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10 Shocking Stories of Rich and Famous Celebrities Who Died Poor

They say the hardest part of being a celebrity is that everyone watches you making money and also spending it. You have to dress well and keep a smile for the cameras to impress the world. However, as money makes celebrities, it destroyed some too. Most celebrities run into financial hurdles but they swing to a different career or get help from friends. However, even with millions of fans and a huge name to reap from, some of these people get broke and fade off into oblivion with nothing to their name. Here is a list of the 21st-century riches to rags stories that shocked the world.

Thriller, Jackson’s best seller in the 70s raked in over $100m, this was a record sale and just a tip of what the king of pop would make in the 80s and 90s. King of pop, the highest paid celebrity and the king of fame are all the names that follow Michael Jackson after his death. According to Forbes, he made a whopping 1.1 billion dollars during his 4-decade career from album sales, shows, royalties and his 50% share of the ATV partnership later in his life. With so much money earned a year, Michael Jackson seems to be the greatest spendthrift in the last century, he owed nearly 0.5 billion dollars when he died contrary to what everyone expected.[1]

Celebrity life is expensive but being a celebrity cost Jackson less than half of his fortune. He spent the rest on expensive holidays and of course the ultra-expensive plastic surgeries. His private life was full of scandals pushing off Pepsi and other sponsors. With lawsuits increasing including a child molestation case that cost over $20 million, Jackson’s revenues could not keep up. He turned to expensive borrowing to keep up the image but his death would expose the depth of his financial woes. He left the family with nothing, his estate has however brought in over $1 billion reviving his finances, ok his name’s finances because he was too dead to spend it.[2]

2. Houston McTear

Houston McTear

This was a famous athlete who died to the media long before his actual death in 2015 after he was reported homeless and desperate on the Santa Monica beach. Houston McTear was the unluckiest fastest man in the world. Despite running a record 6.5 seconds in a 60-meter race that went unbroken for a decade and setting a 9-second finish for the 100-meter dash, he never got to run in the Olympics. He was the Hussein Bolt of the 20th century. He was a favorite rag to riches story after growing up in a Shack in Florida in the family of 8 but turning his life around at the peak of his career.[3]

His speed would be the family savior after he started earning lots of money when he got into a partnership with Mohammed Ali to create a club in his name. He confessed to having $400,000 in his account at one point but things didn’t work in his favor. Drugs and family problems got the better of him. He started spending over $300 a week on drugs, this was really damaging considering his earnings were not as constant. He died forgotten in Sweden with no known wealth to his name.[4]

3. Gary Coleman

Gary Coleman

Different strokes the NBC hit show made Gary Coleman one of the richest child actors on the planet. He was paid $100,000 per episode making him one of Hollywood’s richest at one point. With so much money and young age, Coleman had all it took to be great, in his career and financially.[5]

However, Gary Coleman’s financial problems were not his fault, his foster parents squandered his money, he sued them for a $1.3 million settlement in 1993 but that was not nearly enough. After 2 failed kidney transplants, his health cost him the other half of his fortune. He later became jobless and had to work as a security guard to fend for himself. When he died from a fatal fall years later, he was bankrupt although his estate was expected to continue earning some money years on.[6]

4. Corey Haim

Corey Haim

Silver Bullet, Lucas and Snowboard Academy were all best sellers acted by Corey Haim at a young age. He was one of the best Canadian actors in Hollywood in 80s being called up for a role in 7 movies. In any standard, Corey Haim had all it takes to be famous and rich but he only managed one of the two, get famous. Corey Haim was the Hollywood teen Idol through his role in “the lost boys” which he acted alongside his friend Corey Feldman. The two Coreys became the pride of Hollywood earning so much fame and money through the 80s. 

Getting so much money when young requires a lot of responsibility which Corey just didn’t have. He lost most of his money on drugs leading to an addiction that pushed him out of his career. He later tried to come back from it but he couldn’t. By the time he died of pneumonia in 2010, Corey was broke living in a rental apartment with his sick mother. He allegedly didn’t have any property to his name, not even a car.[7]

5. Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds

After 66 years of a successful career in best sellers including Bandit, deliverance and Boogie nights, Burt Reynolds made more money than any regular Hollywood star. ‘Boogie nights’ was a great hit that earned Burt Reynolds more than $10 million a year in his prime and a Golden Globe award in 1998. After spending a better part of his life in the industry, Burt Reynolds acquired enough wealth to keep him financially secure all his life but the revelation on his financial state at the time of his death was a shocker. 

He had lost his 150-acre ranch, a private jet, a spread and many other expensive properties he acquired in his career. By the time he died, he was literally homeless living in his waterfront mansion at the mercy of its buyer who happened to be his friend. While drugs were not his thing, Reynolds blamed his financial problems on wrong investment decisions. The sad bit is that even after losing all his wealth, he regretted not having spent more. He sure lived large and literally spent all his money on himself.[8][9]

6. Mickey Rooney

Mickey Rooney

Mickey Rooney left an 18,000-dollar estate after acting, directing and producing for 80 years. It was a total mockery to his many years of hard work and fame. Andy Hardy film royalties were not as huge as modern films but Mickey Rooney was still the highest paid actor in the 30s and 40s. Mickey Rooney’s career in Hollywood spanned nearly his entire life. His production business continued to supplement his earnings way into his later years. He died at 92, with a career that lasted over 80 years, Mickey Rooney’s estate would have been worth millions.[10]

He was not a drug addict, just a good man surrounded by a very greedy family. His stepson Aber was accused of taking $2.8 million from him. He blamed one of his other sons for mishandling his money. In his last days, Rooney had quite a hard time facing harassment from his eighth wife and her son who were accused of elder mistreatment. He was a very miserable man considering he was still the Jewel of Hollywood’s greatest even before his death.[11]

7. Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr

Once named the most beautiful woman in the world, Hedy went from riches to rags reaching the worst in the 60s when she could hardly pay for food. Hedy was as complicated an actor as she was an inventor but a rich celebrity either way. No one had a grasp on her, in her early days, she starred in a German movie called ecstasy but her life had not started just yet. She was the main actor in Samson and Delila, Paramount’s best seller through the better part of the 20th century. 

She earned a lot of money from her contract with Goldwin Meyer and many other roles of her early career, she was the most beautiful woman in the world, so she set her own prices and she spent her money on everything she wanted. With 6 marriages, some with financial troubles that forced her to sell her priced paintings and a lavish living, there was no money for the future. Besides, she didn’t even believe in saving, she said money was earned to be spent and everyone should spend theirs, not leave it to other people. There wasn’t much left to her name. Before her death in January 2000, she was living off a pension and royalties from some of her productions.

8. George Best

George Best

Soccer pays well and most players are rich although not all of them maintain wealth and fame after retiring. George best’s woes, however, had nothing to do with retiring, he was just a man that could not part with his characters from his youth. George Best is one of the best players to ever play for Manchester United. Before leaving the club at the age of 27, Best had everything it takes to be a great man. 

Best, however, descended into deep alcoholism that affected his health. He misused his money on drugs in the early years after leaving his career leading to liver and kidney failure by the time he was 50. He was given a new liver in 2002 while dealing with financial problems. However, by the time he died 3 years later, George best was in a desperate state with nearly nothing to his name.[12]

9. Anita Ekberg

Anita Ekberg

Anita Ekberg came to fame after becoming Miss Sweden at 20 and proceeding to contest for miss universe, of course, she lost due to the number of better divas but she became more famous a few decades later. Universal pictures gave her a contract that sent her to Italy to begin her great career. She played a part in great films, but none has ever hit like La Dolce Vita, which she acted in epic romantic chemistry with Marcello Mastroianni. She was good, maybe too good. After La Dolce, she was named the sex goddess of 20th-century film. Her acting was loved by many and also criticized worldwide including the Vatican.

She had money and wealthy lovers too, including Frank Sinatra. Through her life, she lived large when it was necessary, but misfortune struck as age caught up with her. Better faces appeared, and she was pushed to the sidelines. After moving to a Villa in Italy after her second divorce, she was robbed of her jewelry and lost her property to fire. She also lost a leg when her dog knocked her down and had to move by on a wheelchair leading to her most desperate times during which she had to appeal for help.[13][14]

10. Sammy Davis Jr

Sammy Davis Jr
circa 1955: Studio portrait of American singer and actor Sammy Davis, Jr 1925 – 1990 (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Sammy Junior or ‘Mr. Show’ as his fans still call him died in 1990 leaving a $5m debt owed to the IRS. He had earned a lot of money in his 60-year career with its peak as a member of Rat Pack where he was the most popular figure. Sammy died in 1990, but the details of his financial problems became more evident in this century. He was a great man who left the war and went straight on stage to fill up halls and stadiums in every event he hosted. By his 60s, he was making millions a year and living large. He confessed to spending twice the money he earned.[15]

The stories that emerged a decade after his death exposed this great musician as an alcoholic. He struggled with substance abuse before succumbing to throat cancer. While this may have contributed to his financial problems, Sammy Jr was trying to salvage his situation in his last tour which was cut short by the disease. He, however, had life insurance which saw to his wife and children keeping the family safe from his mistakes.[16]

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