I've linked to this picture, oh, seven or eight times in my career at Cracked, as it is my favorite celebrity photo of all time. I don't want to say that Eminem's claims of an impoverished life as an abused child aren't true -- I think everyone agrees that they are. To an extent. Still, sometimes he had a birthday and a cake and wore a pink T-shirt depicting Alf wearing X-ray glasses saying, "Hey, nice underwear!"
Still, brooding celebrities who build their career on their dark past do it at the risk of becoming caricatures. For instance, the same can be said of Kurt Cobain -- nobody is going to deny his depression or addiction. However ...
... it's still a shock to realize sometimes the man just sat down and ate an entire pizza like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo.
This is something everybody should understand about depression, by the way. Tell me you haven't at least once heard somebody say, "I refuse to believe it was suicide, I was just out with Mike two weeks ago. He was laughing and joking and eating an entire pizza like it was a video game power-up."
Then later played "Cat Puppet" with his daughter while doing a high-pitched cat voice.
Well, depression works that way. Movies have given us a skewed idea of how it works, because there, when a character enters his "dark period," it's with a montage full of sad music and drinking and moping in dim rooms. Real life isn't like that. Not only do moods fluctuate, but even when you're at your lowest you find yourself in social situations where you're not allowed to show it. If you're in a dark place but can't get out of your nephew's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's, you're going to put on a smile for the camera. You feel selfish bringing everybody else down. You put on a cheerful mask.
Then, ironically, if you start playing the role of the tortured artist later, you have to worry about the opposite -- being photographed in a moment of being goofy and carefree. On a similar note ...
If you're considered the smartest man in the world, do you feel self-conscious about taking off your shirt and kicking back in a lawn chair with a goofy hat?
This is Albert Einstein getting some sun in Palm Springs, in 1932. Note his wild hair stuffed vertically into said hat. Still kept the slacks on, though, rather than breaking out the Speedo. You'll be thankful for that, once you see ...
"I'm Prime Minister and inspirational wartime leader Winston Churchill, and this is my junk. Go ahead, take a picture, it's fine. I made the military invent Lycra just so I could show it off without getting arrested again."
What I enjoy most about that photo is how it's about 10 times more disturbing than if he were simply nude. I'm imagining an alternate history where World War II broke out and he had to be pulled off the beach to go address the nation, with no time to change clothes. So he's standing there before the press and talking about courage and perseverance and everyone is trying not to stare at his shrink-wrapped penis as he slowly becomes more and more visibly aroused.
... the Manson Family, that is.
Charles Manson is the most famous serial killer of all time, and maybe the most famous criminal of all time. This is despite the fact that he didn't carry out the killings himself -- the "family" was a cult-slash-hippie commune that he formed that carried out at least a half dozen brutal killings on his orders. Look at how happy these freaks are!
See, you were right to be skeptical about hippies all this time -- they're all peace and love, but give them one charismatic dude in a loud shirt and they'll do whatever he says.
Yep, that's Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek as a smooth, hip 23-year-old hosting a show called Music Hop in 1963 on the CBC in Canada. He appears to be calling to a young lady to come sit on his lap. This link has video of the young MC in action.
This wouldn't be shocking if it were, say, a young Pat Sajak or Bob Barker. But the difference between Alex Trebek and other game show hosts is that Trebek always comes off like he's a wizard who somehow knows the answer to every single question on every subject. When a contestant gets one wrong, he doesn't look down and read it off the card; he makes sympathetic eye contact with the loser and says, "Ooh, I'm sorry, the Council of Pereiaslav treaty was of course signed in 1654, not 1655." And he has this look on his face like "I know you're kicking yourself for missing that one, we all have our moments of intellectual weakness."
"Don't worry, there's nothing wrong with being average. Or even stupid, for that matter."
So it's easy to assume he came out of academia somewhere, a genius with unfathomable encyclopedic knowledge who was chosen as the only man smart enough to host a quiz show where he routinely talks down to Ph.D.s like they're kindergarteners. But, no, he's just a TV guy, one who didn't hesitate to use his smooth TV hosting gig to charm the ladies:
"Don't try to hide your arousal, honey. It's not possible."
First of all, how many of you kids thought that "Colonel Sanders" was just a drawing on the KFC logo rather than a real person? He was a real guy, and I don't mean that in the sense that the chain had a dude dress up as him the way McDonald's has guys in Hamburglar costumes running around. He invented the KFC recipe and started the restaurant chain (at age 65, no less). And here he is talking to heavy metal legend Alice Cooper.
After hours of searching, I still have no idea whatsoever how a young rock star from Detroit and a fried chicken magnate from Kentucky wound up in the same room, or what they would possibly have had to talk about. And I guess I don't want to know, that's what makes it a classic in the Awesome People Hanging Out Together genre.
Seriously, you can get lost for hours in there.
What I do know is that these are two men who both knew exactly how important it is to your "brand" to maintain a unique, consistent visual presentation in public. For the last 20 years of Sanders' life, he would not leave the house without wearing the trademark white suit, black tie and Southern-style beard that made his image so memorable on the franchise's logo. Likewise, you never saw the menacing rocker Alice Cooper in, say, a huge Hawaiian shirt and bicycle shorts. It's all just part of the game.
Dave's movie about dong monsters starring Paul Giamatti IS AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD NOW ON iTUNES, AMAZON INSTANT VIDEO, YouTube and through any other streaming service you can think of. If you want to see John Dies at the End in a theater, you'll have to wait until January 2013.
For more Wong, check out 17 Images That Will Ruin Your Childhood and 5 Terrifying Bastardizations of the Wikipedia Model.