We can't go a week these days without hearing about some celebrity or political sex scandal. It is so common that from 2010 to 2011, there were twice as many sex scandals as there were from 1776 to 1889.
But the difference may just be the extent of media coverage. After all, people have been sticking their bits in ill-advised places since the beginning of time, and history has its share of scandals where the details of the stories are actually quite a bit weirder. As for whether the stories are actually true is often lost to history ...
#5. A Senator Was Accused of Banging Gay Nazi Spies
Remember When ...
... Republican Senator Larry Craig was accused of soliciting gay sex in public restrooms? How many old-timers shook their head at the news of that story and said, "What is the world coming to when our respected senators go cruising in public places for anonymous dude sex? You never saw this kind of thing back in MY day!"
"Back in our our day, gay men just met at the beach and hugged."
Well, Back in the 1940s ...
... The New York Post ruined the career of Senator David Walsh with the story that he was involved in a gay Nazi whorehouse full of gay, Nazi, pro-Hitler whores trying to bring down America with their gay Nazi whore sex.
It was 1942, and police were tipped off that there was a gay brothel in Massachusetts that was infested with Nazi spies. It wasn't entirely random -- at the risk of propagating a cliche, the brothel was a popular haunt for Navy personnel. So it was a good place to gather military information, if you were an undercover Nazi and willing to bone a sailor in order to get him talking.
"You've got me so hot even my nipples are sieg heiling!"
But after city detectives raided the sex club/spy nest, news emerged from somewhere that a U.S. senator had been caught in the sting. Armed with what might very well have been a rumor, the Post handled this insanely juicy gossip with the utmost of professionalism: They sensationalized the shit out of it and stretched out the reveal as long as they could.
The Post first released the story as just the scandal, then dragged out the affair by hinting that a famous person was involved, then called that person "Senator X" and then finally published Walsh's name.
Yes, he is wearing a swastika armband. And no, it isn't around his arm.
When Walsh was accused of having gay sex with Nazis, the first thing he did was deny it. He then requested a full FBI investigation to prove his innocence. The investigation was conducted, and sure enough, they couldn't find anything to pin on him except that the brothel owner, Gustave Beekman, swore he saw Walsh fraternizing with the Nazi gigolos, including a notorious spy known as "Mister E." Seriously.
Although Walsh was exonerated, his career was crippled -- it's speculated that elements of the government who desperately wanted the USA to enter the war were engaged in smearing politicians with isolationist policies, like Walsh. It turns out that, if you really want to make your slander stick fast, the only two words you need are "gay Nazis."
"Good thing they didn't measure my boner, or I would've been charged with a war crime."
#4. A Famous Comedian Was Accused of Crushing His Lover to Death
Remember When ...
... Hugh Grant got caught with that not-exactly-high-class prostitute? And how he had to go on a months-long apology tour to get America to forgive him and let him be in movies again? Damn the modern loose morals of Hollywood!
Well, Back in the 1920s ...
... an overweight actor was accused of crushing a woman to death while having sex with her.
This was fat for the '20s. Today he'd qualify as an Olympic sprinter.
Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was famous for being a beloved silent film actor and establishing the Hollywood trend of fat actors being typecast as "the fat guy." But although everyone loved his fat-guy antics when he was on screen, it didn't stop them from jumping to the conclusion that he killed a woman by sitting on her.
Following the signing of an unheard of three-year $1 million contract with Paramount, Fatty and a group of his friends celebrated like anyone would -- by getting trashed. The party looked like it was going very well for Fatty when he hooked up with 30-year-old Virginia Rappe, restoring hope for fat lonely guys everywhere. But the night ended in tragedy -- though only Fatty and Rappe know what happened that evening, Rappe died four days later of a ruptured bladder.
She's the hottie on the right. Which doesn't matter because he pounded that dog, too.
The thing is, Rappe did suffer from a bladder condition that could explain the tragedy. The public response? "Look at him! He must have crushed her to death!" Fatty was charged with first-degree murder -- literally murder by squashing.
Lawyer Earl Rogers speculated that the very thing that made people love Arbuckle -- his weight -- would be the thing that would make them view him as a monster and ruin his defense. To make things worse, William Randolph Hearst, the face of yellow journalism, was ecstatic about the scandal and boasted that this story sold more papers than the sinking of the Lusitania.
Fortunately for Fatty, the prosecution's case against him also had more holes than the Lusitania. The big one was that the prosecution's main witness, Bambina Maude Delmont, was a convicted felon and someone who admitted to wanting to extort money from Fatty.
Funny, we figured the devil would be more ... mustachey.
After two hung juries, the third jury found Fatty innocent of the rape and murder charges and even issued an apology. Unfortunately, the apology wasn't able to cover his legal fees or give him a new job after he was blacklisted from Hollywood.
#3. Grover Cleveland (May Have) Fathered a Child Out of Wedlock, Then Had the Mother Institutionalized
Remember When ...
... Herman Cain was forced out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination because he had allegedly sexually harassed women he had worked with? The really damning part was that they had reportedly been paid off to make the scandal go away. Damn it, where are the politicians who know how to keep it in their pants?
Hands down, buddy.
Well, Back in the 1880s ...
... a soon-to-be president is alleged to have taken his secret relationship, and the coverup, much, much further than that.
Grover Cleveland holds the distinction of being the only man to be elected president on two separate occasions, sport an awesome mustache and still manage to be a spectacularly dull person. While Cleveland managed to have a forgettable presidency, he was able to avoid complete anonymity by having a despicable sex scandal.
This was before he married a teacher from Hogwarts.
It all started when Cleveland began a relationship with Maria Halpin, who was by all accounts a bit of a town bicycle. When she found out she was pregnant, there was some dispute over who the father was, but she pinned it on Cleveland, as he was the only one of the possibilities who was also a potential president of the United States.
Halpin gave birth to a child, which she named Oscar Folsom Cleveland, after Oscar Folsom (Cleveland's best friend and another potential baby daddy), presumably just to cover all her bases. Although Cleveland wasn't convinced that the child was his, he decided not to dispute the claim because to deny it meant, by implication, accusing his married friends of infidelity. As the only bachelor in the group, he took one for the team.
Cheating men everywhere celebrated his sacrifice by putting him on the thousand-dollar bill.
That sounds like a mighty gracious thing for Cleveland to do. And it was, except for the part where he had Halpin thrown into a mental institution and his maybe-son put in an orphanage.
It's unclear how much of what we know about Maria Halpin is accurate and how much is a smear campaign designed to help Cleveland save face, but even if she was every bit the harpy that history says she was, turning the life of both her and the child into a Dickens novel seems a bit harsh, considering Cleveland wasn't exactly impoverished.
The scandal, well known at the time, could have ruined Cleveland's bid for the presidency, if not for the fact that his opponent, James Blaine, turned out to have worse skeletons in his closet (not involving sex -- it was a scandal involving railroad money). So instead of slipping quietly off the political map, Cleveland was elected president, and then took a break and got himself elected again later just to show that he could.
And then started a whole new family, presumably just to rub it in.