Charlie Toft December 8, 2009
Everyone loves a scandal, and this decade now ending featured no shortage of them. While we all liked to pretend that we had a new seriousness of purpose due to the demands of terrorism, war, economic collapse, and moral breakdown, in our dark heart of hearts we looked forward to nothing more than a new upskirt shot from Britney Spears. Here’s a look back at the biggest pop culture scandals of the 2000s, encompassing sex, crime, and drugs — all the old favorites.
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Paris Hilton uses sex tape to launch her career: The glorious era of sex tape dissemination online was touched off by Hilton and her co-star Rick Salomon in 2003, coincidentally (or maybe not?) just before the premiere of her reality show The Simple Life. Never mind that the tape was hardly an advertisement for Hilton’s bedroom talents — she proved that the only bad publicity is none at all.
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Phil Spector convicted of murder: The legend of record production had long been known as one of the biggest eccentrics in entertainment, but the weirdness took a very dark turn when a former B-movie actress named Lana Clarkson was shot and killed inside Spector’s L.A. home. After one mistrial, Spector was finally convicted of Clarkson’s murder earlier this year, a new jury finding his claim that the fatal wound was accidentally self-inflicted to be bogus.
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Martha Stewart goes to federal prison: Could there have been a less likely jailbird? The queen of American good taste got in hot water with the Securities and Exchange Commission after she dumped some stock based on inside information. She spent several months behind bars in West Virginia introducing her fellow inmates to the joys of napkins folded into swan shapes, and has since resumed her status as the epitome of uptight perfectionism.
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Brad Pitt swaps Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie: Pitt‘s marriage to Aniston in 2000 looked like the perfect Hollywood pairing, so much so that when stories appeared a few years later suggesting that Pitt and Jolie were exhibiting scarily good chemistry on the set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, most wrote it off as just gossip to hype the flick. But when the couple separated and Pitt immediately segued into a new relationship with serial adopter Jolie, it created shockwaves and bad blood that persist to this day. This triangle is still all over the tabloids.
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Kate Moss photographed snorting cocaine: “Model Uses Drugs” is about as shocking a headline as “Dog Bites Man,” but the thing about photographs is that they can be reprinted over and over again. Moss had already been under fire for her relationship with dissolute British rocker Pete Doherty when a U.K. tabloid published photos of her appearing to snort coke in 2005. Though she was not charged with a crime, the incident had a significant short-term impact on Moss’s career, as she lost numerous contracts.
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Chris Brown charged with beating Rihanna: Violence within relationships is sadly commonplace, but this incident in February 2009 was a rare case where stars of equal magnitude were both perpetrator and victim. The image of the cutest couple in pop was shattered when Brown assaulted Rihanna following an argument on the eve of the Grammy Awards. Rihanna seems to have come through with little damage; whether Brown, whose reputation prior to the beating had been excellent, can also recover is questionable.
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Justin Timberlake coins the term “wardrobe malfunction”: In the winter of 2004, Timberlake was an ex-boybander trying to update his image, while Janet Jackson was an aging (by pop standards) diva trying to stay relevant. This was probably not what either had in mind: during the halftime show of the 2004 Super Bowl, Timberlake ripped off the top of Jackson’s outfit to reveal a bare breast beneath. The FCC was apoplectic, CBS was apologetic, and Timberlake’s classic two-word explanation for what happened entered the language.
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Michael Jackson charged with child molestation: The King of Pop had made an earlier allegation of molestation go away without the legal system getting involved, but he would not be so lucky in 2003 when he was officially charged in Santa Barbara County, Cal. The resulting trial was easily the biggest legal spectacle of the decade, but while Jackson was acquitted of all charges, the hit to his reputation was permanent and he would never return to his beloved Neverland Ranch.
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Robert Blake accused of murdering his wife: In 2001, the brand new wife of the Hollywood veteran, a career con artist named Bonny Lee Bakley, was killed as the couple was leaving a restaurant. Blake was an immediate suspect but was not arrested until a year later. Blake was eventually acquitted, but later lost a civil suit for wrongful death filed by Bakley’s children. The entire episode was sad and seedy.
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R. Kelly’s possibly underage sex tape partner: The R&B crooner had long had a reputation for favoring very young women, but the allegation that he had made a sex tape with a girl several years underage was a new level of icky. Kelly was charged with sexual relations with a minor and producing child pornography, but was finally acquitted after many years of delay. Kelly’s music, once relatively mainstream, has gotten stranger and more kinky in recent years.
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Britney Spears spends a year or so freaking out: After marrying Kevin Federline, the once glamorous pop princess seemed to adopt many of her hubby’s slovenly ways (walking into public bathrooms barefoot being a particularly gross example), but it wasn’t until after the marriage ended in 2006 that Spears really hit the skids. Lowlights of this period included the impulsive decision to shave her head, numerous photographs of her hitting the town wearing no panties under too-short skirts, a comatose performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, and a brief commitment to a psychiatric ward. It wasn’t until she was placed under conservatorship, with her father managing her affairs, that Spears was able to regain some balance.
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Paris Hilton goes to jail: Everybody knows that celebrities who are charged with nonviolent crimes can just make the problem disappear, right? Hilton may have counted on this when she violated the terms of a probation for DUI by driving with a suspended license, but a surprisingly no-nonsense judge actually forced her to spend a few weeks in jail in 2007. It was a hard stretch for Hilton and even harder for the Hollywood clubs and paparazzi who relied on her, but all managed to make it through OK.
Categories: TVTags: Angelina jolie, Brad pitt, Paris hilton, Rihanna