TORONTO – The scandal around Toronto’s crack-smoking, expletive-spewing mayor showed the world that friendly, polite Canada is capable of generating some epic drama.
But anyone who has been paying attention already knew that Canada — with its thriving film and TV production industry — has produced more than its share of tabloid-worthy moments over the years.
When stars come north to work and play, they occasionally behave badly or find themselves dealing with public relations disasters or personal tragedies.
Here are some of the most memorable celebrity “Oh, wow!” moments on Canadian soil:
The Rolling Stones guitarist was arrested for possession of heroin for the purpose of trafficking on Feb. 27, 1977 after more than a dozen officers raided his room at what is now the Westin Harbour Castle hotel in Toronto.
The charge came with the threat of up to seven years in prison but Richards pleaded guilty to a lesser possession charge and was given a suspended sentence, placed on a year of probation and ordered to continue treatment for heroin addiction. Richards also performed benefit concerts in nearby Oshawa, Ont. as part of his plea deal.
Richards didn’t hold a grudge against Toronto, though. The Rolling Stones went on to rehearse for several world tours in Toronto and headline a massive outdoor concert at the height of the SARS crisis.
During her Blond Ambition tour in 1990, Madonna was warned by Toronto Police detectives that she could face arrest if she simulated masturbation on stage at the end of “Like a Virgin.” Madonna refused to change her performance but police declined to charge her.
The incident, immortalized in the 1991 documentary Truth or Dare, portrayed Toronto as puritanical and uptight.
During an appearance in Toronto earlier this year, Madonna joked to a Toronto Star reporter: “I think Toronto’s finally learned to accept me.”
Jennifer Lopez called off her engagement to Ben Affleck in the summer of 2003 after the National Enquirer revealed he spent a night with Tammy Morris, a stripper at Brandi’s Exotic Nightclub in Vancouver.
Affleck, who was in the city filming Paycheck, reportedly invited Morris and three other dancers back to his rented house after getting lap dances inside a private booth at the club.
Lopez, who was working on the film Shall We Dance in Winnipeg, dumped Affleck shortly after the revelations.
While in Montreal shooting Gothika in May 2003, actress Halle Berry broke her ulna – the bone in her forearm – and was taken to hospital by ambulance.
Star magazine revealed Berry’s arm had been snapped while shooting a scene with co-star Robert Downey Jr..
“It wasn’t a stunt scene. It was just one of the physical scenes,” explained Warner Bros. spokesman Joe Everett after the accident. “Her arm didn’t go the way it was supposed to.”
After being treated, Berry rested at her Montreal hotel with then-husband Eric Benet – and was soon back at work.
Actor Ethan Hawke was busted by the National Enquirer in the summer of 2003 for his relationship with Montreal resident Jennifer Perzow while he was in the city making Taking Lives.
At the time, Hawke was married to actress Uma Thurman, with whom he had two children.
Weeks after their relationship was exposed, Perzow was photographed visiting Hawke at the home he rented in Toronto while shooting Assault on Precinct 13. She later claimed in an interview that Hawke had told her he was separated from Thurman.
Supermodel Naomi Campbell pleaded guilty in 2000 to assaulting her personal assistant Georgina Galanis with a cell phone while in Toronto starring in the movie Prisoner of Love.
Campbell apologized to the victim and paid her an undisclosed amount of money. She also agreed to attend anger management classes.
Rapper Ja Rule turned himself in to Toronto Police in July 2004 to face a charge of assault causing bodily harm following an incident at one of the city’s nightclubs a month earlier in which a young man was punched.
The performer was in Toronto shooting Assault on Precinct 13 at the time of the altercation.
Rule, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, returned to the Old City Hall courthouse and pleaded not guilty. He later pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of assault and was fined $1,220.
Rule told reporters: “I want to apologize to the city of Toronto. I’m just sorry about my actions.”
Singer Ashlee Simpson, who was in Toronto promoting an album in November 2005, made a late-night visit to a McDonald’s and started arguing with employees and climbing on top of the counter.
Simpson, who was slurring her words, called a McDonald’s server a “b***h” and told a fan who asked for a picture to kiss her feet.
The young star’s bizarre behaviour was captured on video and quickly went viral.
While filming scenes for Blonde and Blonder at the River Rock Casino in Richmond, B.C. in November 2006, actress Denise Richards suddenly confronted photographers Scott Cosman and Rik Fedyck, calling them “paparazzi scum” and allegedly assaulting them.
Richards then threw their laptop computers over a balcony, causing minor injuries to an elderly woman below.
The RCMP was called in to investigate but no charges were filed against Richards. The production company agreed to pay for the damaged computers.
“I am not justifying my behavior. It was wrong,” the star told Access Hollywood. “I saw one of the photographers, went up to him and offered to give him a few nice shots and asked him to please leave so we can focus on our scene. He wouldn’t and he got really belligerent and he was saying vulgar, nasty things to me and made a derogatory remark about my family. I just did what I did and I feel terrible.”
Kevin Federline, husband of Britney Spears and father of her two sons, was in Toronto promoting his album Playing With Fire in November 2006 when Spears filed divorce papers.
According to People, the divorce petition caught Federline “totally by surprise.”
Federline was having dinner in a Toronto restaurant while being taped by a crew from Muchmusic when, producer Jason Ford recalled, he started getting messages on his mobile device. “He seemed a little distracted. Then he asked for us to stop shooting, take off the microphone and have a break … when he came back he was visibly distracted and it seemed like there was a lot on his mind.”
Baseball star Alex Rodriguez found himself in hot water with his wife after he was photographed in Toronto with a mystery blonde in May 2007.
The New York Post reported that the Yankees slugger took exotic dancer Joslyn Morse and two friends for dinner at the Harbour Sixty steakhouse and then went to the Brass Rail strip club. A-Rod and the blonde were then spotted taking a taxi back to the Four Seasons – across the street from where his teammates were staying.
Cynthia Rodriguez, who had two children with Rodriguez, filed for divorce a year later citing “emotional abandonment” after a lengthy separation.
An employee of an adult video store on Toronto’s busy Yonge Street was surprised one afternoon in October 2007 when a woman wearing a skeleton mask entered and demanded he remove posters advertising Paris Hilton’s infamous sex tape.
The woman in the costume turned out to be Paris Hilton, who was in the city filming Repo! The Genetic Opera, and the confrontation was captured on surveillance video.
“You guys can’t use my image in a porn store,” Hilton said. “I’m going to call my lawyer and sue the (expletive) out of this place.”
She then ripped posters for One Night in Paris off the walls. The store’s management later said it got offered thousands of dollars for the video footage.
Toronto Police arrested British conductor Simon Lee, the longtime musical supervisor for theatre mogul Andrew Lloyd Webber, in July 2008 after a bizarre domestic dispute that ended with a young man jumping from a balcony at the Hazelton Hotel.
Lee, who was in the city appearing as a judge on a CBC reality show, was charged with forcible confinement and assault.
A man in his twenties alleged Lee assaulted him in a hotel suite and then refused to let him leave.
But, in March 2009, the Crown entered a stay of proceedings because the accuser could not be located. Charges were later dropped.
“Simon has always maintained his innocence,” his lawyer told reporters.
Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher was injured in September 2008 during the band’s performance at the Virgin Festival when a man ran up on stage and pushed him to the ground.
Gallagher struck the monitors and broke three ribs, forcing Oasis to cancel a string of shows.
Daniel Sullivan of Pickering, Ont. eventually pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm (he was originally charged with aggravated assault) and given a conditional sentence of 12 months of house arrest.
Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton claimed he was assaulted by Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am outside a Toronto nightclub in June 2009, following the MuchMusic Video Awards.
Hilton posted a message on Twitter asking police to respond to the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel, where he was staying. “I was assaulted by Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas and his security guards,” he tweeted. “I am bleeding. Please, I need to file a police report. No joke.”
Will.i.am acknowledged there had been a confrontation between the two but denied he assaulted Hilton, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira.
Toronto Police charged the singer’s tour manager Liborio Molina with assault but the case was dropped after Hilton accepted a written apology from Molina.
Billy Bob Thornton
Actor and part-time singer Billy Bob Thornton made no friends in the Great White North in April 2009 when, during a radio interview, he criticized Canadian audiences for being reserved.
“They just sort of sit there,” he told interviewer Jian Ghomeshi. “And it doesn’t matter what you say to ’em… It’s mashed potatoes but no gravy.”
Arriving at Toronto’s Massey Hall the following night (where his band the Boxmasters was the opening act for Willie Nelson), Thornton was greeted by locals clutching packs of gravy mix. On stage, he was booed and heckled.
Thornton cancelled two remaining shows in Canada.
In the winter of 2009, actress Natasha Richardson died after suffering a head injury at the Mont Tremblant ski resort near Montreal while her husband Liam Neeson filmed Chloe in Toronto.
Richardson fell during a ski lesson and hit her head but, according to police, refused medical treatment. She retired to a hotel suite with her sons and soon started feeling disoriented and ill. An ambulance was called and she was rushed to a nearby hospital, where doctors found a build-up of blood in the brain, known as an epidural haematoma.
Richardson was transferred to Sacre Coeur hospital in Montreal as Neeson rushed to her side. Declared brain dead, she was flown back to the U.S. where she was taken off life-support.
In an eerie coincidence, Richardson’s last job was lending her voice to a documentary about George Mallory, who died on Mount Everest in 1924.
Oscar-nominated actor Randy Quaid, wanted on a $500,000 bench warrant in California, fled to Canada in October 2010 with his wife Evi and sought refugee status.
At an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing, the couple said they feared for their lives in the U.S. because eight of their close friends had been killed in recent years, including actors David Carradine and Heath Ledger.
Quaid claimed he was being hunted by “Hollywood star-whackers.”
Earlier this year, the actor was denied permanent resident status. His wife was granted citizenship because her father is Canadian.
A lifetime of addiction woes came to an end on July 13, 2013, when Canadian actor Cory Monteith was found dead inside his room at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Vancouver.
A coroner determined the 31-year-old Glee star died of mixed drug toxicity involving “intravenous heroin use combined with the ingestion of alcohol.”
In January 2014, Canadian pop star Justin Bieber turned himself in to Toronto Police and was charged with assault in connection with an alleged altercation with a limousine driver in Toronto at the end of December 2013..
According to police, officers responded to a call in the early morning hours of Dec. 30 about an alleged assault in the Dundas Street West and University Avenue area.
A limo driver who had picked up six people at a nightclub at Peter Street and Adelaide Street West claimed he was struck several times in the head by one of the passengers during an altercation en route to a hotel.
The driver pulled over, exited his vehicle and waited for police. Police allege the suspect left the scene prior to the arrival of officers.
Bieber’s lawyers have said the singer is innocent.
This is an updated version of an article that was originally posted in March 2013.
© Shaw Media, 2014