6 Insane Reasons Formerly Famous People Dropped Off the Map
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.)
Thora Birch Stops Getting Work Because of Her Creepy Dad
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.
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.
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.
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).
The Star of Flash Gordon Leaves Acting to Do Security and Hostage Extraction
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.
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.
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.
Flick from A Christmas Story Becomes a Porn Star
You probably don't know the name Scott Schwartz, but we're betting you know his most famous scene:
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!
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.
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).
Jennifer Grey Gets a Nose Job, Nobody Recognizes Her Anymore
Thanks to gyrating all sexy-like in Dirty Dancing, and pouting all scowly-like in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Jennifer Grey quickly became one of the hottest actresses of the 1980s. Her cute, natural look endeared her to just about everybody, and the two very different roles she played in the above films showed that she had the acting chops to stick around.
Well, she might have, anyway, if she hadn't stopped looking like Jennifer Grey.
But Then ...
She got a nose job. Yep, in the course of trying to make herself look like everyone else, she lost the feature that made her stand out. Part of Grey's appeal was that, other than being thin, good-looking, chesty, and white, she didn't resemble the typical Hollywood starlet at all. Her hair was curly and unruly, and her nose was long and wide. Also, it was hideously bumpy, or at least she thought so.
Since she had Hollywood money, she went under the knife to get those unsightly schnozz bumps taken care of. It took repeated surgeries to get it where she wanted it, but the result was a perfectly pretty -- and forgettable -- nose.
It was kind of like if Steve Buscemi got plastic surgery to make himself look like Bill Pullman. Or as she puts it, "I went in the operating room as a celebrity -- and came out anonymous. It was like being in a witness protection program or being invisible." Even re-enacting one of Dirty Dancing's many bump-and-grind scenes likely didn't help matters.
Grey became a complete unknown once again, competing for tiny roles against raw rookies who probably didn't have two blockbuster hits and a Golden Globe nomination to their name. It got to the point where she contemplated changing her name and literally starting all over again. She did get to appear on Dancing With the Stars, but since they let everybody from David Hasselhoff to Sarah Palin's kid on that show, it's hard to consider it a comeback.
Sondra Locke Breaks Up With Clint Eastwood, Is Blackballed for Life
It's not really fair to say that actress Sondra Locke only became famous because of her relationship with Clint Eastwood -- she already had an Oscar nomination under her belt before she and Eastwood became the Jolie-Pitt of the era. Then, between 1975 and 1983, she stared alongside Eastwood in six of his films, including The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Gauntlet, and Every Which Way But Loose, quickly becoming one of Hollywood's top leading ladies in the process.
But Then ...
In 1989, Eastwood decided he was done with the relationship, presumably because she wanted kids and he did not. Locke showed up at their home one day and learned that it was no longer "their" home. The locks had been changed, her stuff was in storage, and she was ordered to leave the property immediately. She obviously was less than thrilled with this, and she filed a palimony suit against Eastwood (since the two were never actually married).
Eastwood, not willing to part with Lord-knows-how-much money, proposed a settlement. This would involve Eastwood setting up a development deal for Locke at Warner Bros., allowing her the opportunity to direct films for them. In return, she would leave him the hell alone. She quickly accepted, because guaranteed work with Warner Bros.? Whatever could go wrong with that?
Well, this, for starters:
That would be everything Locke has worked on since 1986. EVERYTHING. Some deal, huh?
Yeah, Eastwood's arrangement was a total crock of shit, and he had planned it that way all along. It turns out he had secretly arranged for the studio to sabotage Locke's career by rejecting any and all projects she pitched. They ultimately rejected more than 30 of her proposals and refused to assign her any work elsewhere. At this point, she was essentially blacklisted from all things Hollywood.
Locke sued the pants off of Eastwood in 1996, and the jury was apparently about to decide in her favor. Eastwood, knowing the jig was up, suddenly offered a sizable settlement, which Locke accepted. Not that she was suddenly swimming in work or anything; it turns out going toe-to-toe with one of the most powerful and respected figures in Hollywood is poison for your career, and Sondra Locke has been persona non grata ever since.
The moral here: Don't fuck with Clint Eastwood, unless you're planning on fucking him his way, forever and ever.
The Phantom Menace Makes Jake Lloyd Hate Star Wars, Acting, and Life
Jake Lloyd only had one big film role, but goddamn, what a role. At 8 years old, Lloyd was cast in what at the time was perhaps the biggest role a child actor had ever landed: He would play Anakin Skywalker, aka Young Darth Vader, aka the timeless pop culture icon, in the fourth film of the most successful franchise in human history. Yes, he had landed the coveted lead role in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Considering that, before this, his biggest role was as the annoying toy-hungry kid from Jingle All the Way, this was a career-making event.
What could possibly go wrong?
But Then ...
Of course, you know that despite grossing over a billion dollars, the movie would go down as one of the most universally hated things in the history of civilization ... and a lot of the irrational rage from fans crashed down on the little kid. Reviews of his wooden performance were overwhelmingly negative, with Newsweek referring to him as "Mannequin Skywalker," because insults just feel better when targeted at children.
It wasn't just magazines and pissed-off fanboys either; Lloyd's schoolmates bullied him mercilessly, treating him to an endless barrage of obnoxious light saber "whoosh" sounds whenever he entered the room (even though he never actually used a light saber -- kids are not only cruel, but bad with fact checking). As the years wore on and more bad prequels followed (which he had nothing to do with), the backlash only got worse. Finally, Lloyd snapped, destroying every piece of Star Wars memorabilia he owned. Lloyd appeared in one more film and then gave up acting for good.
He also gave up being a happy, nice person. He blames the role for ruining his life, despises video cameras, and bristles with barely contained rage whenever somebody even mentions Star Wars. Even when he's at a sci-fi convention full of, you know, Star Wars fans. Just plain don't talk to him; otherwise, this happens.
Yes, he apparently stopped finding Star Wars jokes amusing after hearing the same one for the five-millionth time. Come on! Where's your sense of humor?
If YOU still have a sense of humor towards Star Wars, watch our Adventures in Jedi School mini-series.
Robin Warder is the co-owner of a pop culture website called The Back Row and was recently involved in the making of a sci-fi short film called Jet Ranger of Another Tomorrow.
For more reasons we're your go-to guide on celebrity gossip, check out 11 Celebrities Who Were Secretly Total Badasses and 5 Insane Celebrity Conspiracy Theories (That Make Sense).
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Extra Credit: If you're interested in disappearances of the "inexplicable" variety, click here and be regaled by the tale of Louis Le Prince. He invented television and then disappeared from a train -- we blame Edison. If you're still on a missing persons kick after that, we've got plenty more for you to read. Of course, not every person who falls off the Earth is the victim of some terrible crime. Plenty of disappearances were straight-up hoaxes. Even the woman who invented the megachurch couldn't resist faking her own kidnapping.