Minor celebrities who've become more famous for a bad reason

I had never once heard of Jussie Smollett before he was allegedly attacked, and then allegedly not attacked. Now I can’t go a day without seeing or hearing his name.
I had never once heard of Nipsey Hussle when he was alive. Now he’s the most famous dead guy since Elvis.

Arguably, the whole Smollett mess will not help his career as he had hoped it would, though I suppose time will tell in the long run. And obviously, things did not end well for Hussle. But they are certainly both more famous now than they were recently.

What other celebrities have become more famous because of something negative (up to and including death) without it ultimately benefiting their career? Is there a term for this phenomenon?

Allison Mack and the sex slave cult!

Sharon Tate comes to mind.

Band name?

TV Tropes has a whole category called Dead Artists Are Better. Most of their real-life examples are well-known, but they include examples like Anton Yelchin.

I wonder how big a celebrity O.J. Simpson really was by early 1994?

Barbara Colby was a working actress, but hardly a star, when she was murdered for no apparent reason.

Rebecca Schaeffer’s death by stalker has been written about a lot more than anything in her brief career.

Absolutely no one would remember the Big Bopper if he hadn’t hitched a ride on Buddy Holly’s plane.

John Wilkes Booth


Not at the peak of his entertainment career but far more well known than others mentioned in the thread so far.

My understanding is that Booth was one of the more famous leading men of the day, would be equivalent to the shock value of say Brad Pitt shooting the president.

Ian Watkins, the lead singer for Lostprophets. I didn’t know who he was until I read about the sexual abuse charges he was convicted of. I should warn you about Googling him; the crimes were very disturbing.

Would anybody today remember Buddy Holly if he hadn’t been on Buddy Holly’s plane?
(Ditto for James Dean, except not on Buddy Holly’s plane.)

I think, of the three famous passengers, Holly would probably be the most remembered sans the wreck. Valens and the Bopper were much more minor than Holly.

He wasn’t nearly as well known as his brother Edwin. More like Stephen Baldwin shooting the president.:wink:

I was being a little facetious, but John Wilkes Booth’s name is only known today because of the assassination.

O.J. Simpson was the first running back to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season (1973) and, for a time, held the record for most touchdowns in a season (1975). He was the de facto face of the NFL during most the 70s and ranked just a bit below Muhammad Ali in terms of fame.

The crash certainly contributed to his legend for someone who had only made three movies at the time, but if Dean hadn’t died, he would have made a lot more movies and become a major celebrity anyway.

He was the face of the NFL for a few years and his period of fame diminished from that point on, and never approached the level of fame Ali would eventually achieve. 20 years after his athletic career ended he was merely the guy who ran through airports and acted in the Naked Gun. The day before he murdered a couple of people he was a joke.

The debate about OJ Simpson brings to mind Chris Benoit. Now to pro wrestling fans he is a pretty famous name. But to people outside of wrestling he’s mostly known as the wrestler who went nuts and then killed his family and then himself.

Also to most non-wrestling fans Owen Hart is the wrestler who fell to his death from the ceiling of the Kemper Arena in St Louis. (He was supposed rappel from the ceiling into the ring but his harness snapped and he fell.)

Gavin McInnes is probably better known for founding the Proud Boys than for his voice acting, comedy, or journalism careers.

Tonya Harding might qualify.

A character in the OJ saga not mentioned yet: Kato Kaelin.