All the Celebrity Scandals and Drama Served Up Over the Holidays Are a Lot to Digest

Rest assured, we're never too busy roasting turkeys, trimming trees or lighting candles to notice when shocking stuff happens during the holiday season.

By Natalie Finn Nov 25, 2022 3:00 PMTags
Watch: Holiday Streaming Guide 2022: What to Watch on Netflix, HBO Max & More

No one has to tell you that, along with all the tidings of comfort and joy, tensions tend to run high during the holiday season.

Whether it's the stress of preparing what's supposed to be the best meal ever to please the most exacting family members you never eat with on any other occasion, the perennial struggle between the part of you who wants to find the perfect presents and the part that wants to give up and get everyone gift cards, or just the lingering trauma of the sun going down at 4:30 p.m.—oy vey to the world, the angst has come.

Not that it can't also be the most wonderful time of the year, but most people have at least one winter holiday they'd like to forget. And celebrities are no exception.

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Because for all the picture-perfect table settings, immaculately trimmed trees, families of five in matching pajamas and smiling exes reunited for the kids... there have also been some downright disasters that no one is showing off on Instagram.

And not only is there no such thing anymore as a scandal slipping through the cracks just because it occurred after business hours or over a holiday weekend, drama that takes place at this time of year can't help but stick in your mind, like carol melodies (if not quite the actual lyrics) and Home Alone lines (which you can quote verbatim).

If you're looking for something lighter after yesterdays' feast, here are some raw memories to chew on:

Tiger Woods' Cheating Scandal Erupts

It isn't every scandal that completely dismantles someone's image, but Tiger Woods never did anything half way.

The National Enquirer had recently reported on his alleged infidelity, but the rumors hadn't really gone mainstream until Nov. 27, 2009, when Woods ran his Escalade into a fire hydrant (which resulted in the SUV bumping into a tree) outside the Windemere, Fla., mansion he shared with wife Elin Nordegren and their two children. It being the night after Thanksgiving, the golf champion's mother and mother-in-law were at the house, too.

In the ensuing days, "other women," starting with Rachel Uchitel, came pouring out the woodwork and Woods eventually checked into treatment for sex addiction. Though he'd return to competition at the Masters the following April, a combination of physical ailments and personal strife (he and Nordegren divorced in August 2010) prevented him from winning another title until 2012—and he didn't win another major tournament until the 2019 Masters.

Though she thoroughly denied the version of events that had her whacking the vehicle's window with a golf club on that fateful evening, Nordegren later opened up about how utterly devastating that time was, telling People, "I have been through the stages of disbelief and shock, to anger and ultimately grief over the loss of the family I so badly wanted for my children."

Charlie Sheen Melts Down

For a long time that was an evergreen Sheen headline, but it was on Christmas morning in 2009 that the actor was arrested on domestic violence charges for allegedly pulling a knife on wife Brooke Mueller, the mother of his twin sons Bob and Max, while they were vacationing in Aspen, Colo.

"There are other people here," Mueller told the 911 dispatcher, per the call released by police days later. "My family's here, but right now if I don't file this...I need to file it now. I've got to file this report. I thought I was going to die for one hour." She told police that her husband had held a knife to her throat and warned her, "You better be in fear." Sheen would in turn accuse his wife of being the aggressor in that fight.

Both spouses went to rehab after the incident and Sheen later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor assault. They mutually filed for divorce on Nov. 1, 2010, putting down Dec. 25, 2009, as their date of separation.

Halle Berry's Boyfriends Brawl

On the morning of Thanksgiving in 2012, Gabriel Aubry, the Oscar winner's ex and father of her daughter Nahla, and her then-boyfriend, Olivier Martinez, scuffled in the driveway of Berry's Beverly Hills home.

Aubry was arrested on suspicion of battery, but then, claiming Martinez threatened to kill him, secured a temporary restraining order against the French actor, who was spotted with a brace on his right hand the following week.

The Nov. 22 fight came just weeks after a judge denied Berry's petition (which Aubry had been fighting) to relocate to France with Nahla. 

Berry and Martinez, who met costarring in the 2010 thriller Dark Tide, got married in July 2013 and welcomed son Maceo that October, but she filed for divorce in 2015.

Natalie Wood's Shocking Death

On Nov. 28, 1981, two nights after Thanksgiving, the West Side Story star drowned during an evening spent aboard her 60-foot yacht Splendour with husband Robert Wagner (whom she remarried in 1972, 10 years after they divorced) and their friend Christopher Walken, Wood's costar in 1983's Brainstorm.

An autopsy determined that she had consumed seven or eight glasses of wine before she ended up in the water, but to this day, no one has been able to say for sure what happened, and the questions have never stopped. In 2012, following a new investigation, the cause on the death certificate was amended to read "drowning and other determined factors."

Duane Raser, the retired Los Angeles Sheriff's detective assigned to the case back in the 1980s, told 48 Hours in 2018, "She fell off the boat and drowned accidentally. If it was suspicious I would've worked the case as a murder. I didn't have any suspicion that anybody had injured, or killed or drowned her." He stood by his investigation "completely," he added. "The poor lady drowned."

The Unsolved Murder of JonBenét Ramsey

Eight hours after her mother, Patsy Ramsey, frantically called police to report her 6-year-old daughter missing, the child's body was found in the basement of the family's Boulder, Colo., home on Dec. 26, 1996. Preserving a possible crime scene presumably the furthest thing from his mind, dad John Ramsey carried her upstairs and laid her down next to the Christmas tree in the living room. She had just been crowned Little Miss Christmas at the All Star Kids Christmas Pageant in Denver earlier that month.

JonBenét's murder caused a media frenzy and multiple people were identified as suspects—including her parents, who weren't officially cleared until 2008—but no one has ever been charged in her death. In 2016, her older brother Burke Ramsey, who was 9 when his sister was killed, sued CBS for defamation after the network's The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey seemed to implicate him in her death. In an interview with Dr. Phil McGraw, Burke said that just because he seemed unemotional in an interview with a detective from that time (which was unearthed 20 years later), that didn't mean he wasn't traumatized when it happened.

"I would just randomly cry out of nowhere," he recalled. "I guess it's a combination of sitting in there with this weird guy that I never talked to before and asking me all of these personal questions, it's a combination of that and just kind some point you have to move on. I'm not saying I moved on then. It might have been kind of the other end. I didn't really get it. You have to stop crying at some point, I guess."

Pregnant Laci Peterson Disappears

Eight months pregnant with her first child, a boy she and husband Scott Peterson had already named Conner, Laci was last seen alive on Dec. 24, 2002—several weeks after Scott told his mistress, Amber Frey, that he was about to have his first Christmas since his wife's death. Because when they met, Scott had told Amber that he was recently widowed.

Two days before Laci went missing, "I had gone over with the intention of having Scott straighten out my Christmas tree," neighbor Karen Servas later told the Modesto Bee. "He was a little quiet. Right before he walked out the door, unprompted, he turned to me and said, 'Oh, by the way, we picked out a name. We want to name the baby Conner.'"

On Christmas, Servas continued, "I went over there and we watched the news. A number of people were there—Laci's friends, Scott and Scott's mom and dad had just gotten into town. After the news, I went to leave and Scott said, 'Why don't you stay? We're going to have dinner.' I said, "No, I don't eat meat' because there was a turkey somebody had brought on the countertop. I felt really uncomfortable. I just wanted to go home."

Laci's remains washed ashore in the San Francisco Bay area in April 2003—and on the same day they were positively identified, Scott was arrested for murder.

He maintained that he was innocent, but a jury found him guilty in the murders of his wife and unborn son and sentenced him to death. In August 2020, the California Supreme Court overturned the sentence, agreeing with the defense that there may have been an issue during jury selection that prevented the death penalty from being properly applied. 

In October 2021, the high court also ordered a review of Scott's conviction, and there is a possibility that he could be granted a new trial. He was resentenced to life in prison on Dec. 8, 2021.

Robert Downey Jr.'s Woes Continue

On Nov. 25, 2000, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Oscar-nominated actor was arrested in a Palm Springs hotel room for drug possession, barely three months removed from his year-long stay in prison for violating his probation on other drug charges.

An anonymous caller informed the 911 dispatcher, "Uh yeah, I'd just like to let you know that in room 311 at the Merv Griffin Resort there's a man that has an ounce of cocaine and a couple of guns and is pretty upset. Thank you."

Downey remained free on bail, as well as gainfully employed on Ally McBeal, until the following April when police picked him up wandering around in an alley in Los Angeles and the wheels started to come off the train again. Back in court in July 2001, he pleaded the November bust down to a misdemeanor and returned to rehab—after which, with the help of future wife Susan, whom he met making 2003's Gothika, sobriety stuck

Several years later, he scored the role of Iron Man and has had a slew of happy holidays since. In 2015, then-California Gov. Jerry Brown granted Downey an unconditional pardon, applauding the myriad ways he had put his life back together.

Katy Perry and Russell Brand Celebrate Separately

It's never a great sign when a couple voluntarily spends Christmas apart barely a year after tying the knot, as these two did in 2011. A source confirmed to E! News days later that Perry's Yuletide beach holiday on Kauai did not include Brand, and the British comedian filed for divorce on Dec. 30.

Which made for a real party of a New Year's Eve for Perry after, in what wasn't the most chivalrous of moves, Brand relayed his decision to end their marriage via his trusty mobile.

"Let's just say I haven't heard from him since he texted me saying he was divorcing me December 31, 2011," the Prism artist revealed to Vogue in 2013.

Pink Carves Up Carey Hart's Tires

Pink is the first to admit that her marriage to the former motocross star has had its ups and downs, resulting in a breakup here, a screaming match there, a drunken tire-slashing session on Thanksgiving...

"Holidays are stressful!" the singer shared on Ellen in 2018.

Pressed for details of that night ("It wasn't that long ago!" she laughed), Pink recalled, "I got clean through the first one. He has a raised F250 and those tires are thick, thank you very much," the singer revealed to Ellen DeGeneres. "And the second one I lost a little steam, and I hit the metal part and my hand just went straight down the knife... Got 13 stitches. But here's the thing—I didn't need any anesthesia. I couldn't feel a thing."

So, if you ever go to Pink's house for Thanksgiving and they're using plastic cutlery, that explains it.

Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey Split Up

There had been a few signs—some captured on camera for MTV's Newlyweds—that Simpson might not want to love Nick Lachey forever after all, and the split rumors were verified when they announced their separation on Nov. 23, 2005, the day before Thanksgiving.

"We all had a great Thanksgiving, all the family was together and we had a wonderful time," sister Ashlee Simpson told Star after the holiday, which the Simpsons (sans any Lacheys) spent in Texas. Jess was "doing great," she added, and they didn't talk about the breakup.

There would be time for that later.

The next month was rough for Jessica, who reminisced to MTV News the following year about listening to Patty Griffin's "Let Him Fly" and bawling. She and Ashlee "laid there listening to the song and just cried and cried like babies," she recalled. "In a lot of ways, my sister really gave me the strength to pull through this really hard time. And it was just lying there and being with her that got me through it. I knew everything would be OK. The song is about how sometimes you just have to know when to let something go. And that was that moment. And I had to sing it."

She filed for divorce on Dec. 16, a Friday (as if the 24/7 news cycle wasn't going to notice), after three years of marriage.