Being human means that eventually you will commit an embarrassing gaffe, whether a slight foot-in-mouth moment or something full-on humiliating, like getting locked outside in frilly underthings ... in the daylight, during rush hour. More often than not, these instants of shame fade into a distant memory and become little more than fodder for a good story. But for celebrities, no such luck.
Along with electronic media comes the potential for more of these special moments to be captured forever — especially for those in the public eye. And with our simultaneous hunger for both memes and schadenfreude, the cringeworthy moments of others are often primed to go viral – where they can be devoured by the hungry masses and they can live on in digital eternity. Which is a shame for the inhabitants of such moments, but jolly good fun for the rest of us. Here are some of the more memorable moments that will live on … and on.
1. Rabid sorority sister gives 'mean girls' a bad name
When University of Maryland student Rebecca Martinson sent a profanity-laden email to her Delta Gamma sorority sisters, little did she know that her words were destined for Internet immortality. Spewing forth more f-bombs than a drunken sailor and revealing a haughty sense of entitlement — not to mention threats of violence — Martinson’s insane rant has gone wildly viral. It has frat boys cowering, journalists reveling, and parodists spoofing to their heart’s content. Martinson has since resigned from her post at the sorority, but she will likely always be remembered for coining the term that pairs a vulgar word for female anatomy with the verb “punt.”
2. You say potato, Dan Quayle says potatoe
The former Indiana senator who played the role of boy-wonder vice president to George H.W. Bush showed that he wasn’t smarter than a fifth-grader during the infamous “potatoe” incident of 1992. At the Munoz Rivera School in Trenton, N.J., Quayle was judging the school spelling bee. The event that was meant to be little more than a fine photo op backfired when Quayle began advocating for his version of the spelling of the tuberous root: “potatoe.” (After all, your foot has a big “toe,” shouldn’t your potato?) Had the film not been rolling, the spelling-challenged gaffe would have been forgotten by snack time, but as it was, we have it on video to snicker at into perpetuity. Naturally, we've posted it below.
Hey, we all have hunting accidents from time to time. But when you’re the vice president of the United States, and you mistake a fellow hunter for a bird and shoot him, as was the case with Dick Cheney in 2006 … well let’s just say the media had a field day. Few other moments in political history have caused such titters of joy among comedians and writers. "But all kidding aside, and in fairness to Dick Cheney, every five years he has to shed innocent blood or he violates his deal with the devil," said Jimmy Kimmel of the man known for his enthusiasm for war and ruthless business practices. Fortunately the victim survived the shooting, but Cheney has yet to live down his part in the tragicomedy.
4. Howard Dean emits a kooky whoop
Oh, Howard Dean. The Vermont governor who was the initial frontrunner for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, ushered in a new style of campaigning based on grassroots organizing and Internet mobilization. But something went awry during a speech in January 2004, and with increasing exuberance, Dean issued a bizarre and screamy "Yeah!" that has become known in American political jargon as the "Dean Scream" or the "I Have A Scream" speech. Dean himself described it as his "crazy, red-faced rant," although those in attendance concur that in context, it wasn’t that bizarre. Nonetheless, the media went nuts. The scene was shown some 633 times by cable and broadcast news networks in just the four days following the event, and that’s excluding talk shows and local news broadcasts. CNN even issued an apology and admitted to overplaying the incident. Many have suggested that the scream led to poor standings in subsequent races; whether or not that’s true we will never know. See the exuberance below.
From the “What Was He Thinking?!” file comes former Democratic U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner and his decision to send saucy selfies via Twitter to a number of young women who he had never met. Twitter, a social networking service, where everyone can see what you publicly send to your 45,000 followers. Yep. There were denials, there were screenshots, and eventually, a confession, apology, and resignation.
If there was ever a more unfortunate surname to have in the face of a sex scandal, we have yet to hear it, but that hasn’t kept Weiner from looking into a run for mayor of New York City in the upcoming election. (No jokes about “Weiner” and “election” will be made here. Really.)
6. Milli Vanilli: The granddaddies of lip-synching
Lip-synching mishaps have become so commonplace that they don’t warrant that much notice these day, but the original pretend-singing catastrophe goes down in history as one of the industry’s greatest scandals. The first album for the 1980s group, Milli Vanilli, was recorded by a group of vocalists, but finding them unmarketable, producers hired two dancer/models, Robert Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, to front the group. By the time the album was released in America, no mention of the actual vocalists remained, and the two faked their way to a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1989. When the truth was discovered, the Grammy was stripped. Being busted for lip-synching one’s own material is bad enough, but for pretending to sing other people’s work entirely? Embarrassing. After working on a comeback, Pilatus succumbed to an alcohol and drug overdose; Morvan remains in the business with some success.
7. Tom Cruise loses his mind on national TV
What would compel one of the world’s leading stars to start jumping on a couch like a crazed monkey on daytime’s favorite show? Sure, love makes us feel giddy and unhinged, and sure, Katie Holmes is lovely, but what the hay? Is that justifiable cause for crawling around the floor, jumping up and down, flailing about, falling off the back of a couch, and practically mauling Oprah before rolling cameras and hundreds of nervously laughing audience members? We’re not sure who should be more embarrassed on this one, Wildman Cruise, or his blushing (like, really blushing) former bride.
The occurrence of celebrity wardrobe malfunctions is about as dependable as, say, the sun rising. You wear small strips of fabric taped to your body, there’s a good chance said fabric won’t stay in place. Unfortunately for those who happen to be in front of a camera when their clothing misbehaves, the result is flashes of exposed body parts splashed across every type of media imaginable.
One of the most extreme cases of wardrobe malfunction happened to Anne Hathaway at the New York premiere of "Les Miserables." Exiting the limo, photographers were given incontrovertible evidence that the star had skipped her skivvies. Pictures were snapped, resulting in a media frenzy that should be more embarrassing for hungry consumers of lurid gossip media than for Hathaway herself.
“Well, it was obviously an unfortunate incident,” Hathaway told Matt Lauer. “I think it kind of made me sad on two accounts. One, was that I was very sad that we live in an age when someone takes a picture of another person in a vulnerable moment and rather than delete it and do the decent thing, sells it." She added, “And I’m sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies sexuality of unwilling participants.”
Of course, that thoughtful, poignant quote got about one-billionth of the play that the limo shot got.
Related stories on MNN: