We try not to be celebrity-obsessed here at Cracked; we don't know whether Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are still married, we don't know which leading men are secretly gay and we have no idea why OJ doesn't make hilarious spoof movies anymore.
But some prominent people have permanently changed the culture, and it's worth understanding what made them tick. Especially when you consider the fact that (according to some theories) small, arbitrary events in their lives completely changed the world.
For instance, some say ...
#5. Michael Jackson Acted Like That Because He Was Chemically Castrated
For those of you who only knew Michael Jackson as the washed up, deformed, crazy pedophile with his own amusement park, you should know that at one time he was the most famous entertainer in the world. Not because he was nuts -- he wasn't, back then -- but because the world thought he was goddamned amazing to watch. What we're saying is, in spite of all the other weirdness and chaos surrounding his crazy life, MJ's vocal talent was undeniable.
Hey, speaking of voices, did you ever notice how Michael's voice never really changed?
That's ... kind of weird, right? For comparison (we're so sorry), you should have a few listens to Donny Osmond. Donny was about Michael's age and enjoyed a similar career for a while there. Here's Donny singing with an admirable little baby voice in 1972. Notice what happens, though, two years later when he banters with MJ at the 1974 Oscars.
It's like listening to a mouse and Barry White try to carry on a conversation. A few years later, while Michael was putting together his world-changing Off the Wall album, Donny was serenading Miss Universe contestants with his man-voice. (Once again, we're sorry.)
Donny's career also suffered from constant attacks by ivory poachers.
So what's the deal?
Well, one professor of vascular surgery thinks that Michael's consistently high voice was the key to understanding everything about his adult career. (No word if it explains the spangly military uniform phase, though.)
It was all due to some medication he took.
When Michael Jackson was 12 years old, he started getting zits. Because remember, he was just a normal kid back then, and zits and occasional deodorant misfires are what happen when you're normal and you're 12. What wasn't normal, according to Alain Branchereau, was the way Michael's entourage dealt with his face volcanoes. Branchereau's theory is that Michael's family or doctor or the devil in a dermatologist mask treated Michael's acne with a hormone called cyproterone. And it's a good thing, because look at this pepperoni pizza head someone tried to pass off as a human:
Don't look at it directly, lest you anger the spirit that laid its curse upon it!
But the thing about cyproterone is that it is a synthetic anti-male hormone -- a drug that knocks the man right out of you by blocking puberty itself. According to Dr. French House, the drug stopped body hair from growing and affected bone growth, leaving Michael with a boyish, narrow, hairless body. Most importantly, cyproterone kept the larynx from growing, which was why Michael's voice never changed, why he kept singing throughout his teens without a hitch and why as a full grown man he had a three-octave range.
In other words, Michael Jackson was a castrato. A eunuch.
Just think for a brief second what this would mean if it were true. All that Neverland nonsense and weird sleepover claptrap wasn't about the gross stuff we all wish we never heard about -- it was about a literal little kid living in a (kinda) grownup body. And the really weird stuff, like the oxygen sleep chamber and the plastic surgeries and the whole drippy hair look, maybe that was just about a very messed up boy with unlimited wealth making horrible decisions -- the same horrible decisions any other 12-year-old with unlimited income would make. Didn't you ever buy the bones of the Elephant Man or share a bed with Corey Feldman when you were a kid?
Or convince him to become your living clone?
The point is, maybe, just maaaayyyybe all the parts about Michael Jackson that made us uncomfortable had a biological cause. Unfortunately, we'll never know. But wouldn't it be nice to pretend, even for just a moment, that everything that happened after Off the Wall wasn't really Michael's fault?
#4. Kurt Cobain's Left-Handed Guitar Killed Him
As the poster child of the "Musicians Who Died at 27" Club (I Love the '90s Edition), you're probably already familiar with Kurt Cobain's life and legacy: He was a depressed heroin addicted guitarist who committed suicide before he could defeat his own demons. Not that anyone was surprised; as a prototypical self-destructive rock star type, he was destined from birth to live fast and die young, right?
Well ... maybe not.
A human life is more complicated than that. And some biographers have speculated that it was one small, seemingly inconsequential decision that led Kurt Cobain down the road to heroin addiction and death. One decision, made in one moment.
And no, we're not talking about the sweater OR Courtney Love.
Once Cobain's heroin habit was in full swing, he went on record blaming a mysterious stomach ailment for his addiction (heroin is one hell of a pain killer). He described it in an interview as one of the two major sources of pain that influenced his music. How bad was it? Approximately this bad ...
"Halfway through the European tour, I remember saying I'll never go on tour again until I have this fixed because I wanted to kill myself. I wanted to fucking blow my head off, I was so tired of it."
Which is saying a lot when your career can produce brilliant moments like this.
In 1993, not long before Cobain broke his promise about not having a gun, a doctor diagnosed the pain in his stomach as a pinched nerve in his spine caused by scoliosis (a curvature of the spine that some people have to get corrected with surgery). So, scoliosis led to horrible pain, which led to Cobain self-medicating with heroin. This diagnosis was probably why he was a rock star, not a doctor.
But let's go back a little further. Years before the burden of back and stomach pain drove Mr. Love to opiates, he took up the guitar. Like, literally picked it up. And the teenage Cobain had a choice to make: left-handed, or right? See, Kurt could go either way -- he was ambidextrous, but learning how to play on a left-handed guitar is a pain. That's why left-handed guitarists like Paul Simon, B.B. King and Noel Gallagher just didn't bother, they straight up learned on the rightie.
Noel, by the way, is also right-handed at being a complete douchebag.
Not Kurt. Probably for the same reasons he chose the wife he did, he went for the left-handed guitar. Makes sense. He liked doing things the hard way. The problem was that playing left-handed was the worst thing he could have done for his scoliosis:
"Kurt's spine curved out a bit on his right side, but it was made worse by the fact that he played guitar left-handed (and thus held his guitar with his right shoulder). Ironically, Cobain was naturally right-handed, and it's been theorized that had he played guitar that way, the spinal curvature may have corrected itself over time."
A guitar is heavy, and he had that strap on his right shoulder a lot -- think about all the hours spent practicing alone and rehearsing with the band and just messing around. All that time, the strap on the right shoulder, that weight bending his spine painfully further in the bad direction, for weeks, months, years.
Add to that his decision to constantly jam his guitar into the amps, using his right side.
Over more than a decade of this, the scoliosis keeps getting worse, which leads to his chronic stomach problem, which leads to his heroin addiction, which leads to his suicide. All because he picked the wrong guitar.
That's the theory, anyway.
#3. Thomas Jefferson Had Asperger's
We know what you're thinking: bullshit. Everyone's playing so fast and loose with Asperger's diagnoses you'd think the disease was a pair of boobs. At this point, the list of symptoms for this form of autism is so universal that basically it's "If you're awkward at parties, you have Asperger's."
But despite all of the people casually throwing the Asperger's tag around, it is still an actual syndrome with actual symptoms and actual sufferers. And one guy has made a pretty compelling case for Thomas Jefferson being one of them.
"Jesus, Tom. Can we talk about something besides anime for a minute?"
First up, we need to make sure you're clear on which Founding Father was Thomas Jefferson. He was the one who wrote the Declaration of Independence, and also the one who was the third president of the United States. He bought us Louisiana Plus and had a long term affair with his slave, Sally Hemings, who was also his wife's half-sister. He also spoke five languages, designed his home Monticello and invented the SWIVEL CHAIR.
Making him the godfather of office shenanigans.
So, no matter what everyone says about his stupid hair, there's no denying he was a smart cookie. Here are some other facts about Thomas Jefferson:
- When he died, he left all of his correspondence and notes of importance to his grandson. All 40,000 of them.
- He sang and hummed to himself all the time.
- He was so shy that he avoided eye contact and only gave two speeches in his life; both were inaugural addresses.
It was these little idiosyncrasies, plus a host of others, that led one journalist/novelist to conclude that maybe our third president had a little case of the autism. The Asperger's autism.
With an occasional outbreak of leaf-head.
- Marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction
- Lack of social or emotional reciprocity
- Encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
- Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
- The disturbance causes clinically significant impairments in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning
Insistence upon dressing like Prince.
We could start with his eccentricities, which were so pronounced that people who visited Jefferson walked away baffled. Like how he kept an uncaged mockingbird around him while he worked and greeted state visitors in dated, threadbare, worn-out clothes, some of which were too small for his body.
"His setness, for instance, in wearing very sharp toed shoes, corduroy small-clothes, and red plush waistcoat, which have been laughed at till he might perhaps wisely have dismissed them."
You got that right? That people were laughing at him? It's hard to get that when looking at old pictures, but in his day, Jefferson was a bit of a clown. Well, OK, so he was a bit odd. That alone doesn't qualify him for a "syndrome" of any kind -- otherwise half the people reading this have it.
He also had nightmarishly long arms.
But then you have to combine it with his other traits, such as his obsessing over tiny details for no rational reason. He obsessively recorded everything in writing -- the weather, animal sightings, recipes, gardening crap and every little change he wanted to make to Monticello, which, by the way, he worked on for over 50 years.
For instance, Jefferson didn't just keep financial records, he recorded every tiny little transaction down to the penny. Not because he was careful with money (he spent lavishly and was drowning in debt), but because he was obsessive about tracking it, like if you still had on file the candy bar you bought with pocket change at a convenience store seven years ago. It was a compulsion. One expert says his constant note-taking was such a big part of his life that it "... may have actually contributed to the disastrous legacy of debt ... for it gave Jefferson a sense of control that he didn't know how to exercise."
But it was mostly about the hair.
Brilliant, yes. Able to dress himself appropriately, stop singing, or stop taking notes on every little thing, or function without a live bird shitting all over the place? Apparently not. And if he did all of that today, his doctors probably would have had a name for it.