4 Famous People Who Hid Serious Injuries During Their Time in the Spotlight
Celebrities don’t really look like how they present themselves in public. For example, they always make it a point to wear clothes in public, but when they’re at home and taking bubble baths, they’re completely naked. They also invariably comb their hair before stepping out on the street, and yet when they sleep in bed, they rarely make any such attempt. What duplicitous hypocrites they all are!
Truly, their looks are defined by our demands. And sometimes, the reality they’re keeping secret includes a few features more extreme than bedhead and the existence of buttocks. For example, did you have any idea that...
Bob Ross Was Missing a Finger
Bob Ross had a wee bit of a chopping accident early in his career, which cost him most of one pointer finger. If you’re up on your Bob Ross trivia, you might assume this happened during his lengthy stint in the military — the man spent 20 years in the Air Force before becoming a TV personality. However, this greatest injury of his life happened just before he was an adult, during his short time following in his father’s footsteps working as a carpenter.
This was an early and painful brush with sharp objects, but it did not instill any lifelong fear in the man. Below, watch an hour-long video of him painting using a knife.
You don’t see any signs of missing phalanges in that video, or in any of his TV appearances. That’s because the accident happened to his left hand, not his right, and throughout his painting, his left hand is covered by his artist’s palette.
Since he was righthanded, the injury offered no real obstacle to his painting. In fact, even if he’d painted with his left hand, he might have been able to do so just fine with a finger or two missing. But you can imagine that if the sight of his hand attracted needless attention and jolted easily startled viewers out of their Zen states, PBS might have been less willing to stick him on TV for 10 years.
Joe Frazier Was Half-Blind
During much of his boxing career, Joe Frazier was legally blind in his left eye. The way he described it, the incident that messed that eye up was a boxing one but not a matter of getting hit by an opponent. In 1965, he was practicing on a punching bag (or a speedbag, to use the proper boxing lingo), one that was stuffed with steel. The bag split open, and steel got in his eye. Though that didn’t instantly blind him, it left him with an injury that he’d avoid getting treated, and this resulted in a cataract that eventually could never be treated.
During his next years, he’d have to take eye tests as part of his pre-fight physicals. Here’s how he beat them: He’d start by reading letters while covering his left eye with one hand, then when the doctor told him to switch, he’d switch hands... but still cover his left eye, and read with his right. It’s possible that the doctor noticed Joe was cheating but feared that pointing that out would result in the doctor soon losing an eye, too. By the end of his boxing career, Frazier fought with contacts lenses in, which is not unheard of but is extremely inadvisable. Earlier, he had no lenses and fought half-blind.
So, when Joe Frazier famously fought Muhammad Ali those three times, he couldn’t see out of his left eye. Except, the situation was actually a hair more extreme than that. During the big 1975 Thrilla in Manila, his right eye swelled totally shut by the 14th round. The ref assumed he was now fighting half-blind, which was secretly standard operating procedure for him. But with both eyes out of commission, he was fighting this round fully blind. Frazier’s trainer then stepped in and made the ref call the match, making Ali the winner.
Kerry Von Erich Told No One He Was Missing a Foot
There was no keeping Kerry Von Erich’s big accident a secret. A motorcycle wipeout almost killed him, and he was already famous at this point, holding around a dozen different pro wrestling championship titles. To understand that stat, you need to know that these wrestling associations would host several of these championship bouts every month, and it was possible for someone to be “heavyweight champion” and then lose that title after a single day, but even so, Von Erich was a huge deal.
People knew about the accident, but they didn’t know the result. In fact, even today, we aren’t exactly sure what the aftermath was. It resulted in Von Erich losing his right foot, but sources differ on whether the injury itself cost him the foot or whether doctors chopped it off sometime later because Von Erich refused to stop trying to walk on it.
Von Erich went on to join the WWE, where he used a prosthetic foot, and fans had no idea the foot wasn’t real. Most of his fellow wrestlers had no idea either, as he always kept a boot on that foot, even when showering — though, they had their suspicions, since showering with boots tends to attract attention. Doing complex stunts with a prosthetic foot can also be extremely painful, so this isn’t really a story with a happy ending. If you want one that does end with triumph, though, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered…
Chuck Yeager Broke the Sound Barrier With Two Fractured Ribs
Chuck Yeager broke two ribs on October 12, 1947, and though he was a test pilot and had been an Air Force captain before that, this accident had nothing to do with planes. He was riding a horse, for fun, and the animal threw him off. Hey, falling five feet can be dangerous. It can be enough to scare you off heights for life.
Two days later, Yeager was set to fly a Bell X-1 at a speed of slightly north of Mach 1. A cracked torso is perhaps not the ideal condition to find yourself in when you’re looking to zoom at a speed that no human has been recorded surviving, but Yeager wasn’t keen on passing the job to someone else. He got a non-military doctor to tape his ribs in place, and he told almost no one at the test site what was up with him. He did tell one fellow pilot, who conspired with him and rigged the hatch of the X-1 with a broom handle. Yeager would use that handle to seal the hatch shut — otherwise, with his broken ribs restricting his range of motion, he had no way of doing that.
The test flight went perfectly. Despite what some people had predicted, breaking the sound barrier did not cause the plane to splinter apart out of sheer hubris. The broken ribs also posed no severe handicap when it came to piloting. However, if you’re considering breaking your own ribs because that helps you travel faster, we’ll recommend against that, because we’re at least 60 percent certain that that’s not scientifically sound.