You can live anything down if you live long enough, according to one old saw. But some deeds seem to leave a deeper imprint on public memory than others, when it's celebrities who do them.
As the fallout continues from Mel Gibson's arrest for driving while intoxicated and his alleged subsequent anti-Semitic and sexist remarks, here's a little walk down the scandal branch of memory lane.
Pee-Wee Herman, whose real name is Paul Reubens, 53, was the host of "Pee-Wee's Playhouse," which was part of Saturday children's programming on CBS. Ostensibly a weekly visit to Pee-Wee's house of fun, the show also drew a large part of its audience from teens and college students who got a kick out of such retro characters as Cowboy Bob (once played by Laurence Fishburne) and Captain Carl (Phil Hartman).
On July 26, 1991, on a visit to his parents in Sarasota, Fla., Reubens went to the movies (the X-rated "Nurse Nancy") and was caught in a police sting, allegedly playing with his private parts. He was arrested, released on $219 bail, and once people realized who it was, everyone went nuts. His TV show was canceled and toy stores took Pee-Wee-related merchandise off the shelves.
His old TV series has just started a new life, in reruns, on the Cartoon Network.
2The upshot to all this is that Reubens paid a $50 fine (plus court costs) and appeared in an anti-drug public service message. He didn't even have a criminal record when it was all over but it was pretty much the end of Pee-Wee Herman, though Reubens continues to appear in acting roles. (He had an especially successful run as a recurring character in "Murphy Brown.")
And if you were one of the canny characters who put your Pee-Wee Herman doll on ice, hoping to make a lot of money down the road, be advised that a casual peek at eBay reveals that, these days, you'd be lucky to get your 20-buck investment back.
Eddie Murphy, 45, went for a ride on Santa Monica Boulevard in the early hours of May 2, 1997, and apparently picked up a 20-year-old transvestite, Atisone Seiuli, who went by the name Shalomar. Stopped by police, Murphy said he had only meant to help a woman in distress, but the cops had a warrant out on Seiuli, who they said was a prostitute.
The tabloids had a field day as other transvestites came forward to tell tales on Murphy, who admitted to keeping such company but only so he could offer help to the less fortunate. Murphy sued the National Enquirer and the Globe but eventually dropped both suits. He was never charged with any crime, but was the butt of a lot of jokes, even from his career launch pad, "Saturday Night Live."