TV stars are, in many ways, just like you and me, in that, occasionally, they end up in a jail cell. So it's not that surprising when Kiefer Sutherland headbutts a guy or Martha Stewart commits a little fraud. We all do it. Some TV stars, though, go a little further than your average celebrity.
6. Ryan Jenkins
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In August 2009, VH1 producers decided that what American TV needed most was a reality show that ripped off the format of a different reality show starring a semi-celebrity made famous by starring in a reality show, so they commissioned Megan Wants a Millionaire. Megan didn't get her millionaire though, because her show was cancelled after one of the finalists murdered his wife before killing himself.
Ryan Jenkins was one of the millionaire contestants on the show who competed for Megan's love and a shot at Z-list celebrity status. After the show had completed filming, Jenkins married model and aspiring actress Jasmine Fiore in a shotgun Vegas wedding. And a few months after that, Jenkins was charged with "battery constituting domestic violence" after knocking his new wife into a swimming pool.
Clearly Jenkins was a classy guy, but police still named him the chief suspect when his wife's mutilated body turned up in a bloody suitcase in August 2009. Jenkins fled across the border to Canada where he committed suicide in a motel room.
All of which was rather unfortunate for VH1 who, along with the viewers, never got to see Megan realize that there are qualities other than money that you should look for in a prospective mate. Qualities like, "Doesn't throw me into swimming pools" and "Won't dismember me." Expect to see Megan Wants a Law-Abiding Citizen on your TV any day now.
5. O.J. Simpson
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Before achieving fame as an armed robber and murder "suspect," O.J. Simpson was actually quite a famous football player and TV star. After a successful career with the Buffalo Bills, "The Juice" began acting in TV shows and films such as Roots and The Naked Gun.
Away from the screen, O.J. made headlines after being charged with domestic assault against his wife, Nicole Brown. He pleaded "no contest" (translation: "I did it, but I'm not admitting I did it") and would have continued with his by now semi-successful acting career had Nicole not inconveniently got herself murdered a few years later.
O.J. was charged with the murder of his wife and her friend but failed to turn himself in to police, instead showing up on a California freeway fleeing the cops while threatening to commit suicide. He didn't, but he drove home at 35 mph before giving himself up.
In what was called "the trial of the century" by people who had a terrible sense of history, O.J. was acquitted of two counts of murder. The prosecution had presented what had seemed to be a strong case, but it was a case against an innocent man who definitely didn't kill his wife, and so O.J. walked free. Because he definitely didn't kill his wife.
Thirteen years later, however, he did enter a room at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino and stole (or "took back" as O.J. put it) sports memorabilia at gunpoint. He was charged with assault, kidnapping, and armed robbery and later convicted and given a 33-year prison sentence. Some people would say that this was justice finally being served, yin and yang, karma, but I don't know what those people are talking about, because O.J. Simpson definitely didn't kill his wife.
4. Gig Young
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Gig Young was an Academy Award-winning television and movie actor. Despite spending a chunk of his career relegated to supporting roles, he picked up an Oscar in 1969 which promised a long, high profile career in Hollywood. And then he shot his wife and committed suicide.
Just like Ryan Jenkins (but not O.J.), Gig would end his career by murdering his wife. And just like those two, he was suffering from problems long before the end. Gig was a chronic alcoholic, a problem that led to the breakdown of his first marriage to Elizabeth Montgomery, the star of Bewitched. It also cost him acting jobs, most notably the role that eventually went to Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles. As the film's director, Mel Brooks later said, "We draped Gig Young's legs over and hung him upside down. And he started to talk and he started shaking. I said, 'This guy's giving me a lot. He is giving plenty. He's giving me the old alky shake. Great.' And then it got serious, because the shaking never stopped, and green stuff started spewing out of his mouth and nose, and he started screaming."
After failing to win a best supporting actor Academy Award in 1951, Gig told a fellow actor: "so many people who have been nominated for an Oscar have had bad luck afterwards." Gig's words would prove to be prophetic, and in 1978 he ended his three-week-old marriage to a German actress by shooting her and then turning the gun on himself.
Not only is this a depressing story, it's a warning to addicts (and people who have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscars).
3. Dudu Topaz
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In his prime, Dudu Topaz was the one of the most recognizable celebrities in Israel. Known as the "ratings king," Topaz hosted a number of major TV comedy and talk shows, and even appeared in a few films. He was sort of like Jon Stewart.
Unlike Jon Stewart, though, he was prone to outbursts of super-rage, once smashing a TV critic's glasses after he gave him a bad review. Later, he added borderline insanity to his reputation for aggressiveness by kissing a radio reporter against her will and by biting a soap star's arm for "no apparent reason" during a live broadcast.
If Dudu's taste for flesh and lip rape concerned TV executives, they didn't show it, and instead happily supported his continued reign at the top of TV. That is, until reality shows made their way to the Middle East, and Dudu saw himself replaced by Israeli versions of Big Brother contestants.
Topaz was taken off air and could no longer get any of his ideas on TV. Feeling rejected, he did what anybody would do: he hired thugs to beat up the TV executives he blamed for his downfall. Over the course of a year, Dudu had a TV executive and an actor's agent beaten up, and the vice president of one station was assaulted so badly she was hospitalized.
Clever police officers soon suspected the TV executive's former employee with the reputation for arm-biting may have been behind the attacks, and Dudu was arrested and sent to prison, where he hanged himself in the shower. Which is a pretty sad end to the man's life. I mean, if people in this country were willing to attack TV executives who filled the schedule with mind-destroying reality TV then we might have less Paris Hilton and more Better off Ted and Arrested Development. Hell, this guy was a f***ing hero.
2. Elena Skordelli
Elena Skordelli was a glamorous talk show host and news presenter on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. And then she got fired. And now she's awaiting trial for hiring a hitman to murder the media boss who fired her. That's right, Elena actually acted out that fantasy you had when you got fired from your last job.
Elena started her career as a host of light entertainment shows on Cyprus' Sigma TV before unexpectedly being promoted to a news presenter. "She was so obviously out of her depth," said one of her colleagues, "you just felt sorry for her."
She was soon fired from her job and moved to a rival channel. Not long after, Sigma TV's owner Andis Hadjicostis was gunned down outside his home. Police arrested Elena and her brother and charged them with hiring two hitmen to kill the media tycoon (one of the hitmen was later injured in an "unconnected bomb explosion," because the life of a hitman is apparently exactly like living in a Michael Bay film).
Prosecutors allege that Elena orchestrated the murder not only for revenge, but in order to gain a controlling interest in Sigma's parent company, of which she already owned 20%. At the trial, Elena's sister decided to join in the Skordelli family crazy by threatening the two hitmen, who testified that they were promised €50,000 and jobs for life in payment for the murder.
The trial verdict has yet to be announced, but if you're that desperate to know the final outcome, you can just wait for the inevitable Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer adaptation: Hostile Takeover, starring Natalie Portman and 90 minutes of violence.
1. Wallace Souza
Crime show Canal Livre was one of the most popular shows in the Brazilian city of Manaus. It documented murders in the region and aimed to shed light on the city's criminals. Its host, politician Wallace Souza, frequently told his audience: "Manaus can no longer live with this wave of crime. Nowadays everyone is killing." "Everyone" might be an exaggeration, but some people were certainly killing. Wallace Souza for instance, who was charged last year with the murder of five people in order to boost his show's ratings.
Police first became suspicious of Souza after they noticed his uncanny ability to be the first at the scene of a crime. Also, they'd arrested his security guard and accused him of nine murders. That arrest triggered a raid on Souza's home which found $154,000 and an arsenal of assault rifles and ammunition. Souza's was charged with the murder of five criminals (whose deaths were covered on his show), drug-trafficking, intimidation of witnesses, illegal carrying of arms, and formation of a criminal gang. And you thought your local congressman was corrupt.
After originally fleeing police, Souza turned himself in and now maintains that there is a massive conspiracy to frame him. A massive conspiracy that apparently involves planting evidence, framing his security guard, and framing his son who is in jail for homicide and drug trafficking. Also, the whole "TV cameras at the scene of the crimes before the police" thing? Coincidence. Pure coincidence.