One of the most tragic casualties of the modern world is the ability to sift through a famous person's entire library of correspondence as soon as they drop dead -- nowadays, that crap is all password-protected, assuming the deceased didn't ask a friend to delete all of it along with their porn.
Fortunately, we still have decades and decades of letters written by some of the greatest thinkers and artists this world has known. What insights can we learn from all this accumulated knowledge? Mainly: Famous people are just as shitty as the rest of us.
We've told you before that Alec "An Entire Generation Thinks My Only Role Was Obi-Wan" Guinness hated Star Wars to the point where he agreed to sign an autograph for a young fan only if the boy promised to never watch the movie again. However, everyone who worked with him on Star Wars said he was a consummate professional ... which he apparently only managed to accomplish by bitching about his colleagues behind their backs.
In a letter to a friend he debated even taking the gig, acknowledging that it was a "big part" in a movie by acclaimed up-and-coming director "Paul" Lucas:
He also expressed a distaste for sci-fi and said the movie was "fairy-tale rubbish but could be interesting perhaps," which suggests he took the role only to gawk at nerds.
But Guinness was eventually moved by the movie's moral message and also, in what we're sure is a total coincidence, the fact that the studio doubled his pay and gave him a cut of the royalties. Then, while filming, he went ahead and wrote this:
So now you know that Kenny Baker, who's beloved for playing Bruce the Convict in 1999's Boobs In The Wood (and also some robot named R2-D2) is a sweet man who uses a bidet to wash. Oh, and Guinness thought Star Wars was garbage and couldn't remember the wiry and placid
Tennyson Ellison Harrison Ford's name, before going on to complain that his fellow stars treated him like goddamn Methuselah. We can't begin to imagine why, although it actually fits the character perfectly -- can't you just picture Obi-Wan phoning up an old friend on Tatooine to complain that this little Luke prick won't stop whining?
Even if you've never read a single word by Hunter S. Thompson, you know his reputation -- his writing style was to consume enough alcohol and narcotics to kill a mastodon and then just see where that took him. This, shockingly, did not make him the most emotionally stable person in the world, which might help explain this letter to Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange and generally one of the most respected authors of the 20th century.
Go ahead and find a highly respected person in your profession, call them a lazy cocksucker, and see how that works out for you. To be fair, Burgess did completely ignore his assignment and attempted to turn in something unrelated, which, the fact that Thompson built his entire career on that approach aside, gave Thompson every right to call him out. But there's calling out, and then there's curb-stomping the poor guy. And this was routine:
That is addressed to Tom Wolfe, author of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and The Bonfire Of The Vanities and generally considered one of America's greatest and most stylish writers. Unless you're Hunter S. Thompson, in which case he's a "worthless scumsucking bastard," a "filthy swine," and whatever a "thieving pile of albino warts" is supposed to convey. Now, it's true that Thompson and Wolfe were friends, but here's his rejection of an amateur:
Admittedly, it's pretty cool to be able to tell people that Hunter S. Thompson threatened to murder you, but that still makes him kind of an asshole.
It's hard to imagine Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin And Hobbes, as anything other than the nicest man alive. As you read this, he's probably helping a child build a whimsical blanket fort, volunteering in a soup kitchen, or doing something else sickeningly adorable. And despite his notorious reclusiveness, he's also known for helping and encouraging his fellow cartoonists ... and, like any good friend to another, he has a tendency to troll the shit out of them.
For years, Watterson has corresponded with Berkeley Breathed, the creator of Bloom County, and he has a habit of including insulting little comics with his letters. Here's the Family Circus kids with the mounted ass of Bloom County penguin Opus after their dad murdered him:
And here's naked Ronald Reagan, for reasons that should be obvious:
But he also got personal. Watterson is famous for resisting all attempts to commercialize Calvin And Hobbes, but Breathed had no qualms about hopping on the Bloom County merchandise gravy train. And when Breathed bought a speedboat with the profits because he wanted to enjoy the fruits of his labors, Watterson drew him cramming money into its engine and yelling at his characters to get back to work while a stock evil businessman does some serious ominous looming.
Later, Watterson drew "a certain cartoonist" as a cockroach trying to convince Hobbes to buy his own boat ...
... and he also drew Opus wanting to slack off on the job and get back to his boat, because merchandise-sale-funded boats is apparently the hill Watterson wants to fight and die on.
Breathed responded in the only logical way he could think of: by drawing Hobbes burying his face in Blondie's vagina.
Ayn Rand, the favorite author of every teenager in their first year of college, did not become famous for her sense of humor. And when her 17-year-old niece Connie asked her if she could borrow $25 to buy a dress, Rand responded with a letter that would forever keep her from being labeled the fun aunt.
Now, to be fair, 25 bucks in 1949 wasn't exactly light spending money for the mall. And Rand wasn't a beloved relative, but rather an almost total stranger who happened to be family and rich. But writing "I am going to put you to a test" sounds like the beginning of a Saw movie.
Rand told Connie that she could borrow "on condition that you understand and accept it as a strict and serious business deal." Rand then outlined conditions:
Weird tone aside, Rand's conditions aren't unreasonable -- but then she goes on. And on. And on. She expected the debt to be "an obligation above and ahead of any other expense" and would accept no excuse beyond serious illness for a missed payment. If something else came up, like a family member who needed Connie's help, Rand would write the girl off as an embezzler and never speak to her again. Which is ... a bad thing?
After reminding Connie that she had to keep her part of the deal "no matter what happens" (creepy emphasis in the original), Rand added that someone who doesn't earn money is "the most rotten person on Earth" and that, "I would like to teach you, if I can, very early in life, the idea of a self-respecting, self-supporting, responsible, capitalistic person." Rand was basically testing some early Atlas Shrugged material on her teenage relatives.
The marathon of a lecture kept going, because Rand was also not known for her brevity. Continuing the trend of starting reasonable before spiraling into emotionless lunacy, Rand told Connie that she was under no obligation to lend her money (fair) because, "No honest person believes that he is obliged to support his relatives." She probably wasn't much fun at family reunions.
At least Rand was self-aware, saying, "If you think that I am a hard, cruel, rich old woman and you don't approve of my ideas -- well, you don't have to approve, but then you must not ask me for help." Then she closes with, "I hope that this will be the beginning of a real friendship between us," because there's no one a teenage girl wants to befriend more than an adult prone to interrupting everyday conversations with harsh lectures. Tragically, Connie's response has been lost to history, although we're willing to bet she gave up on Rand's letter halfway through and just decided to take a sewing class.
One of the reasons H.P. Lovecraft became one of the greatest horror writers ever is that he feared and hated everything -- in his mind, the unfathomable eternity of death and immigrants were equally terrifying. So perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that the same man who created Cthulhu also foresaw online trolling by writing angry letters to a magazine when they published stories he didn't like.
While modern trolls can barely be bothered to string a few racial slurs together, a 23-year-old Lovecraft wrote 1,300 words to complain that Argosy was publishing love stories by one Fred Jackson. He was essentially upset that they were letting old-timey Nicholas Sparks stories mix with his beloved old-timey Neil Gaiman stories, and he damn well let them know.
That's right -- not only is Jackson "trivial, effeminate, and, in places, coarse," but he thinks about clothes and home decorating like a girl. Sick burn, H.P.! The magazine published Lovecraft's letter, which prompted responses from Fred Jackson fans. Responses that included a cowboy threatening to shoot H.P. Lovecraft.
Remember, this isn't like today when you can post an angry comment in 10 seconds and only wonder days later if you were too harsh. That cow-puncher had to find his pencil and paper, sit down, spend a few minutes writing his threat, find an envelope and some stamps, address the envelope, and walk it to the post office, all while thinking, "This is a good idea and a productive use of my time." And then Lovecraft fought back, making fun of Jackson and his fans with a silly poem:
Jackson's angry acolytes struck right back with poems of their own mocking Lovecraft's vocabulary, because even comment section arguments were classier back in the day:
This carried on for a while and, insanely, Lovecraft's trolling caught the eye of the president of a publishing association, who invited Lovecraft to join them. This inspired Lovecraft to start writing and selling essays and stories -- previously he had written almost nothing but snarky letters while living in his mom's house and failing to hold a job. That's the equivalent of FuckDucker_69 trashing the Captain America: Civil War trailer on YouTube and some studio executive deciding that he should be assigned a screenplay.
Charles Schulz was a proto-Bill Watterson -- while he had no qualms about selling out his characters, it's impossible to imagine him doing anything even remotely rude or sinful. And since Peanuts is the most adorable and whimsical cartoon ever made about crushing existential ennui, it's hard to imagine what could anger its fans. But Schulz managed to get his readers riled up about this:
That's Charlotte Braun, who briefly appeared in Peanuts in 1954. The joke was that, despite the similar name, she was loud, obnoxious, and otherwise the polar opposite of Charlie Brown.
Fans immediately wrote letters to complain about how annoying she was, because obsessing over your extreme hatred of fictional characters is not a new phenomenon. Schulz didn't particularly like the character either, as he pretty much immediately ran out of jokes for her. But, rather than just shrug his shoulders and move on, he took the time to have some gruesome fun with one of her critics.
Schulz told a Miss Swaim that he's taking her suggestion to kill off Charlotte, but added, "Remember, however, that you and your friends will have the death of an innocent child on your conscience. Are you prepared to accept such responsibility?" And then he drew a picture of Charlotte with a goddamn ax in her head. That's some pretty high-level trolling for a guy who's famous for making the same simple football joke over and over.
Swaim would have been around 20 when she wrote Schulz, so it's not like he was traumatizing a little girl by blaming her for a fictional murder. Still, it's a good thing everyone immediately liked Snoopy, or his sun-bleached skeleton would have ended up plastered all over a missive to some young fan.
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For more celebrities that probably should've taken the day off, check out 18 Of Your Favorite Celebrities Who Believe Hateful Things and 23 Insane Things Your Favorite Celebrities Believe.
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