5 Pleasant Surprises About Famous People You Had All Wrong
We love celebrity culture for the same reason we love watching people fall down on YouTube: We like seeing dumb people screw up and make public asses of themselves. But if we stop laughing at them long enough, we'll occasionally find that celebrities are people too, and sometimes they'll surprise us by actually being way less awful than we'd suspect. For example ...
Ke$ha Is a Math and History Nerd
To say that pop star Ke$ha is a poor role model is kind of like saying that Jack Daniel's is a poor substitute for toothpaste. All of her songs share the same basic theme of waking up in a bathtub somewhere and stumbling bleary-eyed into the world in search of alcohol and cock without stopping long enough to shower. Being the only person in the last 50 years fucked up enough to find Mick Jagger bangable, she's reason enough to mandate that people should have more IQ points than No. 1 hits.
But Actually ...
Ke$ha is notably absent from the crop of celebrities who have been photographed by TMZ tumbling out of a limo, sans underwear, with a cocaine mustache and a DUI. Google it if you don't believe us. That's because, even compared to more wholesome entertainers, Ke$ha is a goddamn academic powerhouse who enjoys Cold War history lectures more than getting wasted in a club with Lindsay Lohan.
Before she got into music professionally, Ke$ha was enrolled in an International Baccalaureate program in high school, excelling in physics and math, and after school was out, she would often drive to college to sneak into history lectures. When was the last time you broke the rules in order to attend more lectures than you had to? When her friends were probably heading to the park to drink box wine and smoke cigarettes, Ke$ha was learning for fun.
With an SAT score of 1500 back when that was only 100 points short of perfect, she was all set to attend the prestigious Barnard College when, according to her, music industry titans just called her up saying "Hey, be a pop star," to which she evidently replied "kk, fuk skewl lol."
Even now, Ke$ha refutes her party girl image, saying that she writes these songs because people think they're fun. Oh yeah, did we mention that she writes all her own songs? Even when the lyrics are all about giving you an STD in the parking lot, that's pretty impressive in an age where any pop star can just hire a bunch of suits to write the words you lip-synch to on stage. Don't let the spelling of her name fool you; Ke$ha is kind of an evil genius.
On a similar note ...
Pink Floyd Never Did Drugs
If you've ever been to a laser light show of The Wall, you know all too well that Pink Floyd is the ultimate stoner rock band. Finding someone in the audience who wasn't tripping their balls clean off would have been like finding someone of legal drinking age at a Justin Bieber concert. It's pretty obvious why that is: Their music is mellow and experimental, not to mention packed with drug references. What the hell is "Comfortably Numb" about if not getting high?
But Actually ...
Pink Floyd did not do drugs. Roger Waters has no idea why their music is associated with them.
Now, we're not going to say that members never dabbled in their youth, and founding member Syd Barrett's LSD abuse has been well documented, but according to keyboardist Richard Wright, they were clean by the time they were recording their most influential albums, long after Barrett had left the group. He flat out says, "If you mean Pink Floyd took drugs -- you're wrong. There is no way that I could play music and take any kind of drug at the same time."
And all those drug references peppered throughout their catalog? Just the kind of misunderstanding that comes from assuming that cryptic lyrics are always the result of too many weird-tasting mushrooms. Waters says that some of the songs that were mistaken for spaced-out drug references were actually about their love of English literature, and "Comfortably Numb," their most obviously drug-related track, was actually about an experience with heavy sedatives he was given -- against his wishes -- while hospitalized just before a concert. It looks like you're just going to have to turn to literally any other '70s rock band for your toking inspiration.
Tom Araya from Slayer Is a Devout Catholic
If you're unfamiliar with the name, you're almost certainly familiar with the band. Tom Araya is the lead singer of Slayer, also known as the soundtrack to every rebellious teenager's late-night cruise to the graveyard, where discussion of the merits of animal sacrifice and face-melting guitar riffs will inevitably take place through a haze of cigarette smoke.
Slayer paved the way for Satanic thrash metal, incorporating upside down crosses into their logo and labeling sides of their albums "side 666" at a time when Marilyn Manson was just starting to cover his acne with clown makeup. Albums with titles like God Hates Us All and Christ Illusion left no doubt as to which side of the spiritual equation Slayer fell on.
But Actually ...
Araya isn't just religious, he is a devout Catholic. As some of you probably guessed decades ago, they are no more Satanists than Bryan Cranston is a meth dealer.
Weirdest episode of Malcolm in the Middle ever.
When asked about it, Araya starts sounding like that nice youth pastor with whom you're forced to exchange strained pleasantries every Sunday. He preaches Jesus' message of brotherly love and doing unto others, and insists that Slayer's music doesn't contradict the good word, because it's open to interpretation and all about doing what you love. (Although it seems pretty hard to misinterpret "Learn the sacred words of praise, hail Satan.")
All that Satanic stuff? Just an act, according to Araya. The shocking sacrilege is nothing more than a ploy to sell records and "scare people on purpose." He's kind of amazed that we never realized that: In his mind, it's so obviously satire that anyone who didn't get the joke shouldn't be allowed to read Jonathan Swift. He is the Stephen Colbert of the metal world.
Sylvester Stallone Is an Anti-Gun Activist
If violence had a face, then surely it would be the meaty-lipped grimace of Sylvester Stallone. Of the two characters he's best known for, Rocky and Rambo, one punches people in the face for a living, and the other has a body count to rival some Third World dictators. If there's a problem that can't be solved by filling something with bullets, Stallone hasn't come across it yet.
But Actually ...
If we asked you to come up with a list of the most liberal celebrities in Hollywood, you'd probably think of people like Sean Penn and Jane Fonda first while putting the collective cast of The Expendables somewhere down around 7,000th place. But while Sylvester Stallone, who recently starred in a movie called Bullet to the Head, obviously owes a great deal of his career to high-powered weaponry, he's actually a rabid anti-gun crusader.
And we don't mean one of those celebrities who passively condemns gun violence to avoid getting crucified by a blame-seeking media -- Stallone frequently attends gun control rallies and was an ardent supporter of a proposed bill to ban assault weapons. Sly first came to prominence as a gun control crusader after the shooting death of comedian Phil Hartman by his wife in 1998. Stallone went so far as to propose the repeal of the Second Amendment, saying that "Until America, door to door, takes every handgun, this is what you're gonna have."
Later, he made his feelings known after the Sandy Hook school shooting, calling for a ban on assault weapons in his own unique rhetorical style, demanding "Who ... needs an assault weapon? ... Who's going to attack your house, a fuckin' army?" All things considered, our safest option is probably to take all the guns and give them to Stallone.
Tupac Got His Start in Ballet
Tupac Shakur is the original gangsta rapper, the most influential badass in hip-hop history, and the man that 50 Cent and Kanye West only wish they could be. The man who brazenly mixed raps about social injustice with blowing the heads off his enemies' children with a .44 single-handedly popularized no-holds-barred gangsta rap while making a generation of white people sleep with the lights on.
But Actually ...
The fans will tell you that the reason why Tupac stood alone from the rest was because he wasn't just a rapper, but an artist. He quoted Shakespeare and even compared Romeo and Juliet to a Crips and Bloods story. Shakur denied that he was a gangster and hated the reputation (even if openly rapping murder threats about rivals certainly didn't help). And if you previously thought he was somebody who made the successful transition from gangsta to gangsta rapper, well ...
In 1986, a 15-year-old Tupac moved with his family to the gritty streets of Baltimore. After finishing eighth grade, Tupac moved to the Baltimore School for the Arts, where he studied acting, poetry, jazz ... and ballet. Before he was the world's most known and feared badass, the future Public Enemy No. 1 played the Mouse King in The Nutcracker. He also performed in Shakespearean plays and was a regular assistant to Broadway shows during those days.
Now, if you were building the mental image of a rebellious Tupac waiting to leave the lame patrol and deny any part of his ballet past, think again. Tupac said, "I loved going to school. It taught me a lot. I was starting to feel like I really wanted to be an artist."
So there you go: Tupac Shakur worked his way up to his murderous reputation from dancing around in tights to the girliest art form short of synchronized swimming. He probably only hated Biggie Smalls for his lack of poise.
Amanda would like to thank Devan Thayer Lund for the suggestion of Carroll O'Connor. You can read more from Amanda at Mannafesto or follow her on Twitter. Javier Yepes' friends are organizing a Film Festival in Guatemala, you can donate here.
Related Reading: Not all celebrity surprises are this satisfying. Did you know John Lennon was an abusive asshole who hit women? Or that Sean Penn tied up and beat Madonna? You're probably feeling rather disillusioned right now. But hey, Bill O'Reilly is actually a well-educated Harvard man. So, uh. That's something.