Even the greatest artists of all time occasionally produce something they're not proud of, because no one in history has ever batted 1000. The only difference is, unlike that time you drunkenly hit on your friend's cousin at Ruby Tuesday, an artist's embarrassing shame lives on forever in bargain bins and flea markets across the world. And, you know, on the Internet ...
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Believe it or not, there was once a time when The Rolling Stones weren't a band of shambling musical skeletons. Back in their youth, they produced hits like "Sympathy for the Devil," "Satisfaction," and "Gimme Shelter" that cemented their legacy as one of the most popular and enduring rock bands of all time, despite that brief period in the 1980s when Mick Jagger really wanted to be David Bowie.
In 1963, just after they were first signed to a record label, The Rolling Stones recorded a song about Rice Krispies. And no, "Rice Krispies" isn't obscure British slang for Thai heroin pellets -- they literally wrote a song about breakfast cereal.
This was back when The Stones' only singles with any airplay were a song written by The Beatles and a cover of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," so it's probably safe to assume they didn't have too much say in the artistic direction of their band. Even so, it's still hard to reconcile how a Rice Krispies jingle fits into the catalog of The Rolling goddamned Stones, who normally drew lyrical inspiration from sex, drugs, and few breakfasts that didn't involve an entire bottle of vodka. Fortunately, the commercial hasn't aired since its initial U.K.-only run 40 years ago, which is probably why nobody ever asks them about it in interviews. Either that, or a palpable fear of being stabbed by Keith Richards.
"Keith, stop sprinkling sugar on it. You're getting hyper."
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You may know Hunter S. Thompson as the famous author, journalist, drug-enthusiast, and all-around counter-culture icon of the 20th century who wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Failing that, you might remember him as that guy Johnny Depp played that wasn't a pirate or a Tim Burton character. Thompson helped create a more involved style of reporting that we've come to know as "Gonzo journalism," which is a phrase here meaning "excuse your wildly irresponsible behavior by writing about it for a magazine."
In the mid-'90s, Thompson had a hand in creating a TV show that decidedly had very little to do with drug culture, the degradation of the American Dream, or anything else remotely interesting. That show was Nash Bridges, a prototypical cop drama starring Don Johnson and Cheech Marin as police detectives cruising the mean streets of San Francisco in suits and a vintage car. It was essentially Miami Vice for people who found Miami Vice to be a little too exciting.
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And everyone on set was probably high.
The show was co-written by Thompson and Johnson due to the type of unlikely series of events that the universe occasionally throws together to make itself laugh. You see, the two just so happened to be neighbors in Aspen, Johnson just so happened to have a TV deal already in place with CBS, and Thompson just so happened to need a bunch of unscrupulous money (that last qualifier was less a toss of the cosmic dice and more just the perpetual state of Thompson's existence). So, the two decided to collaborate on a cop show that would eventually become the epitome of banality that was Nash Bridges.
However, Johnson admits that his writing partner's original treatment had to be substantially rewritten because it was "too Hunter," which we assume is another way of saying "CBS would never let us film 17 prostitutes on a rocket ship made of lizard skin." Even so, Thompson wound up writing the stories for a few episodes and eventually had a cameo in one of them.
CBS Television Distribution
It was the one in which Cheech realizes that, all things considered, he never had a REAL drug problem.
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David Lynch, the man behind Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and Twin Peaks, has made a career out of directing avant-garde, surreal masterpieces equally cherished by film buffs and people pretending to enjoy David Lynch films to impress their friends and colleagues. He also made Dune, but mostly against his will.
Lynch's commitment to making weird, uncompromising films has come at a price -- they've never been huge moneymakers. It's hard to convince people to buy a ticket to a dark psychological film with no clear narrative when Harrison Ford is killing Nazis one theater over. So in order to scare up some change to keep making movies, Lynch would occasionally direct commercials. Do you remember those pretentious black and white perfume ads wherein a bunch of beautiful people stand around and spout pseudo-poetic gibberish? Yeah, Lynch made several of those:
Yes, that's young Benicio del Toro and Heather Graham.
In 1988, Lynch did a series of commercials for Calvin Klein's Obsession, each thematically centered around the artistic stylings of a famous artist like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, or D.H. Lawrence, which was possibly what attracted Lynch to the project, at least initially. However, as he began to direct increasingly silly perfume commercials for Armani, Karl Lagerfeld, and Yves Saint Laurent (Lynch's contribution to the latter featured a woman quite obviously masturbating with a brand of perfume named Opium), it's hard not to assume that he was probably just fucking with everyone.
Yves Saint Laurent
"Cut. Good; now let's shoot it backwards and with a little person."
Lynch also did commercials for Adidas, Alka-Seltzer, and the PlayStation 2, but by far his strangest credit is a 1997 ad for Clear Blue Easy, a home pregnancy test. Because if there's one person who can ease the stress of pregnancy, it's the guy who made a movie about a goddamned monster baby.
"It's Mary X. Tell him I'm at my parents, and that he's invited to dinner."
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Art Spiegelman's Maus is a critically acclaimed graphic novel about the Holocaust in which Spiegelman retells his father's experience in war-torn Europe by recasting all of the Jews as mice and all of the Nazis as cats, which probably isn't too far from how humanoid cats would actually behave.
The juxtaposition of Spiegelman's harsh, minimalistic style depicting the darkest era in modern history with undeniably cute animals proved to be one of the most powerful stories ever published, and it won Spiegelman the Pulitzer Prize in 1992.
While working as a consultant for Topps in the 1980s, Spiegelman helped create a trading card series called Garbage Pail Kids, a somewhat less dignified artistic endeavor that would have probably won him the opposite of the Pulitzer if such a thing existed:
Topps Company, Inc.
The Rand? The Meyer? The [name of the 50 Shades lady we don't want to look up]?
The Garbage Pail Kids were created as a parody of the popular Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, and the recipe for creating a card was pretty straightforward: take a Cabbage Patch Kid lookalike and pile disgusting horribleness on it until the artist questions every decision he or she has ever made. This can be achieved in any number of ways, from having the kids peel off their own skin:
Topps Company, Inc.
To raping a sentient banana:
Topps Company, Inc.
Because of the oft-ignored fact that children are inherently awful, the cards were a success, although not without a fair amount of unsurprising controversy that saw them banned in some elementary schools. They also inspired the creation of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, which was a theatrical film in the same way that a toilet is a very small bathtub.
Topps Company, Inc.
Spiegelman, understandably, chooses to exclude this from his resume.
Disney's Bambi was the movie that made us all understand that our parents could suddenly die violent deaths for no reason at all. It was also about a deer, or something.
Or a poor hunter struggling to feed his starving family.
This cruelly engineered cartoon designed to harvest the tears of children was based on the 1923 novel Bambi, a Life in the Woods, by Felix Salten, an Austrian author who, although prolific, never managed to duplicate the success of Bambi.
Actually, that's not entirely true. You see, years before figuring out how to surreptitiously destroy thousands of childhoods, Salten first tried a more straightforward approach with his 1906 novel Josephine Mutzenbacher, a deeply pornographic story about a Viennese prostitute who begins her life in the sex trade at 5 years old. Salten wrote the novel anonymously due to the contents of the previous sentence.
None of which has stopped them from making 11 pornos based on it.
The book was (and still is) extremely controversial, probably because it includes detailed descriptions of rape, orgies, child sex/prostitution, and incest:
"Father, if you would like to have me again, I will let you," I said.
He crawled up to his sister, Anna, and invaded her mouth ...
So there, the seven of us, were thus busily engaged ...
... I kept on playing with her titties.
Emphasis ours. Despite its age, Josephine Mutzenbacher was straight-up cheap pornography that would have totally included a pizza delivery man if they existed in 1906. Perhaps because readers at the turn of the century were severely lacking in Internet access, the book became a gigantic hit, selling over 3 million copies to date. Salten would later try to combine his two biggest achievements in the 1939 sequel to Bambi, wherein Bambi has sex with his cousin and produces a litter of freak children. That is not a joke.
"Father, if you would like to have me again, I will let you."
William Faulkner has written some of the most richly challenging works of American literature that don't feature Batman, including The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949, followed by two Pulitzer Prizes, the last of which had to be given to him posthumously -- Faulkner presumably realized he'd written the shit out of everything and figured there was no reason for him to keep hanging around.
As you might imagine for a person of his stature, Faulkner dabbled in many forms of writing, including short stories, plays, essays, and screenplays, including one script that eventually became one of the worst movies ever produced -- Land of the Pharaohs, a 1955 understink of a film about the building of the Great Pyramid, starring Joan Collins as an inexplicably Caucasian Egyptian princess.
One potential explanation: boobs.
Faulkner was recruited for the project by his friend Howard Hawks, the movie's director, and only accepted the gig because he was strapped for cash, having already burned through his Nobel Prize money. Shockingly, despite such a strong motivation, Faulkner took months to start working on the screenplay, and when he actually got around to it, the very first thing he wrote was a line of dialogue in which the Pharaoh asks his construction workers: "How's it going, boys?" The more historically savvy among you may have guessed: this is probably not how the Pharaoh of Egypt spoke.
"Everything Okily dokily?"
That atrocious bit of writing aside, the terribleness of Land of the Pharaohs isn't all Faulkner's fault. By the time the studio was done with his script, very little of his original ideas survived, and on the finished film he is credited as just one of three screenwriters, having to split the byline of this comedy of errors with two other guys. Somehow, we don't think he minded much.
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In 1963, Sir Sidney Poitier became the first black recipient of an Academy Award for best actor, for his role in Lilies of the Field, a feat which he bested in 1974 by being made Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and then again in 2009 by receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama. Today, he is revered as a genius actor and director, and is easily the most famous person your mother mistakenly believes has been dead for at least 10 years.
Despite gaining fame for his more serious acting roles, Poitier's directing credits include a lot of comedies, so it makes sense that he helmed a Bill Cosby chuckle fest in 1990. What makes substantially less sense is that movie turned out to be Ghost Dad, a punishingly unfunny "family" film wherein a bumbling father returns from the cold oblivion of eternity to haunt his grieving family after being driven off a bridge by a Satanist.
"At least turn off the meter!"
Precisely one minute later, the tone for the rest of the movie is set when a cop pees on Cosby's invisible specter:
Similarly wacky hijinks include Cosby trying to get a life insurance policy so that his newly orphaned children aren't completely doomed by the passing of their only remaining parent, attempting to have sex with his living neighbor, and using his ghost powers to try to kill his daughter's boyfriend over the telephone.
Which actually puts him ahead of Swayze in our rankings.
Remember, this haberdashery of psychotic anti-humor was directed by an Academy Award-winning Knight.
For more creations from unlikely sources, check out 8 Famous Movies Made by The Last Person You'd Ever Suspect and 4 Famous People Who Accidentally Created Classic Movies.
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