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Photos: Celebrity scandals of 2009

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  1. Golfer needs new caddy

    Professional golfer Tiger Woods' damaged SUV is seen in a photograph released by the Florida Highway Patrol on Dec. 2. Woods was treated at a hospital after an early morning accident after Thanksgiving outside his Windermere, Fla., home.

    But the real pain would come in the days that followed as numerous women came forward with allegations that they had had affairs with Woods. He acknowledged "transgressions" and that he let his family down. (Florida Highway Patrol / Ho / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Difficult truth

    Mackenzie Phillips appears on the TODAY show on Thursday, Sept. 24, a day after dropping the bombshell that she’d had a long-term incestuous affair with her father, musician John Phillips. The former "One Day at a Time" actress was promoting a new book, "High on Arrival." (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Late night confession

    "Late Show" host David Letterman acknowledged during the taping of his Oct. 1 show that he had sexual relationships with female members of his staff and that someone tried to extort $2 million from him over the affairs. Letterman mixed jokes into the confession to his audience about what he called a "bizarre experience."

    Robert J. Halderman, a producer for CBS' "48 Hours," was charged with attempted grand larceny. (CBS) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Invasion of privacy

    Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick became the parents of twin girls born via surrogate mother in Martins Ferry, Ohio, on June 22. Two Ohio police chiefs were accused of breaking into the home of the surrogate and trying to sell photographs of her personal belongings to a freelance photographer. Martins Ferry Chief Barry Carpenter was found guilty of receiving stolen property, theft in office and tampering with evidence. (Matt Sayles / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Finally caught

    Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski was arrested in Zurich, Switzerland, on Sept. 26 as authorities in Los Angeles sought justice in a decades-old sex case. Polanski fled the United States in 1977 before his sentencing for having unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl. As the year drew to a close, the filmmaker was under house arrest at his Swiss chalet and vowed to fight extradition to the U.S. (AFP - Getty Images, Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Scene stealer

    In the diss heard 'round the world, rapper Kanye West takes the microphone from country star Taylor Swift as she accepts the "Best Female Video" award during the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, Sept. 13, in New York. West declared Beyonce, also nominated, should have won because her “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” was “one of the best videos of all time.” And ... cue weeks-long, Internet-fueled outrage. (Jason Decrow / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Affair to remember

    Country star LeAnn Rimes, left, and actor Eddie Cibrian starred in the Lifetime movie "Northern Lights" and then starred in a tabloid scandal involving two broken marriages over the summer.

    The two denied initial reports that they had hooked up while making the movie but eventually went public. Rimes left her husband Dean Scheremet and Cibrian left his wife Brandi Glanville, with whom he has two children. (Lifetime) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Anna Nicole fallout

    Howard K. Stern, center, Anna Nicole Smith's longtime confidante, arrives for his arraignment at Los Angeles Criminal Courts on May 13.

    Stern and doctors Khristine Eroschevich and Sandeep Kapoor were accused of conspiring to furnish drugs to Smith, the one-time Playboy Playmate who died of a prescription medication overdose in February, 2007. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Rest in peace? Not so easy

    Michael Jackson's siblings and children are pictured at the singer's memorial service on July 7.

    While the singer's death on June 25 at age 50 was shocking and unexpected, there were dozens of angles that the tabloids seized on afterwards. From Jackson's reported money woes to the custody and parentage of his children to various family feuds and, of course, the medications the singer was taking, every angle of his life is being shaken out and discussed in the media. (Gabriel Bouys / Pool via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. No joking matter

    Susan Wynalek, right, of Coltsneck, N.J., her daughter Stephanie, center, and son Brett participate in a "Fire David Letterman" rally on June 16. The family was protesting Letterman's earlier joke about Palin attending a New York Yankees game, in which he suggested that Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez impregnated Palin's daughter.

    Issues arose when Letterman said he was referring to 18-year-old teen mom Bristol Palin, but it was 14-year-old Willow Palin who actually attended the game with her mother. (Mary Altaffer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Renewed vows didn't take

    Jon and Kate Gosselin, parents of twins and sextuplets and stars of TLC's "Jon & Kate Plus 8," renewed their vows in Hawaii in 2008. But by June 2009, the couple had announced plans to divorce, and Jon Gosselin was seen in Paris with a new girlfriend, daughter of the surgeon who performed Kate's tummy tuck.

    Eventually the one-time reality TV hit went off the air and the drama shifted to the courtroom as TLC and Jon Gosselin went after one another. (Mark Arbeit / TLC via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. She dreamed a dream

    Locals gather at the community center in Blackburn, Scotland, to watch Susan Boyle during the finale of "Britain's Got Talent" on May 30.

    Boyle, 48, wowed the world when she came from nowhere and displayed stunning vocal talents when auditioning for the show. Once her name became known, her every step was hounded by photographers, and after she came in second to dance troupe Diversity on the show, Boyle received care at a private psychiatric clinic in London.

    The singer bounced back with the release of her wildly successful first album. (David Cheskin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. From the Oscars back to the slums

    "Slumdog Millionaire" child actor Rubina Ali, 9, waves as she is welcomed back to her home in suburban Mumbai, India, on Feb. 26, after traveling to the Academy Awards in Los Angeles.

    "Slumdog Millionaire" was the big winner at the Oscars, but following the ceremony, Ali and her fellow child stars returned to slum life. In April 2009, Ali's father denied reports that he tried to sell his daughter, claiming he was set up. In July 2009, Ali's co-star, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, left the slums for a one-bedroom apartment. Filmmakers were reportedly looking for a new home for Ali as well. (Rajanish Kakade / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Celebrities for no reason

    Famous for doing absolutely nothing, Heidi and Spencer Montag still managed to coax their way into numerous media stories in the first half of 2009.

    The couple came to public attention by appearing on the MTV show "The Hills," then for having a non-legally binding wedding in Mexico in 2008, followed by a second wedding in California in 2009. The newlyweds joined the cast of "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!" but repeatedly left and rejoined the cast while whining about their treatment, even reportedly calling NBC chairman Ben Silverman to complain about being "tortured" on the show. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. The Passion of Mel

    Actor Mel Gibson infamously made anti-Semetic and sexual remarks when pulled over in 2006 for driving under the influence, later issuing apologies through his publicist. Gibson's Catholicism, which is strict and ultra-traditional, has also made news, especially relating to his film, "The Passion of the Christ," a gruesomely realistic depiction of the crucifixtion of Christ.

    Thus many who knew of Gibson's religious beliefs were shocked in April 2009, when it was announced that the actor was leaving his wife of 29 years and that his girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva, was pregnant with his child outside of marriage. She gave birth to their daughter on Oct. 30. (Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Madonna and child

    While actress Angelina Jolie's international adoptions have gone off relatively quietly, that's not always been the case for Madonna.

    In 2006, she adopted young David Banda from Malawi despite a law that requires adoptive parents to live in the country for one year, which Madonna had not done. Then, in 2009, the singer returned to Malawi to adopt a 3-year-old girl, Chifundo "Mercy" James. That adoption was first approved, then rejected due to the residency rule. The country's highest court later approved the adoption. James Kambewa has come forward and claimed to be the girl's father, but later admitted he has never met her. (Tom Munro / Warner Brothers Records via Reut) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. 'Bachelor' can't make up his mind

    Seattle single dad Jason Mesnick brought controversy to the 2009 season of "The Bachelor" by proposing to Melissa Rycroft, shown with him here on March 2. But as the two began to spend time together, Mesnick decided he should have passed on Rycroft and instead chosen her runner-up, Molly Malaney, shown in inset photo.

    On a shocking "After the Final Rose" special episode, Mesnick admitted his feelings and publicly dumped Rycroft. Rycroft later went on to almost win "Dancing With the Stars." Mesnick and Malaney are now engaged. (ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Phoenix rising?

    Actor Joaquin Phoenix, seen here in February, claimed in January that he was giving up acting to pursue a rap career. Partly because Phoenix is being filmed by pal Casey Affleck for a documentary, many didn't believe he was serious about music, saying instead that the supposed career change was all an elaborate hoax to make an interesting movie.

    Phoenix also drew attention in early 2009 for attacking a heckler at a Miami concert and for making a mostly incoherent appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman." (Matt Sayles / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Tale of the tape

    Christian Bale, star of "Terminator Salvation," blew up at the film's director of photography, Shane Hurlbut, in July 2008. Bale claimed that Hurlbut had walked into his line of sight twice and ruined his concentration, and betlitted and theatened Hurlbut in a lengthy, disturbing tirade that was caught on audiotape.

    The tape was released in February and Bale eventually apologized, saying he "acted like a punk." (Chris Pizzello / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Bloody battle

    Singer Chris Brown, top, reportedly beat and threatened girlfriend and fellow singer Rihanna, shown in court on Feb. 8. The two were riding in a car together the night before both were scheduled to perform at the Grammy Awards, and the resulting detailed arrest report and bloody photo of a beaten Rihanna immediately turned fans' stomachs.

    Brown was dropped from ad campaigns by numerous companies, and some music stations refused to play his music. He pled guilty to felony assault in June and has accepted a plea deal consisting of community service and five years probation. He later apologized for the assault in a YouTube video. (Pool via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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msnbc.com contributor
updated 9/2/2009 10:02:48 AM ET 2009-09-02T14:02:48

Many reality shows draw viewers because of their dramatic cast members. Those on-screen personalities are, of course, heavily edited, with only the most interesting footage makes it to TV, fueling our expectation that those cast members really might be crazy.

Occasionally, the world is surprised by something a reality star does, like when news broke about the hunt for now-dead murder suspect Ryan Jenkins, who'd appeared on two VH1 competition shows before allegedly killing his model ex-wife and fleeing from police.

Usually, though, there's less shock, because viewers know these cast members are living real lives. Many TV watchers always suspected Jon and Kate weren't going to stay together, or that Ed on “The Bachelorette” was not being upfront about his off-camera life. While tabloid magazines and web sites will try to milk scandal out of any barely known person they can make up something about, it's still the biggest celebrities that fuel the biggest scandals, as Michael Jackson's death proved.

There are so many reality stars that the opposite happens: scandals elevate them, making their TV shows — and them — more popular, more loathed, or both.

"Jon & Kate Plus 8" catapulted from a popular TLC show to the single most-popular show on all of television one night in late June thanks to the stars' announcement that they were divorcing.

The "Jon & Kate Plus 8" stars announced they would end their marriage after Jon was repeatedly photographed with other women, fueling tabloids for months.

Paula bids farewell to ‘Idol’
While Jon and Kate's kids can't escape the reality show that has chronicled their lives, other stars have bailed on shows this summer, leading to increased attention. Ridiculous summer guilty pleasure "Big Brother" went from a boring season with a lame twist and lamer challenges to one that was generating national news and strong ratings thanks to contestant Chima Simone's freak-out, which led producers to expel her from the house.

Earlier this summer, Paula Abdul escaped from "American Idol," passing on a contract offer that was less than she thinks she's worth. That drama unfolded over several weeks and played out in the press and on Twitter. Fox executives have publicly said that negotiations have concluded, and Paula has moved on to Twittering and hosting VH1's "Divas" concert. It ended a season that started with the controversial addition of fourth judge Kara DioGuardi, thought by many to be planned as a replacement for Abdul.

Slideshow: Best and worst celebrity fashions of 2009

Whatever the reason for adding a fourth judge, the change certainly had the effect of bringing "American Idol" back into the public's consciousness after a lackluster seventh season. "American Idol" also gave viewers its usual off-camera drama, from rumors about Adam Lambert's not-so-secret sexual orientation to text-gate, when it was revealed after the season ended that AT&T reps taught Kris Allen fans how to power-text at viewing parties for the season-nine winner.

On another popular network series, the men of "The Bachelor" and "Bachelorette" proved they can generate just as many headlines as the ABC series' women have done previously. First, Jason Mesnick dumped Molly Malaney, proposed to Melissa Rycroft, and then dumped Melissa and picked Molly during the reunion, which crushed his good-guy reputation and led to allegations that the whole thing had been staged by producers, which they deny.

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"The Bachelorette" ended with more scandal, from allegations that winner Ed was cheating on Jillian with two other women, to bachelor Wes claiming on-camera that he'd had a secret girlfriend all along. He later said producers fabricated his on-screen persona, which producers deny, and probably love, since this kind of drama has brought the aging franchise new life.

Far less-popular series can generate headlines thanks to their contestants. Attention-seeking reality stars Heidi and Spencer Pratt jumped from cable to network TV and showed up on NBC's revival of "I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here," and then walked off the set repeatedly, apparently upset about the conditions and/or wanting more attention. They got it, and without them, the show wouldn't have gotten nearly as much press as it did.

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC.)

"The Real Housewives" offered non-stop drama on their seasons on Bravo, but no one brought more outrageous situations than the newest group, the New Jersey cast, which included an on-camera fight and off-screen revelations through legal documents that one cast member, Danielle Staub, had been a former stripper.

There have been more recent arrests, from a "So You Think You Can Dance" choreographer being re-arrested for allegedly raping four dancers to "Survivor" winner Richard Hatch being re-arrested and thrown back in jail for giving an interview to Access Hollywood while he was on house arrest.

Hatch's ongoing legal woes ended up leading to the revelation that season 20 of "Survivor" will be an all-star season, because he asked a judge to let him go. The judge said no and released his invitation from the show's casting director to the public, spoiling a surprise the producers wanted to save for later.

B-list stars can also get media coverage when they behave badly on reality shows. The second season of "Celebrity Apprentice" featured a blood feud between Joan and Melissa Rivers and their nemesis, poker player Annie Duke, that has played out to this day. Meanwhile, Clint Black was criticized for creating an advertisement for laundry detergent that suggested he'd used it in a sexual way. Also, Sandra Bullock's husband Jesse James got in more trouble for his laundry detergent ad that featured little people and his repeated use of the term "midget," prompting an FCC complaint from the Little People of America.

Reality shows have long been known for casting dramatic contestants, people who might be louder, more demanding, or more quick to fight than people who don’t live their lives on screen.

That was true especially for the first modern reality series, MTV’s “The Real World,” whose cast generated headlines from the day the show debuted, earning both buzz and viewers. Some remain household names, like “The Real World San Francisco” cast member Pedro Zamora, who used the show as a platform to extend his AIDS activism, or the housemate he clashed with, obnoxious bike messenger Puck.

So we shouldn’t be surprised when those dramatic people create just as much drama in their regular lives as they do when they’re being filmed. Louder-than-life personalities don’t — or maybe can’t — turn down their volume when cameras aren’t around, which is why they were on a reality show in the first place, taking their real world into “The Real World.”

Andy Dehnart is a writer, TV critic, and editor of reality blurred. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

© 2013 msnbc.com.  Reprints


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