From Dishwashing to Donuts, Stars Punched Clocks 'Before They Were Famous'

Brad Pitt wasn’t born the sexiest man alive, Madonna wasn't always a Material Girl and there was a time when the glitterati at the Golden Globes weren’t designer-dressed.

The majority of Tinseltown only reached Hollywood's Walk of Fame through blood, sweat, tears and err ... odd jobs to pay the bills while pursuing their passion.

"Everybody starts somewhere," said New York City career counselor Maria Beckett. "I'm sure most celebrities are grateful for their early experiences in the workforce."

It seems fast food isn't only responsible for obesity, but also for funding many stars' first steps toward Tinseltown.

Way back in the "virgin" days of her career, Madonna was a counter chick at Dunkin' Donuts, according to

Rob Schneider went from a Farrell's Ice Cream dishwasher to "Saturday Night Live” and then "Deuce Bigalow." Actor Jason Lee was promoted from serving soft tacos at a Huntington Beach, Calif., Taco Bell to serving up the laughs in "Almost Famous" and the hit TV series "My Name is Earl."

"I got my first check after two weeks; it was a hundred and something dollars and I almost passed out because that was so much money to me," Lee told

Sharon Stone wasn't always a superstar, either. Super-sizing was more like it: Sharon kicked off her working life at McDonald's.

Now with enough money to afford every beauty product, procedure and publicist in the 90210 zip code, a number of A-listers' first jobs ironically involved making others look good.

"Danny DeVito worked as a hairdresser in his sister's salon as a way to make money and meet girls," Beckett said, laughing. "Before radio, Rush Limbaugh shined shoes."

And Mariah Carey saw no "Visions of Love" in her first job sweeping the floors of a Manhattan hairdresser — she quit after one day.

"It was the pits," she told Cosmopolitan magazine. "The manager wanted every female working there to have a cute, phony name, like 'Foxy' or 'Stormy.' He decided I would be 'Echo.'"

Mariah told him she had to make a phone call, and that became the only echo in the building: She never went back.

In the most "Cinderella"-like story of all, "Charlie's Angels" star Lucy Liu learned to work hard early in life. Raised by Chinese immigrant parents, Lucy worked in a pajama factory when she was only 11.

Many of today's household names drove to stardom, literally. Walt Disney's humble beginnings involved driving an ambulance in World War I in France. After high school, Elvis Presley drove trucks and dreamed not of electrifying audiences, but of becoming an electrician.

Others went for the cold sell. Ellen DeGeneres not only shucked oysters but worked as a saleswoman for clothing retail chain Merry Go Round; Ralph Lauren sold gloves; Jerry Seinfeld sold lightbulbs over the phone and just months before breaking the barriers of Nashville, Garth Brooks was a local boot seller.

"The job of an actor-performer is to sell themselves to the audience," Beckett said. "So an early career in sales was probably invaluable training for many celebs."

Donald Trump was even "The Apprentice" once himself. As a teenager, he walked his father's properties collecting rent from tenants who weren't too happy to see him.

Also unpopular with the townsfolk was Demi Moore, whose "G.I Jane" prowess came in handy as a debt collector.

"Persistence is the key to success," Beckett advised. "These people didn't give up. They found creative ways to use their performing talents to pay their rent and further their true passions."

According to Beckett, the usually fast-talking Robin Williams kept his mouth shut as he performed street mime in the 1970s, while "The Producers" star Nathan Lane was a singing telegram delivery boy.

A far cry from the arm of Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt handed out flyers while standing outside El Pollo Loco Restaurant in Los Angeles in a not-so-sexy chicken suit. He also escorted strippers through the Hollywood Hills before scoring his big break.

Some can even credit their fame and fortune to their feeble first jobs.

"If it can happen to these people, it can happen to anyone," said aspiring 28-year-old California actress Kate Bryant. “I’m only a waitress now, but I’m hoping for much bigger things. I call it paying my dues.”

After all, notes that Jack Nicholson was "discovered" while working in the mailroom at MGM, and author Stephen King was inspired to write his best-selling novel "Carrie" from his job as a janitor cleaning the girls' locker room.

And while Oscar-winning actor/director Warren Beatty is famously rumored to be the inspiration for Carly Simon's song "You're So Vain," his beginnings as a professional rat-catcher are far out of line with the airs of Hollywood Boulevard.

So what tips do the maestros of fame and fortune have to offer aspiring megastars?

"You have to be willing to sacrifice in the short term in order to reap long-term benefits," said B. Grant Yarber, president and CEO of Capital Bank Corp.

"The folks who are truly successful are those who have been willing to take jobs that aren't in glamorous places. They make a good show of it and then get offered those plum opportunities."

So get ready, Tinseltown, the Walk of Fame is about to get a whole lot longer. There is hope for us all.