Florence Foster Jenkins was a very bad opera singer. Seriously, you guys. So bad.
How Bad Was She?
If you didn't watch the video, just imagine Ashlee Simpson jumping rope while singing opera through some sort of reverse auto-tune device that makes things even more out of tune than they already are.
Or you could listen to the sound of this puppy as you kick it repeatedly.
As a youth in the late 19th century, Jenkins endured countless words of discouragement from anyone unlucky enough to hear her sing, including her father. But while most young women rebel against dad by having a whole lot of sex with unsavory dudes, Jenkins opted to use a large inheritance left to her by her father to plow headlong into a musical career.
A regrettable decision for several reasons.
People Actually Paid For This Crap?
Despite her ineptitude-riddled pipes, Jenkins's performances were always enjoyable, just not in the way she hoped. Florence was there to entertain through song. Her audience, however, was all about the unintentional comedy. Wracking with laughter, audience members usually ended up cramming their handkerchiefs in their mouths to keep their giggles silent. Say what you will about the Gilded Age, but they certainly had manners (and a healthy disdain for Chinese immigrants) back then.
Over time, people turned out in droves to catch a glimpse of Jenkins's special brand of awful. Whenever the laughter got too loud or mean, she would dismiss it as spite from those less talented. In Jenkins's mind, she was a wonderful singer.
The highlight of her career was her first and only performance at Carnegie Hall in 1944. The show sold out and, in fact, 2,000 people were turned away and scalpers sold tickets for outrageous sums. Shitty music, sold out venues and scalpers charging exorbitant prices? Sounds like an Eagles concert! But we digress. Jenkins died a month after her Carnegie performance. Not too bad for a finale.
Oh, and in case you didn't already feel inadequate, her recordings are still available for purchase, she's had three plays written about her, and she even has a MySpace. Fine, maybe that last one isn't all that impressive, but still, not bad for a girl who once remarked to a friend, "Some may say that I couldn't sing, but no one can say that I didn't sing."
If anyone else on this list runs into filmmaker Ed Wood in the afterlife, they will immediately bow to him as their king.
How Bad Was He?
We're guessing you've already heard countless people refer to Plan 9 From Outer Space as the worst movie ever made. But if you haven't actually seen it, and instead have only seen clips of the film or just the Tim Burton movie about Wood, you really should take time to watch the whole thing.
It will make you want to go out and create something. It's impossible to know how many aspiring filmmakers or novelists or artists buckled down to finish a project purely on the basis of, "I know I can do better than that."
Sometimes referred to as "The Michael Bay Effect."
Really, everything you need to know about how bad Ed Wood movies were can be summed up in this quote from the man himself.
"Plan 9 is my pride and joy. We used Cadillac hubcaps for flying saucers in that."
Imagine the possibilities of spinners.
Though we should throw in the fact that the star (Bela Legosi) died after shooting just a couple of scenes, and they just had another dude stand in (strategically covering his face the while time).
People Actually Paid For This Crap?
Like many visionaries, Wood wouldn't get true recognition until after his death. Two years later, Wood was named "Worst Director of All Time" in a book called The Golden Turkey Awards. This brief moment of mockery resulted in a cult following for Ed Wood the likes of which would make L. Ron Hubbard jealous (and probably file a lawsuit of some sort). We're betting you can't find a video store that doesn't have a DVD of Plan 9 From Outer Space on the shelf right now (and Amazon has two pages of various re-issues of the film).
These days, tributes to Ed Wood abound. The University of Southern California holds an annual Ed Wood Film Festival in which students are given a theme and tasked with building an Ed Wood style movie around it. Unofficial (meaning made up) estimates put the cost of making all those films somewhere in the 11 dollar range. There is also a legally recognized Ed Wood religion, The Church of Ed Wood, replete with holidays (way to forget our Woodmas gift on October 10) and manifestos (Wood Kamph). In 2001, rocker and Halloween franchise resuscitator Rob Zombie named his sophomore solo album, The Sinister Urge, after an Ed Wood film of the same name.
That certainly is a homage.
But the biggest tribute to Wood came in 1994 with the aforementioned Tim Burton film Ed Wood. Johnny Depp played Ed Wood and Martin Landau won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi. Yes, 16 years after his death, they made a movie about his terrible movies, and that movie won awards.
It's safe to say that in the course of making some of the worst movies possible, Ed Wood has brought more joy to more people than 99 percent of the artists who've ever lived. If that doesn't inspire you, then you're dead inside. Someone get us a video camera and some hubcaps, pronto! We've got work to do!
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For celebrities that were just as lucky as these jerks, check out 7 Celebrity Careers That Launched by Accident. Or find out about how your favorite star is really a terrible person, in 7 Beloved Celebrities And The Awful Shit You Forgot They Did.
And stop by our Top Picks to see Swaim failing as a nude model.