Three Celebs You’d Never Know Were Once Badasses
When it comes to war, celebrities have the best excuse to not take part. They can’t afford to damage the moneymaker. A shell explosion to the face and that’s it, career finished.
Other celebrities, for that very reason, have signed up for service in the military because of that perception. Elvis Presley was a famous case.
The U.S. conscripted Presley to join, but he welcomed the chance to prove his patriotism. He wanted no special treatment from the U.S. Army, which is what he got or at least the way we know the story.
History is full of celebs who traded into their seats at the Oscars for seats on the bus to boot camp.
Here are three soldiers you may not know about.
It’s A Wonderful Life’s Jimmy Stewart
There’s a scene in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, where the character George Bailey, played by Stewart, breaks into prayer. It’s a moving scene.
Stewart plays the beat so well you might think he was really crying. He was. At the time, Stewart had recently returned from World War II, where he flew enough to develop PTSD.
The director intended the scene to be emotional, but it wasn’t in the script that George would break down sobbing. Stewart let himself go full vulnerable; that’s when he lost it. Critics would later congratulate the actor for creating a real sense of emotion.
For his time, Stewart was an everyman actor, a Tom Hanks of sorts. Hollywood would cast him in darker roles, but his public persona was that guy you wanted to meet. How quickly people forgot that Stewart broke the mold for defining a patriot.
Jimmy Stewart served the U.S. Military from 1940 to 1968. When he enlisted to join the war effort, he was the first major actor to do so. To qualify, he had to gain ten pounds for his height.
Then Stewart logged 300 hours in the Army Air Corps (pre-Air Force) to show he could. It took tenacity to make it to the battlefield.
Whether it was his age (in his 30s, ancient for a soldier) or his celebrity status, Stewart’s superiors tried to hold him back. When they finally gave him an assignment, it was over in England.
Once there, he established himself as a leader, taking over the squadron in short order. He would go on to lead countless bomb runs including runs over Berlin, leaving the war with almost 40 decorations for his efforts.
Who needs Oscars when you have forty war medals?
You might know Ross as that super friendly painter who would turn white canvases into huge scenes of wilderness. Throughout his career as a painter-cum-entertainer on PBS, Ross used simple strokes with a painter’s knife to transform blobs of paint into mountains, trees, and happy little clouds.
Ross encouraged you to try with him, to paint your own masterpieces. His show, The Joy of Painting, was the never the show you would imagine you could somehow lose hours watching, but it happened.
Whether it was the magic in the strokes or the velvety voice narrating the action, countless channel flippers got stuck on the show.
What an addiction, to the smiling man who couldn’t hurt a fly?
Hard to imagine that Mr. Velvety-tones once screamed his lungs out at soldiers who needed motivation. He was a first sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.
If you don’t know your military ranks, a first sergeant is in your face about everything. Bob Ross had to scream through his days, being as tough as he could.
Ross hated that life. He didn’t like “being mean,” as he called it, promising himself that he would quit it as soon as he could.
When he wasn’t screaming, he was painting Alaskan wilderness. He developed a talent and speed for painting, good enough to sell his work. Once he had enough momentum to quit, he left the military to be the man he always wanted to be.
Scotty From Star Trek
The man who played the first Scotty was James Doohan. For his career, he did little else. Once we saw him as Scotty, producers didn’t believe we could see him as anything else.
Fortunately, for Doohan, the role of Scotty lived on for decades beyond the airing of the first show.
If you’re not a Trekkie, the character of Scotty is the coolest cat on the Starship Enterprise. He’s the chief engineer, subject to constant ridiculous demands from the captain of the ship, none of which unhinges Scotty from his cool collected demeanor.
In the real world, Doohan was a member of the Canadian Air Force during World War II, as a talented but risk-taking pilot. He once flew his plane slalom-style between a line of telephone poles on a dare.
In the war, Doohan served as an artillery captain. He took six bullets during battle, even lost a finger, something Hollywood covered up with hand-doubles.
Who knew? Three of the nicest guys, all celebrities, all pilots, and all three were serious badasses for part of their lives. They share one more thing; they’ve all since passed on.