Sex, lies, celebrity and secrets threw them into the spotlight. Then, after making headlines, personal hardship and scandal rocked their lives — and almost destroyed them.
But these once-notorious newsmakers — Sarah Ferguson, Macaulay Culkin, Kato Kaelin, Greg Louganis, Donna Rice Hughes and Mariah Carey — struggled through adversity and turned their lives around for the better.
I was the first to interview them when they were caught in a glare of publicity that, for them, felt like a very public form of imprisonment. I sat down with them once again to talk about how they got through it all.
Kato Kaelin's career was made by a murder trial. He became an unlikely star in "the trial of the century" because he happened to be living at O.J. Simpson's home the night Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered.
The prosecution saw him as a hostile witness, but he says he now sees things differently.
"In my heart, I believe he's guilty, yes," he says of Simpson. "I couldn't understand why he was acquitted."
His life will be forever defined by where he was on the night of June 12, 1994. And though he's bothered that his notoriety came about "in such a horrendous way," Kaelin, 43, says, "I accept the glare."
Since the trial, the infamous houseguest has appeared on talk shows, game shows and commercials. He recently shot a pilot for a reality-TV series called Houseguest, in which he travels across the country, knocks on doors and spends the weekend with unsuspecting families.
He's capitalizing on his notoriety now, but being thrust in the limelight eight years ago came with its difficulties.
"I think sometimes, some people have the wrong image: This guy who was the freeloader. A person doing drugs and a guy who they thought maybe lied on trial," he says. "It really is the complete opposite. I'm a guy who came from Wisconsin 20 years ago, pursuing my dream of getting into show business."
Today Kaelin is living the life he always wanted to live, spending time at the Playboy mansion and going to Hollywood parties. What he most wants people to know about him, he says, is that "Kato is just a regular guy pursuing his dream that he's had his entire life. Let him pursue that dream.… I really think you'd like the guy."
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Before there was Monica Lewinsky, there was Donna Rice. She wasn't a Washington intern, but her tryst with Gary Hart trapped her in the spotlight, captivated the country, and may have changed the outcome of a presidential election.
Her reputation was shattered — as was Gary Hart's political career — in May 1987, when reporters staked out Hart's Washington, D.C., townhouse, where it appeared he and Rice had spent a night together.
"It has been the most difficult, painful and humiliating experience," she told me in her first interview after the story broke.
The scandal not only marked the end of Hart's career, but also the beginning of a new phenomenon: The sex lives of politicians had become fair game for reporters.
Back then, she wouldn't tell me whether or not she slept with Hart; 15 years later, she still won't say.
"I knew I'd made plenty of mistakes, but that didn't mean that I had to continue to make poor choices," she said, pointing out that she also never sold her story for money — despite many offers.
In 1994, Rice married Jack Hughes and also discovered her new passion: protecting children from online pornography and sexual predators. That same year she became an activist, promoting public awareness and speaking out and lobbying for new laws regulating the Internet, putting her back in the midst of politics and the media — the twin curses that once sent her life into so much turmoil. Three years ago, she was appointed by Congress to the Child Online Protection Commission.
"Things are very good," she says, pointing out that she and her husband are looking to adopt a child.
What she most wants people to know about Donna Rice, she says, "is that she asked God to make all of this count for something bigger than her and followed him as best she could."
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Home Alone's Macaulay Culkin grew to become the highest-paid child star in movie history. But success came at a tremendous cost, and even today, his early fame haunts him.
When he was just 10 years old, Culkin's face was recognized all over the world. Soon, the constant stream of publicity and curious fans overwhelmed the young actor.
At one point, while filming Home Alone 2, he says he had to hide in his trailer while a gaggle of fans rocked the trailer from the outside. "It was just one of those things that really, really scared me," he says.
With his fame and success came more work. His father signed him up for film after film — 14 in all. And before he knew it, his childhood was gone.
His life became a grueling treadmill. "Literally, I was hoping to disappear off the face of the Earth," he says.
He decided to leave show business at age 14, in an attempt to live a more "normal" life outside the glare of the movie lights and the paparazzi.
"When I quit, I really didn't think I had anybody my own age that was my friend," he says. "I kind of just wanted to be a teenager."
But for Mac, as he is known, "normal" was then — and still is — a relative term. He married actress Rachel Miner, bought a huge New York City loft, and skipped the last months of high school.
Now, at 21, separated from his wife, he spends most of his time at home, still grappling with the fears he developed as a famous child.
"I still don't leave my house very often," he says. "It takes me about two hours to really hype myself up and say, 'OK, time to go outside, time to go to the grocery store.'"
But Culkin came back into the spotlight on stage in London and New York, starring in Madam Melville, and he's about to make his first movie in eight years. He will play a cross-dressing murderer in Party Monster, based on a true story.
So would he give back all the money and the fame for anonymity? "No, I wouldn't change anything in my life," he says. "Even if it does take me a little while to get ready to go out."
Asked what he most wants people to know about him, he answers, "I'm a normal person … I just want people to know that I'm just trying to be me, and that it's no big deal."
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Thirteen years ago, I sat across from a young bride caught up in the swirl of royalty and romance. England's royal family welcomed Sarah Ferguson into their ranks when she married Prince Andrew.
Though her husband was often away serving in the Navy, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of York seemed to be settling into her new life. "The best part is being married to Andrew, because he's great," she told me in 1989, after she gave birth to their first daughter and was pregnant with their second.
Three years after our interview, the Duke and Duchess of York separated. Suddenly, there seemed to be no end to her troubles. She was photographed with another man, she piled up millions in debt, her taste in clothing was ridiculed, and she gained weight. The media, who once adored her, changed their tune.
"I didn't really want to get out of my room, I didn't want to get out of my bed," the duchess remembers now, adding that she felt as if she didn't have a friend in the world.
"I went about trying to survive. And in trying to survive, I started to understand more about myself. And I took myself under control," she says.
The duchess got a job as a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers, which she says helped her lose weight and pay off her debts. She has written five books about self-esteem and a series of children's stories, and she started two charities that help children in crisis.
"It's the worst feeling in the world to have your whole soul and your whole life on the front pages," she says. "You've just got to work at believing who you are and not be swept up with either the good bits or the bad bits. Just hold on to the core of you."
She has also gained some perspective and insight on her marriage. "I think I made innumerable mistakes from very early on by simply not understanding quite what I had taken on," she says. "I was 25 and I was very excited and I was in love."
She and Prince Andrew are still very close; in fact, they continue to live together, though she'll be moving into her own home soon. And, six years after her divorce, and 10 years after their separation, she continues to wear her wedding band.
"We are very irregular," she says, laughing.
Her family motto is "out of adversity comes happiness." But asked if she's found happiness, she says, "I think happiness is a fleeting moment. But I think inner contentment is what I'm aiming for."
What she most wants people to know about her, she says, "is that it's OK just to be me … I'd just like people to realize that I'm just me, doing the best job I can."
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Mariah Carey, who became a star with her debut single "Vision of Love" in 1990, didn't realize that she desperately needed to escape the glare — until it was nearly too late.
Last summer, the pop diva suffered what was described as an emotional breakdown after a two-week whirlwind tour to promote her first movie, Glitter. The movie, autobiographical in some ways, also broke down at the box office. Even more disastrous for Carey, the soundtrack album — her first under a milestone $80 million contract with Virgin Records — did poorly in stores. The record company bought its way out of the contract, and things looked bleak.
Carey even checked herself into a hospital at one point, saying she was exhausted. No wonder: In addition to starring in the movie and singing for the album, she was an executive producer of both.
"I never took a break. I never learned how to just put myself before my career. I just didn't," she told my colleagues and me on The View. "You can't do that, you know, with everybody pulling you in different directions … I was exhausted. And sleep-deprived. And that's what happened. And now, I feel better than I've felt, because I finally got a chance to take time from me, and I learned a lesson."
Carey, who voluntarily stepped back into the glare after Sept. 11, realized that her spirit is as extraordinary as her voice. "I think that this happened so that I could see that I don't have to be perfect, that nobody is perfect," she said. "No matter what happens, I can pull through it."
Last winter, Carey went overseas to entertain American troops in Kosovo, and she gave patriotism a new voice with her rendition of the national anthem.
"Music has always been my saving grace," she says. "It's always been what has made me feel special when I didn't feel special or I felt like I didn't belong."
Part of why she felt like an outcast, she says, was because she is the child of a white mother and a black father. "I didn't feel I had anybody to identify with," she told me in a 1998 interview. "I felt like I always had something to prove because of that. I think that's one of the things that made me who I am."
Now 32 and divorced from her former manager, Tommy Mottola, Carey has literally built herself a new life, starting with a new Manhattan apartment. She's now recording the first album under her own record label. And on the movie front, she has moved beyond the disappointments of Glitter. Her new movie, Wise Girls, premiered to excellent reviews at the Sundance Film Festival, and will be seen on HBO in November.
Asked what her ultimate ambition is, she says, "Hopefully, continue to be successful and to find happiness, too. Because I'm still looking for that. And I don't like to say that. Because I don't want to seem ungrateful. I know what I have. But still, inside, I don't feel like there's anyone who necessarily truly and fully understands me or who I can trust completely."
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On the diving board, Olympic champion Greg Louganis was absolute perfection. But he was hiding a terrible secret.
Seven years ago, he chose to tell me first on 20/20 that he has AIDS. The news shocked the world — especially because at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, he had hit his head on the diving board, spilling blood into the pool.
In his 1995 autobiography, Louganis details a life of depression, an abusive relationship, and coming to terms with his homosexuality.
"The gold medals are wonderful. It gave me a platform," he says. "But the book, Breaking the Surface, my autobiography, is the thing that I'm most proud of. Because it seemed to make a difference … people said that I saved their lives … Because I was out there and doing, and not giving up."
He retired from diving, but continued living in the glare by pursuing acting, appearing in off-Broadway plays. Now, he is concentrating on another passion: his love of dogs. He teaches agility and obedience classes in California, and he recently wrote a book called For the Life of Your Dog.
His own dogs, he says, helped save his life, by giving him a reason to wake up in the morning, especially when the side effects from his treatments were severe.
"I had to get up and take care of them and feed them. Otherwise," he says, "I would have stayed in bed, pulled the covers over my head."
Louganis is also giving motivational speeches to colleges and corporations. "The primary message," he says, "is to love yourself enough to protect yourselves and those that you're with. Because the growing HIV communities are young people, and what it's coming down to is self-esteem issues."
What he most wants people to know about him, he says, is: "I care. I care about people. I care about animals … As a diver, I want to be remembered as being strong and graceful. As a person I want to be remembered as having made a difference."
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