Becoming a celebrity has its benefits, among them money and power. But for many famous people, their lifestyle comes with a steep price in the form of obsessed fans. Often called “stalkers,” these fans may simply follow or constantly contact their celebrity of choice. Others threaten bodily harm or murder, and some make good on these threats.
The murder of John Lennon on December 8, 1980 showed the world that celebrities were not as safe as they may have thought they were. Mark David Chapman, a young man obsessed with the former Beatle, had pondered killing Lennon for some time. He even made a trip to New York City with murder in mind two months earlier, but abandoned his plans and returned home.
The same year, John Hinckley, Jr, a man obsessed with movie actress Jodie Foster, became frustrated with his attempts to gain her attention. He decided that a drastic move would be necessary and began planning an assassination. After stalking President Jimmy Carter for some time but failing to carry out his plan, he shifted his focus to newly elected President Reagan. On March 30, 1981, he attempted to assassinate Reagan in Washington, DC. Six people, including the President, were wounded, but all lived.
In 1986, the sitcom My Sister Sam introduced America to a young girl named Rebecca Schaeffer. Robert John Bardo developed a crush on her, but his infatuation turned to anger when she filmed bedroom scenes for a movie. Reasoning that he had to save her from becoming a “Hollywood whore,” Bardo traveled to California in 1989 to speak with Schaeffer. When he went to her apartment a second time, her apparent dismissal enraged him and he shot her dead on her doorstep.
Schaeffer’s murder brought about changes in privacy laws, as Bardo had obtained her home address through the California DMV. Actress Theresa Saldana, herself a survivor of an attack by an obsessed fan in 1982, spoke out for these changes, along with anti-stalking laws.
Despite expanded laws and increased security around celebrities these days, many famous people still find themselves targeted by dangerously obsessed fans. Singer Britney Spears, Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson and actress Catherine Zeta-Jones are among the celebrities who have had terrifying experiences with stalkers.
Singer Joss Stone appears to be the most recent target of stalkers. On June 14, 2011, police arrested two men near her home in England. Initial reports indicate that the men apparently intended to kidnap and possibly murder Stone. A search of the men’s car is said to have revealed swords, rope and a body bag. The two men are charged with conspiracy to rob and commit grievous bodily harm.