4 Celebrities Who Downplayed Secretly Awesome Backstories

Never look into a celebrity's past: the reality of their lives is just a letdown, more often than not. Bruce Willis is in a dad band, Steven Seagal is basically a sentient hot dog, and this is probably just a rumor, but we heard Jason Momoa isn't actually a barbarian. Oh but sometimes -- just sometimes -- when you look behind the sparkly curtain, you find that the legends were, if anything, underplayed.

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4
Evel Knievel Was A Burglar, Conman, And Poacher

Before Captain America, Robert "Evel" Knievel was the guy we went to for crazy shenanigans while dressed like a flag. During his career as a professional stunt performer, Knievel attempted 75 bike jumps over buses, canyons, pits full of rattlesnakes, and literal shark tanks.

CBS
Evel Knievel -- the only person we WANTED to jump the shark.

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Where did he get the balls to do it? He probably stole them.

Before making it as a stuntman, Knievel was a career criminal. Among other things, he was responsible for a massive, interstate burglary spree across Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. After scaling their walls, Knievel would cut a hole in the roof of his target establishment, lower himself down on a rope Mission Impossible-style, and then rob them blind.

Then after a brief, failed stint as a poacher/illegal hunting guide in Yellowstone Park, Knievel switched sides and successfully lobbied the U.S. government to allow people to hunt the Park's excess elk population, which up until then was just slaughtered and left to rot.

Evel Knievel
Only you can prevent forest fires ... caused by a guy driving a motorcycle through a flaming sign.

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Not content with the most diverse resume this side of Jamie Hyneman, Knievel also started a semipro hockey team. He tried to take advantage of the 1960 Winter Olympics by inviting the Czechoslovakian team for an exhibition match, on the condition he pay their travel costs. But after realizing he didn't have enough cash to cover their expenses, he simply stole the team's receipts and refused to reimburse their money. Things got so bad that the Olympic Committee had to intervene and pay off Knievel's debts to avoid starting a war between the U.S. and Czechoslovakia's Soviet overlords. Finally, Knievel decided that if he was going to pull stupid and deadly stunts, he might as well have a bitchin' motorcycle, and the rest is history.

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3
A Whole Bunch Of Celebrities Have Saved People From Car Crashes

In 2002, a family crashed their car right in front of Vin Diesel, and instead of suing them for having the audacity to make him look at something unpleasant -- as you'd expect from a Hollywood elite -- he leapt into action and rescued several children from the wreck right before everything burst into flames. Then, presumably, he Tokyo Drift-ed off into the sunset.

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In 2012, Patrick Dempsey used a crowbar to rescue Weston Masset after he lost control of his car in front of the actor's house. "D-Dr. McDreamy?" Masset must have wondered, "Am I in heaven?"

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"Pirate heaven?"

In 2016, Jamie Foxx risked his life to drag a drunk driver from a burning car after it crashed near his home. We're sure there's a fox pun in here somewhere, but that's what comment sections are for.

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But nothing beats the time in 1998, when a four-year-old girl was hit and pinned down by a Ford Mustang outside of WTC's recording studio. Luckily, Ol' Dirty Bastard was nearby. Yep: He ran out of the studio, organized about a dozen onlookers, and together they all lifted the car off the girl, saving her life. And that four-year-old girl went on to be ...

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The girl with the best bar story ever. She's not "famous," but you'll surely owe her a drink someday.

2
Rapper T.I. Is On Call To Thwart Attempted Suicides

In 2010, T.I. was listening to the radio, when he heard that a suicidal man was about to jump off a 22-story building. That's right: "heard on the radio." He wasn't just on the scene and leapt into action, he actually got the T.I. signal and sought out heroism. T.I. drove to the building and offered to help by recording a video message for the man, urging him to come down. A police negotiator showed the video to the would-be jumper, who agreed to come down off the ledge and meet with the rapper.

TMZ
Then they went on that same radio show and talked about it, because near-death sells.

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You might have guessed that this wasn't T.I.'s first time saving a life. He also rescued singer Scott Stapp, of Creed. In 2006, Stapp did a shitton of drugs and jumped off his hotel balcony, then laid around seriously injured for over two hours until T.I. -- who happened to be at the same hotel -- heard his moans of pain and rushed to the rescue. Even if your ears wish he hadn't.

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Note: We never said the other guest didn't heard him moaning in pain for two hours. Just that T.I. was the only one to do anything about it ...

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1
Gene Roddenberry Pulled People From Burning Wreckage

Gene Roddenberry was probably obsessed with starships because planes hadn't been too kind to him -- he'd been in three goddamn plane crashes in his life, one of them as a plane crash investigator. A job he probably took to find out why planes hated his god damn face.

US Army Air Corps
Was that face too SEXY for you, planes?!

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After the war ended, Roddenberry became a pilot for Pan Am. On June 18th, 1947, Roddenberry was flying as a passenger from Karachi, Pakistan to Istanbul, Turkey, when the plane decided to just up and fall apart midflight. The engines caught fire, a wing fell off, and the fuselage began to tear itself to pieces -- because one of Roddenberry's ancestors must have done something truly awful to gravity and it was now out for blood.

As the pilot prepared for crash-landing, Roddenberry went to the cabin and began reassuring the understandably terrified passengers that everything was going to be OK. A few moments later, the plane crashed in the Syrian desert, killing 15 people on board, including the pilot and co-pilot, which was less than "OK" -- but the man was always an optimist.

US Army Air Corps
This photo was taken minutes after the crash, probably.

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Roddenberry himself survived, albeit with a few broken ribs, which didn't stop him from dragging all the surviving passengers out of the burning wreckage. The exact number of people he saved is a bit fuzzy, because it's not like some dude with a clipboard was standing there putting checkmarks in the "saved by the Star Trek guy" column -- but around 20 people survived the crash, and Roddenberry had a big hand in that. Then he gave us William Shatner. The man was practically a saint.

Zachary Frey is a sophomore at Cornell University. You can read his 10 most recent articles here.

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