The Biggest Scandals of the ‘80s


The ‘80s saw several significant moments such as the eradication of smallpox, Ronal Reagan being elected as the President of the United States, and the Rubik’s cube rise to popularity. However, the ‘80s also saw several well-known names fall from grace. From sex scandals to corruption scandals, the ‘80s seemed like every other celebrity or politician got caught up in some kind of scandal. That’s why in this article, we are going to take a look back at the most controversial moments that rocked the ‘80s, a decade that these people would rather forget.

Milli Vanilli’s lip-syncing

After their album entitled Girl, You Know It’s True spawned five top ten hits and went platinum six times, Milli Vanilli’s popularity skyrocketed. The duo, who is composed of Rob Pilatus ad Fab Morvan, even earned a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. But their career ended earlier than they expected because of an MTV performance in 1989. Everything is going the way it should be until the song froze and revealed that the duo was actually lip-syncing. To make things worse, they failed to hold it together and just walked out of the stage in defeat. After this incident, Milli Vanilli had to return their Grammy awards because it turns out that they never really sung a note on any of their albums.

Marvin Gaye murdered by his own father

The prince of Motown was tragically killed by his father, Marvin Gaye Sr., a day before his 45th birthday. It happened at Marvin Gaye’s parents L.A home, which he bought for them. Reports said that it all started with an argument over insurance which led to the singer into a physical argument with his father. Marvin Gaye Sr. grabbed a pistol from his room and shot his own son twice in the chest and he was eventually convicted of voluntary manslaughter.

Rob Lowe’s Sex Tape

In 1989, Rob Lowe made headlines, not because of his impeccable acting skills but because he had a sex tape with two girls and one of them was only 16 years old. The actor claimed that he believed she was 21 years old. The incident clearly affected his career but he eventually bounced back and now he made jokes about it.

The Keating Five

The Keating Five was the corruption scandal that rocked the ‘80s. The Senate launched an investigation into five US senators namely John McCain, Alan Cranston, John Glenn, Dennis DeConcini, and Donald Riegle. The investigation was started because the senators where improperly interfering in the investigation of a savings and loan company. Because the five senators asked a federal agency to not pursue charges against the company Lincoln Savings and Loan Association. It turns out that the owner of the company, Charles Keating, was a major contributor to the five senator’s campaigns. After two years of investigation, only one senator received a formal reprimand. However, the results of this event deeply affected John McCain when he ran for the presidency in 2008.

Vanessa William’s nude photos

Vanessa Williams made history when she was crowned as the first African-American Miss America but she didn’t expect that her past will come back to haunt her after her success. Vanessa Williams was forced to step down from her title after her naked photos were published in Penthouse magazine. And even if she didn’t give the magazine her permission for the photos to be published, the beauty queen was still forced to make an open apology.

The New Coke

When Coke saw some sales went down because of Pepsi in 1985, the company introduced a “reinvented” formula of the beverage and marketed it as the new taste of Coke which people hated. That’s why months after its release, Coke returned to their “classic” formula where they saw a rise in sales. The move may have given Coke a bit of a boost in sales but it will always be remembered as one of the cheapest moves in the business industry.

Chuck Berry’s Creepy Restroom

Singer Chuck Berry faced a huge lawsuit in the ‘80s when it was discovered that he had been secretly filming innocent women in the restroom of his restaurant. The singer was caught by one of this staff who eventually sued him. As a result, Chuck Berry was forced to pay 1.3 million dollars to all the women he filmed

Televangelist Jim Bakker is convicted of fraud

As if being accused to have an unlawful affair with his secretary is not enough, Jim Bakker was also found guilty of selling timeshares fraudulently. Because of this, the famous televangelist was sentenced to a total of 45 years in prison.

Madonna’s controversial music video

The ‘80s was the decade where the iconic pop singer released her music video for the song Like A Prayer. The music video featured Madonna setting crosses of fire and leading saints off course. The song and the music video was publicly and heavily criticized by the American Family Association. The song was supposed to be featured in a Pepsi advertisement but the company eventually backed out after all the controversy the song received.

Televangelist Jimmy Swaggert’s sex life

Another famous televangelist was forced to step down from his ministry in the ‘80s. It turns out that Jimmy Swaggert had been enjoying secret affairs with prostitutes. To make things worse, the married televangelist didn’t go away quietly, either. He delivered a sermon in front of seven thousand people and confessed what he had done on stage.

If you are looking for more, you may also read our article about the Biggest Political Scandals of the 80s.

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