5 Celebrities You Didn't Know Ass-Kicked Their Way to Fame

#2. Chuck Zito Guarded Jean-Claude Van Damme, Then Kicked His Ass

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You might remember Chuck Zito as "Chucky the Enforcer" in five seasons of Oz or as Frankie Diamonds in Sons of Anarchy. For most actors, it would be a challenge to play a feared prison inmate or a violent biker, but Zito had a head start -- he's been both those things in his life, and more. He was actually in jail for six years and wasn't just a member of the Hells Angels -- he was the president of the New York chapter.

FX Productions
"Yeah, I think I can pretend to do this ..."

Years before becoming a TV star, Zito was just a laborer and an amateur boxer who really, really liked bikes. One day in 1979, he was at the New York Coliseum Bike and Car Show when the guest of honor, Robert Conrad (from The Wild Wild West and these '70s-tastic commercials), was mobbed by the public. Conrad's bodyguards couldn't handle the rush and, seeing the 6-foot built-like-a-fighter Zito, they yelled for help. Zito answered the call, kept the crowds at bay, and became a celebrity bodyguard in the process.

Zito eventually opened his own service, which he called Charlie's Angels, because he was an Angel and his name was Charlie (duh). Surprisingly, instead of a lawsuit from ABC, this got him plenty of celebrity clients -- first Liza Minelli's sister, then Minelli herself, and then other celebrities of increasing physical prowess (Michael Jackson, Sean Penn, Sylvester Stallone, Charles Bronson).

Ron Galella/WireImage/Getty Images
Who protected Sean Penn's girlfriend from him, though?

In 1983, Zito guarded Mickey Rourke, who responded by putting him in a movie as three different (non-speaking) characters. He slipped into Die Hard 3, True Lies, The Rock, and dozens of other films as a stuntman, and then he made the best move of his career: punching a former client. This guy:

Ron Galella/WireImage/Getty Images
Enjoying deh show?

Zito and Jean-Claude Van Damme were in a strip club together in 1998, when Van Damme said "Zito has no heart." Zito told the lady on Van Damme's lap to go sit somewhere else and then let loose a right jab and a left hook. Van Damme was left curled on the ground in the fetal position. Zito waited for him to get back up, but old friend Mickey Rourke intervened before anyone got killed. The fight brought him so much publicity that Zito said he should have beat up Van Damme 10 years earlier.

Not long after that, he got his big break when HBO cast him in Oz. His only condition? "I don't do rapes, and I don't get raped."

Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Fashion seems to be an exception.

#1. Jesse Ventura Guarded the Rolling Stones, Then Honored Them as Governor

Amanda Edwards/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Jesse Ventura is known for being that famous wrestler guy who became that famous governor of Minnesota guy. However, Ventura's first brush with show business actually came in the late '70s, when he was one of the goons who had to keep the hordes of hysterical women away from these guys:

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Back when "moves like Jagger" wasn't referring to possible hip dysplasia.

Before he even got to that point, the young Ventura had already been a soldier, a frogman, and a biker. At 18, right out of high school, he joined up with the Navy and did part of the training to become a SEAL, trekking through the desert frying acorns for food, getting locked in a box and waterboarded, and hunting the occasional Rastafarian alien warrior. He ended up becoming part of the Underwater Demolition Team and was stationed in the waters of southeast Asia during the Vietnam War (although he didn't see combat, possibly because combat was too scared to come his way).

"I actually had plenty of time to bleed."

After leaving the Navy, Ventura joined the Mongols, a club of motorcycle enthusiasts that he insists isn't a criminal gang, although the Department of Justice tends to disagree. He rose through the ranks of the organization until, in 1978, he injured his knee and decided to go into a quieter line of work -- getting shot for other people.

He spent the next few years working in security, guarding acts that came to tour his hometown in Minneapolis, which included Bob Seger, Rush, the Grateful Dead ... and, more than once, the Rolling Stones. Which, to no one's surprise, tended to be somewhat more interesting than guarding Seger. One time, Ventura was in the dressing room with the band's Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood when their manager came in and said "The POLICE are here!" Richards and Wood started flushing all their drugs down the toilet (or, in Richards' case, down his throat, which amounts to the same thing), when the door opened and in walked ...

Redferns/Getty Images

... Sting and Stewart Copeland from the Police. Presumably at this point they said "Hey guys, got any drugs?"

After he got tired of being a bodyguard, Ventura followed the now typical "screen strongman to movie star to state governor" career path. Right after his inauguration in 1999, he had a reunion with the Stones, who were back performing in Minneapolis. Ventura congratulated Richards on still being alive, and Richards said to him, "So you used to bodyguard us ... and now you're the governor? Fuckin' great!" Ventura's first proclamation as governor was to unilaterally declare February 15 Rolling Stones Day. Because, well, who was going to stop him?

Rolling Stones Day was later suspended after 700 people overdosed on the first one.

Evan V. Symon is a moderator in the Cracked Workshop. When he isn't busy getting intimidated by nightclub bouncers, he can be found on Facebook, and be sure to bookshelf and vote for his new book, The End of the Line. Menezes is a writer and layout editor here at Cracked. Follow him on Twitter.

Related Reading: Celebrities have a way of surprising us. Sometimes in a bad way, like learning John Lennon was an abusive asshole who hit women. Sometimes in a good way, like learning Jimmy Stewart took a break from acting to bomb the Nazis. Most of the time we just give them more hate than they really deserve.

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