6 Famous People You Admire (Who Are Secretly Terrible)

As Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, once noted, it’s never a good idea to meet your idols. And considering that she was a money-loving drug addict, she probably knew what she was talking about. If there’s some artist, athlete, chef, or whatever who really inspires you, don’t try to find out what they’re really like as people. At best, you’re going to be disappointed. At worst, you might find out something that will really break your heart, like that Bill Nye once broke 88 orphans’ legs during a meth deal gone wrong. Don’t worry, we made that one up, but here are some that are completely real …

6

The Clintons Used African-American Prison Labor Whilst Living In The Governor’s Mansion

During the 2016 presidential election, the media made sure to keep us constantly aware of every single flaw or inadequacy surrounding Hillary Clinton, from her inexpert handling of emails to her dreadful Ellen dance moves. But there’s one little thing that no one thought to bring up: She, uh, had slaves at one point. Yeah.

Back before the Clintons occupied the White House, they were residents of the governor’s mansion in Arkansas (what with Bill being governor and all). In Hillary’s 1996 book It Takes A Village, she made an offhand remark about how they had employed unpaid prison labor, mainly “African-American men in their thirties,” to help around the house. Don’t worry, this was part of a “longstanding tradition” — which is an excuse that has never, ever been used to justify terrible actions.

How is this even a thing? Well, according to a caveat in the 13th Amendment (the only amendment we fought a war over), Americans can’t be enslaved … except as punishment for a crime. The government tends to avoid the actual word “slavery” to describe this policy, but the Constitution itself doesn’t screw around with semantics:

United States Congress
Cut it out with that “whereof” shit, though. We get it, you’re cultured.

Clinton doesn’t give any indication in the book that she saw this situation (black men being forced to serve rich white politicians) as kinda problematic. Instead she takes the opportunity to discuss how “apprehensive” she was about having scary black criminals in her house, until she learned that they weren’t so scary after all. This would be a heartwarming memoir if it was written in the 1800s, but like we said, this book came out in 1996. That’s 14 years after “Ebony And Ivory” cured racism forever, so there’s really no excuse.

This all makes the Clintons sound less like progressive Democrats and more like one of the less-shitty white characters from 12 Years A Slave. And although the book had been out for 20 years, somehow nobody — not in the media, not even from the Trump opposition research team — made note of this until a random Twitter user posted about it in June 2017. (We would certainly never suggest that Trump read about this and said, “So? What’s wrong with slavery?” That would be cheap of us.)

5

Michael Jordan Is A Hyper-Competitive Jerk

If you so much as touched a basketball as a kid, you wanted to be like Michael Jordan. He’s one of the biggest childhood role models ever, both in impact and stature. But how much do you know about him, besides the fact that he’s really good at B-ball and once teamed up with Bill Murray to help Bugs Bunny fight aliens? If you said “not much,” that’s probably for the best.

There are plenty of stories of Jordan being a big bald bully. According to an anonymous ex-teammate interviewed by Sports Illustrated, Jordan would scream “You’re a loser! You’ve always been a loser!” at fellow Chicago Bulls player Rodney McCray during training. McCray retired after one season with Jordan. There’s also an unconfirmed rumor that Jordan “ruined” Muggsy Bouges (who’s 5’3”) by calling him a “fucking midget” during a game. He may have inspired people to pick up a basketball, but it seems he also inspired some to drop it.

It’s the same off the court. Rapper Chamillionaire has an anecdote about meeting Jordan at a charity event where he’d just spent $7,000 of his chafortune on an MJ jersey. As Mr. Riding Dirty himself recounted in a video, after asking Jordan if they could take a photo together, Jordan barked, “I ain’t taking pictures with no niggas.” Someone else tried to defuse the situation by explaining who Chamillionaire was, but Jordan reportedly replied, “I don’t give a fuck.” Jordan then reconsidered, offering to take the photo … for $15,000.

OK, but maybe he was having a bad day? Uh, in 2009, when Jordan was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and the whole sport got together to honor him, he gave what might be the pettiest “Thank you” speech ever recorded. He spent 20 minutes ripping on people who crossed him since the beginning of his career — all the way back to high school. He even flew in a high school teammate, Leroy Smith, to humiliate him because their coach picked Smith and not him for the sophomore team.

ESPN
“Just kidding, man. Come up here and present the multi-million-dollar shoe line with your name. Oh wait.”

4

Legendary Physicist Richard P. Feynman Dabbled In Pick-Up Artistry

Before Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the pop star of science was Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Richard P. Feynman. He was a nerd, but he was also cool, splitting his time between discovering the secrets of the Universe and playing the bongos.

Feynman was also a real hit with the ladies. Unfortunately, that didn’t mean that he had a high opinion of women. During his tenure as a professor at Caltech, he made so many sexist jokes in his lectures that he triggered campus protests against him and inspired a nickname, “Richard ‘P for Pig’ Feynman.” And this was the 1950s, when sexist jokes were basically background noise for most people.

His sex life was no less uncomfortable. In his autobiography, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, he gleefully lays out his escapades, including all the techniques he learned from an early form of what’s now dubiously referred to as “pick-up artistry.” That’s right, Feynman was an early 20th century version of the asshole who hangs out in bars and tries to hit on women by insulting — sorry, “negging” — them. As he describes in the book, he took on a mentor who taught him this:

Later, Feynman recounts an anecdote about the first time he applied these, uh, teachings. After a session at the bar, he took a walk with a girl whom he’d befriended, who suggested they buy some coffee and sandwiches and then go back to her place. Score! But that’s when Feynman broke the cardinal rule — he paid for the coffee and sandwiches himself. Worse than that, he’d bought enough food for three people, which was a big red flag. Sure enough, she then told him that another friend was going to be joining them. Female treachery! The Master was right!

So Feynman “recovered” the best way he knew how:

Now, we don’t know which dictionary Feynman was using, but we’re reasonably sure that “soliciting money to not have sex” is kind of the opposite of a whore. In any case, Feynman claims that he still boned her later. And probably her supermodel friend. No wait, they were twins. Yep.

3

David Foster Wallace Was A Really Creepy Stalker

We’re loathe to go after David Foster Wallace, the guy who wrote possibly the greatest commencement speech in the history of higher education. He was awesome, his life was tragic, and digging for skeletons in his closet is like looking for a pile of dead hobos in Mr. Rogers’ basement. But in any case, it must be said that Wallace had … kind of some issues with women.

A biography by D.T. Max reveals that Wallace, the patron saint of literature, was a relentless bully to his younger sister growing up. We’re not talking about calling her names or defacing her Barbies; he punched her so hard that he knocked her teeth out, and then dragged her limp body through “the excrement left by their dog.” Ah, boys will be boys, right?

Max goes on to detail the creepy and outright abusive relationship that he had with his future girlfriend, poet Mary Karr. According to Max’s biography, Wallace’s courtship of Karr was less Nicholas Sparks and more Fatal Attraction. Karr was married with a child when they met and knocked back his advances, but Wallace wouldn’t have it. His attempts to woo her included showing up at her house and workplace unannounced, lying to their mutual friends about them having an affair, and turning up at a party he wasn’t invited to with a new shoulder tattoo of Karr’s name and a heart. His approach to romance was essentially Sideshow Bob stalking Bart.

Somehow, Wallace and Karr did start having an affair, but his creepiness didn’t end there. At one point, according to Max, Wallace became so frustrated with Karr’s reluctance to divorce her husband that he called an ex-con about buying a gun so he could kill him.

Even after this affair ended (thankfully without anyone getting murdered), Wallace remained a sex fiend for the rest of his life. He boned his female students, he boned the women in his drug recovery sessions, and he boned the “audience pussy,” as he privately described the fans of his work. Reportedly, he once told fellow novelist Jonathan Franzen that he felt his life’s purpose was to “to put [his] penis in as many vaginas as possible.” To us, he’ll probably always be that cool writer guy who once made a really relatable life metaphor about fish.

2

Lou Reed Was A Violent, Racist, Woman-Beating Prick

Nobody really expects rock musicians to be nice people. The Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed, however, was more than an asshole. According to a recent biography written by Howard Sounes, he was some kind of monster.

Sounes doesn’t use the word lightly. After Reed’s death in 2013, Sounes, who was a huge fan, set out to write a glowing biography, for which he interviewed more than 140 people — and every single one of those interviews broke off another little piece of Sounes’ heart. Though he wanted to be as kind as possible to his musical hero, Sounes was forced “to go where the story goes.” And here’s where the story went: Reed was apparently a violent, racist, misogynistic piece of shit. It’s known that he once told a journalist, “I don’t like niggers like Donna Summer” (and that should have been kind of a red flag right there), but according to those who knew him, he wore his racism on his sleeve. At one point, he referred to Bob Dylan as a “pretentious kike.” Yes, the guy who once released an hour of guitar feedback called someone else “pretentious.”

Reed’s relationships with women were more violent than a mosh pit. His ex-wife Bettye Kronstad told Sounes that Reed would occasionally get mad and pin her against a wall, shake her, hit her, and “then one time he actually gave me a black eye.” She wasn’t the only one. According to one of his childhood friends, Reed would often beat his girlfriends in public when they said something that displeased him. When the wife of the (presumably former) friend said something about it, Reed started hitting her too. Because Reed was an equal opportunity misogynist.

When Sounes approached filmmaker Paul Morrissey for an interview, Morrissey suggested for the book that “You need a good title like The Hateful Bitch [or] The Worst Person Who Ever Lived. Something that says this isn’t a biography of a great human being, because he was not … He was a stupid, disgusting, awful human being.” As Sounes recounted, “The word that kept coming up was prick. Girlfriends called him a prick, people he was at school with called him a prick; people in his band called him a prick.”

But man, wasn’t White Light / White Heat a great album?

1

Roald Dahl Kind Of Tried To Justify The Holocaust

Roald Dahl introduced generations of kids to the magic of reading through his whimsical fantasies about chocolate factories, friendly giants, and unsettlingly large fruit. Thankfully, one theme he never snuck into our prepubescent brains was his opinions about Jews. At least, not that we’re aware of. (Maybe those pointy noses in The Witches are more offensive than we thought?)

We’ve discussed already how Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is low-key racist — in the original version, the Oompa-Loompas weren’t orange dwarves, but a slave workforce of African pygmies. Well, racism is a bit like cockroach poop: When you see a little bit of it, too often you can look behind the fridge and find an infestation.

First off, according to a recent biography, Dahl was a deeply unpleasant man to begin with. He carried on several affairs behind his wife’s back, was rude to everyone he met, and (much like Dr. Seuss) didn’t care much for children. Dahl didn’t write exclusively for kids, but when he did, he pretty much only did it for the paycheck as, like he told another author at a party, you can much write anything and “The little bastards’d swallow it.”

More concerning, though, were his thoughts on Jews. In a review of a book about the 1982 invasion of Lebanon by Israel, Dahl said this was the moment “we all started hating the Israelis,” and questioned, “Must Israel, like Germany, be brought to her knees before she learns how to behave in this world?” Before you point out that criticism of Israel isn’t inherently antisemitic, know that Dahl doubled down when he was questioned about his comments, helpfully clarifying that his animosity was, indeed, targeted specifically at Jews:

BBC
“It’s not like he was Hitler or something.”

This is the point in any interview where you really need to decide to stop talking. But Dahl went on to elaborate how he thought the Jews kind of had the whole Holocaust thing coming because, according to his version of history, it never occurred to them to fight back. “I mean, if you and I were in a line moving towards what we knew were gas chambers, I’d rather have a go at taking one of the guards with me; but [the Jews] were always submissive.”

But is all this enough to really label Roald Dahl an antisemite? Well, there’s also the interview he gave a few months before his death in which he literally described himself as “anti-Semitic.” There’s, you know, that.

S. Peter Davis is the creator of the Three Minute Philosophy YouTube series, and is the author of the book Occam’s Nightmare.

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Marissa Safont6 Famous People You Admire (Who Are Secretly Terrible)

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