March 07, 2011
I am freaking right out.
The news is coming at me from so many directions, I can hardly absorb any of it. It’s like drinking water from a fire hose. As soon as one story runs, three more update, clarify, and supplement it.
And no, the subject is very likely not who you think it is.
It’s Christina Aguilera.
You see, she had too much to drink.
In the wee hours of March 1, 2011, a car in which she was a passenger was pulled over by the police and the driver, her male companion, was taken into custody under suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Police assessed Aguilera to be “extremely intoxicated,” and took her into protective custody, where she was “cooperative… and not belligerent in any way whatsoever.” The finger-waving pop goddess was then booked for public intoxication. A few hours later she sobered up, was released, and although California sure could use the money, she will not be prosecuted.
Admittedly, 2011 has been a work out for Christina. First, she flubbed a line while singing the national anthem at this year’s Super Bowl, breathing life into late night monologues all over the planet. I’m not sure I could even breathe in front of 111 million people without screwing it up, let alone sing a song that for vocalists is the equivalent of breaking the 4 minute mile. But she swung, she missed, and she apologized.
Now it appears that her judgment is a bit suspect after she hopped into the passenger seat of a car driven by her liquored-up boyfriend.
Still, the essence of this “scandal” is that a platinum-selling artist got drunk and went home.
And yet, over two thousand stories popped up on the Internet like a flash mob herpes attack. “Will Her Career Survive?” “Boozing Worries at an All-Time High!” “Pink Jokes About Christina on Twitter!”
This is a gag, right?
I have no problem with Christina Aguilera- her music’s not my cup of tea but she’s got killer pipes and I’m the last guy in the world to begrudge someone a drink. Party on, Christina.
It’s the media coverage that galls me. Why is there any interest in this at all? A pop star got shitfaced. Isn’t that what millionaire musicians are supposed to do? Even if she drove her Rolls Royce into a hotel swimming pool while smoking a crack pipe and hurling racial slurs at cops, this level of media scrutiny would be too much.
Where’s the handgun? Where’s the syringe? Where’s the dead hooker? Getting tipsy shouldn’t even chart on American music’s “Bad Behavior Top 100.”
If this “crime” has so thoroughly captivated the entertainment world, then we have arrived at an appallingly saccharine era in the recording industry. Either nothing is happening in music or the media has an awfully short memory.
Of course, it’s the latter. To that point and to add some context to the discussion, here are five of music’s most notorious criminals and their dirtiest deeds, (done dirt cheap).
5. Peter Grant- Manager, Led Zeppelin
The manager of Led Zeppelin was an ex-bouncer and former wrestler named Peter Grant, who weighed in at over 300 pounds and who accepted zero shit from anyone. He also managed Zeppelin precursor The Yardbirds, Bad Company, and an assortment of other acts. But it was his bone-crushingly violent stewardship of Led Zeppelin that earned him his fearsome reputation.
Grant’s heavy-handed tactics first served him in the early Sixties when he would act as tour manager for American acts touring the UK. When one promoter made the ill-advised choice to try to rip off Little Richard, Grant stepped in and savagely beat the promoter backstage until police arrived, at which point Grant reportedly turned and whipped the six cops who had come to restrain him.
Grant reserved a particularly intense loathing for bootleggers- people who would secretly record Zeppelin shows then sell the shows underground. He would prowl through concert crowds and violently assault anyone he found bootlegging the show, then demolish their often-sizable equipment with his bare hands.
One time, Grant visited a record shop “undercover” and asked the owners if they had any Zeppelin bootlegs for sale. When one of the men produced a number of such albums for purchase, Grant exploded with rage, hammering the vendor until he broke the man’s arm, then taking the records and leaving.
Peter Grant’s hallmark incident occurred backstage at the Oakland Coliseum in 1977, when a security guard made the mistake of slapping 11-year old Warren Grant, Peter’s son, after catching Warren removing a wooden plaque from the Zeppelin’s dressing room. Grant dragged the guard into an office and viciously beat him up while the tour manager stood guard outside. Charges were pressed, Grant pleaded no contest and settled out of court.
Grant eventually became a diabetic cocaine addict who died of a heart attack in 1995 at the age of 60. Few people believe Led Zeppelin could have achieved the success they did without Peter Grant.
4. Jesus Christ Kevin Michael “G.G.” Allin- Notorious punk rock and spoken word icon
Born Jesus Christ Allin (for real), the only Christ-like thing that G.G. (short for “Jesus,” which his baby brother had a hard time pronouncing), ever did was die young. His mother eventually changed his name to Kevin, but “G.G.” stuck for life.
As a musician, his lyrics hew to the usual anti-authoritarian and nihilistic themes and he recorded acres of original material. But it was G.G.’s onstage persona that earned him his odious reputation. He spent much of his live shows nude, often cutting and maiming himself in horrific, blood-spilling demonstrations. An alcoholic and heroin addict, he rarely bathed and would frequently take laxatives before his shows so he could defecate onstage. Let your mind wander about what happened after that.
G.G.’s shows were so intensely violent that they were routinely stopped before or shortly after they started. He was arrested scores of times for assault, drug charges, and indecent exposure, spending prodigious amounts of time in jail, hospitals, and institutions. He spent a two year stretch in prison after pleading to lesser charges stemming from the torture of a groupie, which he claimed had been consensual.
Light years from the picture of mental or emotional wellness, G.G. famously vowed to kill himself onstage on Halloween night but because he spent most Halloweens in jail, he was unable to fulfill this terminal promise.
He died of a heroin overdose in 1993. Thinking he was sleeping, people took pictures of themselves with him, unaware that he was going through cardiac arrest and into the great wild beyond.
3. Jerry Lee Lewis- Rock legend and composer/performer of “Great Balls of Fire”
Easily one of the most ornery men in the history of rock and roll, Jerry Lee Lewis made the kind of international headlines that are usually reserved for war, assassinations, and discovery of alien life.
Lewis began a heavy drinking career at age 15, but that is where his similarities to Aguilera end. He capped off the dissolution of his first marriage by getting married again. To a thirteen year old girl. Now, this alone would raise more eyebrows than Flavor Flav in the Vienna Boys Choir, but the scandal really took shape when it was revealed that the thirteen year old girl that he married was also his cousin.
The hard-drinking incestuous pedophile eventually broke things off with his cousin, later re-marrying. Of course, he re-married while still married to his child bride, thus adding “bigamist” to his roster of epithets.
He is reported to have blown half a million dollars on Demerol during a painkiller addiction (at one point overdosing), and attracted the heavy hand of the IRS, who socked him for nearly $4 million in back taxes. He was also sued for failure to pay child support.
Known as “The Killer,” Lewis went through six marriages- four times divorced and twice-widowed (both wives’ deaths under suspicious circumstances in some camps). He also shot his bass player (who survived) and was apprehended at Graceland where he was found waving a gun and claiming that he was there to kill Elvis Presley, of whom he was intensely jealous. In fact, of Presley’s death, Lewis remarked, “I was glad. Just another one out of the way. I mean, Elvis this, Elvis that. All we hear is Elvis. What the shit did Elvis do except take dope that I couldn’t get ahold of?”
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee has gone on to receive a galaxy of awards, inductions and honors. He still plays and records music to this day.
2. Varg Vikernes- Founder of Burzum; “The Most Notorious Metal Musician of All Time”
You cannot get any farther away from Christina Aguilera’s music than black metal.
With its most propulsive and sinister movement originating in Oslo, Norway, black metal is a violent sub-genre of heavy metal that is marked by shrieking vocals, distorted guitars and Satanic, anti-social themes. The genre is nefarious for the crimes committed by members of its seminal bands, and no figure in the history of black metal stands taller than Varg Vikernes.
Varg started his musical career as a solo project called Burzum and eventually joined the band Mayhem in 1992. Mayhem was one of the founders of black metal and its guitarist, Euronymous, is widely regarded as the movement’s founder. Varg recorded a few bass tracks for their new album before paying a visit to Euronymous one night, brutally stabbing him to death.
While Vikernes still insists that he killed the guitarist in self-defense, Norwegian prosecutors argued that the 23 stab wounds to the victim (two to the head, five to the neck, and sixteen in the back) suggested something a bit more along the lines of murder.
In addition to the murder charge, Vikernes was linked to and convicted of the burning of four historic churches in Norway, earning him a 21-year sentence- the maximum allowed by law.
While in prison, Vikernes (pictured here immediately upon his guilty verdict being read), began identifying himself as a Neo-Nazi and became involved with the Heathen Front, espousing elements of Odinism, National Socialism, and Paganism.
In 2003, he failed to return to his low-security prison after being granted a short leave. He was later captured in a stolen car that contained firearms, some large knives, a gas mask, camouflage clothing, a laptop, a GPS, various maps and a fake passport. This earned him an additional 13 months on his sentence.
Vikernes was released in 2009 after serving almost sixteen years of his sentence. He was placed on probation and has returned to making music.
1. Marion “Suge” Knight, Jr.- Founder and CEO of hip hop mecca Death Row Records
Suge (short for “Sugar Bear”) Knight is as bad as they get. Founder of the most important label in hip hop, Suge built an empire on equal parts business savvy and pure, unfiltered menace. Standing at an imposing 6’4″ and weighing over 300 pounds, Suge enjoyed a successful college football career before turning to a career in music.
Starting out as a bodyguard for artists like Bobby Brown, the Compton native and Bloods gang associate began his run in 1987, when he was arrested for auto theft, carrying a concealed weapon, and attempted murder. He received probation after pleading no contest.
He founded Death Row after liberating Dr. Dre and other artists from their obligations to Ruthless Records, a competing label run by N.W.A.’s Eazy-E. Suge reportedly conducted the re-negotiation with led pipes, baseball bats, and some very persuasive associates. These business tactics served Knight well in the following years, earning the respect of hip hop nation and the attention of American law enforcement.
Death Row went on to sell millions of albums from some of hip hop’s most legendary artists, including Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac Shakur, who was gunned down in a 1996 Las Vegas drive-by. Many, including Snoop Dogg, have accused Knight of orchestrating the hit, although he has never been charged. Likewise, Knight has been implicated in, but never charged in the murder of Tupac’s east coast rival, The Notorious B.I.G. a year later.
Suge has since weathered more misfortune than Job (although he most certainly looks way more bad-assed than his Old Testament counterpart).
In 1996, he went to prison for a probation violation for which he served five years.
In 2003, he was sent to prison for another violation after thumping a parking lot attendant who probably thought twice about filing a civil suit.
In 2006 he filed bankruptcy, eventually selling Death Row later that year to Global Music Group in 2008.
In 2008 Knight was arrested on drug and assault charges that August, when police found him waving a knife and beating his girlfriend outside of a Las Vegas strip club. He was released on bail and his girlfriend, scheduled to testify against him in on the assault charge, went missing soon thereafter. She has never been found. Charges were dropped a couple weeks before Christmas due to the prosecution’s “witness problems,” according to Knight’s attorney.
And so, to music and entertainment media all over the world, I ask you, please leave Christina alone. If you are looking for dastardly deeds, colorful villains, and tales too unbelievable to be true, I suggest you spend less time hiding in the bushes of the Chateau Marmont and more time scouring the darker alleys. I can guarantee that somewhere backstage, on a hotel balcony, or in the deep recesses of the Scandinavian forests, there is something far more interesting underfoot.