Who hasn't heard the infamous rumor about Richard Gere and the gerbil? Is it true that Michael Jackson sleeps in a hyperbaric chamber? Did Tom Cruise really use sperm specimens of late Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard to father Suri?

These are simply a taste of some of the wacky, tacky and downright bizarre celebrity rumors that have circulated the mill at some point. So which of these celebrity myths can be debunked and which hold a grain of truth?


Intriguingly salacious though it was, the mid 1980's rumor that Gere, the handsome young star of An Officer and a Gentleman, had to have a gerbil surgically removed from his rectum (don't ask) is categorically untrue; Cindy Crawford's ex-hubby (now married to actress Carey Lowell) prefers the company of a Pretty Woman to a rodent any day.

Despite widely circulated stories, frequent tabloid focus Michael Jackson never slept in a hyperbaric chamber nor possessed the bones of the Elephant Man.

There is also no evidence that L. Ron Hubbard left behind sperm samples, nor that we have reason to doubt Cruise's paternity. His questionable union with Katie Holmes on the other hand.. .

Yup, we're pretty certain it was Tom's sperm!


So, where do these whoppers come from? In this age of the "close source," the entertainment media outlets often get a whiff of a true story and break the story before the parties in question are ready to confirm (take the pregnancy of Jamie Lynn Spears or the breakups of the Aniston/Pitt and Simpson/Lachey marriages, which were all denied initially). Still, just as many gossip items are untrue - the result of an overzealous celebrity-obsessed tabloid culture and unsubstantiated, unchecked misinformation that spreads like wildfire.

Imagine how the family of Walt Disney has felt these many years, fending off rumors that the entertainment impresario was frozen and buried under the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland? Consider how whispers that television's beloved Mr. Rogers was a bloodthirsty sniper in the Vietnam War initially damaged his image and legacy as a "good neighbor?" In actuality, both rumors are hoaxes: gentle Fred Rogers never even served a day in the military, and though he was marginally interested in the science of Cryogenics, Walt Disney was cremated and his ashes were interred in California's famous Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

Not even child stars are immune to vicious gossip: Twentieth Century Fox had to sue a film reviewer for libel in the 1930s after he suggested that precocious prodigy Shirley Temple was actually an adult midget. Another rumor persisted that John Gilchrist, who portrayed Mikey in the memorable Life Cereal commercials, died after ingesting a lethal combination of Pop Rocks candy and soda. Most shocking was the claim that the adorable kid who played Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) in perennial favorite A Christmas Story ("You'll shoot your eye out, kid") had grown up to pursue a career in porn.

No porn for this former child star (but his co-star did work in x-rated films.)

Glad to say that John Gilchrist is just fine, working as an advertising exec (though doubtless avoiding pop rocks). As for that porn rumor: Right movie, wrong actor. It was Scottie Schwartz who played 'Flick' in A Christmas Story (the kid who got his tongue stuck to the flagpole - insert jokes here) that did work in X-rated films before quitting in 2000. Ralphie, a.k.a. Peter Billingsley, has steered clear of porn, working currently as a producer with Wild West Picture Show productions, founded by his good friend Vince Vaughn.


Richard Gere was only one in a long line of famous folks accused of bizarre sexual indiscretions. After innocently inviting a team she admired to her home for a pool party, 1920's silver screen star Clara Bow never lived down the rumor that she - how shall we say - "performed" for the entire University of Southern California football team. Former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's memory was mocked when it was "discovered" that he was a closet cross-dresser (a "fact" that reputable historians now dispute). Rumors surfaced in the 1970s that buddies Jim Nabors and Rock Hudson were joined in a gay marriage ceremony - a mistruth that because of the era, was devastating to their careers and friendship. And who could forget the one about Mick Jagger collapsing on stage, forcing doctors to pump a pint of semen from his stomach? To shed some light on the validity of this particular rumor, consider that variations of the rumor have also included David Bowie, Elton John, Rod Stewart and (insert rock star name here!)

A stomach full of semen?


Once upon an episode of Saturday Night Live, host Janet Jackson poked fun at the absurd, lingering belief that she and brother Michael were the same person. Mistaken identities abound in bizarre celebrity rumor lore: Rock idol Alice Cooper is not former child actor Ken Osmond, who played Eddie Haskell in "Leave it to Beaver;" Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan never acted on television's "Small Wonder" and geeky Paul from "The Wonder Years" (portrayed by Josh Saviano) did not grow up to become shock rocker Marilyn Manson.

Marilyn Manson did not play Paul on 'The Wonder Years.'

As easy as it is to laugh at some of the sillier items, there are also those rumors, which further predicated, can cause irreparable harm to lives and careers. Before you take that rag mag as gospel, or forward on a gossip site's latest blind item, visit a site like snopes.com for the real skinny on urban legends. Remember also: For every 'Elephant Man' fiction is a baby-dangling fact. Who needs a lie when celeb-reality is so darn juicy?

Any bizarre celeb rumors we missed? Dish about them in the comments!

Story by Shannon Peace
Starpulse contributing writer