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Scandalous!: 50 Shocking Events You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends)

Scandalous!: 50 Shocking Events You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends)

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by Hallie Fryd

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Do you love a good scandal? This book includes 50 juicy pop culture, political, and entertainment-related scandals complete with photos, event synopses, and a look at why it went down in history and how it continues to influence us today. Other features include famous quotes and a section on where the players are now.

Teens will get the dish on:


Do you love a good scandal? This book includes 50 juicy pop culture, political, and entertainment-related scandals complete with photos, event synopses, and a look at why it went down in history and how it continues to influence us today. Other features include famous quotes and a section on where the players are now.

Teens will get the dish on:

  • Milli Vanilli’s lip-syncing
  • the Clinton-Lewinsky affair
  • the Biggie and Tupac murders
  • the Kent State shooting
  • the OJ Simpson Murder trial
  • Patty Hearst’s kidnapping
  • And more!

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
From sex scandals to the Scopes trial, the War of the Worlds broadcast to Watergate, Fryd’s trim handbook chronologically recaps 50 infamous events that have sizzled in U.S. headlines since the early 1900s. Entries include the murder of Lana Turner’s boyfriend by Turner’s daughter, Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour versus the Catholic Church, and the O.J. Simpson trial. Fryd provides social and historical context, a list of key players, and quotations, while exploring similar scandals (a section on Leopold and Loeb features a sidebar on Bonnie and Clyde, the Menendez brothers, and the Columbine shooters) as well as their lasting impacts (for example, the controversy surrounding the 2000 Gore-Bush presidential elections “forced people to reevaluate the Electoral College”). An entertaining, insightful, and thorough guide to events that, for better or worse, have riveted the nation. Ages 14–up. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
“A gleefully explicit catalogue of the past century’s headline-grabbing bad behavior…Catnip for scandal junkies, with a bit of historical perspective stirred in.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Fryd uses a snappy format to introduce 50 newsworthy (and occasionally cringe-worthy) dramas that caught the public’s attention. Informative!” — ALA Booklist

VOYA - Matthew Weaver
This wicked little book is a cross between a textbook and a tabloid, which is not entirely a terrible thing. The fun kicks off with the 1905 murder of architect Stanford White, murdered by his ex-lover's rich husband, and runs through the 2000 controversy during the Gore-Bush presidential race. Each event is laid out in brief but sordid detail, with updates on the player involved, as well as a few blurbs about what made them important in the context of U.S. history. For example, White's murderer, Harry Thaw, proved that "with the right publicity, a criminal can get off easy." Probably most effective for adults who grew up during its time span, the book could help social studies teachers looking to bring some spark into their history lessons, although it is marred by some glaring language choices and spelling errors (Charlie Chaplin's stalker "waives" a gun). The subject matter is certainly diverse; where else might you find Richard Nixon's resignation and the Clarence Thomas sexual harassment trial coupled with the murders of rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. and the lip synching of Milli Vanilli? Perhaps the most shocking revelation is future-president Franklin Delano Roosevelt's alleged approval of an undercover scheme to remove all gay men from the Navy, although it would be nice to see some source notes to back up the information. Fryd's author blurb says her life-long dream was to write a "non-boring" book about history. Scandalous! certainly lives up to its title; it is salacious, but irresistible. Reviewer: Matthew Weaver
Children's Literature - Amy McMillan
Scandals have a way of rocking our world and shaping our lives. In her book, Fryd puts scandals to good use by reliving some of the most famous (or infamous) scandalous events of the twentieth century and showing how they've affected society. Each incident is boldly headlined in deep red, summarized in a short "Scoop" section and the key players are introduced. Then it's described in more detail and followed up with overview sections of what happened next and why people are still talking about it, usually detailing laws that came about or precedents that were set. Red text boxes give quotes from those involved as well as brief descriptions of three or four similar events occurring at other points in time. Subjects covered range from sports gambling and assassinations, political dishonesty and unethical medical testing, to money, drugs and even Elvis' shaking hips. Reading much like a newsstand tabloid, this is a great resource for introducing the long-range effects of current and historical events to a reluctant teen reader. Reviewer: Amy McMillan
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—History has never been so much fun. Filled with some of the most scandalous events of the 20th century, this book will have readers flipping the pages every which way. Each incident is covered in three to four pages with the same standard format: the title, year, "the scoop," "the players," a sidebar of quotables, the aftermath, why we still care, and similar events that tie in. Though not heavily illustrated, the layout is catchy and visually appealing. The O.J. Simpson trial, the Jonestown Massacre, and Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds" radio show that convinced everyone that aliens were invading Earth are some of the tamer incidents mentioned. The scandals are rife with sex, murder, and mayhem. Readers don't have to read this book in chronological order as each shocker can be consumed on its own.—Esther Keller, I.S. 278, Marine Park, NY
Kirkus Reviews
A gleefully explicit catalogue of the past century's headline-grabbing bad behavior. Aimed at readers who don't need to be told who Brangelina is but may be hazy on "twisted besties" Leopold and Loeb or even Monica Lewinsky, this edutaining survey presents a wide-angle array of murders, sexual follies, controversial trials, race violence, political corruption and general envelope-pushing from the 1906 killing of Stanford White on. Each of the chronologically arranged entries opens with a capsule "Scoop" followed by a slightly fuller account under a "What Went Down" header. Along with a small black-and-white photo and one or two sidebar quotes, the author tacks on subsequent developments, sometimes-perceptive suggestions about "Why We Still Care" and a short roster of similar incidents in recent history. Though she misspells "Symbionese" and repeatedly awards FDR only three Presidential wins, in general Fryd presents reasonably accurate summaries of events and issues while giving all sides of the more muddled conflicts at least a nod. Additional cred is provided by a teen panel of editorial advisors. Catnip for scandal junkies, with a bit of historical perspective stirred in. (index) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

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Read an Excerpt

Everyone loves a good scandal. Why? Because scandals are exciting, juicy stories with lots of twists and turns. They involve dramatic trials and fallen celebrities, misguided scientists and game-changing athletes, superstar lawyers, hardened criminals, and all kinds of secrets and lies. Plus, they make great conversation at parties. But when you really break it down, scandals are also an important part of history. Something is considered "scandalous" because it’s wrong or immoral in our eyes. The things we find shocking can tell us a lot about ourselves and our society.

Scandals are cornerstones, too, in a society’s evolution. For instance, Elvis’ scandalous hip-shaking on TV set the stage for rock stars to use sex-appeal in performances. The Jonestown Massacre made people wary of cult religions that cut members off from society. The Clarence Thomas scandal made Americans more aware of sexual harassment. And the Scopes Monkey Trial changed the way science is taught in classrooms across the country.

From Hollywood murder trials to spies, anarchists, money-grubbing televangelists, explicitly sexual art, vigilante justice, and Harvard psychedelic studies, the 50 scandals in this book span the 20th century and have all affected the trajectory of our country in some way. They touch on every part of society: politics, music, religion, sports, war, race relations, art, TV, movies, journalism, gay rights, and everything in between. Each item in Scandalous! details what happened in the scandal, offers unbelievable quotes, talks about how the event affected American culture and politics, and includes a short list of related scandals (so you can see how, sometimes, history is doomed to repeat itself!).

After you read Scandalous!, you’ll have a better understanding of how things in all realms of life have gotten to be the way they are today. And you may even become a history buff while you’re at it.

Pop Duo Milli Vanilli Lip Sync Their Way to a Grammy

The pop group Milli Vanilli, headed by Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan, won the Grammy for best new artist of 1989. But just eight months later, Pilatus and Morvan became the joke of the music industry, were forced to return their Grammy, and were indicted in at least 22 different lawsuits


Franz Farian—German music producer

Rob Pilatus—Lip syncing pop star #1

Rab Morvan—Lip syncing pop star #2

WHAT WENT DOWN: The pop band Milli Vanilli took the US by storm in 1989. Their first album, Girl You Know It’s True, with its catchy mix of dance, electro-pop, and rap, quickly became a crazy success in the US. Not only did the album go platinum six times, it also had three number one Billboard hits—"Blame it on the Rain," "Girl I’m Gonna Miss You," and "Baby Don’t Forget My Number." As a result of the album’s popularity, the group’s two vocalists, the dreadlocked and be-spandexed hotties Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan, became superstars, winning a Grammy and three American Music Awards in one year.

Then, during an MTV performance at a theme park in Connecticut during the summer of 1989, something strange happened. There was a glitch with the sound system, and during the song "Girl You Know It’s True," the line "girl you know it’s …" repeated over and over again through the speakers. Pilatus and Morvan initially tried to sing and dance along, but it soon became clear that the music wasn’t coming from them—it was coming from a prerecorded track; the duo ran off stage. Suddenly, everyone—especially music journalists—were asking questions about whether or not Pilatus and Morvan actually were the voices of Milli Vanilli.

Franz Farian, Milli Vanilli’s producer, along with Pilatus and Morvan, denied accusations that the band might be lip-syncing for more than a year. But in November of 1990, Farian—under pressure from the press and from Pilatus and Morvan (who were pushing to sing on the next release)—finally issued a statement admitting that Pilatus and Morvan weren’t the vocal artists for Milli Vanilli.

It turns out that Farian had created the dance-pop act that became Milli Vanilli in the late 1980s, hoping it would be a big hit in the European Club scene. The act was made up of a collection of musicians, including multiple vocalists. The band made its first album, All or Nothing, in Europe in 1988. Farian decided to put Pilatus and Morvan, two dancer/models from the Munich club scene, on the album’s cover and have them perform at appearances to prerecorded music. He thought their good looks and club style would make the album more popular and marketable than the real performers. (Pilatus and Morvan were also aspiring musicians but didn’t perform anything on the album.) Sure enough, Milli Vanilli became a huge hit in Europe.

Soon, the American record company Arista, noticing Milli Vanilli’s success, signed the duo, remixed the album, and released it under the name Girl You Know It’s True. As far as American fans had been concerned, Pilatus and Morvan were Milli Vanilli. Later, Arista claimed it never knew that Pilatus and Morvan weren’t the real singers, though Pilatus and Morvan claimed Arista did.

Milli Vanilli was hardly the first band to be fronted by performers who were seen as more marketable than the actual musicians, but because they won a Grammy, sold so many records, and become so popular, the fake-out wasn’t taken lightly by the public or the press. By the end of 1990, Milli Vanilli was forced to return its Grammy by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the people who give out Grammys). Despite attempts at a comeback, Pilatus and Morvan faded into obscurity, remaining a symbol of how superficial the music world is.


The scandal illustrated how focused the public is on image.
After the launch of MTV and music videos in 1981, musicians no longer had the luxury of letting their music speak for itself. A successful group had to combine music, performance, and looks to become stars.

The scandal helped modern-day unaccredited artists get credited. After the scandal, artists who sang unaccredited on albums began to demand the recognition and royalties they had coming. Martha Wash sang unaccredited lead vocals for a number of groups, including the house group Black Box’s two top-ten hits, "Everybody, Everybody" and "Strike It Up," and C+C Music Factory’s number one hit "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)." In the pre Milli Vanilli era, she was told she was unmarketable because of her weight, but after the scandal she successfully sued to receive credit and royalties on the songs she sang.


The Band:
After the scandal broke in 1990, Pilatus and Morvan created a band called Rob & Fab and released a self-titled album, Rob & Fab, on which they actually sang. It was not a success. The second Milli Vanilli album was ready for release at the time the scandal broke, and Farian released it as The Real Milli Vanilli. It was also not very successful.

Rob Pilatus: Pilatus, unfortunately, struggled with substance abuse, and wound up spending time in jail for assault and vandalism. In 1998, he was found dead at 33 in a Frankfurt, Germany, hotel room from an accidental drug and alcohol overdose.

Fab Morvan: In the aftermath of the lip-syncing scandal, Morvan, ironically, became a session musician (an unaccredited musical performer for hire, much like the real vocalists behind Milli Vanilli). He also worked as a DJ and released a solo album, Love Revolution, which critics liked, though it barely sold.


"Musically, we are more talented than any Bob Dylan … we are more talented than Paul McCartney. Mick Jagger ... I’m the new modern rock ’n’ roll. I’m the new Elvis."

Rob Pilatus in a March 1990 interview with Time magazine, eight months before Farian came clean about the lip syncing

"We were living together in the projects, with two other musicians in Munich. We had nothing to eat, and we were unhappy. We wanted to be stars. And suddenly this guy gave us a chance, and we took it."

Rob Pilatus in November of 1990 at a press conference (just after the band’s Grammy was revoked) explaining why he agreed to be part of the hoax.


The Funk Brothers.
For most of the songs they released, Motown Records used a group of more than 20 unaccredited studio musicians, the core of which were known as the Funk Brothers. The Funk Brothers were so prolific that, according to the 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, they performed on more number one hits than Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys combined.

The Monkees. In 1966, the band The Monkees was created for a TV show of the same name, which was developed to capitalize on the success of the Beatles’ movie A Hard Day’s Night. The actors hired to play The Monkees on TV sang on their first two albums, but they weren’t allowed to play their instruments or write the songs. When their music and TV show became popular, they pressured their management for more control, and by the third album the fictional band became a real one, playing the instruments they were cast to play on the TV show and writing their own songs. They even continued releasing new material and touring after the TV show was canceled.

Meet the Author

Hallie Fryd is a writer living in Oakland, California. She studied history at Carnegie Mellon University and writes about politics and pop culture for her blog Pysched and Such. This is her first book.

Hallie Fryd is a writer living in Oakland, California. She studied history at Carnegie Mellon University and writes frequently about history and pop culture. She grew up in a Quaker suburb of Philadelphia, but dislikes weather—which brought her to the temperate climate of the San Francisco Bay Area. When not writing, or trying to recount historical episodes with wild gesticulations, she works as a social media manager for the brain training company, Lumosity. Hallie is the author of Scandalous!: 50 Shocking Events You Should Know About, which was a Junior Library Guild Selection and a Foreword Reviews Gold Medal Book of the Year Winner in 2012.

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Scandalous!: 50 Shocking Events You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends) 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
SandraHeptinstall More than 1 year ago
This was a fun read and I learned things I had no knowledge of. What really blew me away is people who were related by blood and got married. To me that is beyond my comprehension. The only one I knew before this book was Jerry Lee Lewis who married his thirteen year old cousin. Now I have learned that Franklin D. Roosevelt married his cousin Eleanor. She did not even have to change her last name. Rudy Giuliani and Regina Peruggi got married and thought they were third cousins so that was not bad. But after 14 years they discovered they were second cousins and had their marriage annulled soon after that. I have always heard about Jim Thorpe the Olympic winner, but what I did not know is he was stripped of his medals over something that today would not happen. To learn more you have to read this book. Oh my stars, talk about a shocker. You have to read the story on page 14. For me I will never eat this again. I don’t care if it was in 1904, we are also told of other stories even in our time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago