10. Catherine the Great died while having sex with a horse

In her lifetime, Catherine II dethroned her husband and took control of Russia, guided geniuses like Voltaire and Diderot and cultivated a flourishing Russian art scene. And yet, more than 200 years after her death, barnyard trysts are what she's best known for. The myth stems from Catherine's healthy sexual appetite — she took on several lovers after her husband's death — as well as envy and fear. In the eighteenth century, questioning a woman's sexuality was a vicious and efficient way to shame her. While there weren't tabloids to sully a good name, there were jealous French nobility, whom historians believe spread the rumors about Catherine after her death in an attempt to destroy her legacy. It was basically Mean Girls with fancier gowns. — CJ

9. Marilyn Monroe + JFK

These days, if the phrase "Happy Birthday, Mr. President," sung in a sultry half-lisp, conjures Wayne's World instead of Marilyn Monroe, YouTube has the remedy: video of Monroe singing "Happy Birthday" to JFK on his forty-fifth — May 19, 1962. The performance is certainly suggestive, as is Kennedy's deadpan response ("I can now retire from politics after having had 'Happy Birthday' sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.") Can the rumor be confirmed? A tryst between the two icons certainly seems possible, but since so many people want it to be true, the actual evidence can be hard to judge. For example, Kennedy papers discovered in 1997 included an agreement by Kennedy to buy Monroe's silence on the subject of their supposed affair, but forensics experts quickly showed the documents to be fake. — PS

8. Hilton mothers give their daughters sex lessons

Kathy Hilton taught her daughter Paris not to perform fellatio because it would put "holes" in her cheeks, according to Jerry Oppenheimer, author of the exposé House of Hilton. A tradition of sex lessons amongst the Hilton women supposedly originated with Kathy's mother; a source in Oppenheimer's book claims Big Kathy wanted her daughter to know "all about sex, and how to perform sex, literally the best possible way." To that end, Grandma Hilton allegedly asked a young man to teach her Kathy how to have sex in a van in the front of their house. Although this is probably all spurious and mean-spirited invention, House of Hilton sounds like a pretty awesome book. — CB

7. Marilyn Monroe did porn

If a Marilyn Monroe porn reel existed, it's hard to imagine anyone who wouldn't want to see it. Does it? According to FBI files turned up by The Smoking Gun, Joe DiMaggio once tried to purchase a "French-type" movie of "Marilyn Monroe, deceased actress, in unnatural acts with an unknown male." And in 1980, a Swedish photographer unearthed a silent reel from 1948, featuring an awkward young actress with a striking resemblance to Monroe. After intense scrutiny by everyone from the American Film Institute to Penthouse, the film is still a mystery: no one can be certain that the actress is Marilyn. Does it matter? — GW

6. Gallon of semen, stomach pump, etc.

You might have heard Rod Stewart was rushed to an emergency room, where he had a quart of semen pumped out of his stomach. Your friend disagrees, claiming it was Lil' Kim who collapsed at a party, suffering from the same ailment. Someone else heard the same rumor, but about Elton John, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Jon Bon Jovi, Alanis Morissette or Britney Spears. The first pop-culture references usually implicated a gay-seeming male rock star (Bowie, Stewart), but today the most popular lore surrounds sexualized female performers (Britney). Urban-legend authority Snopes.com points out that most stomachs can't even hold that much liquid, that you'd have to perform blowjobs for three days straight and that semen, "in any quantity, isn't toxic." — CB

5. David Bowie's wife walked in on him and Mick Jagger having sex

Some have said that the rumor about Mick Jagger and David Bowie having an affair in the '70s was fueled by prurient homophobia. We prefer to think it became popular because it's fucking hot. Regardless, according to Snopes.com, the rumor was started by Angela Bowie on The Joan Rivers Show. Recently freed from a gag order against her ex-husband, Bowie told Rivers that "I caught him in bed with men several times. In fact, the best time I caught him in bed was with Mick Jagger." She also specified that the men were naked. David and Mick's lawyers quickly denied the story, after which the ex-Mrs. Bowie did some extreme backpedaling, saying they hadn't necessarily had sex just because they were naked in bed together. Then came this passage from her 1993 memoir Backstage Passes: ". . .when I walked into that room and found Mick and David together, I felt absolutely dead certain that they'd been screwing. It was so obvious, in fact, that I never even considered the possibility that they hadn't been screwing. . . I didn't have to look around for open jars of K-Y jelly." — GW

4. Mikey died from eating Pop Rocks and soda

Remember Mikey, the little advertising mascot kid who liked Life cereal? "Mikey likes it," and all that? Presumably, Mikey, though he liked Life cereal, was not as much a fan of exploding. Luckily, contrary to popular opinion, John "Mikey" Gilchrist did not explode after eating Pop Rocks and chugging a Coke, and the combo of Pop Rocks and soda isn't deadly — although it may cause you to lose your lunch. The rumor will probably never go away, but Mikey is alive and well, as you can read in this transcript of a 2000 CNN piece including the ex-cereal enthusiast. — JW

3. Nancy Reagan was a blowjob queen

According to Kitty Kelley's biography, the future first lady "was renowned in Hollywood for performing oral sex." Back when she was Nancy Davis, the actress reportedly went down on many an actor "not only in the evening but in offices. That was one of the reasons that she was very popular on the MGM lot." You have to shift your conception of '80s conservatives around a little to buy this, but it's worth the effort. — Ada Calhoun

2. Suri Cruise is a scam

Does Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' larvum actually exist? Cruise is so strange, and Scientology so shadowy, that it's easy to imagine the whole thing is some kind of conspiracy. Not helping matters: Holmes's press-friendly, four-year pregnancy; the media-whorish couple's failure to exhibit their offspring in public for months after her birth; and the rumor that Tom Cruise auditioned a stable of actresses for the part of his wife (among them Jessica Alba, Keri Russell and Scarlett Johansson). Then Vanity Fair got the photos, the result of days of shooting around the Cruise estate, and the smiling, glassy-eyed features editor was on Larry King declaring that Cruise and Holmes are the best parents in the world and that Scientology "didn't come up" during the shoot. So for the first time in history, documentation only made the existence of the subject seem less true. — AC

1. Richard Gere and the gerbil

Throughout the '80s, accusations of gerbiling (i.e. "coaxing a live gerbil into your rectum for the purposes of sexual pleasure") haunted several D-listers, including a news anchor in Philly and a Cleveland Browns linebacker, before permanently latching onto Gere, who was allegedly rushed to the hospital for emergency rodent removal. Hearsay ballooned into the most famous celebrity rumor in history when someone faxed dozens of Hollywood offices a fake ASPCA press release claiming that Gere had "abused" a gerbil. Since then, the legend has been passed around locker rooms and the writers' offices of animated series (South Park, Family Guy). Perhaps none of Gere's interviewers have had the guts to go there, or maybe there's some kind of publicist-issued fatwa, but Gere has never publicly addressed the rumor. Would you? — CJ

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
MK

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
noraz1234

never knew that. thanks for info.

Apr 25 11 - 5:43am
BigBambu

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
RazorKitten

Exactly. I was going to say the same thing.

Dec 14 06 - 7:09pm
kp

what happened tp Paul is dead?

Dec 18 06 - 3:10pm
KD

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
SDA

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

Dec 18 06 - 6:36pm
MR

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

Dec 18 06 - 10:28pm
RM

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

Jan 01 07 - 9:35pm
ab

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 connections...to 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
AJ

This is dumb. "Do you really believe a man who loves good looking young men would have ignored Keanu"...so 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
RK

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
ard

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
emj

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

Jan 07 07 - 1:56pm
DWG

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
sjk

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
AH

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
RazorKitten

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
AEM

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!

DeliriumTrigger@elp.rr.com

<3

Aug 21 07 - 2:17am
AD

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

Jan 08 08 - 3:18pm
CD

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
qq

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
gvd

"Paul is dead?"

Oct 12 08 - 3:10am
BY

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
CLF

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
BigBambu

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
J-Ho

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

Nov 13 08 - 6:18am
rev

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
WD

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
AR

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtUb7iZ2wNw

Jan 24 10 - 7:35pm
wjr

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
questionable

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
Honduras

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
Jake

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:

http://historyaccess.com/robertf.kennedya.html

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
Barry

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
Tim

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
Eric

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
Tommy

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