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Celebrities’ Jobs and Head-Starts Before They Were Famous

Cowell (Former Clerk) & Cole (TV ad Star) - rustyallie (Alison Martin)
Some famous people get a lift-up in life from already successful parents; others have to work their way up from unpromising, often humble, beginnings.

Stories and pictures about celebrities, particularly when they were children or high school kids seem to be endlessly fascinating. The lives of such people who started other careers before they heard fame knock on their door calling them to public stages, are equally absorbing. Reality TV shows like America’s/Britain’s Got Talent or The X Factor frequently take older people or starry-eyed teenagers from colleges, supermarket check-outs, restaurants, telesales or almost anything except what they once only could dream about.

British comedians and presenters Clive Anderson and Harry Hill were both general medical practitioners and magician Paul Daniels was an accountant before deciding that they could earn more making people laugh. They set aside serious qualifications for careers in showbiz spotlights. Many others work, like actors ‘resting’, to make ends meet until their big breaks.

Celebrities’ Early Embarrassing Jobs

According to Hardly Famous: ‘Before they were famous, celebrities had normal jobs. They acted in TV commercials and weird movies, they worked in sales, in factories and in other odd jobs. The unique path that each celebrity took to stardom proves you can make it to the top even from humble beginnings.

Tom Cruise joined a seminary to become a priest as well as spending a short time in Kentucky where he was a paperboy for the Louisville Courier-Journal before Hollywood.

US TV host David Letterman was ‘a stock boy at Atlas grocery store in Indianapolis, a weatherman on the local news and a writer on the TV show Good Times.’ Johnny Depp worked as an over-the-phone pen salesman. Simon Cowell started as a mail-room clerk at EMI. Bette Middler worked in a pineapple processing factory and Frank Sinatra as shipyard riveter.

The list of the famous doing unlikely previous work, is very long. It includes: Charles Bronson (coal miner), Marlon Brando (ditch digger), Clark Gable (necktie salesman), Greta Garbo (lather girl in a barbershop), Lady Gaga (waitressing), Bill Gates (Congressional Page while at Harvard), Richard Gere (studied philosophy while on a gymnastics scholarship), Whoopi Goldberg (bank teller and bricklayer) and Warren Beatty (rat catcher).

Hardly Famous cited Mariah Carey as ‘beauty school dropout’; Kurt Cobain (janitor); Cheryl Cole as child TV ad star (British Gas) and Sean Connery’s first job as: ‘delivering milk for St. Cuthbert’s Co-operative Society in Scotland. After three years in the Royal Navy, he held odd jobs (still a teenager) including truck driver, brick layer, lifeguard, coffin polisher, and artist’s model for the Edinburgh College of Art. In his twenties, he pursued a career in bodybuilding, and was placed 3rd in 1953’s Mr. Universe’. French President Jacques Chirac spent a summer in the US in the 1950s taking classes at Harvard and working for Anheuser-Busch.

Street Directory revealed others in jobs that some might regard as embarrassing later on: Sir Bob Geldof (pea canner); Sylvester Stallone (porn movie star); Rod Stewart (grave digger); Madonna (worker at Dunkin’ Donuts and nude modeling); Michael Dell (restaurant dishwasher); Helen Mirren (attracting riders to amusement park at Southend, Britain); Jack Nicholson (mailroom worker, toy store employee and lifeguard). Jerry Seinfeld sold lightbulbs and Brad Pitt ‘handed out flyers outside El Pollo Loco Restaurant in Los Angeles dressed in a chicken suit!’

Children of Famous Get Career Head Starts

Before fame in Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus got her start by appearing in a 2003 episode of her father’s short-lived series Doc. Angelina Jolie, daughter of film actor Jon Voight, wanted to be a funeral director before appearing in music videos and on to the silver screen in her own right. Former Beatle Paul McCartney’s daughters, Stella and Mary, have made successful careers in fashion and photography, respectively, at least partly in their own strengths.

Michael Douglas became more famous than his actor father Kirk, and Charlie Sheen made more waves than his famous father, Martin. However, some children of famous parent(s) grow up in a shadow, not just failing to find the spotlight themselves, but often not wanting to.

Michael Ventre at Today Entertainment reported in October 2010 the feelings of Adam Klugman, who grew up as his father Jack was at the height of his fame on cinema and TV screens, in 12 Angry Men, Days of Wine and Roses, The Twilight Zone, The Fugitive and Quincy. He said: ‘The glare of somebody else’s personality outshines you’. The younger Klugman became a successful film editor and wrote a screenplay about growing up as the child of a celebrity.

While many offspring live fulfilled careers and lives untroubled by famous parents, Ventre reported the cases of 18 year old Michael Bryan, son of Marie Osmond, and 41 year old Andrew Koenig, son of Walter, killing themselves while depressed. Redmond O’Neal, son of Ryan O’Neal and Farrah Fawcett had a troubled lifestyle.

He quoted Los Angeles psychiatrist John Altman, who treated many celebrity children: ‘The child may feel he or she won’t measure up to a hyper-idealized version of the famous parent.’ There is often confusion with the real parent and the one on the movie or television screen, especially if the actor is killed or injured on screen.

Personal scandals like infidelity or drugs can cause havoc in a young person’s life and often they do not want to use parental connections to carve out their own niches. In the case of Bob Dylan, there is some confusion about how many children he produced and with how many women. Jakob went into the music business, and while he built his career, refused to talk much about his famous dad. Once an established artist, he was prepared to acknowledge his early education around his dad’s music and musicians.

So, for some people having a famous parent giving them a leg up the ladder works; but for others crawling from a dead-end gutter is better motive to get into the big time. Either way, once at the top, every aspect of their lives can be endlessly fascinating, almost to the point of celebrity worship.

First published on Suite 101, 17 October 2010.

Photo: Cowell (Former Clerk) & Cole (TV ad Star) – rustyallie (Alison Martin)

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