From Prison to Paid: Celebrities Who Did Time Before Their Shine!

December 24, 2011  |  
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Most celebrities enjoy their time on the red carpet, but what you might not know is that some of our favorite actors and performers have spent some time in the pen too.

Check out this list of celebs who have done hard time, before reaching stardom….

1. Snoop Dogg

Rapper and producer Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr., better known as Snoop Dogg, has a criminal record dating back to the early 1990s when he was a teenager.  During the 90’s Snoop Dog was arrested for possession of cocaine. Over the next three years he spent time in and out of prison.  In the late 90s and early 2000’s, Snoop had several brushes with the law, such as possession of marijuana and charges for being an accomplice to the murder of Phillip Woldermarian, but with savvy lawyers and a bank account to help with fines, he’s avoided doing any more hard time.  His latest issue with the law occurred in August 2003 when Snoop was named in an affidavit claiming that he and the makers of the “Girls Gone Wild: Doggy Style” tape lured two underage girls to take their tops off for the camera by offering them marijuana and ecstasy. The suit was settled in July 2004.

2. Danny Trejo

Long before Danny Trejo gained notoriety as a Hollywood tough guy, he earned notoriety of a different sort, that of a hardened criminal. Trejo spent close to 11 years in jail and prison after getting caught up in drugs and armed robbery. Eventually, while in the famous San Quentin, Trejo took up boxing and became a prison champ. After getting clean, Trejo made the right connections and the rest is history.

3. Bill Gates

Can you believe it?  The details behind Bill Gates’ arrest are murky, but since there is a mug shot, it did happen. It’s believed that Gates was arrested after being busted for reckless driving and driving without a license in New Mexico in 1977. Reports indicate that he was also arrested in New Mexico in April of 1975, and there are some reports that indicate that he was arrested again one time after that. The whole thing is pretty secretive.

4. 50 Cent

50 Cent was busted for selling crack and ended up doing time in the 90’s. But unlike most crack dealers, the man originally known as Curtis Jackson didn’t do time in a conventional prison. Instead, he was sent to a boot camp prison where he spent the next several months presumably exercising and getting screamed at. Upon exiting, he renamed himself 50 Cent, “a metaphor for change”. He was signed by Columbia Records in 1999, and recorded an album, Power of a Dollar. In 2000 he was famously shot nine times in front of his grandmother’s house, and Columbia quietly canceled his contract while he was recovering.

5. Tim Allen

Yes, long before he was the Tool Man, Tim Allen was a coke dealer. On October 2,1978, Tim Allen package was arrested in Detroit for possession of a pound and a half of cocaine. Under Michigan law, he could have been sentenced to life in prison. Instead he turned state’s evidence, the legal term for ratting on your cohorts. Allen reportedly ratted out at least 21 co-conspirators, and in exchange, he was sentenced to just five years under the more lenient, at that time, federal law. He was paroled after 2½ years, and after dropping his last name, package, he was able to shake his past and start fresh.  Allen eventually fought his way to fame by first staring in comedy acts in 1975, and eventually landing on the TV with the television series Home Improvement (1991–1999) on ABC, playing Tim “The Tool-Man” Taylor.

6. Don King

King was accused of many crimes back in the day as the head of a Cleveland gambling operation, including the murder of a man in 1954. Apparently, King shot him after he caught him breaking into his shop. Amazingly, the shooting was ruled self-defense and King went on being, well, Don King. In 1966, however, his luck ran out when he was again busted by the law. It would seem that King got into a fight with an employee named Sam Garrett over money, naturally, and during the fight, Garrett hit his head on the pavement and died. Some believe that he was actually stomped to death by King and apparently it was all enough for King to finally get convicted of manslaughter. He served only four years before being released and making the fateful decision to abandon gambling for the cleaner world of professional boxing where he famously served as a pristine promoter and a role model for a young boxer, Mike Tyson.

7. Robert Downey Jr.

Between 1996 and 2001, Downey was frequently arrested on drug-related charges. After being released from the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in 2000, Downey joined the cast of the hit television series Ally McBeal but his character was written out when Downey was fired after two drug arrests in late 2000 and early 2001. He explains that “there is nothing aside from a rogue correctional officer that can do you harm if you have the right cellie. You are actually in the safest place on Earth. Safe from the intruders.” After one last stay in a court-ordered drug treatment program, Downey finally achieved lasting sobriety and his career began to take off again.


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