Published March 05, 2014
From Bettie Page to Elvis Presley: 10 stars from the '50s who went wild
'50s stars gone wild
In the 1950s, American households busied themselves by keeping up with the Space Race, learning how to use their newfangled TV sets and, of course, getting down to rock and roll music. The '50s brought us a new generation of iconic celebs and they brought along a whole slew of scandals. Here are the celebs of the '50s who went a wee bit wild:
Bettie Page was the ultimate pin-up girl in the ‘50s, posing in a series of racy pictures and gracing the pages of Playboy as one of their Playmates of the Month in 1955. Then in 1958, during the height of her fame, Page disappeared from the spotlight and vanished without a trace. It was later reported that she moved to Florida and tried to become a missionary before eventually settling in California where she reportedly had a nervous breakdown in ’79. In 2008, she suffered a heart attack and pneumonia and was comatose. Her family eventually elected to take her off of life support.
Jerry Lee Lewis
Rock and roll star Jerry Lee Lewis won over music fans with his songs like “Great Balls of Fire,” and in the ‘50s his records were flying off the shelves. But in 1957, the 22-year-old rocker married his 13-year-old first cousin once removed Myra Gale Brown, and the music industry quickly distanced itself from the star. His career never fully recovered.
Method actor Montgomery Clift was at the height of his career in the ‘50s with big films like “A Place in the Sun” and “From Here to Eternity.” But in 1956, Clift got into a bad car accident as he was leaving co-star Elizabeth Taylor’s home, and he permanently altered his physical appearance and endured complicated medical issues from that point on. The actor reportedly got hooked on drugs after his medical procedures and died in 1966 of a heart attack.
Ike Turner first hit the music scene in the ‘50s and later soared to fame as half of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. But behind the scenes, Tina claimed that Ike was abusive and his later arrests for drug possession and assault caused him controversy. In 1981, Ike was arrested for shooting at a newspaper delivery man. Later in life, his wife claimed he was bipolar. Ike died in Dec. 2007 and he death was reportedly the result of a cocaine overdose.
Frankie Lymon rose to fame in 1956 with the hit “Why do Fools Fall in Love,” winning over crowds with his signature soprano voice. But when his voice changed as he aged, he struggled solidify a successful solo career. Lymon eventually lost his fan base. He turned to heroin and overdosed by the age of 25 in 1968.
The lovely Gene Tierney starred in movies like “The Left Hand of God” in the ‘50s, and she was at the height of her career when she began suffering from major mental health issues. In 1943, she had contracted rubella while she was pregnant, and her daughter was born with severe developmental problems. Tierney became depressed over time, and in 1957 she was sent to a psychiatric hospital where she underwent shock treatments to combat depression. After she was released, she reportedly attempted suicide and was sent to another medical facility. As part of her treatment, she worked as a sales clerk to become reintegrated into society, but she was recognized by a customer and caused a stir in the media. She later spoke out against shock treatments and was able to stage a comeback but she died in 1991 of emphysema.
It’s hard not to hum Chuck Berry’s hits like “Johnny B. Goode” and “Maybellene,” but in the ‘90s, the rock and roll icon found he was getting buzzed about and it had nothing to do with his catchy tunes. In the ‘80s, Berry purchased a restaurant in Missouri, but by 1990 the business began causing controversy for the star. Fifty-nine women got together and sued the singer for installing video cameras in restroom stalls. He settled the lawsuit but his name was back in the news that same year when High Society magazine published nude pictures of the then 63-year-old crooner, posing with an unidentified woman. Since then, he has managed to avoid getting caught up in any other scandals.
In 1955, Ray Charles became a musical sensation with his No. 1 hit “I Got a Woman.” Charles, who became blind at a young age, struggled when both of his parents died by the time he was 15 years old. In 1961, the singer was arrested for possession of heroin and marijuana and he revealed he been struggling with a drug addiction since the age of 16. The R&B icon got sober and had a successful career, which included performing at two presidential inaugurations. Charles died in 2004 of liver disease.
Marilyn Monroe was the ultimate sex symbol in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and she captivated audiences with her distinct voice and sexy style. But her later life was plagued with personal problem, such as her tumultuous love life. By her later years, Monroe had earned a reputation for being difficult to work with, and she was making headlines for mingling with the Kennedy family, rather than for her films. In 1962, she died in her home at the age of 36 and her death was said to be due to "acute barbiturate poisoning."
The King captivated rock and roll audiences in the ‘50s with his swaying hips and healthy head of hair. But it was his penchant for prescription pills that would eventually be his downfall. After Elvis’ marriage crumbled in 1972, he continued to tour but his performances became more and more inconsistent. As he struggled to get through his concerts, slurring his words and unable to perform his signature dance moves, fans became increasingly frustrated and concerned with the King’s health. In 1977, he was found unresponsive on a bathroom floor and pronounced dead of an apparent heart attack.