With the exception of a few Hollywood lifers, most celebrities see their star power fade after a while. But despite what the "where are they now" shows would have you believe, not every Tinseltown career ends after being busted for having a cocaine-snorting contest with an aardvark. Sometimes, their lives take a somewhat unexpected turn.
OK, some more unexpected than others ...
(Cracked recently took an unexpected turn towards making a Star Wars: Adventures in Jedi School mini-series.)
Most of you remember Thora Birch from American Beauty, but she was already kind of a big deal by age 8, winning the Best Young Actress Under Nine Years of Age award (yes, that exists) for a movie called Purple People Eater. Then her stardom peaked as a teenager with those breakthrough performances in American Beauty and Ghost World. In other words, she made the oh-so-rare jump from "cute kid" roles to "serious Oscar-winning dramas" and was set to become the go-to sexy-yet-comically-sullen-and-stoic girl of her generation.
Like the rich man's Aubrey Plaza.
But Then ...
She has appeared in virtually nothing of note since 2001. And the cause appears to be her ex-porn star father.
Yes, Jack Birch was a 1970s porn star, most famous for appearing in Deep Throat. He functions as Thora's manager, although not a very good one, since all he seems to do is cause trouble and get her fired.
He couldn't even manage to grow a mustache. In porn. In the 1970s.
Jack's background might help explain his rather bizarre behavior, particularly when it involves his daughter's body. For instance, during the filming of Winter of Frozen Dreams, Jack insisted on being present for her adult scenes. Now, this was understandable with American Beauty, because she was underage and parental supervision was required for anything involving nudity. But she was now 26, and Dad was still hanging around, giving the crew instructions on how to make his baby girl look like a good lay.
He even threatened to pull her off the movie and kill the assistant directors because they weren't shooting the sex scenes the way he wanted. At one point, he gave the actor playing Thora's lover a "thumbs up," while he was having sex with her.
"Daddy says you gave it to me pretty good, but he thinks you should try a donkey punch on the next take."
But at least Thora got to finish the film -- in 2010, he got her fired from an off-Broadway production of Dracula because Jack apparently physically threatened another actor for rubbing Thora's back during a scene (we don't get it, either). Jack's bullshit cost his daughter a job again less than a month later, when she was fired from Manson Girls. Are you noticing a theme here? The jobs keep getting worse, and her dad keeps getting her dropped from them.
Of course, it's hard to fire your own parents (it makes Thanksgiving awkward as hell), so what can she do? At this point Hollywood has apparently decided that Birch isn't worth the trouble she brings with her (and be warned, if you ever get cast to have sex with her, make sure you do it right. He's watching you).
In the wake of Star Wars, 1980 saw a big-budget version of Flash Gordon starring Sam J. Jones in the title role (beating out actors such as Kurt Russell for the honor). It was supposed to be the first film in a blockbuster trilogy, but it disappointed at the box office and the sequels were scrapped. Still, as far as first starring roles go, it's hard to beat playing an iconic comic book character, and the film gained such a cult following that Jones recently turned up in full Flash Gordon garb in Seth MacFarlane's Ted.
"My second biggest role is playing my biggest role's obscurity for laughs."
But Then ...
When being a Hollywood action hero didn't pan out, Jones decided to become an actual action hero.
After farting around with minor roles for 20 years, Jones decided he didn't want to just eke out a living by doing conventions alongside the likes of Lou Ferrigno and Burt Ward. No, Sam J. Jones is a former Marine, and despite the fact that he was entering his 50s, he decided to undergo specialized training to start a new career working as a bodyguard and hostage extraction specialist to rich people in hostile environments. After completing the training, one of his first assignments was going to New Orleans to protect executives who had stayed behind after Hurricane Katrina.
Barry Brecheisen / Getty
He only stopped twice to sign autographs for mermaids and emergency personnel.
Jones would eventually go on to found and become the CEO of his own security firm, Inner Cordon Inc. Their specialty is providing protection for rich and powerful people who travel into high-risk areas, like the more lawless parts of Mexico. When Baja California was going through a rough period where a lot of their police officers were getting killed, Jones stepped in to offer his company's services to help train Tijuana's law enforcement personnel and even sent the Secretariat of Public Security an ass-kicking proposal titled "The Reclaim Baja California Initiative."
But while Inner Cordon Inc. seems to have had success in the field, Jones says one of his biggest obstacles is getting clients to take him seriously once they recognize him (one client told him, "Thank God I knew you as a security professional before I found out you were Flash Gordon"). This only gets funnier when you remember that they offer hostage extraction services. We're picturing being tied up in some Third World hellhole, then seeing Jones come crashing through the window with Queen playing in the background. You'd have to think you were hallucinating.
Especially since he makes his team dress exactly like this.
You probably don't know the name Scott Schwartz, but we're betting you know his most famous scene:
He's always regretted doing his own stunts.
Yes, Schwartz was Flick, the poor kid who got his tongue stuck on a flagpole in A Christmas Story. But he was also a fairly prominent child actor in the early 1980s, making Richard Pryor his slave in The Toy.
A famous child actor from the '80s who fell off the map? There's no way this turned out weird!
Columbia Pictures/Warner Bros/ABC
Nope, no way at all.
But Then ...
So, there are a lot of possible outcomes for a child actor. Sure, we know he's not a big star now, but maybe he works in theater? Or took a job behind the camera? Maybe he gave up acting completely and just works in some real estate office somewhere?
Well, at the beginning Schwartz's story was nothing unique. He faded into obscurity for the same reason a lot of child actors do: Puberty did not morph him into a terribly attractive adult. However, he had a couple things going for him: a famous tongue and a conveniently sexual-sounding name. Naturally, this equaled porn.
It will be interesting to see the explanation for why his tongue sticks to her vagina.
Introduced to the industry in 1990 by his brother in post-'80s failure Corey Feldman, Schwartz initially stuck to behind-the-scenes work, mainly managing talent, only showing up on camera for background roles that didn't require him to show his boner. Finally, in 1996, some director saw his prepubescent tongue and decided it could make women hot. And so it was that Schwartz headlined his first adult film, Scotty's X-Rated Adventure.
In the film's climax, he fucked porn star Juli Ashton ... kind of. According to Schwartz, he "sank just about as fast as the Titanic" and had trouble staying aroused, so a lot of creative acting and "fluff" was required to complete the scene. But despite this abject failure, Schwartz would end up making over a dozen pornos before leaving the industry in 2000 to attempt a legitimate film comeback (which went about as well as you'd expect).