People tend to go down in history for great accomplishments. Gandhi was a champion of non-violent resistance. Walt Disney revolutionized the entertainment industry. Theodore Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize.
However, the grim truth is that many of the most respected figures in history were secretly terrible people. Here are the little-known facts that tend to get left out of the history books. But beware — reading any further might just ruin your faves.
Mahatma Gandhi’s life and teachings have been nothing short of inspirational. After all, he is the historical figure who implored us to “be the change you want to see in the world.”
Unfortunately, there was a really creepy guy lurking beneath these philosophical platitudes. He encouraged everyone to save their souls by avoiding sex, including newlywed couples. But he invited his followers — including teenage girls — to sleep in his bed with him while he was naked. This even included his grandniece. Gandhi called sleeping naked (but not having sex) with him as putting “purity to the ultimate test.”
There is no way Gandhi’s reputation would survive in today’s #MeToo era.
America’s 26th president, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was a war hero and peace negotiator who established national parks and built the Panama Canal. Unfortunately, he was also quite racist.
His white supremacist beliefs shaped many of his political views. For instance, in 1897 he wrote, “Nineteenth-century democracy needs no more complete vindication for its existence than the fact that it has kept for the white race the best portion of the new world’s surface.”
On another occasion, Roosevelt dishonorably discharged 167 black soldiers because of a false accusation of a shooting. He considered their “silence” on a matter indicative of a conspiracy and essentially took the side of a racist local mayor. Later, he forbid black people from participating in the Progressive Party of the South.
Unfortunately, the man they named the “teddy bear” after has a well-documented history as a racist. That’s right, this article not only ruins your favorite people, but your favorite childhood toy as well.
Walt Disney is definitely one of the most beloved figures around the world. His cartoons and films have brought joy to children and adults around the world. He built an entertainment empire that began with Mickey Mouse. Disneyland is known as “The Happiest Place on Earth” for good reason.
The Disney brand is associated with good wholesome values. Disney the man, however, was both a racist and a misogynist.
During creative meetings, Walt Disney would regularly use racist slang to talk to his all-white staff of animators. Those animators were all men as well. In fact, Disney infamously rejected a female animation applicant (Mary Ford) because “women do not do any of the creative work” and “that work is performed entirely by young men.”
The more things change the more they stay the same — longtime Pixar head John Lasseter was a horrible sexist as well.
John Wayne is an American icon. In a nation that idolizes cowboys, he was the archetypal cowboy. Unfortunately, he was also a huge racist. That’s what fans discovered when they unearthed an old 1971 interview that Wayne did for Playboy.
Wayne actually said, “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility.” If that’s not bad enough, he talked about the need for minority actors to stick to roles meant for them (like slaves). Oh, and he had no problem with the genocide of Native Americans.
Overall, this interview was about as bad as it gets for painting an American icon in a dark new light.
Elvis Presley is known to people around the world as the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” But behind the glitter of fame, he groomed multiple 14-year-olds on the road.
He even started dating his future wife, Priscilla, when she was only 14. After marriage, Elvis insisted on videotaping her having sex with other women.
A 2014 biography entitled “Elvis Presley: A Southern Life” claimed that Elvis installed a two-way mirror in his Palm Springs home to watch people having sex.
Like Elvis, Chuck Berry is more than just another famous musician. In the eyes of many fans, he is nothing short of rock ‘n’ roll itself. Unfortunately, he shares more in common with Elvis than being the embodiment of rock ‘n’ roll.
Berry’s checkered legal history includes an arrest for transporting a 14-year-old girl over state lines for sex. He also shared Elvis Presley’s habit of voyeurism. Berry had a collection of videos of women using the bathroom, which he had recorded without consent.
One of the greatest film comedians of all time, Charlie Chaplin helped define cinema as we know it. The silent film star’s endearing persona “The Little Tramp” is beloved worldwide in films such as Modern Times and City Lights.
But did you know that Chaplin’s real-life persona helped inspire the novel Lolita?
He married his first wife, Mildred Harris, when she was 16 and he was 29. They divorced a few years later.
But then he married another 16-year-old, this time when he was 35. Her name? Lillita Grey, often misspelled in the press as Lolita. Their relationship is thought to have influenced Vladimir Nabokov’s notorious 1955 novel about a middle-aged man obsessed with a 12-year-old girl.
Chaplin and Lillita had a highly publicized divorce in 1927. But he finally found long-lasting marriage with his third wife, Oona O’Neill, daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill.
They got married when Chaplin was 54 and she was 18.
Steve Jobs is one of the most influential tech gurus who ever lived. He pioneered new forms of computer life with the Macintosh and his iPhone basically ushered in the age of the smartphone.
However, Jobs had a hidden dark side the public rarely saw. Some of this was corporate tomfoolery such as illegally backdating stocks to crank up profits. Some was family drama (including denying any relation to his daughter).
The scariest thing, though, was his exploitation of Chinese workers. Jobs demanded that they crank out iPhones so fast that many workers killed themselves as a way of escaping their job. That’s right: the father of the modern iPhone literally worked people to death to make iPhones.