The Embarrassing, Hilarious Past Lives of Pop Culture Stars


With Hollywood and the music industry being such a tough nut to crack, it isn’t surprising that many actors and musicians had to find their start doing some pretty crazy and embarrassing things. Aliens and Big Love actor Bill Paxton spent his early days enjoying a new wave music career. As Dangerous Minds points out, this only confirms that “Bill Paxton is a goddamn charming weirdo.” After the break, we feature his surreal music project, as well as plenty of other pop culture stars with cringeworthy past lives. See who got perved on as a party clown, who dabbled in porn, and what woman had to dress up as a roller-skating sperm, below.

Bill Paxton

Titanic filmmaker James Cameron directed Bill Paxton’s new wave band, Martini Ranch, in the video for “Reach,” but the visuals could easily be right out of Cameron’s ex-wife’s movie — Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark. In that film, Paxton played an unhinged vampire who travels with a blood-sucking clan (Lance Henriksen and Jenette Goldstein amongst them). They all appear in the 1988 music video that features cowgirls, a woman ripped from the Conan film series, a Mad Max-style apocalyptic desert, and other weirdsies.

Billy Joel

Often dubbed as one of the worst titles in rock history, Attila is the eponymous album from Piano Man Billy Joel that he’d like to forget. Even the Grammy Award winner has called his late ’60s experiment “psychedelic bullshit,” and we can’t say we disagree. After breaking off from his band The Hassles, Joel and Hassles drummer Jon Small formed their acid metal group with Joel on keyboards and vocals. Here’s what the musician has to say about his stoner music faux pas:

“We were heavy metal, we were going to destroy the world with amplification, we had titles like ‘Godzilla,’ ‘March of the Huns,’ ‘Brain Invasion.’ A lot of people think [I] just came out of the piano bar… I did a lot of heavy metal for a while. We had about a dozen gigs and nobody could stay in the room when we were playing. It was too loud. We drove people literally out of clubs. It was great, but we can’t stay in the club.”

Ryan Gosling

Just a few years before he joined the Mickey Mouse Club, Baby Goose was performing at Mormon talent shows (he was born and raised in the faith), gyrating in MC Hammer pants. This rendition of “When a Man Loves a Woman” segues into a spirited dance number with his sister that sports the Running Man and smooth moves you’ll probably never perfect.

Sylvester Stallone

In 1970, Stallone appeared in his first film role — a soft-core porn film that was originally called The Party at Kitty and Stud’s and was later re-released and retitled to The Italian Stallion (banking off the actor’s character in Rocky). The mumble-mouthed star played a swinger and was only paid 200 bucks. He was homeless at the time and needed the cash. There’s been some back and forth about the movie’s rating, but it was confirmed that later hardcore scenes added to the movie did not feature the action star. Yo! He also cleaned lion cages for a while, which seems like fodder for a future porn flick if this whole Expendables series thing doesn’t work out.

Warren Beatty

His title was officially “stagehand,” but after the National Theater in Washington became infested with rodents, they hired the aspiring teenage actor to get rid of them. After, he called himself a “rat catcher.”

Danny Devito

After high school, the It’s Always Sunny star skipped college and attended the Wilfred Academy beauty school in New Jersey. He honed his hairdressing skills at his sister’s beauty parlor. While the thought of the perpetually balding actor snipping hair under the name “Mr. Danny” is amusing enough, he later became a beautician for corpses. “I used to go to the mortuary. There she would be — it was only women’s hair I did — and she didn’t talk back.”

Jon Hamm

“Skinemax set dresser, Jon Hamm” has a nice ring to it. “There was nothing tasteful about it. It was depressing,” the Mad Men star told Anderson Cooper. “It was a couple of weeks and it was a pretty depressing way to make a couple hundred bucks a day.” Can Hamm’s stint in the soft-core porn biz get worked into a Don Draper storyline somehow? (Or has that pretty much happened already?)

Dee Dee Ramone

We’re cheating a little bit on this one since Dee Dee’s past was filled with a number of wild stunts pre-Ramones, but the troubled musician did embark on a weird and hilarious career as a solo rap artist after he left the seminal punk band, and we feel it’s worth noting. Code name: Dee Dee King. The above video features Dee Dee himself making a sad confession: “It wasn’t so good… I couldn’t do rap.”

Victoria Beckham

It’s a good thing Beckham’s other embarrassing past gig in the Spice Girls paid off for Posh since before she joined the all-girl group, she was dressing up as a roller-skating sperm in the 1980s BBC program, Bodymatters.

Alison Brie

We can totally picture the adorable Mad Men and Community star goofing around as a party clown in Compton, even if it’s a gig she’d like to forget. Brie spilled the beans to The A.V. Club about her career as “Sunny”:

“I think I was 17 or 18 at the time. A friend of mine who I did drama with… goes, ‘They’re looking for young, cute, fun girls to be clowns’… I would literally drive into Compton, change into my clown gear, and then drive to whatever party. It was an awesome job… My clown name was Sunny; it was pretty straightforward. I had a yellow wig and a yellow suit, and I did my own face paint, of course. I also did characters sometimes, like Cinderella and Snow White, and Powerpuff Girls, which was the worst, because you had to wear a little mini dress, but then a huge head that just had this little chinstrap, and you could see through these little dots. You had to do balloon animals and paint kids’ faces while dads were scoping you out. It was really weird.”

She also talked about her clown days in the above video, calling out the bad dads again.