Being a celebrity might bring you fame and fortune, but safety is often not included in the package. We know all too well the tragic fates of musicians like John Lennon and Dimebag Darrell, actors like Sharon Tate, and even fashion moguls like Gianni Versace. But there are many other celebs who suffered attempts on their lives. They were just lucky enough to walk away in one piece and not become a cautionary tale about the perils and pitfalls of fame.
10. Debbie Harry
Debbie Harry had a sinister encounter in the early 70s before she made it big with her band Blondie. Here is the story the way she told it in a 1989 interview:
“I was trying to get a cab on the lower east side of the Village in New York, and it was kind of late… A little white car pulls up, and the guy offers me a ride… he was very persistent, and he asked where I was going. It was only a couple of blocks away, and he said, ‘Well I’ll give you a ride… I got in the car, and it was summertime and the windows were all rolled up except about an inch and a half at the top… I realized there was no door handle, no window crank, no nothing. The inside of the car was totally stripped out… I got very nervous. I reached my arm out through the little crack and stretched down and opened the car from the outside. As soon as he saw that, he tried to turn the corner really fast, and I spun out of the car and landed in the middle of the street.”
According to Harry, she didn’t think about that experience for years, until one day when she looked in the newspaper and saw the face of the man who tried to abduct her that night. It was none other than Ted Bundy.
Not everyone is convinced by this story because it doesn’t line up with the timeline we have on Bundy. But we don’t know his exact movements at that time. It is feasible that he took a trip to New York. Or maybe it was some other creep trying to abduct a young woman, but Debbie Harry has stuck to her guns throughout the decades and still insists that she almost became a victim of America’s most notorious serial killer.
9. Russell Crowe
Back in 2000, Gladiator came out and turned Russell Crowe into the most popular star on the planet. Then, when award show season rolled around, he was, unsurprisingly, one of the guests of honor, as the actor claimed more than his fair share of accolades for his portrayal of the movie’s main character.
But there was a strange and sinister sight as Crowe made his way down all those red carpets. He was always flanked by undercover agents. Most times, they were FBI, but on other occasions, they were undercover cops or even Scotland Yard detectives. Was the actor in any danger?
Well, the FBI certainly thought so. They provided Russell Crowe with protection for almost four years because they feared he could be a target of al-Qaida. Crowe had been alerted to the threat in the lead-up to the 2001 Oscars. This was months before 9/11 when the whole world learned the name Osama bin Laden. At the time, the actor had no idea who he was, but the terrorist knew all about Russell Crowe, and the FBI learned of an al-Qaida plot to target Crowe and other high-profile actors as part of a “cultural destabilization plan.”
Ultimately, no attempts were made on Russell Crowe’s life, but he played it smart and got his own private security once the FBI was no longer around.
Stalkers are a clear and present danger for celebrities. By now, we know all too well that their obsessions can result in violence, even murder, especially when they finally realize that their fantasies would never become realities.
In 1996, Icelandic singer Björk had her own close call with a murderous stalker named Ricardo Lopez. Over the previous three years, Lopez had become infatuated with the singer, which turned into an obsession, and, ultimately, into a belief that they were meant to be together.
The breaking point for Lopez came in 1996 when Björk started a relationship with British music producer and DJ Goldie. As details of their romance made the papers, the stalker became more and more enraged, to the point where he finally decided that he would kill Björk so nobody can have her.
On September 12, he sent her a letter bomb filled with sulphuric acid, hidden inside a hollowed-out book. Afterward, Lopez recorded himself one final time and, as Björk’s music played in the background, he took his own life.
Fortunately, the singer was saved by geography. While she lived in London at the time, her stalker mailed the bomb in Florida. American police uncovered his plan and sent word to the English authorities in time for them to intercept the deadly package.
7. Shirley Temple
As a child star in Hollywood, Shirley Temple was exposed to plenty of abuse, but even by those standards, her dangerous encounter with a mentally-unstable and bereaved mother sits in a class of its own.
In 1939, the 10-year-old Temple performed a rendition of Silent Night for a live radio show at CBS in Hollywood. One of the attendees wasn’t a fan, though. According to Temple, a woman who was in the audience “pulled out a rather big gun” and aimed it at the child star but, fortunately, she was quickly subdued before she could pull the trigger.
Decades later, Temple explained that she learned that the woman had lost her daughter ten years earlier, right on the same day that Shirley Temple was born. Therefore, she became convinced that her daughter’s soul was trapped in Temple’s body so, by killing the child star, she would be setting her daughter’s soul free. In her autobiography, Shirley Temple concluded that “the tale seemed understandable to me.”
6. Joss Stone
Back in 2013, two men named Kevin Liverpool and Junior Bradshaw were both sentenced to lengthy terms in prison, including a life sentence for the “mastermind” Liverpool. Their defense team tried to argue that their plan was so clumsy and its execution so “shambolic” that it did not deserve a life term. It would have been almost comedic if not for the fact that the duo tried to rob and murder R&B singer-songwriter Joss Stone.
In the early hours of May 13, 2011, the two men got into their Fiat Punto and left Manchester, heading for Stone’s remote home in rural Devon. For some reason, they were convinced that the singer kept one million pounds in cash in a safe inside her house, so they intended to rob her, cut off her head and dump her body in the river.
The would-be killers got into a car accident on the way, but decided to keep going. Then, at another point, they got lost and had to ask the locals for directions. They also made no attempt to hide the tools and weapons that were sitting in plain view in the backseat of the car. Fortunately, the duo acted so suspiciously that several of Stone’s neighbors alerted the police, who intervened and arrested them before they had a chance to enact their gruesome plan.
Inside the car, the authorities found everything they needed for a conviction – a samurai sword, a knife, hammers, a chisel, gaffer tape, garbage bags, gloves, masks, and even handwritten notes about killing Joss Stone. They couldn’t have made it more obvious if they brought a notarized confession.
5. Monica Seles
April 30, 1993, is one of, if not the most infamous date in tennis history. It was the quarterfinal match of the Citizen Cup in Hamburg, Germany, between Monica Seles and Magdalena Maleeva. During a break between games, Seles went to take a seat courtside when she felt a sharp, piercing pain in her back. In front of the entire crowd, a man ran up to her from the audience and stabbed her in the back with a 10-inch-long knife.
Fortunately for Seles, she heard a scream and turned around to look just as the man plunged the knife into her, so the blade only entered about half an inch between her spine and left shoulder blade. Anything deeper and she could have been paralyzed, or even killed. Seles was rushed to the hospital where her injuries were deemed serious, but not life-threatening.
At first, people feared that the attempt on the tennis player’s life could be a political assassination since Seles was from Yugoslavia and had already received threats related to the Yugoslav Wars. But, as it turned out, her attacker was a mentally unstable German man named Gunter Parche who was obsessed with Steffi Graf, Monica Seles’s archrival. He wanted to take out Seles so Graf could become the No.1 ranked player again.
4. Larry Flynt
On March 6, 1978, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt left the courthouse in Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, Georgia, with his lawyer after dealing with an obscenity trial, one of many that he faced over the decades. Suddenly, the sound of gunshots filled the air as both Flynt and his lawyer collapsed on the sidewalk. America’s most notorious pornographer had been hit in the lower spine and stomach, leaving him permanently partially paralyzed and in extreme pain. The sniper got away clean, while Larry Flynt remained stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Flynt had plenty of enemies, so an attempt on his life wasn’t particularly surprising, but the identity of his shooter remained a mystery for over a decade-and-a-half. It wasn’t until 1994 that serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin confessed to the deed. Franklin was a white supremacist who committed as many as 20 racially-motivated murders. As for the attempt on Flynt’s life, Franklin claimed that he became enraged when he saw an interracial couple having sex in an issue of Hustler and decided that Flynt must pay.
Franklin was never charged with the shooting of Larry Flynt since he was already on death row for other crimes. In a strange twist, during the lead-up to Franklin’s execution in 2013, Flynt began advocating on behalf of the man who left him in a wheelchair, urging for clemency, since he was against the death penalty.
3. Bob Marley
The mid-1970s were a time of turmoil in Jamaica, as violence between supporters of the major political parties in the country became more and more frequent. 1976 was a crucial election year, and tensions were at an all-time high between the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) and the opposing Jamaican Labour Party (JLP). In an effort to defuse the powder keg, the government planned a concert in order to bring some much-needed unity to the people. It was called Smile Jamaica and was due to take place on December 5, 1976, at National Heroes Park in Kingston.
Bob Marley was the headliner. Even though he insisted he was apolitical, since the concert had been organized by the ruling government, many people considered his involvement as a tacit endorsement of the PNP.
Two days before the concert, Marley and his band were at his home studio, taking a break between rehearsals. Two cars with seven armed men pulled up to his house, opening fire on everyone inside. Four people were hit. Band manager Don Taylor and employee Louise Griffin were both hit in the legs and torso. Marley’s wife, Rita, was shot in the head, although the bullet only grazed her scalp and left her bloody, but alive. Marley himself only took a shot in the arm, as his manager pulled him down just at the right moment to avoid a more lethal hit. Despite the attempt on his life, Bob Marley still performed at the concert two days later.
2. Andy Warhol
During the 1960s, one of the trendiest places in the art world was The Factory in New York City, the studio of pop art sensation Andy Warhol. It was the kind of place where something interesting was always happening. People were always coming and going, most of them artists wanting to see and be seen.
One of them was Valerie Solanas, a radical feminist who was struggling to make a name for herself and was still only a bit player on New York’s art scene. But she had written a play and kept pestering Warhol to produce it until, eventually, he agreed to read it. Presumably, he only did this to keep her quiet and he immediately tossed the manuscript in a dark corner of his studio somewhere and promptly forgot about it.
Unfortunately for him, Solanas suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, so after Warhol ignored several requests that later turned into threats to return her manuscript, she became convinced that he was trying to steal her work. And that’s how it came to be that on June 3, 1969, Solanas showed up at The Factory armed with a .32-caliber Beretta and shot both Andy Warhol and a London gallery owner named Mario Amaya before calmly leaving the building.
The ordeal almost killed Warhol. Solanas had shot him twice and the bullets ripped through his stomach, spleen, lungs, and esophagus. He was rushed to the hospital and was even briefly declared dead before doctors were able to revive him. After months of recovery, he needed to wear a medical corset for the rest of his life.
1. George Harrison
Even to this day, four decades later, the death of John Lennon at the hands of Mark David Chapman remains the most infamous celebrity assassination in history, but that notoriety made a lot of people forget that another Beatle almost suffered the same fate.
On December 30, 1999, George Harrison and his wife, Olivia, were at their home, Friar Park, in Henley-on-Thames, when a 34-year-old man named Michael Abram broke into their house and attacked both of them.
First, he charged at Harrison, who had left the bedroom to investigate the noise he heard when Abram broke inside. The two wrestled for a bit, but Abram was younger and stronger, so he got on top of Harrison and stabbed him multiple times in the chest and torso. Olivia came to her husband’s aid and hit Abram as hard as she could with a fire poker, which prompted the assailant to get off Harrison and lunge at her. Not one to go down without a fight, Olivia then grabbed a heavy lamp and kept hitting Abram while he choked her until he collapsed. Right at that moment, two police officers entered the house, followed by paramedics who brought George Harrison to the hospital in time to save his life.