Culture

10 Artists/Entertainers Besides Woody Allen Accused of Sex Crimes—And What Happened to Their Careers as a Result

History is, alas, full of them.

Photo Credit: Aleš Studený/Shutterstock.com

To see Woody Allen films, or not to see them. That is the question some of the filmmaker’s fans are grappling with these days.

Whether they believe he is a child molester, or merely—as seems to be indisputable—a creep, drawing a line between a popular artist’s work, and their potentially sordid personal life has never been harder than it is in the age of TMI.

Allen is by no means the first artist or entertainer accused of being a despicable man. To put the whole question into a little context, here’s a brief  list of artists/entertainers with personal lives ranging from the dubious to the criminal, what they were suspected or charged of, and how it all affected their career.

DEAD ONES

Caravaggio

One of history’s greatest artists is believed by historians to have been sexually involved with the pre-pubescent boy who modeled for the painter’s 1603 masterpiece “St. John the Baptiste,” and a few other paintings.

Upshot: Allegations of pederasty have had no discernible impact on the artist’s reputation.

Lewis Carroll

At the very least, Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a.k.a. Lewis Carroll, had an erotic fascination with little girls, including Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, and Alice Through the Looking Glass. No one knows for sure whether he acted on this fascination, though to many it seems likely.

Upshot:Alice in Wonderland is still a beloved children’s classic, though still dark and hallucinogenic enough for Tim Burton to have directed the 2010 adaptation.

Michael Jackson

Twice tried but never convicted, the “King of Pop” admitted to sharing his bed with children, but never to “harming” them. Still, in the court of public opinion, there does not seem to be much doubt that Jackson slept with underage boys, and many have come forward to accuse him. Jackson allegedly paid $35 million in hush money to at least two dozen young boys he sexually abused over 15 years.

Upshot: While it is hard to know to what extent these accusations or activities contributed to Jackson’s ill health, increasing reclusiveness or early demise, they haven’t made much of a dent in sales. His estate made $600 million in the four years after his 2009 death, more than any single artist living or dead has ever made in that timespan.

Fatty Arbuckle

When a starlet died of a ruptured bladder after a three-day bacchanalia with the silent film star, the enraged public turned on him. Arbuckle was accused of raping and killing the young woman and crushing her with his weight. William Randolph Hearst boasted that the Arbuckle case sold more papers than the sinking of the Maine.

Upshot: Arbuckle was tried three times, and eventually acquitted, even getting an apology from the jury. He was blacklisted from Hollywood, and eventually attempted a comeback of sorts as a director under a different name.

Balthus

The Polish-French artist, who died in 2001, painted many erotic paintings of little girls (and lots of cats) but insisted that any perversity was in the eye of the beholder. He was merely portraying uncomfortable aspects of young girls’ sexuality.

Upshot: An exhibition of his photographs was recently cancelled in Germany amidst allegations that the shots were pedophilic. But the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently mounted an exhibition of some of his paintings of girls and cats and a little known series of drawings he did when he was 11 ( these contained no girls, just cats.)

LIVE ONES

Bill Cosby

Multiple accusations of sexual assault came to light about the beloved comedian in 2006, when close to a dozen women told very consistent stories about being drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby. Somehow, he quietly settled lawsuits and the whole business seemed to vanish from the public consciousness, until recently, largely because of the Allen affair.

Upshot: NBC recently made a deal with the 77-year-old comedian for a new family sitcom, but a negative publicity storm is brewing again after one alleged victim gave an interview with Newsweek.

Roman Polanski

Found guilty of statutory rape. No question about it. He had sex with a 13-year-old girl, now Samantha Geimer, who has written a book about it (and penned a Slate column with advice for Dylan Farrow.)

Upshot: As many Mia bashers like to point out, she and Roman have remained good friends ever since she worked with him in Rosemary’s Baby. His reputation as a filmmaker has been unharmed.

R. Kelly

Numerous tapes of the R&B superstar having sex with underage girls emerged and were reported on in depth by journalist Jim DeRogatis. Despite the abundance of evidence of a long history of sexual predation, Kelly was acquitted of all charges including rape and child pornography. After the verdict, Jim DeRogatis famously said: “The saddest fact I’ve learned is that nobody matters less to our society than young black women.”

Upshot: DeRogatis may be boycotting his music, but R. Kelly is as successful, if not more so, than ever. In some circles his reputation might even have been enhanced by the sordid and shocking allegations, and trail of damaged young women he left. He headlined the Pitchfork festival, last summer, and put out the album “Black Panties,” which some critics praised as his “ode to pussy.”

Jerry Lee Lewis

The singer-songwriter/rock-and-roll wild man was considered to be on the fast-track to be the next Elvis, but his career went south after the public disapproved of his marriage to his 13-year-old cousin (he was 22), Myra Gale Brown. A notorious bad-ass, happily nicknamed “the Killer,” Lewis made a comeback about 10 years later. But the nickname may have referred to more than his piano playing chops. Myra Gale divorced him and told tales of vicious beatings at his hands. His fourth wife turned up drowned in a swimming pool after divorcing him, and his 5th wife, Shawn Lewis died at 25 after just 77 days of marriage to “the Killer.” The autopsy cleared Lewis, though some had their doubts. Lewis also once accidentally shot his bass player in the chest.

Upshot: “Great Balls of Fire” is still a beloved classic. Lewis still kicking at 78, and married his 7th wife, Judith Brown, at 76.

Graham Ovenden

Last year, at age 70, the internationally-acclaimed British artist was convicted of multiple counts of indecency and at least one count molesting his young models. He was sentenced to two years in prison, after an outcry that his initial suspended sentence was too lenient.

Upshot: The Tate Museum became a good deal more squeamish about Ovenden’s art, which portrayed children in the buff and often in sexualized positions, deemed it pedophilic, and removed his paintings from the museum.