Celebrities’ lives are so lavish and exciting—automatic invites to the hottest parties, first pick of the latest designer goods, free Carvel ice-cream cakes for life … They do pay a price for all that access and entitlement, though. For every tabloid story chronicling a shopping spree or tropical vacation, there’s another that spills the sordid details of a divorce or a drug binge, whether they’re true or not. Because tabloids thrive on spreading gossip, most celebrity rumors become old news within a day or two, especially if left unproven. But some have managed to stick to certain stars’ careers like a bad movie or a bad relationship. So they must be true, right? Don’t be so sure.
Richard Gere: A Gerbil and a Gentleman
This Hollywood urban legend is as old as time itself. Well, as old as the mid-’80s, anyway. That’s when whispers started circulating about Richard Gere’s dalliances with a gerbil that landed him in L.A.’s Cedars-Sinai Hospital. A fake press release supposedly issued by the ASPCA about his “abuse” of the animal in the early ’90s didn’t help matters, either. But ultimately, the press release wasn’t traced back to any reliable source, and neither was the story itself. Gere later addressed the rumor in a 2008 interview, saying, “I just decided not to pay attention to any of it. It’s a waste of energy.” Hmm … that’s not exactly a denial, is it?
Alice Cooper: That Poor Chicken
Way before Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off a bat onstage, Alice Cooper earned a reputation as a crazy man by reportedly ripping a chicken’s head off and drinking its blood at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival concert in 1969. Cooper says that someone from the crowd tossed the chicken onstage, and since he was a city boy who didn’t know about farm life, he assumed that it would fly away if he threw it back toward the crowd. Well, it fell into the crowd and was subsequently torn apart, but the head biting made for a much better story. In fact, when Cooper wanted to repudiate the claim, Frank Zappa advised him that people’s believing the rumor was better for his career.
Osbourne, on the other hand, definitely bit the head off a bat during a 1982 concert after a fan threw it onstage. He thought it was rubber, but the real question isn’t why he did it—it’s how all these animals managed to make it past security. They confiscate bottled water, but not chickens and bats?
Van Halen: Not Down with Brown
Van Halen’s infamous 1982 candy demand that people use as an example of rock star excess was in fact a clever way to make sure concert promoters actually read the band’s detailed contractual rider. Because Van Halen’s shows included lots of equipment and sound and lighting specifics, not following the protocol laid out in the rider could create dangerous situations for the crew and the fans. The request, which read: “M&MS (WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES)” under the “Munchies” section, was an easy way to see if the concert promoters paid attention. Should a brown one be found in the bunch, Van Halen had good reason to doubt its other requests were being followed to the letter.
Too Many Stars to List: A Stomach Full of What?!
Get this—David Bowie was once rushed to the hospital to get a gallon of semen pumped out of his stomach. No, wait, it was Mick Jagger, and it was seven gallons. Actually, it was also Alanis Morissette, Britney Spears, Rod Stewart, and quite a few other singers. The amount of semen also fluctuates from story to story. This one isn’t true, not only because these busy people couldn’t possibly find the time to service that many guys at once (the average male ejaculates only one or two teaspoons of semen), but also because semen isn’t toxic. Being allergic to semen might cause a reaction. Otherwise, swallowing that much would probably lead to an upset stomach, not a trip to the doctor.
Lady Gaga: How Much of a Lady?
The hermaphrodite rumor stuck to Jamie Lee Curtis for years, until it moved on to Lady Gaga, after a picture taken during a 2009 performance seemed to reveal what looked like a penis. Her manager called the rumor ridiculous in 2009, and the Lady herself denied it to Barbara Walters in a 2010 interview. Being thought of as a man doesn’t seem to bother her, though—she posed in drag in a 2010 issue of Vogue Hommes Japan.
Frank Sinatra: Someone to Watch Over Mario Puzo
A long-standing story in Hollywood is that Johnny Fontaine’s story in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather is based on Sinatra. Fontaine uses his Mafia connection to get out of a contract with a big-band leader and land a role in a movie, just as Sinatra supposedly did to cut ties with big-band leader Tommy Dorsey and later star in the movie From Here to Eternity. Nancy Sinatra claims that her dad left the contract legitimately; other reports say Sinatra was simply the best man for the movie role. Puzo never said anything one way or the other about who influenced the character, but seeing as how Sinatra publicly threatened him after the book and the movie came out, it’s obvious how he felt.
Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes: The Best Sham Marriage Around
There are so many rumors surrounding this whirlwind relationship, it’s hard to know where to begin. Their coming together is fishy to begin with—Holmes ended an engagement to actor Chris Klein in March 2005, fell off the radar for over two weeks after an April 2005 meeting with Tom Cruise to discuss a role in Mission: Impossible III, and then emerged blissfully in love with Cruise by the end of the month. That’s when Cruise started giving off crazy signals (remember the Oprah couch incident?) and Katie started removing almost everyone from her life pre-Tom. Even their daughter is a source of controversy: it’s said she’s either a product of L. Ron Hubbard’s frozen sperm or Chris Klein’s love child. But until Katie divorces Tom and writes the tell-all book I Do, Xenu: My Fake Marriage to Cray-Cray Cruise, the world may never know the truth.
By now, most people know that little Mikey from the Life cereal commercials didn’t die after mixing Pop Rocks and soda, and that Walt Disney isn’t actually cryogenically frozen. Maybe these myths will also become funny anecdotes that people roll their eyes at years from now. Until then, let’s take bets on who the next star to get his or her semen-filled stomach pumped will be. I’ve got five on Miley Cyrus.