Rock Stars' Troublesome Family and Friends
Wednesday, the NAACP released an extensive, in-depth study of the main six groups which provide the lion's share of support for the infamous Tea Party movement, and the results of their study are not encouraging. It chronicles a great deal of cross-pollination between Tea Party and white supremacist organizations, including leaders and spokesmen with ties to the Minutemen, modern-day segregationists the Council of Conservative Citizens and, of course, the Ku Klux Klan.
These connections don't seem to be integral parts of the Tea Party's infrastructure, however, as much as chance associations more likely brought about by the Tea Party's sprawling grass-roots nature. In other words: You get a few bad apples in every bunch, and fringe degenerates frequently attach themselves to more successful moderate movements for the sake of mainstream publicity.
The Tea Party itself is not a racist organization, but it's no real surprise that it and white supremacist groups - both largely made up of frightened, xenophobic white people terrified of losing their power base - would experience some overlap, membership-wise.
Likewise, rock stars often find themselves tainted by the actions and reputations of certain family and friends. Here are a few examples of rock stars who maybe should have kept better company.
5. Tina Turner: Bad Taste In Husbands
When young Anna Mae Bullock started singing for Ike Turner at the tender age of 18, she couldn't have suspected the fame - and pain - the frontman of Ike Turner & the Kings of Rhythm would bring her. Married in 1962 (or 1958; records are unclear), Ike and the newly rechristened Tina Turner formed a successful performing duo which, according to Tina's autobiography I, Tina, included regular beatings from Ike behind the scenes.
Ike at first denied ever having abused Tina, then admitted he'd "slapped her around," even had "punched her to the ground," but hadn't ever "beat" her. Seems like a confusing statement, but interestingly enough abusers of that era seem to have an extremely specific definition of the word "beating" - Michael Jackson's abusive father and notorious dog turd Joe defined it as "striking with a hard object."
In any case, Tina got tired of Ike's shit and left him, and Ike went on to get married anywhere between four and 13 more times before spending time in prison on drug charges and eventually dying in 2007 from a cocaine overdose at the ripe old age of 76. Good God, that's hardcore. In another lifetime, Ike would have made a fine biker.
4. Jimi Hendrix: Brother Leon, Keeper of the (Sputtering) Flame
When Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, his brother Leon almost didn't make his funeral - he was in jail for stealing a fur coat. After becoming addicted to drugs and getting screwed out of any inheritance whatsoever from his brother's estate, Leon eventually remembered the significance of his last name and sobered up enough to start capitalizing on it. For years, he's been writing and performing with the Leon Hendrix Band and dedicating every performance to his brother, just in case you'd forgotten the association.
His 2006 album Keeper of the Flame was mediocre-bordering-on-bad, but Leon refuses to go away. You see, Jimi appeared to him in a vision, enshrouded in purple flame, and told him to take up the guitar. So you understand, Leon can hardly refuse.
In 1968, founding Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, brother of Brian and Carl, picked up a couple of hitchhiking girls - twice. The second time, he dropped the two strangers off at his house on Sunset Boulevard while he went off to a recording session, because that was just the kind of goofy shit you did in the '60s. When Wilson returned, he was greeted by a crazy-eyed man in his driveway.
After assuring Wilson that he wasn't about to kill him, the man dropped to the ground and began kissing Wilson's feet. That man, you may have guessed, was Charles Manson. Instead of calling the police, Wilson let Manson and the girls stay at his place, and introduced Manson to several recording industry friends, becoming responsible for getting the future murderer's brief recording career started.
The number of ambient women living in Wilson's house soon multiplied, and Wilson dropped thousands of dollars paying to cure their gonorrhea, and thousands more when they wrecked his uninsured car. After Charlie's violent tendencies became too much for Wilson to ignore, he simply vacated his house while the Manson Family remained there until Wilson's manager told them to clear out.
In later years, Wilson was reluctant to talk about his association with Manson, blaming himself for his role in Manson's infamous "Helter Skelter" murders. Was Wilson being too hard on himself? Maybe, but he did introduce Manson to Rudi Altobelli, who rented his home out to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate, so... maybe not.
2. Frank Sinatra: Knew Guys Who Knew Guys, Capisce?
Frank Sinatra was never in the Mafia, that much seems clear. Many of his friends, however, were, including Charles Fischetti, Lucky Luciano, and Sam Giancana; one of Franks uncles was even tied to Genovese underboss Willie Moretti. In exchange for the sometimes lavish gifts Sinatra bestowed upon the mobsters, they frequently got him gigs, sometimes when no one else would hire him.
They also did a little bit of image control; when comedian Jackie Mason performed a routine making fun of Sinatra, some of Giancana's thugs roughed him up, breaking his nose. J. Edgar Hoover kept an FBI file on Sinatra that was almost 2,500 pages long, and the character Johnny Fontane from The Godfather was so obviously based on Frank that he (allegedly) threatened author Mario Puzo when the two happened across one another.
Frank wasn't pissed off that Puzo had portrayed his character as tied to mafiosos, however; he was upset that Fontane at one point burst into tears, which was of course unbefitting of Sinatra's macho image. Garry Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury, later lampooned Sinatra's Mafia relations in a Sunday strip. You know your mob ties have reached the big time when they hit the funny papers.
1. Elvis Presley: The Memphis Mafia
When someone rockets to fame the way Elvis Presley did, it's pretty much a given he'll attract leeches and hangers-on. Reasonably smart but from a simple Southern background, Elvis was guilty of being too trusting. The first entity to violate that trust, oddly enough, was the United States Army. While stationed at Fort Hood, an Army sergeant was the first person to provide the King with amphetamines.
Elvis later became addicted to barbiturates, ironically remaining vehemently anti-drug throughout his life, seeing his own addiction as valid because those particular drugs were prescribed by a doctor, the infamous, dubious "Dr. Nick." Exploited and often ripped off by manager and parasite Col. Tom Parker (a title bestowed on the Dutchman not by the U.S. military, but the Louisiana State Militia), Elvis was soon surrounded by various lackeys and ass-kissers who helped him spend his money.
Known as the Memphis Mafia, Elvis' extensive entourage fed into a cycle of destruction, too reliant on Elvis - and possibly afraid of his violent temper - to stop the King's descent into drug-soaked hell. In the end, Elvis was surrounded by people to whom his best interests mattered only as far as his continued existence kept the paychecks coming.
Sadly, that wasn't enough to keep Elvis alive. He died on the toilet in 1977, and his many "friends" would, for the most part, go on to lead successful enough careers. Of course, anything better than jail time could be considered successful for those bloodsuckers.
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