The 40 Best Celebrity Rumors Ever

A massive compendium of scandal.

The golden age of celebrity rumors may be coming to an end. As Britney Spears spreads her legs to the world and Nicole Richie gets arrested driving north in the southbound lane, truth may at last have outstripped semi-fiction. Today's celebrities have so little left to hide. But fear not, scandal-mongers! The past remains a bottomless well of salacity. In tribute, we present our picks for the forty best celebrity rumors ever. Dive in. But be careful. This stuff doesn't wash off. — Peter Smith

40. Kiddie idols meet grisly end

Did you hear that Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Mario Lopez (Zack and Slater from Saved by the Bell) died in a car accident? You may have around 1993, when rumors of the stars' demise spread like wildfire across the nation's middle schools. (We won't implicate our middle school by name, but we did have an honest-to-God moment of silence in English class.) Of course, the stars of Saved by the Bell are all doing fine, and have gone on to lucrative careers in amateur porn (Dustin Diamond), amateur dancing (Mario Lopez), and amateur porn-dancing (Elizabeth Berkeley). But the public's thirst for grisly death rumors about beloved stars has not been sated; in 1999, Blue's Clues host Steve Burns suffered a "heroin overdose," and just a month ago Tom Hanks "fell off a cliff." — Gwynne Watkins

39. J. Edgar Hoover cross-dressed

FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was such a mean son-of-a-bitch it's no surprise that people whispered about him. Rumors that Hoover was gay or a cross-dresser have circulated for decades; one claim comes from Anthony Summers' 1993 biography Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover. Susan Rosenstiel, the ex-wife of liquor-industry chair Lewis Rosenstiel, claimed she had seen Hoover in a dress, stockings, heels and wig at a party hosted by gadfly lawyer Roy Cohn. This seems fairly unlikely; historian Athan Theoharis notes that anyone as secretive and power-obsessed as Hoover would never have been so blatant about a predilection that could be embarrassing. We may never know the truth. — Peter Smith

38. Milton Berle had the biggest penis in Hollywood

You can die satisfied when your enormous penis has been mentioned, even tangentially, in the New Yorker. Milton Berle got just that honor, though he'd already kicked off; a 2002 story about the Friars Club memorial roast of Berle features Freddie Roman remarking, "We are here to honor Milton Berle, who passed away on March 27th. On May 1st and May 2nd, his penis will be buried." The New Yorker story is a fitting homage to Berle's colossal member, which for many years was, indeed, the talk of the town. Berle and the big penis shared many adventures; most famously, writer Alan Zweibel alleged that Berle had shown him his penis during rehearsals for his infamous Saturday Night Live appearance. Zweibel confirmed the penis's large size. — PS

37. Stevie Nicks' alternate cocaine-delivery method

Supposedly, Fleetwood Mac's gypsy songstress, hoping to spare her vocal cords from her severe blow habit, got a little help from a coke-straw-bearing groupie. Nicks tends to be pretty forthright about her history of cocaine abuse, and she denies this story. But that doesn't mean that it didn't happen. We all know "Gold Dust Woman" was autobiographical, but maybe the phrase "roadie blowing coke up my ass" didn't fit the rhyme scheme. — PS

36. Marisa Tomei won an Oscar by mistake

Many critics have their complaints about Marisa Tomei's Best Supporting Actress win for My Cousin Vinny in 1992 — so many, in fact, that a rumor materialized to explain it. According to lore, the presenter of the award, Jack Palance, couldn't read Vanessa Redgrave's name on the envelope and blurted out the name of the last nominee he had announced: Tomei. Other versions claim Palance uttered the wrong name because he was too stoned to know better, or because he had a crush on Tomei. Journalist Steve Pond, who covers the Oscars for Premiere, addresses the story directly in his book, The Big Show: High Times and Dirty Dealings Backstage at the Academy Awards. He writes that PricewaterhouseCoopers representatives "have very clear instructions that if a presenter opens the envelope and says the wrong name, they are to walk on stage, stop the show and announce the correct winner." Tomei quieted the chatter (somewhat) by receiving another nomination for In the Bedroom in 2001. — Kristin Gangwer

35. Walt Disney is cryogenically frozen beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean

According to rumors, Uncle Walt was many things besides the father of Mickey Mouse: a Nazi, an anti-Semite, a communist. The most persistent tale, though, is that Disney was so obsessed with immortality that he made arrangements to have himself cryogenically frozen after death. Ever since Disney shuffled off this mortal coil in 1966, popular myth has found him frozen beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in California's Disneyland. Two biographies, Marc Eliot's Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince and Leonard Mosley's Disney's World, have kept this rumor alive and kicking. But though cryogenic freezing was a popular topic in the late '50s and early '60s, there's no evidence whatsoever that Disney had any specific interest or even knowledge of cryogenics, outside of dodgy anecdotal evidence. Who knows? Maybe one day Disney will be re-animated and will go on to rule the world with his legions of cartoon anthropomorphs enforcing his terrible will. We've seen Epcot Center. It's possible. — John Constantine

34. Prince Harry's father is not Prince Charles

It was clear — and tacitly accepted — that after only a few years of marriage, Prince Charles and Princess Diana were cheating on each other. Prince Harry was born in September 1984, and after the public glimpsed his puglike features and red hair, rumors began to circulate that he was the product of Diana's affair with army officer Major James Hewitt. Diana publicly admitted her liaison in 1995, but insisted that she met Hewitt too late for him to be Harry's father. Hewitt too claims that he first met Diana in May of 1986, when Harry was twenty months old. Simone Simmons, a former close friend of the Princess, wrote Diana: The Last Word, a book serialized in The Sun. In it, she clamed that Diana was forced to carry out paternity tests on both Harry and his brother, Prince William. The tests reportedly showed that both boys were fathered by Prince Charles. — Catrinel Bartolomeu

33. Napoleon's Bonaparte is a collector's item

A number of famous penises are said to be floating about the world, having various adventures long after their owners went toes-up. John Dillinger's is said to be in the Smithsonian, and the Russian Museum of Erotica proudly boasts Rasputin's. But the Holy Grail of infamous dongs is that of Napoleon Bonaparte. Bonaparte's autopsy was performed in 1821 by his personal doctor, in the presence of seventeen witnesses, including seven British doctors and a priest. Organs removed from Napoleon included his heart, which he requested be delivered to his wife, and his stomach, which the assembled experts agreed was ridden with cancer and the cause of Napoleon's demise. Accounts of the autopsy claim the penis was small (guy couldn't catch a break), but there's no mention of its removal. In 1916, the priest's descendants sold off a collection of Naploeonic relics that included "the mummified tendon taken from Napoleon's body during the post-mortem." The memento has since changed hands a number of times; the latest story is that American urologist John Lattimer bought it at auction in 1977. Lattimer defends its authenticity today, but it's hard to disagree with Sir Arthur Keith's 1913 argument that, given the number of witnesses at the autopsy, someone probably would have noticed if his penis went missing. — JC

32. Lyndon Johnson, exhibitionist

Climbing the ladder of American society all the way to the top requires a certain amount of ego. This may explain why LBJ was so proud of his penis, which he allegedly nicknamed "Jumbo." According to Doris Kearns Goodwin, historian and author of Lyndon Johnson & the American Dream, Johnson had unorthodox Presidential customs. During meetings, he would suddenly decide it was time for a swimming break. Then he'd drag everyone down to the White House pool, strip naked and invite the rest to do the same. When Johnson needed to visit the toilet mid-conversation, he would insist whomever he was talking with continue the conversation while he shat. Goodwin was a White House Fellow during Johnson's administration, so she may have been witness to/victim of these practices herself. — JC

31. Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy bearded for each other

Hepburn was a legendary tomboy, so it's easy to understand the popularity of the rumor that she was a lesbian, that her lover Tracy was gay, and that they were bearding for each other. According to William J. Mann's biography Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn, published last month, Hepburn was asexual, Tracy was probably very gay, and Hepburn was less his lover than his caretaker, though they had a strong nonsexual connection. Of course, this could be standard Hollywood bio sleaze, but hey, Publisher's Weekly really liked the book (they called it "definitive," even!) — PS

Commentarium (52 Comments)

Dec 14 06 - 12:49pm

In the 70s, when Alice Cooper was the big thing, many people thought that he was Jerry Mathers, or as most knew him, The Beaver from the TV show "Leave It To Beaver." Also his song "DEAD BABIES" from his KILLER album started riots in many cities and the song, about child abuse, was actually about how his baby sister died. And one more: If you listen to the song "Blue Turk" on the SCHOOL'S OUT album, you can hear a groupie give Alice a BJ. It was accidentally recorded but Alice said it fit the song and left it in.

Dec 14 06 - 12:53pm

Actually, Richard Gere did address this rumor directly, IIRC. I recall it was a Baba Wawa interview, and she basically asked him if there was any truth to a specific rumor floating around about him, and he said no. Baba then asks something along the lines of "Just to be clear, we're talking about something involving a gerbil." I have a very distinct memory of this interview question; I mean, how could you not.

Dec 14 06 - 12:53pm

Fun article, nice job. re: Richard Gere Sly Stallone has made statements (even MSNBC has the articles) about that rumour and how Gere supposedly blames him for it. Googling "Sly Stallone Gerbil" brings up enough information. Thought it'd be interesting to you. Best, Matthew

Dec 14 06 - 12:53pm

2Pac is still alive?

Dec 14 06 - 12:54pm

Great list but how could you not include Paul McCartney's "death"?

Dec 14 06 - 12:54pm

Do your homework. Andy Kaufman author of "If I Faked It"

Dec 14 06 - 12:54pm

Not sure how the death of paul mcartney isnt up there somewhere. all the clues from sgt peppers ,mmt , abbey road album covers . nener mind the lyrics of burying paul in strawberry fields.

Dec 14 06 - 12:54pm

It kept me reading. Good piece.

Dec 14 06 - 12:54pm

Barbara Walters referred to "salacious rumors" in a 1991 interview with Gere, who responded that he didn't care what people thought of him, saying "if I am a cow and someone says I'm a zebra, it doesn't make me a zebra." It's as close as anyone ever got to asking point blank, and of course started the subsequent rumor about him putting a cow and zebra up his ass.

Dec 15 06 - 1:08am

On number 27 of "The 40 Best Celebrity Rumors Ever" it states: "...account needs to be taken with a grain of salt (or maybe an entire shaker)."
This was said that his credibility should not be taken seriously. I got what you were trying to say. However, The saying "take it with a grain of salt" is used because one grain of salt is worth nothing. If you add to it (an entire shaker) you are actually adding value to it. In keeping with the saying you are then giving the guy some credibility. Therefore, this is an incorrect use of the saying.

Apr 21 11 - 5:46pm

never knew that. thanks for info.

Apr 25 11 - 5:43am

You have no idea what you're talking about. The grain of salt refers to the minute amount of salt that is (supposedly) helpful in swallowing food. Thus, the harder a story is to swallow (food being the metaphor), the more salt would be required.

Aug 17 11 - 11:27pm

Exactly. I was going to say the same thing.

Dec 14 06 - 7:09pm

what happened tp Paul is dead?

Dec 18 06 - 3:10pm

Richard Gere did address that rumor in an interview I think with barbara walters. He denied it and said that it was vicious and mean (the rumor, not the gerbil)

Dec 18 06 - 5:19pm

Where's the "Paul Is Dead" craze? Has to be top 10 at least, if not top 3!

Dec 18 06 - 6:36pm

How can your list of Celebrity Rumors not have the Paul McCartney is Dead rumor of 1969?

Dec 18 06 - 10:28pm

How on earth did the "Paul is dead" rumour not make the list?!

Jan 01 07 - 9:35pm

I believe Keanu had an affair with David. There are many reasons to believe that he has known David for years. Keanu's stepfather produced an award winnning TV film with Geffen's best friend(Sandy Gallin). Keanu's mother designed clothes for Dolly Parton who was managed by and business partners with this same best friend. Bill and Ted was produced by another friend of Geffens. Do you really believe a man who loves good looking young men would have ignored Keanu?

Do you think someone who followed the LA music scene the way Keanu did would never have been invited to a Geffen party? Geffen managed Nirvana and I know Keanu had met Kurt and Courtney and supposedly tried to befriend Kurt. Keanu's friend Josh worked for Gun's and Roses...they were ownned by Geffen. There are many believe David and Keanu had never met seems absurd.

Van Sant and River had attended charity and political affairs with David Geffen but you don't think Keanu would have? Two well known and well respected gossips had reported the Geffen and Keanu rumor...they certainly meant no harm. I'm sure they just thought Keanu was out. George Christy ended up apologizing and saying it was the worse day of his life...why would you suppose he said that? Geffen is a very powerful man. Both of those gossips retired about a year after their reporting.

Mar 11 11 - 11:28am

This is dumb. "Do you really believe a man who loves good looking young men would have ignored Keanu" every good looking young man is sure to sleep with a man? You are ignorant, dumb and need a life.

Jan 05 07 - 5:10pm

What about the rumor that "Paul is dead!" Just before the release of the Beatles' White Album (or was it Abbey Road?) there was a whole deal on whether or not Paul McCartney had been killed in a car accident. They even did TV specials about it.

Jan 05 07 - 8:37pm

what about how Mr. Rogers was supposedly an ex navy seal.
And that he wore the sweaters to hide his tatoos on his arms

Jan 06 07 - 9:50am

Rumor 37 is great. But the Web site you link to has been suspended.

Jan 07 07 - 1:56pm

Celebrity rumors about many small and large penises? While Nerve stirs the punchbowl with a larger one on loan from an undertaker, why not discuss the complementary vessels ascribed to some female notables such as Catherine the Great who advertised widely for the largest penis in Russia?

Jan 15 07 - 4:31pm

You missed two:

1. The baby Aretha Franklin had when she was 17 was supposedly the result of sex with her father, a minister, after her mother died.
2. Tammy Tyrrell was killed by Berry Gordy's people or by the man's wife when she wouldn't leave a certain married singer alone.

Jan 21 07 - 3:05am

I was directed to your website via a friend and was browsing around casually when I came across your article regarding Tom, Katie and Suri Cruise. I find it very interesting that you list the following just below your comment box:

We are ardently committed to free expression, but we do expect Nerve visitors and contributors to interact respectfully and responsibly. Blatant expressions of bigotry, sexism or hatred may be constitutionally protected on the street corner, but they're not cool here.

And yet take barbed jabs at the subject of Scientology in your article. I find it amusing that whilst it is not politically correct to slam Catholicism or be a religiuos bigot you find it to be acceptible to another's religion. One of which you obviously know nothing about.

Thank you for my first and last visit to your ignorant website.

May 05 11 - 8:55pm
Faithful of Xenu!

It's crazy that there's scientologists roaming the web looking for any trace of info that they can drum up lawsuits for. You people are messed up.

Aug 17 11 - 11:30pm

I know right? They don't give a good goddamn who gets picked on till it's them. Isaac Hayes was on South Park for years, sat cheerfully through every parody of everything. Then they jabbed at Scientology, fair and equally like everyone else, and he quit. >_>

Aug 15 07 - 12:43am

I guess it's a long shot, but I would really love to see that image of Jagger and Bowie together in a bigger size! It's beautiful!


Aug 21 07 - 2:17am

don't compare Catholicism to was created and promoted by a drug addicted pederast..and the other...well. good read though.

Jan 08 08 - 3:18pm

What about David Soul the necrophiliac? Hutch sang "Don't give up on us Baby." Maybe she had already given up.......

Mar 30 08 - 4:27am

Marilyn Monroe never had an affair with JFK, it was his brother that she had an affair with. She was murdered because Bobby divulged privileged information to her and she scheduled an interview to expose everything. A few days before the interview, she was silenced with the help of her psychiatrist and housekeeper.

Sep 27 08 - 8:14am

"Paul is dead?"

Oct 12 08 - 3:10am

The Mick Jagger/David Bowie thing was first mentioned on Howard Stern, not Joan Rivers. Stern comments on his 1990 Channel 9 series how, after getting the info out of Angie, the story is picked up by the media, gets huge, and gradually it changes so that it was a Joan Rivers interview instead. The kind of thing that this article's all about, essentially.

Feb 23 11 - 10:15am

I heard the Jagger/Bowie rumor YEARS before Howard Stern came along. I believe it was in the late 70s, but may have been early 80s, when this one started floating around. I have no idea where it originated, though.

Apr 25 11 - 5:35am

It happened on the Joan Rivers show when Howard was on there. He had finished his segment but came out again when Angie was on and goaded her into revealing some juicy gossip about Bowie, and that was the item she revealed.

Sep 15 12 - 12:05pm

Absolutely on the Rivers' show. I saw that episode first run. Stern took over the interview.

Nov 13 08 - 6:18am

How can you possibly have a ?Best Celebrity Rumours Ever" and not have the Rock Hudson-Jim Nabors "marriage" on the list, let alone in the top 3? This was THE Urban Rmour in the early 70's at playgrounds and at parties..

Feb 18 09 - 6:08pm

You missed the rumor that Jim Nabors was secretly married to Rock Hudson!

Jul 11 09 - 2:38am

I worked with PricewaterhouseCoopers in 1992 and actually was in charge of the balloting process and was like the rest of the team - locked away in a room doing the ballots for several weeks.
I can assure you with 100% accuracy that Marissa Tomei won the award.
The ironic part was that she barely squeeked by to get the nomination....she just got it.. However - she did win the award fair and square -- so you can put that one to rest.

Jan 22 10 - 4:47pm

Here's a short about Catherine the Great that deals with this very issue....

Jan 24 10 - 7:35pm

the story about the private parts is a total waste of time. How low do you have to sink to get more print.

Oct 12 10 - 5:42pm

Simon Cowell gay?? Why this is hardly mentioned anymore is unbelievable to me!!
He always has beards and after they split up, they stay working for his company?? C'mon! Who keeps even one ex around when they get a new girl. Never mind 2 or 3 ex's still working closely with you!
Plus all the tabloid stories about his visits to lapdancing clubs and late night sex trysts with pics of girls leaving his front door, with his head popping out the door! Its so convoluted he's gotta be gay. And thats before you take into account his dress sense, way he talks, his hair and his male grooming.

Dec 06 10 - 11:38am
Alive and Well

Jm Morison is alive and well living with Writer/Actor Ryan Dior in the UK

Apr 10 11 - 2:40am

Well, this is very interesting indeed. Would love to read a little more of this. Good post. Thanks for the heads-up.

Apr 18 11 - 11:35pm

Several people here mention the Paul is Dead Rumor circa 1969-70. I definitely think you should include it. I was 14 at the time and I can tell you that the intensity of the rumor, the sheer buzz power, was off the charts feverish for exactly one week.

Someone here says that Robert Kennedy had Marilyn Monroe killed. This is absurd. The Kennedys had lots of enemies, as powerful reformers always do. The rumors about RFK having Marilyn off'ed may very well have been started by right-wing FBI and CIA people who HATED the Kennedys. J. Edgar Hoover comes to mind.

You're right about Hoover and dresses - he was WAY too much of a control freak to ever do that. I think he was essentially asexual. His love was bureaucratic power, the power to repress and to say "no," a different kind of power from what the Kennedys wanted.

The best short profile of Bobby that I've read recently is here:

Jun 07 11 - 12:52am
alexis Garcia

Bobby Kennedy was seen by a patrol officer in LA the night Marilyn died. Bobby's people had him in Vegas

Jun 03 11 - 4:45pm

I now Lou Christie has a big schlong, everyone in Rock and Roll knows he's blessed with a big fat italian penis. check out some of his pictures from the 60s Ask Dick Clark about it.

Jul 07 11 - 6:13pm

I lived in england years ago and knew his band. He was known for his large schlong, they called him Big Lou. Yes Lou Christie has big balls too and always wore a jock strap on stage too. Ladies were lined up to take there turn , just to see it.

Dec 31 11 - 3:27am

My ex-roomate's sister worked in the emergency room of the LA hospital when Gere came in to get the gerbil taken out in the middle of the night. Thats pretty close.

Jan 06 12 - 6:29pm
Big C

Why did the gerbal fail it's drivers liscence..........…..………It couldnt get out of gere.

Jun 24 12 - 3:13pm

Sorry but some rumors didn't get the list, and it's like crazy they didn't

like Madonna and HIV/ hepatitis C rumor, abortion etc.
2Pac faked his own death