Scientific studies have routinely showed that gossip is actually a force for good in society—that it’s fundamental purpose isn’t to tear people apart, but to help them come together, communicate more freely, improve, and cooperate. By that measure, Hollywood, California, is the friendliest and most cooperative place on earth.
1. Walt Disney’s body is in a cryogenic chamber somewhere under Disneyland
THE RUMOR: Hey, if you were an iconic mastermind like Walt Disney, wouldn’t you have your body cryogenically frozen after your death and stored beneath Cinderella’s castle in the Magic Kingdom until such a time that modern science makes reanimation possible? Wait, never mind, don’t answer that.
IS IT TRUE?: His family says no, insisting his ashes were scattered at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. His daughter went on record saying, “There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that my father, Walt Disney, wished to be frozen.” We have to take her word for it… at least until a re-animated Walt Disney with a robot body greets us during our next trip to EPCOT.
2. Marilyn Manson was a child actor in The Wonder Years
THE RUMOR: The next time you watch reruns of the coming-of-age TV drama The Wonder Years, take a closer look at the geeky next door neighbor, Paul Pfeiffer. Does he look familiar? Believe it or not, he grew up to become the goth rocker and self-appointed Antichrist Superstar, Marilyn Manson.
IS IT TRUE?: Sorry, no. Paul was actually played by actor Josh Saviano, who now works as an attorney and says he gets asked all the time if he’s really Marilyn Manson. Even Wonder Years star Fred Savage has had fun with the rumors. “I met (Manson) once,” he told reporters. “He came up to me, and he goes, ‘You know, we worked together.’ I was like, ‘I do. I do know that.
3. The CIA killed John Lennon
THE RUMOR: Mark David Chapman wasn’t just a deranged fan who murdered John Lennon in 1980. He was actually a Manchurian Candidate-style assassin, brainwashed by the CIA to kill Lennon for his “radical leftist” ideologies. Even an NYPD lieutenant went on record saying, “Chapman looked like he could have been programmed.”
IS IT TRUE?: Chapman, who’s still in prison, called his crime “premeditated, selfish and evil,” but never admitted being on the CIA payroll.
4. Mikey from the Life commercial was killed by junk food
THE RUMOR: Little Mikey, the commercial mascot from the 70s who hated everything but Life cereal, became a cautionary tale when rumors of his death began to circulate. According to reliable sources—like that kid who heard it from his older brother—John Gilchrist, the child actor who played Mikey, consumed the deadly combo of Coca-Cola and Pop Rocks, and then BOOM, all of that carbon dioxide caused the poor guy’s insides to explode.
IS IT TRUE?: Nope. And not even possible, according to our friends at Mythbusters. Gilchrist is very much alive and well, and we can only assume avoiding junk food entirely.
5. Phil Collins wrote “In the Air Tonight” about a drowning victim
THE RUMOR: Phil Collins’ most haunting song, with lyrics like “Well if you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand.” Some have speculated that it’s about a real occurrence, in which Collins, as a boy, witnessed a man watch someone drown in a river and refused to help the victim. Collins later found the man, invited him to a concert, and then shined a spotlight on him while singing the song directly to him, before declaring, “I know what you did!”
IS IT TRUE?: “Unfortunately, none of it’s true,” Collins revealed in an interview with Jimmy Fallon. The song is actually about his divorce and the emotional torment it put him through. “Sometimes it’s like, ‘I love you. Don’t hang up.’ And sometimes it’s like, ‘Well, [screw] you’,” Collins told the talk show host. And if divorce is something you’re having to think about, you might want to read our in-depth and thoughtful guide to ending your marriage with grace and class.
6. Mister Rogers killed 150 people as a military sniper
Fred Rogers, host of the beloved children’s television show, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, wasn’t always the friendly, gentle soul he appeared to be. During the Vietnam War, he was a sharpshooter for either the Marines or the Navy SEALs, with a record 150 “kills” during his service. Why do you think he always wore sweaters on his show? To cover up all his military tattoos. The dude was hardcore.
IS IT TRUE?: Not even close. The Navy SEALs addressed the rumors directly on their website. In their words: “We have to state it is false.”
7. Clark Gable’s hit-and-run murder
THE RUMOR: In 1945 (or maybe 1933), movie legend Clark Gable went drunk driving and ran over a pedestrian. MGM Studios, wanting to protect their biggest star, conspired with local police to cover up the crime, pinning it on a lower-level studio executive.
IS IT TRUE?: Unlikely, or so claims just about every Gable biographer.
8. Beyoncé faked her first pregnancy
THE RUMOR: Beyoncé and rapper hubby Jay-Z dropped an estimated $1.3 million for the entire fourth floor of a Manhattan hospital, ostensibly so they could have a little privacy. But there were rumors that she actually wasn’t pregnant at all, either having a baby with a surrogate or staging an elaborate ruse so that they could claim Jay Z’s illegitimate child as their own.
IS IT TRUE?: Beyoncé called the rumors “ridiculous and over the top.” Even the hospital denied that the couple rented out an entire floor, claiming in an official statement that they were “housed in an executive suite at the hospital and is being billed the standard rate.”
9. Michael J. Fox’s middle name Is “Jell-O”
THE RUMOR: He was just six years old when actor Michael Fox was given an important responsibility by his parents: “Pick your own middle name,” they told him. He went with Jello, because Jello is awesome, and Michael J. Fox was born.
IS IT TRUE?: We wish, but no. He was born Michael A. Fox, but according to his autobiography, he thought that “sounded uncomfortably Canadian—Michael Eh? Fox.” So he picked “J” as an homage to character actor Michael J. Pollard.
10. Gene Simmons has a cow tongue
THE RUMOR: The KISS bassist has one of the most famous tongues in rock n’ roll, but it might not be his own. Legend has it that the God of Thunder had a cow’s tongue grafted over his own, giving him an extra-long oral appendage to wag at fans during concerts.
IS IT TRUE?: Simmons insists that his “super long tongue” (his words) has been with him since birth. In his autobiography, he claims he was just a kid when he realized his tongue “was longer than everyone else’s, and I was soon to find out that having a long tongue came in handy with the girls.” Wow. The tongue-grafting story is actually less disturbing than that mental image.
11. Derek Jeter gives swag baskets his one-night stands
THE RUMOR: He’s not just a legend on the field. According to a 2011 New York Post story, the retired New York Yankee shortstop treats his one-night stands to something special. No, not his phone number or a promise for a second date. How about a gift basket? Yes, sleeping with Jeter purportedly comes with a ride home and a basket of goodies that includes a Jeter-signed baseball.
IS IT TRUE?: “It’s a dumb story,” Jeter responded in an interview. “And you really have to be dumber to believe it.”
12. Marisa Tomei didn’t really win an Oscar
THE RUMOR: Marisa Tomei was a controversial choice for an Oscar nomination. Her role in My Cousin Vinny was good fun, but was it the best acting of 1993? When Jack Palance gave her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, some suspected that he’d made a mistake, possibly reading the wrong name because he got confused or couldn’t make out the fine print. Nobody corrected him because c’mon, it’s Jack Palance! Just let her have the stupid statue and leave well enough alone.
IS IT TRUE?: Unlikely. Look what happened at last year’s Academy Awards, when the Best Picture was erroneously given to La La Land instead of Moonlight. It’s not like the Academy is above snatching award statues away from embarrassed losers when they’ve made a mistake.
13. Frank Sinatra is Ronan Farrow’s real daddy
THE RUMOR: It was always assumed that journalist Ronan Farrow was the love spawn of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen. But in a 2013 Vanity Fair story, Mia hinted that Sinatra could “possibly” be Ronan’s father. Even Ronan has fanned the flames, writing on Twitter, “Listen, we’re all possibly Frank Sinatra’s son.”
IS IT TRUE?: Despite their uncanny resemblance, the answer is no, at least according to James Kaplan’s definitive biography Sinatra: The Chairman. Around the time Ronan was conceived, Sinatra was recovering from gastrointestinal surgery and admitted to suffering from chronic impotence thanks to a “penile implant.” That’s maybe more than we needed to know about Ol’ Blue Eyes.
14. Elvis is alive
THE RUMOR: The King of Rock and Roll died in his home on August 16, 1977. Unless he didn’t. Just days after his death, a guy who looked suspiciously like Elvis was spotted in a Memphis airport buying a one-way ticket to Argentina. Since then, Elvis (or possibly just fat dudes with sideburns) have been spotted all over the globe, from Kalamazoo, Michigan to a rumored cameo appearance in the movie Home Alone.
IS IT TRUE?: If Elvis was still alive, he’d be 83 today. Sorry, but the guy ate way too many peanut butter and banana sandwiches for that to happen. But you can still visit the home where he died.
15. Cal Ripken Jr. missed a record-setting game because he was beating up Kevin Costner
THE RUMOR: The “Iron Man” shortstop of the Baltimore Orioles still holds the record for most consecutive pro baseball games ever played. But his streak almost ended in 1997, when (according to rumors) he didn’t make it to the game because of an incident with actor Kevin Costner. He found the Bull Durham star in bed with his wife, and proceeded to bear the ever-loving snot out of him. The game was cancelled because of an “electrical failure” at the stadium and the absence wasn’t counted against Ripken.
IS IT TRUE?: Not only did he not beat up Costner, Ripken was at the game he supposedly missed even before it was cancelled. “I was definitely there,” he told NPR in 2008. “I was ready to play.” Costner has denied the rumors as well.
16. Barbra Streisand dabbled in pornography
THE RUMOR: The only singer to ever have a number one album in every decade for the past sixty years doesn’t have a lot to be ashamed about. Other then that 10-minute blue movie she made in the 60s. Or maybe it’s just someone who looks a lot like Streisand. Regardless, the 8mm movie was sold with the promise “Barbra Streisand in Hardcore!”
IS IT TRUE?: Nope. Streisand was curious enough to check out the movie, and she had this to say. “The girl has long hair, like I did back in the Sixties, although she was chubby, while I was very skinny,” she told a reporter. “But the dead giveaway came when the camera zoomed in on her hands. There they were: short, stubby fingers! Definitely not mine. So all you would-be buyers, don’t waste your money.”
17. Oprah is gay
THE RUMOR: Everybody’s favorite would-be presidential candidate for 2020 was once the subject of speculation about her sexual orientation. Specifically, whatever the deal is with her and BFF Gayle King. Even Oprah’s own stepmother, Barbara Winfrey, said of the pair, “If it’s not more than friendship, they’re giving every appearance that it is.”
IS IT TRUE?: “I’m not a lesbian,” Winfrey told Barbara Walters in an interview. “I’m not even kind of a lesbian. And the reason why it irritates me is because it means that somebody must think I’m lying. Why would you want to hide it? That is not the way I run my life.”
18. Marilyn Monroe had an affair with President John F. Kennedy
THE RUMOR: As far as we know, the only time JFK and Marilyn Monroe were even in the same room was when she sang a “happy birthday” to him at his 45th birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden. But everyone on the planet more or less agrees, without having any evidence to back it up, that they were probably having an affair, possibly even in the White House. Monroe biographer James Spada once told a reporter that “it was pretty clear that Marilyn had had sexual relations with both Bobby and Jack.”
IS IT TRUE?: There’s scant little proof. Every time supposed “evidence” has been discovered, it’s quickly denounced as a fake; like a contract uncovered in 1997, allegedly between the president and Monroe, offering her money in exchange for her silence about their romance, which was soon revealed to be a hoax.
19. Mama Cass choked to death on a ham sandwich
THE RUMOR: The first physician to examine the body of Mamas & the Papas singer, who died at just 32 years-old, told reporters that the late Cass “appeared to have been eating a ham sandwich and drinking Coca-Cola while lying down—a very dangerous thing to do.”
IS IT TRUE?: The late Cass didn’t asphyxiate herself on a sandwich. She actually died from a heart attack.
20. Richard Gere has a special affinity for certain rodents
THE RUMOR: Richard Gere includes gerbils in a certain bedroom fetish, which once led to an unfortunate ER visit.
IS IT TRUE?: The star has denied all accounts. “I got more grief from people over the years for that stupid gerbil rumor than I did for making The Mothman Prophecies,” he once told a reporter.