fame in 1998

It’s Time to Revisit the Celebrity Scandals of 1998

Photo: Images by Getty

Fifteen years ago, Lindsay Lohan was playing twins, Kim Kardashian was still a high-school senior, and Chris Brown hadn’t yet gone from being unfamous to infamous. So which celebrities were keeping the tabloids in business in 1998? Continuing our obsessive crawl through fame in that pivotal year, Vulture flipped through the headlines of gossip rags to find out. While some of the scandals you’ll see as you click through the slideshow will elicit an insensitive chuckle (e.g., Courtney Love kicks a reporter in the groin), others should strike you as being singularly historic (Bill and Monica) or incredibly sad (the murder of Phil Hartman). America, here were your famous people in crisis mode during the year that also gave us Leo mania, Dawson’s Creek, and “… Baby One More Time.”

We can’t talk 1998 scandals without starting with America’s biggest scandal of the year (decade?). If there was a silver lining to the U.S. president’s affair with a White House intern, it was likely the sketch on SNL in which Molly Shannon and guest star John Goodman played Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp, respectively, and Darrell Hammond parodying the politician who “did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Otherwise, it was a pretty dark time for Americans. And blue dresses.
The actor, then 32, was serving a 180-day sentence for violating his probation when he got into a scuffle with another inmate and suffered a facial laceration. (Nooooooo, not the face!) He was given permission to visit an off-site plastic surgeon, proving that while he was still far from becoming Vulture’s Most Valuable Star, he was certainly L.A.’s Most Valuable Inmate. Photo: Mirek Towski/Time Life Pictures
If you’re going to masturbate and show your butt to someone in a park bathroom, you’d better be damn sure he’s not an undercover cop. Shortly after not following that rule — and getting arrested for it — George Michael came out as gay in an interview with CNN. When asked by Jim Moret why he decided to disclose this aspect of his private life, Michael said, “I feel because I’ve already kind of done that — haven’t I? I’ve done that in a way I didn’t really intend to.”  Photo: John Chapple
The best-selling R&B singer and multiple Grammy winner blamed her record label for her financial woes, claiming she was undercompensated for her work; others pointed to Braxton’s extravagant lifestyle. On an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show that year, Oprah — in what might be the biggest humble-brag of all time — held Braxton accountable for her overspending, saying, “I hear you have Gucci flatware; I’m Oprah Winfrey, and I don’t have Gucci flatware.” Photo: KMazur
The tragedy came just days after RFK’s son, Michael Kennedy, also died in a ski accident. Cher, who was married to Bono from 1964 to 1975, delivered this heartfelt eulogy. “Some people were under the misconception that Son was a short man,” she said. “But he was heads and tails taller than anyone else. He could see above the tallest people. He had a vision of the future and just how he was going to build it.” Photo: MIKE NELSON
He also assaulted a police officer. And, yes, he was under the influence of a controlled substance. In a 2011 interview with Details, Slater made the whole experience sound rather leisurely, saying that his time in jail was “honestly, not so bad. Jail was a result of me not taking time for myself. So I was forced to take some time for myself.” And here he is, paying his debt to society by washing cop cars. Photo: John Fagerness
Renfro, who was 15 at the time and best-known for his role in Joel Schumacher’s The Client, would die of a heroin overdose ten years later. Photo: Ron Galella
In what the Daily News labeled a “nude drug fueled-rampage,” the second-eldest Baldwin was found running naked and screaming through the halls of New York City’s Plaza Hotel. The cause? A crack-cocaine binge. He was rushed to hospital, and eventually slapped with misdemeanor drug charges.  Photo: Robin Platzer/Twin Images
The now-deceased diminutive Diff’rent Strokes star was charged with assault after reportedly punching a woman multiple times in the face while shopping for a bullet-proof vest he needed for his part-time job as a mall security guard. The woman had allegedly mocked Coleman’s dwindling career prospects after he refused to give her an autograph. (Earlier in the year, he’d donned a blonde wig for a promotional stunt at a Victoria’s Secret show.) Photo: Ron Galella
The hard-drinking French actor, who’s been known to enjoy five or six bottles of wine a day, crashed his motorcycle while his blood alcohol level was five times the legal limit. So, to recap: He was extremely intoxicated, he got into a motorcycle accident, and he lived. It’s kind of a miracle. Photo: Tony Barson Archive
In one of the least inconspicuous drug transactions of all time, the ex–Stone Temple Pilots front man was reportedly dressed like a pimp when the trade went down.  Photo: David Klein
Before there was Chris Brown, there was Tommy Lee. The tattooed Mötley Crüe drummer was sentenced to six months in jail for the assault and his Baywatch bride (and sex-tape partner) quickly filed for divorce. Photo: Frederick M. Brown
According to Texas cattle farmers, the talk-show host sent beef prices tumbling by making defamatory statements about the U.S. beef industry in a 1996 episode. Winfrey, who was ultimately cleared of all charges, told reporters, “Free speech not only lives, it rocks.” She also said that she was “still off hamburgers.” Zing. Photo: Trevor Gillespie
On May 28, Brynn Hartman shot her husband dead in their California home while he was sleeping. After driving to a friend’s house and confessing to the crime, Brynn returned home and shot herself. The tragedy came as a huge shock to the many who knew and loved Hartman. (Steve Guttenberg told CNN they were “a very happy couple, and they always had the appearance of being well-balanced.”) His NewsRadio character was written out as having died of a heart attack and his Simpsons characters were retired. A special episode of SNL commemorating Hartman’s work on the show aired in June. 
Naomi Campbell’s aide Georgina Galanis filed a $2 million lawsuit claiming Campbell grabbed her by the throat and hit her over the head with a cell phone. (Remember how big cell phones were back in 1998? Ouch!) The notoriously ferocious supermodel would later plead guilty and pay Galanis an undisclosed sum in damages. She’d also go on to allegedly assault many other people. Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd.
His father, Martin Sheen, was as hopeful then as he was more than a decade later, when Charlie became a Warlock. “This is not an easy moment in our lives, but it’s a necessary one,” the elder Sheen told reporters at the time. “Our hope is that he will accept recovery and be fine.” Let’s file this one under: History Repeats Itself. (Cross-file: Wishful Thinking.) Photo: John Chapple
In what would by now considered a relatively small incident in Courtney Love’s lifetime of insane antics, an LA Weekly reporter sued the Hole musician and Kurt Cobain widow for assault and battery. Belissa Cohen alleges that Love kneed her in the groin, pulled her hair, and hit her after Cohen tried to photograph her at a fashion show in Los Angeles. Afterwards, Love allegedly boasted, “I just hit Belissa Cohen and it felt so good.”  Photo: Jim Smeal/2003 All Rights Reserved
Soon after her breakup from Johnny Depp, Kate Moss checked herself into a rehab facility complaining of exhaustion. While rumors of drug taking were rampant, Moss claimed that she had simply “partied too much.” And this was before Pete Doherty came along. Photo: Dave Benett/1998 Getty Images
In Germany! He allegedly assaulted a boutique owner when she wouldn’t let the ”Gangsta’s Paradise” rapper leave the store without paying for his merchandise. He pled his cases in the court of public opinion — “I’m innocent. I’ve done nothing. I’m a nice guy. People treat me nice ‘cos I treat them nice. It’s a big misunderstanding” — but was convicted anyway and sentenced to six months probation and a $17,000 fine. Four other members of Coolio’s band, 40 Thevz, were also charged in the incident. The other 36 Thevz were presumably doing touristy things. Photo: Tim Mosenfelder
Revisiting Celebrity Scandals of 1998