Nowadays, Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan, and Charlie Sheen embody the idea of the debauched celebrity. However, history is full of famous faces who excelled in the field of outrageousness and today’s attention junkies ain’t got nothin’ on them! Here are the top 5 most eccentric, exciting and downright embarrassing historical celebrities.
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5. Emperor Caligula
Caligula was an insane Roman Emperor with a reputation for self-absorption, fits of anger and killing for amusement. He was accused of incest with his sisters and prostituting them to other men. Once, at a set of games he was presiding over, he ordered the guards to force a large section of the crowd into the arena to be eaten by wild animals. His reason? There were no criminals to be prosecuted – and he was bored. Unsurprisingly, he was assassinated.
4. Loi Chan
A notorious cross-dressing buccaneer, Loi Chan was known as Queen of the Macao Pirates, terrorising the waters around Hong Kong in the 1920’s. She garnered fame and wealth by pillaging ships and kidnappings. If the family of the hostage refused to pay up, she would send them their loved-one’s finger or ear as a warning. She encouraged her fame and allowed a journalist to follow her and write up her exploits. She never spoke directly to the men on her crew and they were also banned from her cabin (because she was a classy biatch). It is unknown exactly how she died, but rumour has it that she attacked a torpedo squadron during the Chinese-Japanese War and was killed in battle. What a way to go!
3. Giacomo Casanova
A man so notorious for his torrid affairs that his name is now the (un)official definition of ‘playboy’. His existence was driven by his sexual desires. Not content with the standard pattern of adultery, he adored drama and had a kink for complicated plots, heroes and villains, and gallantry. His usual liaison involved an innocent woman with a domineering husband, whom he would comfort, eventually seduce, and once he grew bored would insist on his own unworthiness and attach her to a better man. The secret to his success with the ladies? Gratitude and (in a funny sort of way), respect. Delicious.
2. Betty “Tiger Woman” May
The infamous prostitute who trod the boards of the Café Royal in the 1920’s. She met a gentleman who guaranteed her a dancing job in Bordeaux, but attempted to assault her instead. Rather than succumb, Betty fought tooth and nail, eventually sticking a knife in his neck and beating him over the head with a pair of metal tongs. She ran and joined the violent L’Apache Gang in Paris. With them, she learnt some mean knife-fighting skills. This talent for hand-to-hand combat earned her the nickname “Tiger Woman.”
And now, the undisputed top-runner…
1. Lord Byron
Born in 1788, Byron was a romantic poet and is considered the first rock star. After his grand tour of Europe (where he entertained a titillating homosexual affair with an Albanian warlord), he rose to overnight success at the age of 24 with his narrative poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. His fame grew as he churned out more and more popular poems; Don Juan was considered dangerous for young ladies to read because of its explicit content.
However, he was most famous for his ill-disguised affairs with both men and women, including a salacious sexual relationship with his half-sister, Augusta Leigh. The depression he suffered because he could not be with her, along with his monumental gambling debts, led him to alcoholism, opium abuse and epileptic fits. Word of the Augusta tryst began to spread and Byron was exiled from England. He travelled Europe for eight years and died of a fever fighting for Greek independence at the age of 36. A true (if debauched) supernova; burn bright, die young.
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