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Where Are They Now: 6 "Stars" of Embarrassing Viral Videos

#3.
Melissa Sander, Grape-Stomper

If you haven't seen the video ...
Melissa Sander was a reporter for an Atlanta TV station in the late '90s, doing a fluff report from a local winery. She participated in an impromptu grape-stomping contest when disaster hilariously struck.

The Rest of the Story:
Memo to parents: If you really want to show your kids that cheaters never prosper, you might want to consider using this video as a visual aid. After being told that time was up, Sander kept stomping and was quickly bitch-slapped by the hand of fate, tumbling over the side.

Her walrus-like screams, while obviously amusing to her co-workers in the studio, seemed to indicate a serious injury. Everywhere this video appears, there's somebody in the comment section claiming Sander broke several ribs and almost died, presumably because they think it's funnier that way. But people at the winery where she fell said she was fine and oh-by-the-way it was basically her fault because they chose to film facing the side without railings.

According to bloggers who've tried to track her down, shortly after the incident Sander left Atlanta for Albany, which we're sure had nothing to do with the fact that the in-studio reporters were barely holding back giggles at her pained yodeling. Her bio page at Albany ...

... makes no mention of a near-death experience due to a pierced lung, which further supports the fact that she probably just had the wind knocked out of her on the fall. In fact, while the bio mentions her time at WAGA-TV, it makes no mention that she's the grape-stomping lady, which is like a biography of Kobe Bryant forgetting to mention he plays basketball.


She also inspired this lovely painting by Jeremiah Palecek

Sander is no longer at that job, and has pretty much dropped off the grid. If her post-stomping career trajectory remained on the path it was following when she went from "live feature reporter for Good Day Atlanta" to "weekend meteorologist" in Albany, she's probably in a small market busily not being allowed on television. We're not sure why she'd be so secretive, all we want to do is follow her around town shouting "Grape Lady!" and imitating that horrible sound.

#2.
Lee Paige, Glock .40 Expert

If you haven't seen the video ...
If Melissa Sander proved that cheaters never prosper, Lee Paige put "pride goes before the fall" to the test. Paige's almost instantaneous debunking of his claim of being "the only one in this room professional enough, that I know of, to carry this Glock .40," made him a national laughingstock by all who appreciate sweet, tasty irony.

The Rest of the Story:

Paige's injury was not life-threatening, but that's only because another bullet in his pocket stopped the fired round from hitting his femoral artery. So it was probably a millimeter away from making that bullet discharge, at which point we like to think it would have gone flying out of his pants, ricocheting around the room until it came back to hit him in his ass.


We've seen it happen before

The DEA immediately suspended Paige's pay for five days, and according to Paige and his lawyer, took possession of the videotape. A short time later, the clip found its way onto the internet and became a viral video hit, which would seem to imply that once again some nameless person risked their job for a chance to entertain the internet.

Paige filed suit against the DEA, claiming they "improperly, illegally, willfully and/or intentionally" allowed the footage to become public, pointing out that he really can't do undercover work any more since most of the computer-owning world knows his face. Though it seems like having the reputation as being bulletproof can't hurt (he continued giving his lecture after taking the shot).

In the lawsuit, Paige was also claiming the video harmed his reputation as "one of the best undercover agents, if not the best, in the DEA." No, we're not making that up. The man who took a bullet the last time he made such a boast was right back to his braggart ways. Does fate need to shoot you a second time, Mr. Paige?

#1.
Mark A. Hicks, Afro Ninja

If you haven't seen the video ...
Imagine the scene: You're tired and jet-lagged after flying halfway across the world. You get a phone call--the studio wants you to come in for a second audition. You agree, because you need the work and, after all, what can go wrong?

Oh yes, that. You attempt a complicated stunt and flub it badly, careening across the room like a drunken imbecile. Such was the case of Mark A. Hicks, who is better known by his internet-appointed nickname: Afro Ninja.

The Rest of the Story:
Although the video makes him look like a moronic poseur, Hicks is actually an award-winning stuntman who has worked on the Rush Hour films, Terminator 3 and the classic Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood. Still, only a handful of the 40 films he's worked on can boast the audience of the Afro Ninja clip (with over 80 million views).

All sorts of back stories have been invented for the clip, but it was actually an audition for this Nike commercial.

And get this: Hicks got the job.

Still, the Afro Ninja clip hurt his career (he believes it's the reason he didn't get the call to work on Rush Hour 3) since those who have seen the video are reluctant to hire a guy best known for perfectly executing a face plant. Unless that happens to be what they need, and as far as we're concerned you don't really see enough of those in movies these days.

Hicks started to turn things around by embracing his internet alter ego, he got hired by Hewlett Packard to do a spoof of the video (he had to recreate the face plant in a studio) and recently appeared in a Weezer video doing the same stunt.

Still, his IMDB page says he has plenty of stunt work lined up, so it's not like he's completely shed of his dignity. Wait, did we mention he's producing an Afro Ninja movie?

Are you watching this, Grape Stomping Lady? This could have been you.



For surprising updates on people who at least meant to get famous, check out The 7 Strangest Post-Sitcom Careers or check out the latest from Those Aren't Muskets, in which they wonder Is it Time For Batman to Tone it Down?.
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