlyn Manon’s music inspired the kids to carry out the act. While the rumor was false, the allegations ruined Mason’s career for quite a long time.
2000: Angelina Jolie Makes Out With Her Brother
Back before Angelina Jolie turned into Hollywood’s humanitarian queen, she was a wild child who hated her father, had tons of tattoos, and made out with her brother on the Oscar red carpet.
Jolie and brother James Haven shared a French kiss on the red carpet and it sparked rumors of incest. While Jolie has always been open about her close relationship with her brother, she’s always downplayed the infamous kiss.
2001: Winona Ryder Is Caught Shoplifting
On December 12, 2001, Winona Ryder was arrested for shoplifting in Beverly Hills. She stole $5,500 worth of designer clothes for reasons that still remain unknown. During her trial, it was revealed that she had been under the influence of a variety of drugs.
Ryder was sentenced to a hefty fine and ordered to attend both psychological and drug counseling. After the 2001 scandal, Ryder was forced to take a four-year break from acting due to depression.
2002: R. Kelly Arrested For Illicit Photos Of Minors
R. Kelly has a slew of legal issues, but 2002 was the first moment when people realized how dark and troubled the R&B singer is. He was indicted on 21 counts of child pornography. 2002 was also the year of the famous tape which showed R. Kelly urinating on underage women.
Since then, scandal after scandal has followed R. Kelly, including allegations of a “sex cult” and Spotify even removed all his music from their streaming service.
2003: Britney Spears And Madonna Make Out
In 2003, Britney was on top of the pop world. She was fresh out of a relationship with Justin Timberlake and had just released arguably her best song, “Toxic.” Britney joined fellow pop sensations Christina Aguilera and Madonna on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards when, halfway through the performance, she stopped to make out with Madonna.
The performance made headlines for being scandalous and the cameraman famously cut to a shot of Timberlake in the audience looking stone-cold.
2004: The Famous Janet Jackson Halftime Show
Janet Jackson changed the internet after her infamous performance at the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show with Justin Timberlake. During the show, Timberlake “accidentally” (we now know it was all a publicity stunt) ripped off Jackson’s shirt to reveal her breast.
The scandal turned Janet Jackson into the most searched name on Google in both 2004 AND 2005, and is also credited as being the inspiration behind the creation of YouTube.
2005: Brad Pitt Leaves Jennifer Aniston For Angelina Jolie
It was scandalous enough when, in January 2005, Hollywood’s golden couple announced their divorce. Pitt and Anniston had reigned the red carpet for seven years and their breakup broke everyone’s hearts.
The plot thickened though when it was revealed that the divorce was due to Pitt cheating on Aniston with Mr. and Mrs. Smith co-star Angelina Jolie. People who were alive during the scandal still talk today about whether they’re Team Aniston or Team Jolie.
2006: Mel Gibson Arrested For Drunk Driving
Unfortunately, there are more than a few celebrities that have a DUI or disorderly conduct arrest under their belt, but Gibson’s from 2006 was so much worse. Gibson reportedly called the female officer who pulled him over a derogatory term and began ranting anti-semitic slurs.
Gibson apologized at the time but would be right back in the headlines a few years later for making racially charged remarks against African Americans.
2007: Britney Spears’ Breakdown
The celebrity scandal to end all celebrity scandals happened in 2007 when Britney Spears famously went on a binge of crazy stunts. First, she made headlines for going into a barbershop, taking a pair of buzzers, and shaving her own head. Then, she was pictured beating up a photographer’s car with an umbrella.
The scandal gave Britney a bad image and even inspired the meme “If Britney Spears can make it through 2007 then I can make it through today.”
2008: Heath Ledger Commits Suicide
The public was shocked and hurt when they heard the news that actor Heath Ledger had died on January 22, 2008. Two weeks after his death, it was shown that the actor had committed suicide with a cocktail of painkillers, anti-anxiety meds, and other pills.
Conspiracy theories began to arise though because Ledger had just finished filming his role as The Joker in The Dark Knight where he famously got a little too into character.
2009: Chris Brown Assaults Rihanna
R&B singer Chris Brown and his girlfriend, pop singer Rihanna, seemed like the power couple of the decade until February 8, 2009. Photos of a beaten and broken Rihanna were released that showed a split lip, bloody nose, and bruises all at the hands of Brown.
Rihanna was hospitalized and Brown was charge with assault. He was charged with five years probation and Rihanna has since been an outspoken voice against domestic assault.