5 More Insane Celebrity Backstories You've Never Heard
The life of a celebrity is nothing like ours. Here we are, squabbling day in and day out amidst the muck and the filth, fighting for every meager scrap we've ever gotten, toiling endlessly in the futile hope that, one beautiful night, we'll go to sleep and just never wake up. And sometimes there's a new episode of Westworld, so that's nice. But no, some precious celebrity wouldn't understand that kind of squalid madness: They were all born beautiful -- money, fame, and talent raining down on them from heaven. Well, except for ...
Frida From ABBA Was The Product Of A Nazi Breeding Program
Hitler and the Nazis thought that white people were pretty cool. So when they invaded Norway in 1940, they were stoked to find so dang many of them. Hitler ordered his army to bone as many Norwegian women as possible in order to create more Aryan children, a policy that was celebrated among the German occupation, but not so much among the Norwegians. One of the babies born from this terrible eugenic union was Anni-Frid Lyngstad. You might know her as "Frida" -- one of the four members of ABBA, the second most popular music group in history, behind The Beatles.
Guess which one was supposed to be the perfect Ubermensch. Go on, guess. Wrong!
In 1944, a young, married German officer, Alfred Haase, met Synni Lyngstad and gave her a sack of potatoes (which were apparently rare in Norway) and in return, she gave him some whale meat. Nine months after this beautiful courting ritual -- pulled right out of a Matthew McConaughey/Kate Hudson rom-com -- Frida was born, just one of around 12,000 "Tyskerbarnas," or "German bastards."
After Norway was liberated, the Tyskerbarnas and their mothers, known as Tyskerhoren (you can probably guess what that means), were universally detested. The Tyskerbarnas were treated with unspeakable cruelty, and the Norwegian government first tried to deport them to Germany, and then Australia, because that's just where people you don't want to look at anymore go, apparently. When the deportation schemes failed, Norway simply shoved most of those innocent children in mental institutions, and pretended the rest didn't exist.
That's probably why she started dressing like this. Just try ignoring those pants.
Frida was run out of her village, along with her mother and grandmother, when she was just 18 months old. They fled to neighboring Sweden, where Frida's mother soon died from kidney failure, leaving Frida to be raised by her grandmother. Frida was told that her Nazi father had perished when his ship was sunk on its way back to Germany, but -- as she eventually discovered -- this was a blatant lie. Sergeant Alfred Haase survived the war, and was alive and well the entire time. Haase and his world-famous daughter met for the first time in 1977, but they were sadly never able to form a lasting relationship. Probably due to the whole evil genocide thing. Or maybe he just wasn't into disco. We don't know.
Bono Escaped Into Music After His Mother Died ... At His Grandfather's Funeral
Bono, real name Paul Hewson, is a divisive figure in the music business. As the lead singer of the legendary U2, he's famous for headlining one of the most inexplicably still-existing bands this side of the Rolling Stones. He's also the living embodiment of the annoying liberal blinded by white privilege -- if you look up smug in the dictionary, it'll be wearing little Bono glasses.
But Bono's origin story isn't exactly one of privilege, white or otherwise. At the age of 14, his grandfather dropped dead of a heart attack. That's awful, but far from uncommon. Then, while Bono and his mother were attending the funeral a few days later, his mother dropped stone dead from a brain aneurysm, right in front of him. At his grandfather's funeral.
Now apologize to Bono for all the mean things you've said about him.
The traumatized Paul Hewson became a teenage delinquent, attacking teachers, classmates, and his own brother in fits of good old-fashioned Irish rage. According to Bono, "I believe my whole creative life goes back to when my world collapsed, age fourteen."
Soon afterward, he met the three other bandmates who would go on to form U2, and channeled his grief into music, instead of punching. The band's breakout single, "I Will Follow," is still one of Bono's favorites, and was written about his mother.
Several decades later, and after many high-concept singles about tragedies, natural disasters, and wars, Bono still credits his mother's death as one of his most significant inspirations. The band has gone on to win some small critical acclaim.
Joaquin Phoenix Was Born Into A South American Sex Cult
Joaquin Phoenix is the brother of the famous (and tragically dead) River Phoenix, as well as Rain, Summer, and Liberty. Obviously, their parents were hippies. Before his family changed their last names to Phoenix, Joaquin was born in Puerto Rico as Joaquin Rafael Bottom, to parents John and Arlyn Bottom. You uh ... you see why the name change.
When Joaquin was born, his parents were already members of a cult called the "Children Of God," a Christian sect that embraced some hippie attitudes -- namely, the "lots of boning" parts.
Their son would later embrace the "never showering" part.
The Children Of God partied hard, with Sunday prayer meetings frequently followed by wife-swapping sex orgies designed to fuck the Devil out. But by the time Joaquin was four, things started getting out of hand. Allegations of pedophilia abounded, and the Bottom family quit the group and moved to California. There, they changed their last names to "Phoenix," in order to symbolize their rebirth as a family -- and also to ward off the inevitable butt jokes.
A reason he shares with Gladiator co-star, Russell Crowe (Born: Assfonzo Q. Rectum).
Orlando Bloom's Entire Childhood Was a Lie
You know Orlando Bloom as the second sexiest actor from Pirates Of The Caribbean, behind Johnny Depp, as well as the second sexiest actor from Lord Of The Rings, behind Viggo Mortensen. But he wasn't born the second sexiest man around -- he was born to Harry Bloom, a big-time lawyer and anti-Apartheid activist in South Africa, who worked alongside Nelson Mandela and authored an award-winning book (that was banned in the country for the rest of his life). As it turns out, poking at tyrannical governments with a stick usually doesn't end well for the little guy. In 1960, White South African police massacred 69 black protesters at Sharpeville, and the Apartheid government responded by cracking down on basically everyone and everything, including Bloom, who was thrown in jail.
Later, Harry Bloom fled to England, where he met Sonia Copeland, who had been born in British India, but left in the 1950s. They married, and had a bouncing baby Floridian, but Harry passed away when Orlando was only 4. His mother then began dating a longtime family friend named Colin Stone.
A man with an oddly chiseled jawline ...
It was only a decade later, when Orlando turned 13, that his mother revealed to him that Stone was actually his real father. It turned out that Harry was infertile, so the couple asked Stone to step in and make them a baby, which he did the old-fashioned way. Right up until his teenage years, Orlando believed that his father was the renowned South African activist Harry Bloom, rather than the not-particularly-quite-so-renowned random guy Colin Stone. Of course, the vast majority of us are probably not the children of historical figures, so this isn't exactly a tragedy, but it must at least be a little disappointing.
Stephen Colbert Became a Comedian After His Family Died In A Plane Crash
Stephen Colbert, one of America's most beloved comedians, got his start just making his own mother laugh -- in the wake of the instant and devastating death of most of the rest of his family.
On September 11th, 1974, which would later become renowned as a bad day for air travel for entirely separate reasons, Stephen's father, noted academic and physician Dr. James W. Colbert Jr., and two of Stephen's brothers, were among the 72 passengers and crew that were killed in the crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 212 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Stephen was the youngest of 11 children (Catholics), so there were still enough to go around, but his surviving siblings were already grown -- suddenly, it was just 10-year-old Stephen and his devastated mother, living together for the rest of his childhood.
Perfect comedy fodder!
The crash of Flight 212 also wound up introducing Stephen to the world of comedy. On the way back from the funeral for their father and brothers, one of his sisters got another sister laughing so hard that she fell onto the floor of the car, and that's when Stephen Colbert found his calling in life. He started telling jokes to cheer his mother up, and he spent many evenings listening to comedy albums that he had inherited from his dead brothers.
At 35, Colbert remembered a quote from Lord Of The Rings (a subject in which he is one of the world's foremost experts): "what punishments of God are not gifts?" He then realized that his success probably wouldn't have happened without the death of his father and brothers. He later said of the crash, "It's not the same thing as wanting it to have happened, but you can't change everything about the world. You certainly can't change things that have already happened."
That's about the closest thing we can manage to optimism these days, so either take it, or lie down and wait for death. Your call.
Zachary Frey is a Sophomore at Cornell University. You can read his 10 most recent articles here.
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