There is no shortage of myths when it comes to Hollywood stars. From the tabloid industry to just plain old curiosity, the private lives of the rich and famous have been a subject of interest ever since the first celebrity.
Did Michael Jackson sleep in a hyperbaric chamber? Was Marilyn Monroe having an affair with John and Bobby Kennedy? It goes on and on, and almost no celeb is immune to the rumor mill, so for the purpose of this list I’m narrowing it down to just the ladies of the silver screen, and some of the craziest things the public used to believe about them.
Angelina Jolie and the vials of blood
Before her now-defunct marriage to Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie was married to Billy Bob Thornton. From 2000 to 2003, the quirky pair relished in the showcase of their amorous union, like the time they informed the press on the red carpet that they were getting busy in the car on the way to the event. Always classy, that AngieBob. Another notable moment in the overly loved-up pair’s marriage was when a rumor went wild that they wore vials of each other’s blood around their necks.
They were actually lockets, but that term doesn’t have nearly the vampiric undertones as the word “vial.” Both Jolie and Thornton dispelled the vial myth several times. In 2011, Jolie told EW (Via HuffPost), “It was never a vial anyway. it was like a flower press. It was like from a slight cut on your finger and you press your fingerprint in it. It was kind of a sweet gesture. I thought it was kind of romantic!”
Thornton’s description to The Hollywood Reporter sounded a bit more macabre, but still relatively innocent. He said, “She thought it would be interesting and romantic if we took a little razor blade and sliced our fingers, smeared a little blood on these lockets and you wear it around your neck just like you wear your son or daughter’s baby hair in one. Same thing. From that, we were wearing quart jars of blood around our necks. And we were vampires and we lived in a dungeon.” Admittedly still a bit weird, but nowhere near as Lovecraftian as the Hollywood press made it seem.
Lady Gaga’s gender identity
This is one of the more particularly ugly rumors on this list, and not at all because there’s anything inherently negative about being intersex, but because when it was rumored that Lady Gaga was born with “man parts” it was done with the kind of breathless whisper normally reserved for the passive insults of high school mean girls. E! News traced the rumor back to the aptly-named gossip blog, Starr Trash, who published what was allegedly a blog post from the “Born This Way” singer, confirming the rumor.
Not only was the blog post an obvious phony, but Lady Gaga herself addressed the rumor once and for all during a 2009 20/20 interview with Barbara Walters. In what is an amazingly intrusive series of questions that seem like they would have been more at home in the 1950s, Walters asks Gaga about her history of sexual encounters, her sexual orientation, and the “strange rumor” that she is “part man part woman.” Gaga very succinctly answers, “No,” when asked if it’s true, then goes on to say that she wasn’t bothered by the rumor, because she “loves androgyny” as well as “pushing boundaries.”
Granted, cultural awareness surrounding gender and sexual identity has come a long way — even from the time of Gaga’s 20/20 interview — but it’s still pretty shocking to think that just that short time ago, this supposed controversy even gained traction.
Shirley Eaton almost died being painted gold for Goldfinger
In one of the most iconic “Bond Girl” scenes of all time, Shirley Eaton plays the ill-fated Jill Masterson in 1964’s Goldfinger. Known less specifically as the victim in the scene in which Bond finds her dead and nearly naked, after her entire body was painted gold, Eaton became part of the enduring myth that also suggested that Eaton herself almost died while shooting the scene.
According to The Book of Skin, Eaton’s mention in her autobiography that the production team was careful to leave a patch of her skin unpainted in order to avoid “skin suffocation” contributed to the myth that she nearly died on set, a misnomer that was apparently “alive and well on a Goldfinger message board in December 2001.”
Not only did Eaton not almost die from so-called “skin suffocation,” that’s not even a real medical danger. The Discovery Channel series Mythbusters tackled this very myth in one memorable episode during which they concluded that painting one’s entire body gold — or whatever color one desires for that matter — does not pose any significant health risks.
Clara Bow’s alleged hard partying ways
Clara Bow was such a popular figure in 1920s cinema, she was regarded as the original “It” girl. Unfortunately, she was also the subject of some of the most scandalous rumors in Hollywood history, alleging her hard partying habits.
According to Bow’s biography, Clara Bow: Runnin’ Wild, the source of many accusations was a scandal rag called The Coast Reporter. Supposedly written in collusion with Bow’s disgraced personal assistant, Daisy De Voe, the articles claimed to expose all manner of sordid behavior by Bow. She was accused of everything from drinking to excess, to gambling away fortunes, to frequenting Mexican brothels, to fornicating with a Great Dane — yes, the canine. The shocking revelations even made their way into a courtroom, according to Justice Denied Magazine, as part of De Voe’s trial for grand theft — she was accused and convicted on one count related to the “mishandling of funds in Clara’s ‘special account.'” Funny how the woman who was convicted of ripping Bow off was also connected to a wildly inflammatory publication about her, huh?
Decades after the publisher of The Coast Reporter served a prison term for his criminal distribution of the allegedly libelous magazine, another grimy publication, Hollywood Babylon, once again smeared Bow’s reputation. Hollywood Babylon became the source of more infamous Bow rumors, including her alleged orgy with the entire USC football team. Team captain Morley Drury, who admitted to going on a double date with Bow, her friend, and a teammate, told biographer David Stenn, “We never got involved in a ‘bedroom scene’ or anything like that. We were too damn innocent.”
The ladies of Sex and the City didn’t get along
The main characters in Sex and the City didn’t always get along on screen. Off screen, however, the actresses who portrayed the fabulous four were not endlessly catfighting as the tabloid industry attempted to portray them. According to a cast interview with Marie Claire, Cynthia Nixon admitted, “It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but the idea that we’re somehow adversarial is ludicrous.”
Sarah Jessica Parker told Elle in 2009, “I don’t think anybody wants to believe that I love Kim [Cattrall]. I adore her. I wouldn’t have done the movie without her.” A year later, she told Marie Claire, “There are times when all of us have been sensitive, and sometimes feelings get hurt. But I don’t have any regrets about how I’ve treated people.” Cattrall echoed the sentiment in the same interview, saying, “The chemistry among the four of us is very strong,” adding, “Things just have to be explosive for no other reason than for people’s imaginations.”
In another interview with The Daily Mail, Cattrall put the matter to rest, saying, “They have too much invested in the idea of two strong, successful women fighting with each other. It makes for juicy gossip and copy. The truth of us being friends and getting along and happily doing our jobs together is nowhere near as newsworthy. I think Sarah is fantastic. She is a born leader and she guides the crew and the cast in such a strong but gentle way. She and I are sick of this. It’s exhausting talking about it, and a real bore. Next?” Ahem, moving right along.
JLo insured her butt
It may sound odd to the layperson, but there have been quite a few celebrities who have insurance policies taken out on body parts that are crucial to their fame. Holly Madison famously insured her breasts with Lloyd’s of London for her role in the Vegas stage show, Peepshow. America Ferrera and Keith Richards also acknowledged insurance policies with the same company; Ferrera for her smile, and Richards for his fingers. So, it’s no real stretch of the imagination to think that pop diva turned actress Jennifer Lopez may have insured her famous backside. But she didn’t.
During a “Carpool Karaoke” segment on The Late Late Show, the “Booty” singer was put on the spot once and for all by host James Corden when he asked her about rumors that she insured her butt for a million dollars, according to People.
“No! There is no such thing as that,” the Shades of Blue star said, adding, “I think there is a place in your homeland where you can insure certain things, parts of your body — seriously. I think that exists. I’ve heard that. Not here, I don’t think!” Even though no such policy exists on the former Fly Girl’s derriere, is anyone else as curious as I am as to how that appraisal process would have worked?
Barbra Streisand was in an adult film
If there was a competition held for celebrities least likely to have starred in an adult film, Barbra Streisand would have to be towards the top of the list. And yet, according to FilmThreat, during the early ’70s the Oscar-winning actress and legendary songstress was not only rumored to have starred in a film described as “badly made pornography,” but one that a “fly-by-night company advertising in adult magazines” even attempted to market under the title Barbra Streisand in Hardcore!
Amazingly, Babs herself even addressed the ludicrous gossip in her 1977 Playboy interview (via FilmThreat). “I couldn’t resist the temptation to see what the actress looked like — and also to check out her performance — so we got a copy,” the Meet the Fockers actress said, adding, “The film, naturally, is very blurred. The girl has long hair, like I did back in the Sixties, although she was chubby, while I was very skinny. But the dead giveaway came when the camera zoomed in on her hands around the guy’s you-know-what. There they were: short, stubby fingers! Definitely not mine. So all you would-be buyers, don’t waste your money.”
Also, just FYI, the singing legend bared nothing but her soul for Hugh Hefner’s risqué mag, so people who purchased a copy looking to sneak a peek at at a disrobed funny girl were out of luck as well.
Cher had ribs removed so shrink her waistline
This one sounds so crazy, it could be written off without even looking into it based solely on the fact that no respectable doctor would ever perform this ghastly-sounding procedure, but singer and actress Cher was accused for years of having a rib removed to slim her waistline. According to Rock ‘n’ Roll Myths: The True Stories Behind the Most Infamous Legends, the Moonstruck star joins Jane Fonda, Elizabeth Taylor, and Pamela Anderson as part of the “Club Rib Removal Rumor” to which they presumably never wanted membership. Cher got the worst of it when Paris Match magazine actually ran a story in 1988 claiming she “had ribs removed.”
The “Believe” singer was also the most outspoken against the accusation. She reportedly sued Paris Match and won, then went a step further by hiring British physician F.V. Nicolle to examine her body for evidence of plastic surgery. According to New York Magazine, Nicolle’s findings were that Cher “has never had any surgery to her upper and lower eyelids [or] her cheekbones [or chin]…. All these areas represent her natural well developed good looks and have never been touched by surgery.” Nicolle also added, “Nor, has Cher had ribs removed to narrow her waist.”
Cher told People in 1991, “I just don’t understand people’s preoccupation with the amount of surgery I’ve had. I’ve been pretty open about the stuff I’ve had done, and it’s come back to me in the most negative ways. But are these cheekbones any different from the ones I had back with Sonny? This rib cage is still my rib cage.”
Denise Richards was a prostitute
While it’s unclear where this rumor came from, Wild Things star, Denise Richards, told ET that it’s been “written” that she was a prostitute for [notorious Hollywood Madam] Heidi Fleiss.” Obviously, the rumor can largely be contributed to her ex-husband Charlie Sheen’s affinity for the ladies of the evening, but apparently the loony suggestion irked Richards enough to mention it in two separate interviews.
The Starship Troopers star also told Piers Morgan of her phony prostitute past in a 2011 interview. “I’ve never been a hooker,” Richards declared to the former CNN pundit, adding, “I have a sense of humor about all of that…otherwise, why be miserable and, you know, pissy about everything?”
Richards’ remarkable level of chill about not only being accused of selling her body for money, but also knowing that her scummy ex-husband is pretty much 100 percent to blame for it is a testament to what an amazing woman she really is.
Marisa Tomei didn’t win her Oscar
One of the longest-standing rumors in the history of the Academy Awards is the ugly suggestion that Marisa Tomei couldn’t possibly have won her 1993 Best Supporting Actress Oscar over the field of veteran, and supposedly more deserving, nominees. The claim is that she only won because presenter Jack Palance couldn’t read the name on the envelope, so he “arbitrarily called out Tomei’s name instead of the actual winner.”
According to Gawker, the rumor can be traced back to a 1994 Hollywood Reporter article that purported the rumor was “making the rounds in Manhattan” thanks to Palance’s son-in-law spreading it around. Other outlets, like EW, then picked up the gossip and reported on it.
Tomei eventually did comment on the controversy, and hilariously so, in her October 1994 SNL monologue when she jokingly thanked Jack Palance for handing her the “Ms. Teenage America” and “Heisman Trophy” awards as well. Tomei wasn’t always so good-natured about the rumor, however, according to the Sun Sentinel. “That was really hurtful at first,” the My Cousin Vinny star said in 2001, adding, “I was young, and I really didn’t know the ways of the world on any level. But now I know the ways of the world, so I’m just, like, OK. I mean, it’s so in the past.”
While it’s great that Tomei has achieved a level of solace with the whole debacle, I can’t help but wonder if she was sporting the most satisfied of grins in 2017 during the whole La La Land/Moonlight Best Picture mix-up.
Don’t believe the hype
Anyone who’s made it through high school knows how petty gossip can be. So, in terms of Hollywood rumors, try to imagine Tinseltown as the ultimate cafeteria, and the tabloids as the mean girl clique publishing to their endless burn book. Thankfully, it’s clear that over time celebs have developed a particularly thick skin when it comes to this sort of thing.
British actress and singer/songwriter, Rebecca Pidgeon, even penned what is probably the most accurate description of Hollywood gossip, so I’m leaving you with her wise words. “If you want to know how far gossip travels, do this — take a feather pillow up on a roof, slice it open, and let the feathers fly away on the wind. Then go and find every single feather and re-stuff the pillow. Perhaps you will find that you cannot locate every single feather. This is because the feathers have traveled far and wide, and God only knows where each and every feather has gone.”