Thursday, July 10, 2008

Top 5 Celebrity Meltdowns

Courtney Love's recent trouble-filled visit to New York taught us one thing: watching a star self-destruct isn't all that much fun. Sure, we checked out those boob snaps, but we felt really guilty about it. What will happen to little Frances Bean, we wondered? And will her mom's problems add years to her presumed therapy?

Why are we fascinated with Love's out-of-control antics? Because when a celebrity flames out, it's usually not in front of camera-wielding witnesses. Handlers pocket big bucks to ensure that hospitalization is the result of "exhaustion" or "dehydration" and that pesky brushes with the law are "misunderstandings." On rare occasions when a star falls apart before a mass audience, we just can't tear our eyes away, despite our better judgment.

In the wake of Love's Big Apple breakdown, we decided to take a look at some other celebs who have spiraled downward in the public eye. Keep in mind that examples of the tragic (Kurt Cobain, River Phoenix), the tragically ludicrous (former child stars in handcuffs), and just plain ridiculous (O.J. in his pokey Bronco) have been nixed.

So, prepare to go off the deep end as we count down the 10 worst celebrity meltdowns...

5. Mariah Carey, 34

Meltdown Moment: It was a cruel summer for Mariah Carey in July 2001. The octave-jumping, cleavage-abusing diva, busily promoting her soon-to-be-released, semi-autobiographical flick "Glitter" (and we all know how that turned out), seemed out of sorts. On MTV's TRL, she handed out popsicles before beginning a bizarre striptease. "I just want one day off when I can go swimming and eat ice cream and look at rainbows," Mariah told a befuddled Carson Daly. Days later, the pop star left a pair of rambling audio messages on her Web site. Hospitalization, officially blamed on "extreme exhaustion," soon followed.

Dysfunctional Dialogue: "I just want you to know that I'm trying to understand things in life right now," Carey said on her Web site. "I just can't trust anybody anymore right now because I don't understand what's going on ... I'm desperately trying to get out of this room ... I allowed myself to be a little too paranoid about life ... I'm gonna take like a minute off... Nothing's wrong ..."

The Aftermath: The butterfly-loving chart-topper has yet to soar to her previous record-breaking heights. Post-breakdown, her record label, EMI, dumped her, though it kindly ponied up $28 million to buy out her contract. Her ultra-personal album "Charmbracelet" earned mixed reviews but solid sales, and she earned strong notices for her downscaled 2003 concert tour. She currently has a new album in the works and will once again brave the big screen as she plays against type as a diva in the upcoming flick "State Property II."

4. Margot Kidder, 55

Margot Kidder wallpaper

Meltdown Moment: In April 1996, the whisky-voiced actress, who hit it big as Superman's sweetie Lois Lane, suffered a manic-depressive episode while in L.A. and spent several days living on the streets, sharing a cardboard box with a homeless guy named Charlie. By the time police found her hiding in a stranger's back yard, she was dirty, dazed, missing her front dental bridge, and had hacked off her hair to escape detection from CIA agents and one of her ex-husbands (she was experiencing a wee bit of paranoia).

Dysfunctional Dialogue: "Mental illness is the last taboo," the actress told Barbara Walters shortly after her episode, admitting she had suffered from depression for decades. "It's the one that scares everyone to death, and I have to include myself in that until the last few months."

The Aftermath: According to Kidder, she's been able to keep her illness in check without drugs, instead relying on a combination of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. "For me, the solution was finally getting away from psychiatric drugs and actually healing my body so I wouldn't have the symptoms that are called mental illness," she told the AP. Despite breaking her pelvis in a 2002 car accident, she continues to act and will next be seen with Andie MacDowell in the supernatural thriller "The Last Signs."

3. Martin Lawrence, 39

Martin Lawrence wallpaper

Meltdown Moment: Tough call, given Lawrence's past troubles. Better known incidents include a sexual harassment suit filed by his "Martin" co-star Tisha Campbell, an attempt to board a plane with a Beretta, and a life-threatening coma caused by wearing heavy layers while jogging in 100-degree heat. But Martin's nadir probably came in 1996, when he was hospitalized after police found him at a busy L.A. intersection in a pot-induced stupor screaming at passing cars with a loaded gun in his pocket.

Dysfunctional Dialogue: "I'm still in this game and I'm still very much going strong," the funnyman told the L.A. Times last year. "For all my trials and tribulations, I am a man with a good heart. I am not out to hurt nobody. I just want to make you laugh."

The Aftermath: Despite a reputation for being difficult, Lawrence has continued to crank out hit films, most recently scoring with "Bad Boys II" opposite Will Smith. Next up is "Rage Control," in which he'll play a college basketball coach who's forced to head up a losing junior varsity team after suffering -- wink, wink -- a public meltdown. But he's not quite in the clear. In February, he was sued by a woman who alleges he popped her in the jaw. Lawrence's rep calls the suit "financially motivated."

2. Charlie Sheen, 38

Charlie Sheen Wallpapers

Meltdown Moment: A star by the time he was 21, Sheen put the "demons" in hedonism, spending thousands on Heidi Fleiss' call girls and, at his lowest point, downing two quarts of vodka a day and smoking copious amounts of cocaine. On May 20, 1998, after a week of nonstop partying, Sheen was rushed to the hospital suffering from a drug overdose, a fact his father, Martin Sheen, candidly announced to the press. Charlie quickly checked into a treatment center, only to leave by limo a few hours later. His worried dad got an arrest warrant, arguing that the "Platoon" star had broken his probation in an earlier no-contest plea for attacking his ex-girlfriend. Faced with jail time, the actor chose to work on his self-described "destructive appetites" in rehab.

Dysfunctional Dialogue: "I was a little annoyed at the time," Sheen said of his father's tough-love approach, "but he saved my life, and I love him for that."

The Aftermath: Sober since getting out of treatment, Sheen has become the quintessential comeback kid. He's found new success on the small screen, first as Michael J. Fox's replacement on "Spin City," a role that earned him a Golden Globe, and currently on the CBS hit "Two and a Half Men." He wed actress Denise Richards in June 2003, and the couple welcomed a daughter, Sam, in March.

1. Michael Jackson, 45

Michael Jackson new gallery

Meltdown Moment: So many crashes, so little space. Among the lowlights that have almost completely obliterated Jackson's once-deserved reputation as the King of Pop: the reported $20 million settlement of a child-molestation lawsuit in 1994 (Jackson maintains his innocence); the disfiguring plastic surgery; the marriages to Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe; the masked children; the money problems; the kooky disguises; the baby dangling; the disastrous documentary with Martin Bashir, during which he admitted he slept in bed with "many children"; and the current molestation charges that could land him behind bars.

Dysfunctional Declaration: "Lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons," Jackson said after being booked in November. "The truth will win this marathon in court."

The Aftermath: With Jackson's image so tarnished by scandal, it will take a PR miracle for his star to be reborn. In March, amid legal wrangling over the current accusations, the Neverland-dwelling performer made an appearance in Washington, D.C., where he was filmed holding and hugging children. Is there a chance Michael will awaken from the Peter Pan fantasyland he's living in and face the reality of his world, which is crumbling faster than his nose? Maybe, but it might be too late to salvage his fame and resurrect the moonwalking, sequined-glove-wearing musical genius of old.

Posted by Kat Giantis, for MSN Entertainment