Just in case you haven't heard the audio tapes of famed actor/ultra-religious headcase Mel Gibson unleashing slur-filled invective at his wife Oksana Grigorieva, you can listen to them here, but you've got to be warned, it is not even remotely safe for work unless you work in a Neo-Nazi biker bar.
Needless to say, Mel's image has taken a bit of a pounding over this. Americans won't just forget overnight that one of their most likable screen icons is a racist, abusive maniac. No, rehabilitating Mel's image is going to take finesse. Unlike the time he called a policewoman "Sugar Tits" and blamed all the world's wars on "the Jews," more than a simple apology will be expected from him.
Luckily, there are several personalities within the music community who've had experience threading their way down the delicate path of public forgiveness, and we feel they'd be in the prefect position to help Mel. That is, assuming he can take the first few baby steps himself - for instance, we hope he doesn't mind too much that a couple of them are black.
1. R. Kelly: A quick glance at the table of contents for R. Kelly's Wikipedia article will reveal a sub-section entitled "Additional child porn charges," so you know his image rehabilitation had to have been a bit of an uphill battle. Everybody knows R. Kelly loves underage girls, and despite the fact that he had more videotape of himself fooling around with underage chicks than Roman Polanski, nobody has ever been able to make charges stick to the man.
His first trial was thrown out due to the fact that the cops didn't have a search warrant when they found one of his many, many caches of child porn in his Florida home, and his second trial was a total fiasco which suffered several delays, rendered key evidence inadmissible, allowed him to plea-bargain 21 counts of sex with a minor down to much lesser charges, and eventually resulted in a Not Guilty verdict.
Today, go to any R. Kelly show, and it's obvious that all has been forgiven. His fans, love him as much as they ever did, and the females in particular would gladly make the walk of shame back to the parking garage in piss-scented clothes just for the chance to be with him. Everybody else tends to view him as an eccentric cousin, that crazy guy with the great voice who told that long-ass story about getting trapped in a closet that ended with a midget and a stuttering pimp chasing after a MacGuffin that may be a box of AIDS.
Lesson Mel Gibson Can Take From This: If charges get filed, try to have the trial somewhere where they let people get away with utterly horrific shit on a regular basis. R. Kelly's was in Cook County, but Los Angeles should work just fine.
2. Axl Rose: Sure, Axl gets a lot of flak for his many onstage tantrums and threats towards other celebrities which he never follows through on, but come on, underneath his toddler-like exterior beats the heart of a true romantic. His first marriage came to be when he showed up at girlfriend Erin Everly's house (no doubt completely sober), and said he had a gun in his car and if she didn't marry him, he was going to kill himself. Romance, table for two, please!
The marriage was brief, with Everly later claiming Rose abused her during and after their marriage. Wait a minute, the same Axl Rose who kept trying to contact her for an entire year after their marriage ended, sending her letters, flowers and caged birds? And what did she give him in return? A civil lawsuit claiming Rose abused her physically and emotionally. There's gratitude for you.
Axl's next girlfriend, Stephanie Seymour, also claimed he was abusive to her, going so far as to file a lawsuit against him and subpoenaing Everly to testify as to what a slap-happy lunatic Rose was. Not to be outdone, Rose filed suit right back, claiming it was in fact Seymour who was the abusive one.
Lesson Mel Gibson Can Take From This: Both of these lawsuits were settled out of court, so take note, Mel. Don't be stingy when it comes time to make the inevitable payout.
3. Chris Brown: With piercing bright eyes and a cute little button nose, Rihanna has one of the most adorable faces in all of music, so most people were stunned when, in early 2009, Chris Brown decided to punch the everliving fuck out of it. As events unfolded, and the photos of Rihanna post-beating came to light, Brown seemed less like the likeable boy next door and more like a mercilessly cruel monster.
Brown "apologized" several times over the next few months, if you can call any of those statements apologies; he never directly stated what it was he had done, and when he went on Larry King's show, he even denied remembering it (which he later admitted wasn't true). Nonetheless, Brown has managed to convince most of his fans that he is truly sorry and is a changed man, thanks in great part to a much-publicized emotional breakdown which occurred live onstage as Brown sang Michael Jackson's "Man In the Mirror."
Get it? He's looking at the man in the mirror and asking him to change his ways. How very poignant. Still, kudos for a good sell, as more people seem to have bought it than didn't. Or, in the words of YouTube commenter spongebobowns1995: "mannn. 4 all yall dat sayin chris brown dnt deserve a second chance ahh... GET A LIFE. i luved dat he cried n he looked cute doin it.:)) er' bodi deserve a second chance n he's onli human.." Indeed, spongebobowns1995, indeed. Er' bodi should take heed of such wise words.
Lesson Mel Gibson Can Take From This: If all else fails, try crying like a bitch. Shouldn't be a problem for Mel, who is a way better actor than Chris Brown.
4. Bing Crosby: From the late 1920s all the way through the mid-'50s, Bing Crosby pretty much charmed the pants off America. He was famous for making singing and dancing look easy, and in his many buddy films with Bob Hope and Danny Kaye, seemed mellow, affable and downright cool. So it was a real surprise when, after his death, his son Gary published a memoir claiming that Bing had been an abusive tyrant who would alternate between devising cruel, extensive punishments for even the smallest of slights and simply beating the shit out of the kids.
Gary's brother Phillip denied the accusations made in the memoir, claiming that Gary made the whole thing up for the money, but the fact that two of Bing's six children committed suicide would seem to lend authenticity to Gary's claims. The rest of the Crosby family has remained notoriously silent on the veracity of Gary's claims, perhaps simply not wishing to get involved... and perhaps terrified of further abuse from beyond the grave. No lawsuits please; we said "perhaps."
Lesson Mel Gibson Can Take From This: It would have been a good idea for Mel to abuse his wife in a cultural climate which denies that things like that happen or otherwise simply accepts them. Since it's impossible for Mel to travel back to 1950s America, he'll have to settle for somewhere like Saudi Arabia, Mexico, or the Deep South.
5. Buddy Rich: At approximately 3:15 in this wonderful little music video, you will hear the lyric "I'm Buddy Rich when I fly off the handle." That is how well-known jazz drummer and bandleader Rich was for his explosive outbursts. Several bootleg tapes of him tearing his band a series of new assholes exist - here, for instance - and have been passed around so much that even Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David love them and reference them in several episodes of Seinfeld.
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We're not sure if his gripes against his band were valid (they sound pretty good to us) but the fact remains that despite threatening to fire several band members multiple times, he almost never actually followed through with it. Plus, although he uses the F-word so much it starts to seem less like a word and more like punctuation, he never drops any racial slurs and never physically assaults anyone.
So basically, Rich was a relatively together guy who, every once in a while, thoroughly lost his shit. Sounds like a lot of famous people, and unlike famous mercurial musicians like Russell Crowe and Scott Weiland, Rich has the added bonus that his music doesn't suck.
Lesson Mel Gibson Can Take From This: If you must have temper tantrums every now and again, try to be less of a dick the rest of the time.
Honorable Mention: Casey Kasem, who, while not a musician per se, hosted the American Top 40 Countdown for years and would sometimes lay into his staff like you would not believe. To be fair to Casey, it would be difficult to segue out of a song like, say, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" into a dedication to a dead dog named Snuggles.