(By Judy Keen,
Today, 2008) USA
Moments of unscripted behavior- good and bad, but mostly bad- capture our attention and become bookmarks of our times. Here are 25 memorable public meltdowns that had us talking and laughing or cringing over the past quarter-century.
1) Pulpit blues: Red-faced and weeping, Jimmy Swaggart, the
USA’s leading televangelist, begged for forgiveness as a congregation of 7,000 in and millions of TV viewers watched on Feb. 21, 1988. A private detective had photographed him with a prostitute. Baton Rouge
2) Bite fight: Boxer Mike Tyson, angered by what he thought were illegal head butts during a
match with Evander Holyfield on June 28, 1997, bit off pieces of his opponent’s ears twice during the third round. Las Vegas
3) Hurricane Dan: CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather stormed off the set when a tennis match threatened to cut into his broadcast on Sept. 11, 1987. The network ended up airing six minutes of dead air.
4) Hot Knight:
’s volatile basketball coach, Bobby Knight, tossed a chair across the court to protest a referee’s call during a Feb. 23, 1985, game against Purdue. He was ejected. Purdue won, 72-63. Indiana University
5) Slow-speed pursuit: Former football great O.J. Simpson and friend Al Cowlings, in a white Ford Bronco, were pursued by Los Angeles police in a one-hour, low-speed chase on the 405 freeway on June 17, 1994, as news helicopters hovered above and people waved signs from overpasses. Simpson was a suspect in the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. He ended up at home, where he surrendered. He was later acquitted.
6) Jumping Jack Tom: Actor Tom Cruise expressed his love for future wife Katie Holmes by jumping up and down on Oprah Winfrey’s couch on May 23, 2005. A month later on the Today show June 2005, he lectured host Matt Lauer about anti-depressants: “Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt. You’re so glib.”
7) Campaign calamity: After a disappointing third-place finish in
Iowa’s caucuses on Jan. 19, 2004, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean told supporters he would continue his campaign in other states, “and then we’re going to , to take back the White House! Yaaah!!!” Yaaaaahhhh!” Dean later told David Letterman it was a “crazy, red-faced rant.” Washington, D.C.
8) NBA brawl: NBA players charged into the stands to fight with fans, and cups, ice, popcorn, bottles and a chair were thrown during an Indiana Pacers-Detroit Pistons basketball brawl on Nov. 19, 2004, in
The game was stopped with 45.9 seconds remaining; the Pacers won, 97-82. “Ugliest thing I’ve seen,” Pistons coach Larry Brown said. Nine players were suspended. Auburn Hills, Mich.
9) MJ in PJ’s: Pop star Michael Jackson arrived at his child molestation trial wearing blue pajama bottoms and slippers on March 10, 2005, claiming he’d come from a hospital visit for a back injury. A
jury later acquitted him of charges that could have sent him to prison for almost 20 years. California
10) Defining moment: President Clinton parsed a single word in an Aug. 17, 1998, grand jury testimony. Asked whether he was having sexual relations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Clinton said, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” The videotaped testimony was made public, and in December the House of Representatives approved four articles of impeachment; the Senate acquitted him.
11) Rice on the side: Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart dared reporters in The New York Times on May 3, 1987, “If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead.” he said in The New York Times on May 3, 1987. The Miami Herald did, uncovered his romance with Donna Rice — including a tryst on a boat called Monkey Business — and sank his presidential hopes.
12) Crack down: Washington Mayor Marion Barry was busted in a drug sting at the Vista Hotel on Jan. 18, 1990. Surveillance video showed him smoking crack cocaine and ranting, “Bitch set me up.” Barry is now on the City Council.
13) What is enfant terrible?: Tennis “bad boy” John McEnroe had many tantrums on the court. One came at a tournament in
in November 1984, when he questioned a call by the umpire, then shouted, “Answer my question, jerk!” He slammed his racquet into a beverage cart and was fined $2,100. Sweden
14) Bushu-suru: President George H.W. Bush vomited on the lap of
Japan’s prime minister Kiichi Miyazawa during a state dinner Jan. 8, 1992, in and then fainted. The Japanese coined a phrase, bushu-suru, meaning “embarrassing public vomiting” or, literally, “to do a Bush.” Tokyo
15) Lost actors: Disoriented actors found wandering around
through the years: Margot Kidder, Robert Downey Jr. and Martin Lawrence in 1996, Anne Heche in 2000. California
16) Phone static: Dick Morris, one of President Clinton’s top campaign advisers, resigned on Aug. 29, 1996 — the day
accepted the nomination at the Democratic National Convention — after tabloid reports that he had an affair with a prostitute and allowed her to listen in on phone calls with the president. Clinton
17) 'Extreme exhaustion': Singer Mariah Carey, on MTV’s Total Request Live on July 19, 2001, handed out popsicles and then started disrobing. “I just want one day off when I can go swimming and eat ice cream and look at rainbows,” she told host Carson Daly. Hospitalization for “extreme exhaustion” soon followed.
18) Shots fired: Vice President Dick Cheney, angered by Democrats’ focus on Halliburton, the company he once headed, threw a profanity meaning “buzz off” at Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on the Senate floor on June 22, 2004. The VP, nicknamed “Vice” by President Bush, also accidentally sprayed a 78-year-old hunting companion with birdshot while hunting quail on a
ranch on Feb. 11, 2006. Texas
19) Passion of the racist tirades: Actor Mel Gibson aimed a racist tirade at a sheriff’s deputy after being told he was about to be detained for drunken driving in July 2006. Four months later (Nov 06), actor/comic Michael Richards did the same thing at a
comedy club; he was caught on tape. And shock jock Don Imus lost his radio job last month (Apr 2007) after making racist and sexist remarks about a women’s basketball team. Los Angeles
20) Sighhhhhhh: Vice President Gore sighed deeply and loudly at a presidential debate with Texas Gov. George W. Bush on Oct. 3, 2000. His performance was promptly parodied on Saturday Night Live.
21) It’s all about the hair: Actor Nick Nolte’s hair-askew mug shot, seen on TV everywhere, was snapped after he was arrested by the California Highway Patrol on Sept. 11, 2002, & charged with driving under the influence.
22) Timeout: Football great Joe Namath was noticeably tipsy when he did a live interview with ESPN sideline reporter Suzy Kolber on Dec. 20, 2003. He leaned toward her and announced, “I want to kiss you.” Namath later apologized, admitted he was drunk and entered treatment for alcoholism.
23) Britney’s un-do-ing: Pop princess Britney Spears shaved her head after a
hairstylist refused to do the deed on Feb. 16, 2007. Spears soon entered rehab. California
24) ‘I did a bad thing’: Actor Hugh Grant, after being arrested when cops spotted him in a compromising encounter with prostitute Divine Brown in 1995, was asked by Jay Leno, “What the hell were you thinking?” Grant’s reply: “I did a bad thing, and there you have it.”
25) Tanked: Sen. Robert Packwood, R-Ore., resigned on Oct. 1, 1995, after he was accused of making unwanted sexual advances to more than 20 women over decades. “In some cases, I was, very frankly, so drunk that I can’t remember the evening,” he told CBS.