7 Eyebrow-Arching, Post-Fame Careers Of Famous Musicians
Rock stardom is fickle. One day you're riding the Billboard charts and a nonstop flotilla of groupies, the next you're filling in for the animatronic dog guitarist at your neighborhood Chuck E. Cheese's and asking out one of the nine Estonian spambots who follow you on Twitter.
So if you're about to sign a record contract, take a cue from these seven artists. All have played before thousands-strong audiences, and all have followed up their fame with successful (if totally random-ass) careers.
Vanilla Ice Is Getting Rich Renovating Houses
Vanilla Ice has made a career for himself not sampling " Under Pressure" by Queen and David Bowie, becoming an honorary member of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and starring in Cool as Ice, a movie widely regarded by many to star Vanilla Ice.
Every leap year or so, Vanilla Ice pops up again with yet another comeback -- he tried out rap-rock when rap-rock was something adults listened to and has rebranded himself as a Juggalo -- but honestly, the guy hasn't had either an album or a single chart since 1991. How's the man born Robert Van Winkle been paying the bills?
After the Spotlight
Ice has been "flipping" houses. Meaning he buys undervalued real estate, goes in with a crew that restores the houses, then sells them for twice the price. And he's good at it. He's even written a book on the subject. Here's a whole interview he did about it in the New York Times. When a mansion foreclosed in Palm Beach, Ice swept in and bought it for $400,000. Then he renovated it -- and again, we're talking about Vanilla Ice renovating a house here -- and sold that for $875,000. Ice snapped up another foreclosure for $500,000, and after he got done with it, it drew offers of $2.3 million. Did we mention he's been doing this for years?
How did Vanilla Ice get into this business? His own idiocy -- back in the day, he dumped a bunch of his "Ice, Ice Baby" money into a buttload of houses that he barely lived in. As time passed and common sense prevailed (and the Vanilla Ice bandwagon flew off the cliff and exploded), he started dumping the properties. Only he found that by fixing them up first, he could make half a million dollars a shot. He took a bunch of courses in real estate and parlayed the "LOL VANILLA ICE IS HANGING DRYWALL IN MY HOUSE!!!" factor into free promotion.
He even has a reality show on the DIY Network, a channel for home repair and design enthusiasts. Oh, he still looks, dresses, and talks exactly like Vanilla Ice, by the way.
Terminator X, the DJ for Public Enemy, Became an Ostrich Farmer
The Golden Age of Hip-Hop (approximately the 1980s to early 1990s) was a heady, anything-goes time. Groups like Run-D.M.C. were popularizing hip-hop the world over, the Beastie Boys were regaling audiences with giant inflatable peens, and a pre-N.W.A Dr. Dre spent his days wearing a senior citizen's pajamas.
But then you had the politically charged Public Enemy. Along with blistering raps by Chuck D (one of the greatest MCs of all time) and the onstage antics of Flavor Flav (who had yet to go insane starring in VH1 reality shows), you had the backing of DJ Terminator X (aka Norman Rogers), who helped pioneer Public Enemy's sound.
In 1994, Terminator X was in a serious motorcycle accident that pushed him toward a new vocation. So, what's the logical next step after being in one of the most important rap groups in the history of music?
After the Spotlight
You obviously become an ostrich farmer.
Yup, Terminator X retired from Public Enemy in 1999 to tend to African ostriches on a 15-acre farm in North Carolina. Sure, his new career has raised a few eyebrows in the hip-hop community, but declaring "I made Fear of a Black Planet and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, now I'm going to raise giant birds" is easily one of the most magical mic drops in rap history.
Also, it's a far more graceful retirement strategy than Flavor of Love, Flavor Flav's reality dating show that reached its artistic zenith when a grown woman randomly took a dump in the middle of a crowded atrium.
Dan Spitz, the Guitarist from Anthrax, Is a Master Watchmaker
Speaking of Public Enemy, one of their most famous collaborations was with Anthrax, one of the "Big Four" thrash metal bands of the 1980s (the other three being Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer). Throughout their career, Anthrax sold 15 million albums, accrued an army of loyal fans across the globe, and even found the time to inexplicably cameo in the 2003 British comedy Calendar Girls.
"This is exactly the sort of thing relevant musicians do."
But in 1995, shredding furiously just wasn't doing it anymore for Anthrax guitarist Dan Spitz. Nope, Spitz needed something new to pique his interest. Was this new endeavor a metric ton of cocaine shaped like Mount Rushmore, with a gaggle of naked gymnasts forming Teddy Roosevelt's head?
After the Spotlight
Of course not. Spitz became a master watchmaker.
The "lead guitar" of the time-keeping world.
In fact, Spitz grew so bored with punishing riffs that he reportedly gave away all his guitars to the Hard Rock Cafe. Upon quitting the band, he remembered his second love: slow, tedious tinkering with tiny, precision-fitted clockwork gears under a magnifying glass. For hours and hours, working in cold, lonely silence. That's basically the same thing as playing metal guitar in stadiums, right? So, he decided to pursue a career in watchmaking, which makes sense, as, uh, Anthrax once sang a song about time?
OK, so it was an entirely left-field career choice, but at least Spitz was good at his new job. Upon leaving metal, Spitz attended the WOSTEP School of Watchmaking in Neuchatel, Switzerland, and became an expert in crafting exquisitely intricate timepieces in an era when most people have clocks on their phones.
After many years in the luxury chronometer game, Spitz has returned to music, but only after an impassioned phone call from Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine, who himself became a black belt in taekwondo during his off hours.
Making Megadeth the second worst band to mug. (Elton John regularly packs an Uzi.)
Stooges Guitarist James Williamson Became a VP at Sony
In the late 1960s, crooner/scarecrow made out of beef jerky Iggy Pop rose to fame with the Stooges. This band out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, thrilled audiences with their pioneering proto-punk sound and Iggy's unhinged dance routines, which involved rolling around in broken glass, exposing his junk, and smearing hamburger meat and peanut butter all over his writhing body.
We've all been there.
After years of commercial failure, the Stooges broke up in 1974, following an infamous concert in Detroit where hecklers threw bottles, shovels, light bulbs, eggs, and firecrackers at the band. Where does one go after years of being splattered with Iggy Pop's blood and jock sweat?
After the Spotlight
Well, you could become the vice president of technology standards at Sony.
Does the open vest come with the beer belly?
Yeah, this is about as inspirational as career reinventions get. Don't think you can pursue your dreams as a writer just because you've spent your whole life as a pipefitter? Well, this guy had nothing but commercially failed punk rock on his resume, but James Williamson decided to drop that so he could help build the future of goddamned technology instead. He went to college, then got a job designing computer chips. And no, he didn't even have Vanilla Ice's "Hey, let's hire this weirdo, it'll be hilarious" factor -- most of his co-workers were completely unaware of his punk past. Purely on his own talents, Williamson managed to rise through Sony's corporate ranks, eventually becoming the VP of technology standards in 1997.
In fact, Williamson kept his former life as a rock star hidden from his various colleagues for over 30 years, avoiding interviews and keeping a low profile in Silicon Valley. All this changed in 2009, after he retired from Sony and joined the reassembled Stooges at the ripe age of 60, having to relearn the guitar/how to lure Iggy Pop off the garage roof when he gets himself trapped up there.
"A five-gallon bucket of assorted pills usually does the trick."
The Lead Guitarist of Ween Became a Fishing Boat Captain
In the early 1990s, the alternative duo Ween rose to fame after their helium-voiced single, "Push Th' Little Daisies," baffled the shit out of Beavis and Butthead.
Since then, Ween -- which consisted of Gene Ween (Aaron Freeman) and Dean Ween (Mickey Melchiondo) -- became the very definition of a cult act, attracting thousands of fans while charting virtually no Billboard hits.
Chalk it up to savvy underboob marketing.
After the Spotlight
Something tells us his guitar face is the same as his pooping face.
To be fair, Dean Ween's been fishing since he was 7. When the band was still together, he would schedule his fishing expeditions around Ween's annual touring schedule. Nowadays, he's a full-fledged fishing boat captain who books tours through his website. Hilariously enough, his site offers basically no evidence of his musical past, save a few snapshots of Primus singer Les Claypool stopping by to say hello.
And this picture of him enjoying the sea with partner Gene Ween.
David Lee Roth Secretly Worked as an EMT
David Lee Roth was the lead singer of the only worthwhile incarnation of Van Halen, a fashion icon who pushed spandex to the limits, and easily the greatest scat musician ever to grace the planet. Before grunge music made it unacceptable to act like a one-man keg party, Diamond Dave was the feather-haired avatar of debauched good times.
And he could lay down a mic-stand beating like nobody's business.
After the Spotlight
Between leaving Van Halen in 1985 and reuniting with the band in 2006, Roth found inner peace working as an emergency medical technician in New York City. Yes, that David Lee Roth -- who sang " I reach down between my legs 'n' ease the seat back" and spent most of the 1980s doing airborne splits -- rode with ambulance crews in the dead of night, racking up 200 individual rides and becoming handy with a defibrillator. Apparently Roth took this gig quite seriously -- despite his reputation as a good-time letch, Roth's supervisors gave him top marks.
His abs alone saved dozens of lives.
And to prevent himself from being recognized and coming across as a glory hound, Roth shaved his sexy mane, although we kind of wish he had gone dressed up in his stretch pants circa 1984. Elderly folks would have constantly been mistaking him for a very flamboyant angel of death.
Guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter Became a Missile Defense Expert
You know when your dad says he needs his "philosophy time," locks himself in the garage, blasts his old eight tracks, and emerges an hour later, tittering and referring to the dog as "my son with four legs"? Well, there's a good chance he was listening to either Steely Dan or the Doobie Brothers, two bands that hit their stride in the 1970s and benefited from the guitar work of noodler Jeff "Skunk" Baxter.
Seen here being the classiest man in rock 'n' roll.
After the Spotlight
Even though he rose to fame as a favorite of secretly stoned dads everywhere, Skunk's main gig these days is as a missile defense consultant for the Pentagon.
"For the first three years, I was just talking about my wang."
Baxter's interest in military technology began in the 1980s, when his neighbor bought him a subscription to an aviation magazine. This casual interest led to a full-time hobby, which eventually led to placement on a congressional panel for missile defense. Over the years, Skunk became known around Washington for devising creative new counterterrorism strategies, a skill that's made the former Doobie Brothers guitarist one of the Pentagon's leading experts.
So if civilization ever needs to form the Musician Avengers, Skunk would qualify as our Nick Fury stand-in, recruiting black belt Dave Mustaine, Iron Maiden lead singer/ noted fencer Bruce Dickinson, and that guy who punched out Danzig.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The 5 Most Irresponsibly Badass Live Rock Shows Of All Time.