Now that the internet is here, literally anyone has the potential to go viral. But before information was immediately shareable across the world wide web, we still had celebrities who were so outrageous their stories still spread across the world almost instantaneously.
On January 6, 1994, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked after practice in what was known as the "whack that heard round the world." Tonya Harding's ex-husband hired a man to hit Kerrigan in the leg, leaving her unable to compete in the U.S. Championships for the Olympics. Harding received a lifetime ban from the U.S. Figure Skating Association for the incident and continued to live a scandalous life, which includes a sex tape and an appearance on Celebrity Boxing. Kerrigan was able to skate and went on to win the silver metal in the Olympics, and is now a wife and a mother.
In 1985, the piercing eyes of Sharbat Gula captivated the world when they appeared on the cover of National Geographic. The now iconic image of the Afghani woman was taken when she was living in a Pakistani refugee camp. Gula was angry at photographer Steve McCurry for taking her photo and was never photographed again — until McCurry took her photo 17 years later when Gula was a married mother to three.
Known for his outrageous hair and wardrobe choices in addition to his skills on the court, Dennis Rodman was constantly in the media. His brief marriage to Carmen Electra and his public appearance in a wedding dress would have surely gone viral had the internet existed. Rodman was inducted to the NBA hall of fame in 2011, and recently went internet viral for meeting with Kim Jong Un during a 2013 trip to North Korea.
In 1994, O.J. Simpson's car chase with LAPD and subsequent 1995 murder trial left us glued to our televisions. In what is now known as the "trial of the century," Simpson was acquitted of murdering ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. In 2006, Simpson published a book entitled If I Did It which detailed how he would have hypothetically committed the murders. In 2008, Simpson was convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping.
In 1987, Baby Jessica made national news when she fell down a well at just 18 months. During her ordeal, her parents received support in the form of donations. They placed the money into a trust fund, which Baby Jessica was able to collect when she turned 21. Now, Baby Jessica is all grown up and has babies of her own. She says that she has no memories of the incident that made her go viral before going viral was a thing.
The 1979 Super Bowl featured Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle "Mean" Joe Greene and Tommy Okon in a now-iconic Cocoa-Cola ad. In the ad, Okon gives Greene a soda, then the football player turns around and throws the boy a jersey while uttering, ""Hey kid, catch!" Now, Greene is retired and Okon works for a stone-importing business based out of Queens. Both recently remembered their time on set fondly during a CBS special.
While her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are going viral on the internet, Queen Elizabeth II went viral before even television was a thing. Queen Elizabeth II captured the attention of the world in 1953 when she assented the throne. Today, Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-reigning British monarch.
As the last leader of the U.S.S.R., Mikhail Gorbachev was known for his distinct birthmark in addition to his policies. After the dismantle of the U.S.S.R., Gorbachev stayed in the real of politics, but was recently banned from the Ukraine for supporting the Russian annexation of Crimea.
In 1981, four-year-old Rachel Giordano was unaware that the Lego ad she was posing for would create such a controversy. The ad sent the message that creativity was gender-neutral. It was the result of ad creator Judy Lotas fighting to have a girl included in the campaign. Giordano, who grew up to be a doctor, recreated the ad in 2014 to highlight the fact that Lego is no longer a gender-neutral toy, but instead has pink blocks to cater to girls.
Elian Gonzalez was the Cuban five-year-old who's custody battle crossed international boarders and made major headlines in 1999. When his mother died after fleeing Cuba, Gonzalez was taken from his relative's house and sent back to Cuba to live with his father. Gonzalez is now all grown up and studying industrial engineering in Cuba. He avoids the public eye and describes himself as "shy."
Clara Peller is better known as the "Where's the beef" lady in the classic '80s Wendy's ads. Her catch phrase went viral, as the short-but-tough old lady demanded to know the answers to the questions that matter. Peller passed away at the age of 86, but is now the subject of a musical entitled, Clara and the Beef.