5 TV Stars (Besides Bill Cosby) Whose Real Life Behavior Destroyed Our Love of Classic Shows
You know what sucks? Real life. That’s why we blog about teevee, where reality is nothing more than a genre, and a pretty tawdry one at that. Sadly, sometimes real life gets all mixed up with our favorite passive pastime and spoils the fun. Peeing, for example, often takes us away from the best commercials, and don’t even get us started on going to work.
Even worse, sometimes the people on screen do terrible things off it, and their real life behavior makes it difficult, if not impossible, to enjoy reruns of shows we used to love. Wholesome TV dads Bill Cosby and Stephen Collins are the two most obvious recent examples. But there are so many more…
5. Scandal’s Columbus Short
Harrison Wright may not have been the wackiest Gladiator (that honor went to Huck), or the one with the weirdest storylines (Quinn), or the most polished (Abbey), but he was definitely the coolest. Smart, savvy, charming and loyal to a fault, Harrison quietly made himself an indispensable asset to Olivia Pope’s crew of fearless fixers. Harrison was a take charge guy, dependable, and unflappable. He was the kind of guy you’d want on your side . . . the kind of guy who could utter a phrase like, “Are we gladiators, or are we bitches,” and make it sound more inspirational than cheesy.
Harrison Wright was the guy you’d use as your one phone call at 3 a.m. if you ever found yourself arrested, or robbed, or even if you just found a mouse in your house. And he wasn’t too difficult on the eyes either, to be perfectly honest. In fact, aside from a wee bit of a womanizing problem, Harrison Wright was the kind of guy who would make a spectacular TV Boyfriend.
Unfortunately, Harrison Wright was played by Columbus Short . . . a cocaine addict, with a penchant for bar brawls and domestic abuse. As it turned out, Short had a rap sheet so incriminating that even Olivia Pope herself couldn’t freshen up his tarnished image. Suddenly, good ole Harrison wasn’t looking so strong, dependable and sexy anymore. He was looking kind of scary! The kind of guy who, if he called YOU at 3 a.m., you’d probably consider putting the cops on speed dial.
And so Scandal showrunner Shonda Rhimes did what any self-respecting TV writer would do when a TV Boyfriend’s real life alter ego engages in a series of dump-worthy acts certain to taint her beloved character’s polished image . . . she had the guy shot in the head.
Harrison . . . I mean . . . not Columbus Short, because, you know, murder and stuff.
R.I.P. Harrison Wright. You’ll always be a gladiator in my heart, even if the guy who plays you is kind of a bitch . . .
– Julie Kushner
4. 30 Rock and Up Late with Alec Baldwin’s Alec Baldwin
Hey, remember back in 2006 when Alec Baldwin berated his 12-year-old daughter for not picking up the phone when he called? Okay, the “you answer or you get hit with a brick” was probably metaphorical, and what divorced dad hasn’t shouted, “tell your mother I said, ‘Go fuck yourself’? One moment of anger shouldn’t define a person forever, and besides, our beloved patron saint Tina Fey essentially vouched for him by putting him on 30 Rock, so we all let bygones be bygones.
After that, he would occasionally get into altercations with photographers or get tossed off an airplane, but gosh darn was he funny as Jack Donaghy. And he’s nice and liberal, the kind of guy who’s right at home on MSNBC. We’ll just continue to forgive and forget.
Then 2013 rolled around. First, the New York Post accused him of calling an African-American photographer a “coon” (and he definitely called the guy a “crackhead” on Twitter). Then he called a Daily Mail reporter a “toxic little queen” among other homophobic remarks. By the time he called paparazzi photographer a “cocksucking f*g,” it was clear Baldwin was at least a rage freak—and possibly racist and anti-gay as well.
– Rick Lewis
3. Seinfeld’sMichael Richards
Comedy clubs are not normal places. Instead, they function as spaces outside of societal norms, places where even Pollyanna Full House dad Bob Sagat can perform a notoriously blue act. Still, one rule holds true on the inside as well as the outside: white people do not use the n-word, and they certainly do not use it in anger. That’s why it came as such a shock when Michael Richards, Mr. Cosmo Kramer himself, went on a racist rant during a 2006 performance at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood, California.
The rant came after some black audience members interrupted him during a performance, and Richards later said he was simply trying to defuse the heckling by being outrageous in his response. But the incident was caught on video, and Richards definitely looks more outraged than outrageous.
Looking at the video and seeing Michael Richards’ overall state, I’m left wondering if anything funny was happening on that stage before those n-bombs were dropped.
– Cindi Brown
2. Sesame Street’s Kevin Clash (Elmo)
He’s charming, inquisitive, perpetually optimistic, an exceptional cuddler, and notoriously ticklish. His habit of consistently referring to himself in the third person is an off-putting quality in some suitors, but Elmo somehow manages to make it endearing. And while Elmo’s popularity the little ladies caused some of his costars to become jealous and bitingly refer to him as the “Little Red Menace,” the goodhearted monster seemed to take all the bad blood in stride.
Though the tall and buff Big Bird was admittedly my first love, the more diminutive Elmo won my heart pretty early in life and held fast to it for longer than I’d care to admit. Then, about a year and a half ago, I learned that the guy who had his hand up Elmo’s butt for the entirety of my childhood . . . the man who voiced all of his adorable “whys” and coined his infectious laugh, Kevin Clash . . . may have dabbled in pedophilia.
In all fairness, Clash was eventually cleared of all sexual assault charges. And today, Elmo is voiced by Ryan Dillon, who seems like a perfectly sweet guy and all-around upstanding citizen. But still, I feel like a part of my youth died with the original Elmo . . . which I guess is fitting, considering how, about once a year, around Christmas, the apple-faced monster gets accused of making death threats to kids.
Little Red Menace, indeed . . .
– Julie Kushner
1. Saved by the Bell’s Dustin Diamond
Growing up, I used to watch Saved By the Bell reruns with my older sister. And of course, I drooled over Zack and A.C. and I was envious of the cool outfits Kelly, Lisa, and Jessie wore.
And like everyone else in America, I thought Screech, played by Dustin Diamond, was a pretty good guy. Mostly I felt sorry for the guy because it had to be hard being surrounded by a cast that was cooler, better looking, and better dressed than your character. When the show ended in 1993, I hoped that Dustin Diamond would find a way to shed himself of the Screech role and forge his own path in the world.
And he did. Just not in the way anyone expected.
What do you do if your best known role is being a loser, geeky guy who could never get the girl? Make a sex tape, of course! In 2006, Dustin Diamond released a sex tape called Screeched—Saved By the Smell.
One brave soul managed to recap the sex tape (NSFW) and reported that Diamond mostly filmed the other two participants and video, occasionally adding his own commentary. Diamond followed that up by making appearances on reality shows like Celebrity Fit Club, where he acted like a total douche to everyone and releasing a tell-all book where he trashed fellow Saved by the Bell cast mates. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Diamond claims that his behavior of the reality show was strictly scripted and a ghostwriter twisted his words.
Okay, so maybe he is a nice guy after all–OH MY GOD DUSTIN DIAMOND STABBED A GUY IN A BAR?!
Never mind. I will definitely will not be looking at Screech or Saved By the Bell the same way again. Zack and A.C. should count themselves lucky for being alive—Screech apparently carries a switchblade on him.
– Susan Velazquez
Honorable Mention: Knight Rider’s David Hasselhoff and Two and a Half Men’s Charlie Sheen. Sorry, gentlemen—if either of those shows had been watchable to begin with, maybe you’d have made the list.