The ’80s brought many defining moments: the introduction of Ronald Reagan as President, the eradication of smallpox and, of course, the popularity of the Rubik’s Cube. What’s more, it also saw some famous names fall from grace. Indeed, from numerous sex scandals to accolades stripped from fallen heroes, this was the decade in which every other celebrity seemed to be caught up in some kind of scandal. And here we take a look back at some of the most controversial moments from that period that these superstars would rather forget.
20. Milli Vanilli were revealed as frauds
Back in 1989 Milli Vanilli stepped onto an MTV stage to perform their single “Girl You Know It’s True.” And everything was going well… that is, until the track froze to reveal that the popular group were actually lip-syncing. What’s more, the pop stars utterly failed to hold it together and hastily left the stage in defeat. And to make matters worse, they even had to hand back their Grammies, as it turned out that they’d never sung a note on any of their records. Oops.
19. Rob Lowe makes a scandalous sex tape
Move over, Kim Kardashian: Rob Lowe was one of the original celeb sex tape stars. While attending the 1989 Democratic Convention, Lowe met two women who returned with him to his hotel room to film a sex tape, which was then leaked. And as if Lowe’s luck wasn’t bad enough, one of the women was underage at only 16 years old.
18. A young Brooke Shields courts controversy for Calvin Klein
Brooke Shields features twice in our scandal list, but her first appearance is all to do with her Calvin Klein jeans ad. That’s because Shields was only a 14-year-old girl when the ad saw her whispering, “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” It was considered such a scandalous statement, in fact, that some stations decided not to air the ad at all.
17. Vanessa Williams goes nude
Despite being crowned the first African-American Miss America, Vanessa Williams soon found that her past came back to haunt her. In fact, Williams had to abdicate her crown after naked photos of her surfaced in Penthouse magazine. And despite the fact that she had never given her consent for them to be published, she was still forced to make an open apology.
16. Oral Roberts makes a multi-million dollar evangelical appeal
In this bizarre 1987 scandal, televangelist Oral Roberts appealed for $8 million to build his own university. And if the money wasn’t raised? Well, Roberts claimed that God was going to “call him home.” Miraculously, the money was actually raised ahead of the deadline, so Roberts built his institution and was able to remain on the planet.
15. Madonna is less than holy
Madonna was perhaps at her most controversial during the ’80s. After all, this was the decade in which the singer released her pop video for the hit single “Like A Prayer,” which features her leading saints astray and setting crosses on fire. Little wonder, then, that the song was publicly criticized by the American Family Association. Moreover, the tune was supposed to appear on a Pepsi ad – but the company backed out because of all the controversy.
14. Evangelist Jimmy Swaggert comes clean about his sex life
Jimmy Swaggert is the second TV evangelist to feature on this list – and for good reason. Indeed, he was forced to step down from his ministry after it emerged that he’d been enjoying secret liaisons with a hooker. And the married minister didn’t go quietly, either. Instead, he delivered a sermon in front of 7,000 people in which he confessed to his sinning on stage.
13. Anjelica Huston finally quits Jack Nicholson
Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston’s on-and-off again Hollywood romance rumbled on from 1973 to 1989, despite it being plagued with rumours of Nicholson’s cheating. And eventually it all became too much for Huston, who called time on their relationship when she discovered that the actor had fathered a child with Rebecca Broussard.
12. Chuck Berry is caught being incredibly creepy
Chuck Berry was the subject of a huge lawsuit when it was discovered that he had been secretly filming unsuspecting women in the restroom of his restaurant The Southern Air. Berry was caught out by one of his female cooks, who then proceeded to sue him. And in the end, the sleazy star was forced to shell out $1.3 million to all the women who had been filmed.
11. Todd Bridges is charged with murder
Todd Bridges is perhaps best known for his role in Diff’rent Strokes. His acting career took quite the dive, however, when he was accused of trying to murder a drug dealer while high on cocaine back in 1988. A jury eventually found the actor not guilty of all charges after a witness claimed that Bridges was not even at the scene of the crime – but the damage to his reputation was already done.
10. Ben Johnson is stripped of his Olympic medal
Nobody likes losing, but Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson took competitiveness to another level at the 1988 Olympics when he decided to end his losing streak against American sprinter Carl Lewis once and for all. With a little help from some steroids, Johnson not only beat his component but even managed to set a new world record. Unfortunately his achievement and his Olympic medals were taken from him only three days after when his steroid use was uncovered.
9. Sean Penn loses his cool
Sean Penn took his bad boy wild ways too far in 1985 when he was handed a 60-day jail sentence for assaulting a photographer. Then in 1988 rumors also began to swirl that he had been abusive to Madonna, who was his wife at the time. Nothing was ever proven, however, and the allegations have always been denied by Penn and Madonna.
8. Lionel Richie’s marriage takes a turn for the worst
Here’s another celeb relationship that couldn’t survive the test of the ’80s. Lionel Richie’s marriage to Brenda Harvey turned sour when Harvey caught him with another woman, Diane Alexander. And when she confronted the pair of them in Alexander’s apartment, the whole thing turned violent. In the end, then, police took Harvey in for a string of offences including battery and injuring a spouse.
7. Brenda Dickson takes Columbia Pictures to court
Throughout the ’80s, actress Brenda Dickson was perhaps best known for her role in The Young and the Restless. However, in a shock move producers decided to axe the actress from the show in 1987. Not one to let things lie, however, Dickson went public about her affair with the show’s creator. And to top things off, she even sued Columbia Pictures for $10 million for unfair dismissal.
6. Brooke Shields makes a very controversial big screen appearance
A year before she made headlines with her Calvin Klein ad, Brooke Shields was already courting controversy for her appearance in the 1980 film Blue Lagoon. The film follows two cousins who are stranded on an island and fall in love. Moreover, Shields and her co-star, who were both in their early teens at the time, were filmed simulating sex acts and wearing hardly any clothes.
5. Ozzy Osbourne munches on a live bat
One of rock and roll’s most controversial icons took things to another level when he bit the head off a live bat in 1982. Ozzy Osbourne was performing in Iowa when a bat landed at the front of the stage. And Osbourne, obviously feeling somewhat peckish, picked the poor creature up and began to chew on its head. He later admitted that he didn’t know that the bat was actually real.
4. Pete Rose’s baseball career meets a scandalous end
During the ’80s reports began to circulate that baseball star Pete Rose was putting money on his own team, the Cincinnati Reds, to win. And while his crime might seem mundane, he suffered some pretty serious consequences because of it. In particular, he was disqualified from Major League baseball for life. He was also disqualified from ever being admitted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
3. Televangelist Jim Bakker is convicted of fraud
While being accused of infidelity might be a scandal in itself for a televangelist, it was just the cherry on top for Jim Bakker. Indeed, not only was he found to have had an illicit affair with his secretary, but he was also found guilty of selling time shares fraudulently. And, in the end, he was sentenced to a grand total of 45 years behind bars.
2. Gary Hart’s monkey business
Gary Hart established himself as a firm contender for president in 1988, but his dream of entering the White House soon came crashing down around him. Specifically, Hart became embroiled in a scandal with a young woman named Donna Rice, with whom the papers claimed he was having an extramarital affair. The pair denied the allegations but were pictured canoodling on a trip on the aptly named yacht “Monkey Business.”
1. Marvin Hagler and boxing’s biggest scandal
Marvin Hagler was one of the decade’s biggest boxing stars, but he met his match when he came up against Sugar Ray Leonard. The pair of middleweight boxers fought it out for ages before judges eventually declared Leonard the winner. It was an unpopular decision with many – including, unsurprisingly, with Hagler himself. He eventually turned to drink and embarked upon a downward spiral that took in the breakdown of his marriage.