5 Famous People Whose Entire Personality Was An Act
A lot of actors become famous for seemingly "playing themselves." Christopher Walken may go by many names in his films, but in every universe, he's definitely still Christopher Walken. But how authentic are these personae to their true personalities? Way more celebrities than you may think have turned their existences into lifelong performances that'd make Andy Kaufman envious. Everything you know about your favorite singer, actor, or comedian could well be the very opposite of the truth. And you might prefer it that way.
John Wayne Was Overcompensating For Avoiding Service In WWII
John Wayne: patriotic, virile, gung-ho everyman. They simply don't make 'em like The Duke anymore! Millennials these days wouldn't know the first thing about ducking military service and then spending an entire career fronting to everyone about it.
Almost everything about Wayne was exaggerated, from his cowboy strut (which he modeled after real cowboys after a director mocked him for " skipping like a goddamn fairy") to his hairpiece, which he started wearing in the '40s. But that's nothing compared to his guilt complex for refusing to sign up to fight in World War II, which led in no small part to him starring in four million or so testosterone-drenched war movies.
Wayne was in his early 30s when the war broke out, which is "old" by army standards. But many famous athletes, directors, and actors volunteered nonetheless -- and some of them were much older than Wayne, with some even lying about their age to serve. Both Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable (in his 40s) signed up for bombing missions over Germany. But the Duke avoided service in any way possible, confessing " I better go do some touring -- I feel the draft breathing down my neck."
It's not clear why he didn't use his connections to get a job behind a desk or to make training films. Whatever the case, he was well aware that doing this carried a stigma. At a publicity tour at a hospital in Hawaii, Wayne was booed by wounded Navy personnel who got annoyed by a phony macho guy trying to give them a pep talk. Evidently, Wayne never lived down that humiliation. Which is saying a lot for a guy who voluntarily starred in The Conqueror.
Robert Frost Was Insecure And Insanely Vindictive
Back before Robert Frost's spirit permanently imprinted itself on high school lit curriculums, he was but a man. Specifically, a man who heckled rival poets and started fires out of spite to disrupt public readings in order to sabotage public performances.
Yes, Frost may be remembered for his pastoral poems intricately exploring rural perspectives of early 1900s New England, but Frost the man was, in many ways, a dick. Back before he was even remotely famous, he stated, " To be perfectly frank with you I am one of the most notable craftsmen of my time." He sent friends all of his good reviews, demanding that they act his as private PR staff, essentially pulling everyone into his own social media network 70 years before we wished they didn't exist. When one friend chided him for his behavior, Frost spent the next few years spreading rumors this friend was mentally imbalanced.
When a flu-sickened Truman Capote left Frost's poetry reading, Frost took it as an insult and heaved a book at the then-unknown teenage correspondent. Frost held a grudge against Capote from then on, and eventually leveraged his fame to petition The New Yorker into firing him. Frost's biographer saw him as a scumbag who wanted to break up his friends' marriage out of jealousy, even after they graciously allowed him to crash at their house. Even his own children remembered him as the guy who threatened their mom with a murder/suicide ultimatum.
It was generations of reverent English teachers that helped immaculately scrub the poet's rep. He basically now exists as a can of pure Americana concentrate, instead of the far more accurate jar of dickhead bouillon.
Joe Strummer Was An Insincere, Privileged Snob
The Clash will go down as legends of punk rock, doing it back when that still meant standing up to hypocrisy, authoritarianism, conformity, and greed. Even if Joe Strummer, the frontman of " the only band that matters," embodied few of those qualities.
Strummer adopted fashions his bandmates referred to as punk " uniforms." He once refused to let Ted Nugent join them on stage -- not because of Nugent's right-wing politics, but because he had long hair, which in Strummer's mind made him an uncool hippie. Always the model of consistency, he bitched at reggae singers for being too commercial one minute, and the next he let billion-dollar corporations who ran sweat shops license his band's songs -- a perplexing move from a supposed hardcore socialist who named an album after a revolutionary communist movement.
"One struggle Marx WON'T have is fitting into these ultra-comfortable Levi's 501s!"
He also denounced the Western educational system as rigged to pander to punks, but was careful to hide that he came from an enormously wealthy diplomatic family, never expecting one of his own fans to call out his BS live in concert.
Stummer wasn't even a punk before 1976. When he saw a Sex Pistols gig one night, he (correctly) anticipated that punk would be the next huge fad, and so changed his style, hair, demeanor, and clothes to cash in before the movement crashed and burned. We can only imagine the Butterfly Effect scenario if he'd gone to see the Bee Gees that night instead.
Humphrey Bogart's "Tough Guy" Persona Was Constructed By Warner Bros.
Humphrey Bogart's fedora and trench-coat-clad private dicks in The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep absolutely define film noir. The real Bogart? According to James Cagney, " when it came to fighting, [he] was about as tough as Shirley Temple."
Back in the Golden Age of cinema, studios essentially owned actors. In exchange for a contract, actors submitted to having their names, appearances, and personalities subject to being remolded to fit whatever niche the studio desired to slot them into. With Bogart, Warner Bros. rewrote his past from the ground up. Most evidence shows that his birthday was Christmas Day of 1899, but Warner Bros. "moved" it to the middle of January 1900, presumably because being a Christmas baby is only cool when Jesus does it.
Bogart's effeminate speech impediment was, depending upon who you ask, either caused by a fistfight, shrapnel in WWI disfiguring his mouth, or a beating from his junkie dad. Like his hardass mid-January birthday, these were probably stories invented by WB press teams to spin his lisp into street cred. Bogart also took hormone shots to help him conceive a child, which left him bald. He then took vitamin B shots and regained some of the hair, but wore a toupee for most of the rest of his life, according to his son. Turns out even Bogart was doing an impression of Bogart.
America's Friendliest Talk Show Host Was A Miserable SOB Who Hated Everybody
For 30 years, Johnny Carson perfected the role of the funny, neighborly Midwesterner on his seminal late-night talk show. He was welcomed with open arms into America's garishly wallpapered bedrooms. When not in front of an adoring audience, however, Carson was a bitter, bullying wreck of a man.
Some big-name celebrities refused to do The Tonight Show, but most kept their hatred quiet to protect their careers. Not Wayne Newton. After a series of gay jokes, Newton pleaded with Carson to cut out the degrading wisecracks, believing they were buddies. Carson continued the jokes on national TV, so Newton barged into his office and smacked him. Newton also suspected that Carson was responsible for leaking rumors that he secretly worked for the mob, which coincidentally surfaced while they had rival competitive bids for a gaming property -- not exactly the ideal rumor to dispel with a surprise slap to the face.
Carson generally directed his rage at his wives and those closest to him. When his mother died, he said that he was glad, and refused to go to her funeral. He never bothered to visit his own son in a mental asylum -- the same son he attempted to punch at a party. He once tried to strangle NBC colleague Tom Snyder at a bar, but was tackled before he could start a literal Late Night War.
After Carson's passing, celebs came forward and shared their own stories of Carson holding grudges and losing his shit in public for no reason. Though some told them in a fawning tone, as if they feared the man could still destroy their careers from beyond the grave.
For more, check out 8 Quirks Of Famous Actors You Will Never Unsee:
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