When famous people transcend famous-peoplehood and become icons, their personalities will often be reduced to one defining characteristic: Abraham Lincoln was as honest as he was tall, Mahatma Gandhi was as peaceful as he was short, etc. But famous people are still, you know, people. We understand that even the most beloved cultural icons are allowed to have flaws, but in some cases, their real personalities actually contradicted the one thing they're now famous for. For example ...
#5. John Lennon Was an Abusive Asshole Who Hit Women
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The Beatles were all about love: They used the word 613 times in their songs, and like 300 of those are probably from John Lennon's "All You Need Is Love" alone. In his solo career, Lennon continued singing about love, but also about peace -- he even spent money putting up billboards with pro-peace messages in cities like London and New York.
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OK, they didn't spend a lot of time on the design.
Many of his fans treat Lennon like a modern day Jesus: He preached peace and love, dressed like a disheveled hippie, died tragically young, and came back four years later with a posthumous album. Just like Jesus.
What He Was Really Like:
Lennon was a real asshole, especially to the people he was supposed to love the most. While he did write classic peace songs like "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance," keep in mind that he also wrote "I Am the Walrus," so he did not possess the soundest of minds. Lennon admitted in a Playboy interview that when he was younger, he basically went around punching women: "I was a hitter. I couldn't express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women."
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He flashes the peace sign a lot because it's the easiest way to go for the eyes.
His attitude didn't change much when he hooked up with Yoko Ono and started shouting about peace. People gave Ono a lot of shit for following Lennon to band practices (a taboo in the music world known as "being a Yoko Ono"), but Ono only did that because Lennon demanded that she come out of fear she would leave him. He even made her go into the bathroom with him, afraid someone would snatch her away while she waited in the lobby. At the same time, he was openly unfaithful to her, just as he was to his first wife.
In the end, though, the biggest target of Lennon's cruelty was his son Julian. Lennon was absent for most of Julian's life, and the time he spent with him often led to yelling, insults, and very uncomfortable situations.
Manchester Daily Express / SSL / Getty
"But Dad, I'm afraid of bears."
"I know, child. I know."
Lennon stated in an interview that Julian was unplanned and "came from a bottle of whiskey." Lennon did admit his failings near the end of his life, but he added, "I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster." Sadly, that didn't happen, so he died an asshole.
#4. Dr. Seuss Didn't Like Children
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For 1 in 4 children in the U.S., the first book they ever read is something written by Dr. Seuss, like The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham. That's how influential the guy is -- 25 percent of our population has their young minds at least partially shaped by this kind, wise doctor with a magical name.
He was also great in Planet of the Apes.
Sure, he wasn't a real doctor (not even in literature), nor was his last name Seuss (his real name was Theodor Geisel; the "doctor" was just a joke), but who cares? His easy rhyming style, simple vocabulary, and playful characters were embraced by children worldwide. Having written so many successful books for children proves that Dr. Seuss must have had a truly uncanny connection to the young rascals, right?
What He Was Really Like:
Dr. Seuss not only never liked children, but was actually scared of them. He never had children of his own, and according to his widow, the reason he didn't like them was that he never knew what their weird child brains would make them do next.
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"Will he eat the pencil or put it in his nose? I cannot stand this uncertainty anymore."
He himself once said, "They terrify me." So why did he write so many books for kids, risking being hounded by dozens of little urchins looking for an autograph (or worse, a hug) whenever he left his home? That came about more or less by accident. By the '50s, Dr. Seuss had written some books for young readers, but also for adults, plus some ... problematic (racist) political cartoons, and even a series of racy animated shorts called Private Snafu. In 1954, Time ran an article about the rise of illiteracy among children, citing Seuss' works as a good example of books that kids were more likely to pick up, simply because they weren't extremely fucking boring.
As a result, Dr. Seuss' publisher tasked him with writing a book "even first graders couldn't put down," which meant working with a very limited vocabulary of 250 words. So it was because of his publisher that Dr. Seuss changed his writing style and wrote his popular masterpieces about vandalistic cats and expired food. These were considered "beginner books" (which doesn't mean Dr. Seuss didn't labor over them for months), but they still overshadowed all his other work. It also probably helped that, as much as he disliked children, he hated adults even more.
The Art of Dr. Seuss
"In fact, fuck everyone."
#3. The Creator of Fender Guitars Couldn't Play Guitar and Didn't Like Rock Music
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If the name Leo Fender doesn't ring a bell for you, here are some others that might: Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Stevie Ray Vaughn, David Gilmour, Pete Townshend, Guitar-Playing Dude from the Chili Peppers. The one thing these men have in common, besides certain venereal diseases, is that they all favored Leo Fender's guitars.
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Hendrix preferred them roasted.
Fender's influence on rock music is second only to that of cocaine: He didn't invent the electric guitar, but most agree that he perfected it. And since the man lived until 1991, he got to hear all the awesome music his instruments helped create during the golden era of rock.
What He Was Really Like:
Leo Fender not only never learned to play the electric guitar, but wasn't even a fan of rock 'n' roll. When he created his first electric guitars, he made them with country music stars in mind, because that kind of instrument was a staple in country music. The entire reason he went into the business was that he wanted to provide better instruments for the cowboy songs he loved so much.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
"I was almost a harmonica manufacturer, but guitars seemed easier."
Despite the fact that his entire business revolved around manufacturing and constantly improving guitars and amps, Fender never actually got around to learning how to play them and didn't have any interest in doing so. He relied on actual musicians to help him with the design of the guitars, since he probably didn't even know which way to pick them up. When Fender was testing an amp with a guitar, other people in the shop had to go in and tune the instrument when they couldn't take the noise anymore. To Fender, it didn't make much of a difference.
"For the first five years, I actually thought I was making oboes."
All of this makes Fender's accomplishments even more impressive. His guitars aren't preferred by so many famous rockers simply because they look cooler, but because they objectively are -- his biggest achievement, the Fender Stratocaster, was noted for its clean sound and durability. According to songwriter Jonathan Richman, it was "everything your parents hated about rock 'n' roll."
We should all learn something from Leo Fender. So you can't drive? Try to invent a new car! You aren't a licensed doctor? Come up with a new method of open heart surgery! Maybe you'll get arrested ... or maybe your name will become synonymous with the craft. It's happened before.
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This is what a legacy looks like.