9 Top Entertainers Who Were Homeless
It’s Spring, and it’s award show season. The biggest of the bunch is the Oscars taking place at the Dolby Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. Expect actors and famous television personalities to show up wearing big smiles and glamorous attire for this international affair.
At the same time, remember that all was not rosy – not all glitz and glamour – for some of these stars. Some of the biggest names in entertainment faced the biggest struggles including poverty and homelessness; experiences that provided important life lessons that contributed to the kind of person they are today.
There are plenty of inspirational stories of actors who experienced poverty, social rejection, and homelessness before becoming movie or television superstars – true rags to riches stories. We share some of their stories here as a reminder that homelessness can happen to anyone.
9. MARTIN SHEEN
Martin Sheen has developed a reputation as one of Hollywood’s most respected actors during a career that includes more than 60 film appearances. Sheen also is known for being an advocate for people in homeless situations, particularly after meeting activist, Mitch Snyder. Snyder became a national figure in cooperation with the Committee for Creative Non-Violence, giving the movement supporting homeless people a public voice and face throughout the 1980s.
Sheen portrayed Snyder in Samaritan: The Mitch Snyder Story, a TV movie in 1986.
According to the New York Times, Snyder died by suicide four years later after suffering setbacks in the homeless movement and being despondent over a failed relationship with his companion of 15 years, Carol Fennelly.
According to award-winning broadcaster, Eileen Prose, after that tragedy, Martin Sheen slept on a steam grate in Washington to feel the pain of the nation’s street people. Sheen said, “It will teach me something I lost touch with – what these people physically feel on the street.”
Sheen added, “I think you can identify with someone much easier if you can feel their pain – physical, emotional, spiritual – but you have to try and put yourself in their shoes.”
8. SYLVESTER STALLONE - Bout With Homelessness (CLICK HERE)
7. CHRIS PRATT
Christ Pratt is currently one of the most popular actors in Hollywood, having starred in some of the hottest properties in the world, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the Jurassic World franchise. Before becoming a superstar, Pratt lived in a van after moving to Hawaii.
Pratt was “discovered” while waiting tables at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant in Maui.
Contrary to how badly most people might remember that stage of their life, he has fond memories of that time being homeless. “It was a pretty awesome place to be homeless,” Pratt said in an interview with The Independent. “It would be different if I lived on the streets of Chicago,” he added.
Although Pratt paints this stage of his life as an idyllic picture, the truth is it wasn’t always easy.
“We told friends we had a beach house,” he told Complex. “We were homeless, but at the same time, we were able to transcend the difficulty of homeownership. But there were fleas and mice that also lived in our van. And we didn’t have anywhere to go to the bathroom.”
Pratt did not know that he wanted to be an actor during his teenage years though deep inside him, he later said, he knew he was destined to succeed.
In an interview for Entertainment Weekly he elaborated, “My high school wrestling coach reminds me about this time I came into his office and he said, ‘Chris, what do you want to do with yourself?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know, but I know I’ll be famous, and I know I’ll make tons of money.’”
At age 19, while working as a waiter in Maui, Pratt met actress Rae Dawn Chong. He promoted himself, trying to convince her to put him in a movie.
“I was like, ‘You’re in the movies, right? I always wanted to be in the movies,’” said Pratt. “She said, ‘You’re cute. Do you act? I was like, I act! Put me in a movie!’”
Chong saw something in him and cast him in his first movie, Cursed Part III, which was also her directorial debut. Although the film was never released, it helped Pratt realize that he wanted to be an actor and it allowed him to get his foot in the door of the cinema industry. It lead to several small roles in movies, like Wanted and Take Me Home Tonight, and then to more substantial roles in shows like The O.C. and Parks and Recreation, and then onto genuine stardom.
6. JIM CARREY - Laughing In The Face Of Adversity (CLICK HERE)
5. WILLIAM SHATNER
Did you know that Canadian actor, William Shatner, best known for his portrayal of Captain James Tiberius Kirk on TV’s Star Trek – and his portrayal of Mark Twain on Murdoch Mysteries – was so cash-strapped at one point that he ended up living out of the back of his car?
After the cancellation of Star Trek in 1969, Shatner was broke. Then homeless. ‘I lived in a truck,’ Shatner told Metro. His family, meanwhile, was living in Beverly Hills.
He added, “It was the early 1970s, and I was recently divorced. I had three kids and was totally broke. I managed to find some jobs back on the east coast on the straw-hat circuit – summer stock – but couldn’t afford hotels, so I lived out of the back of my truck, under a hard shell. It had a little stove and a toilet, and I’d drive from theatre to theatre. The only comfort came from my dog, who sat in the passenger seat and gave me perspective on everything. Otherwise, it would have just been me counting my losses.”
Despite Shatner’s life’s circumstances, he doggedly kept going with his acting career.
More recently, at the age of 90, he made history when he became the oldest civilian to travel to space. Thanks to the friendship between Shatner and Blue Origin Founder Jeff Bezos, whose dreams of space travel were inspired by the original Star Trek series, this amazing event could become true.
4. DREW CAREY
The story of Drew Carey, an American actor, comedian, and game show host, is another tale of a currently famous man who experienced homelessness earlier in life.
While much of Drew’s career has been spent on television, he has played a part in such popular movies as Coneheads, Jack and Jill and Robots.
According to the Kirkland Reporter, before a life in film and television, the Clevelander and U.S. Marine Corps Reserve took off on the road to visit his brother on the west coast. In the process, Carey ran out of money and ended up homeless in Las Vegas at the age of 23.
To survive, Carey had to sell his plasma, panhandle for spare change, and briefly worked as a waiter at Denny's.
The experience has made the "Price Is Right" host a supporter of child-related charities and public libraries, including the Cleveland Public Library and the Ohio Library Foundation.
3. STEVE HARVEY
Steve Harvey might be the busiest man in show business. He has homelessness to thank for that. The comedian, actor and television host has a net worth of $200 million.
Despite his current success, he experienced homelessness for three years. He talked about it in a candid interview for People magazine.
'That was an ugly period, just very painful. Everybody has a moment when they turn back, when you say to yourself, "This is too much." I had it on several occasions.'
Like any people in their youth, Harvey was not sure what he wanted to do with his life; as a result, he jump from one job to another to another. He became an autoworker, a carpet cleaner, an insurance salesman, and a mailman.
Eventually he tried stand-up comedy at the Hilarities Comedy Club in Cleveland in 1985. The experience helped him realize that his dream was to become a comedian, although the next several years would still be extremely difficult. For three years, Harvey slept in his car between gigs and showered in public pool facilities.
It was only after winning a stand-up contest in 1990 that he was able to quit his job as an insurance salesman to pursue his dream. Three years later, Harvey got his big break when he landed a spot performing on Showtime at The Apollo.
During that interview for People, Harvey revealed that he never wants to be homeless again, which is why he is constantly working.
2. KELSEY GRAMMER
From 1983 to 2003, Kelsey Grammer made people laugh week after week, starring as the well-spoken, well-mannered, and well-to-do psychiatrist, Dr. Frasier Crane. But few people know that behind all the laughter and the glamor of his life on screen, his personal life included some very dark times, including homelessness and murder.
According to The Independent, Grammer fell in love with Shakespeare in high school and then decided to study acting at Juilliard, New York’s prestigious performing arts school, in 1973. There came a point, however, when he couldn’t afford the pricey theatre school. Rather than give up, he spent months sleeping in Central Park and working several jobs to pay for his studies.
Hardship was not new to Grammer. His grandmother, who helped raise him, died of cancer when he was twelve, and his father was murdered in 1968 during a home invasion. Then, years later in 1975, his younger sister Karen was kidnapped and murdered while Grammer was studying at Juilliard. Grammer was called upon to identify her body, and then had the responsibility of sharing the news with his mother.
Understandably distraught, he began missing classes and was eventually expelled. To cope, he struggled with substance abuse, including alcohol and drugs.
Despite all the pain and suffering that Grammer has experienced in his life – which has also had lasting effects and has taken years for him to get over, with some incidents still impacting him today – Grammer has nonetheless been able to build a successful acting career and turn himself into nothing less than a household name.
1. JAMES CAMERON
Accomplished and acclaimed director, James Cameron, whose fame reached its pinnacle with the release of Titanic in 1998, found himself suffering from severe financial problems in the early ‘80s. Before his first hit film, he lived in his car while writing the screenplay of the movie The Terminator, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger would go on to star.
Surprisingly, based on what Cameron has since said to the Independent, his main concern at that time wasn’t money.
Cameron was determined to direct his screenplay despite his limited experience. When he pitched “The Terminator” at several meetings with production companies, they said that while they liked the script, they didn’t like the idea of him being in charge. But Cameron was persistent and partnered with producer Gale Anne Hurd, who bought the rights to The Terminator’s screenplay for $1 and named Cameron the director.
In this way, Cameron's life is very similar to Sylvester Stallone; both suffered from severe financial limitations but had a lot of talent, creativity, and persistence.
In the end, Terminator made $77 million worldwide; it put an end to Cameron’s money problems and helped him push his career as a director in Hollywood to new heights.
Since then, Cameron has supported organizations that aid ocean-related causes and other environmental issues.
Final Thoughts –
Existing throughout the world – and often taking centre stage in the news – many people don’t understand the issue of, and the overwhelming problem that is, homelessness.
It’s easy to end up homeless. It’s difficult to end homelessness.
Unlike these 9 stories, wherein adversity eventually gives way to fame and fortune, there are millions of people who are homeless, living in unliveable situations that they cannot surmount.
For elder homeless men in Toronto, who experience isolation and hunger every day, there is Haven Toronto, the only drop-in centre in Canada dedicated to their unique needs.
Haven Toronto is a safe, welcoming space where elder homeless men can be part of a community, where they are afforded their dignity and given hope. Open every day all year, the drop-in centre reduces barriers to health care, housing and food security for thousands of people every year.