5 Celebrities Who Walked Away From Fame

REMINDER: The #1 thing you can do to support the site is share the articles!

by Pauli Poisuo

Fame isn't always a good thing. Unfortunately, some people find that out after they've became rich and famous, at which point the desire to keep being both just evaporates. So they flip the table, casually stroll out of Castle Celebrity, and disappear from the public eye in favor of doing the things they really want to do. For instance ...


Tennis Superstar Bjorn Borg Shuts Down His Career In Favor Of An Epic Party Binge

If you have even a passing interest in tennis, you'll know the name Bjorn Borg. For the other 95% of you, he's the Swedish superstar most famous for his rock star level popularity in the 1970s and his nail-biting feud with co-legend John McEnroe from 1978-1981. He was a good-looking man, so calm and collected in his demeanor that he would make his Star Trek namesakes proud. In just a few years, he became the face of the sport, and his name on the billboards played a massive part in raising the sport's profile. He's one of the the reasons that tennis stars of today are wealthy enough to casually buy huge Victorian mansions. It took decades for other players to just tie, let alone beat some of his winning streaks and other assorted accomplishments.

Despite his vast success, Borg was not a happy man. He had reached a plateau of celebrity and success where it was impossible to maintain a normal life if he wanted to keep competing at the very top of his game. All he had to eat, sleep, and breathe was tennis. And then, one day, he was like, "F**k tennis."

So at just 26 years old, Bjorn Borg (Man, that's a fun name to type) walked away. He left at his absolute peak. In fact, it's possible that he left before reaching his absolute peak, though he personally suspects McEnroe was rapidly overtaking him. His decision unsurprisingly weirded out the tennis world, as did his next move: Bjorn Borg, the most regimented and level-headed man in the sport, decided to pack his past decade of military-like discipline into a cannon and fire it directly into the sun.

The Battle Of The Eighties' Hair was a classic.

Borg treated his debauchery as seriously as he had treated his tennis, and was equally good at it. There was hardcore partying, broken marriages and failed businesses. His friends would walk into the room and find him sobbing on the floor, his arms tied behind his back and a 6-foot woman in full BDSM gear whipping him with a belt. His motto on his long quest to reclaim the years he'd spent training was: "The world is my sauna." This turmoil took his late twenties, his entire thirties, and most of his forties. And then, just like that, he was done. He entered his fifties as a happy, mild-mannered man well into his third marriage, looking almost as fit as he had been during his days as the ultimate tennis god.

Oh, and he was now an ultra-successful businessman. Turns out, one of his 1990s business ventures wasn't a dud: Bjorn Borg underwear. No, seriously. Do yourself a favor and watch their first ad.

Despite that gloriously pelvic-thrusting ad (or possibly because of it), Bjorn Borg undergarments became a very, very popular thing in Scandinavia and several other European countries. Today, Bjorn Borg underwear is rapidly building to become a global brand, so soon, even the people who somehow missed bumping uglies with Mr. Borg during his two-decade party binge will have a chance to let him touch their junk.

Shirley Temple Walks Away From Hollywood to Become A Diplomat

You know Shirley Temple. She was the quintessential child star of Hollywood's golden age, who in her heyday appeared in up to 10 movies a year. That year was 1934. She was six years old.

Hollywood did its level best to break Temple from the start. She got her start in the business in the extremely uncomfortable "Baby Burlesks" reels at age three, and if she misbehaved, she was sent to sit on a block of ice in a totally black room. Her handlers were all too aware of the fleeting nature of child stardom and ran her ragged, shooting as many movies as they could. In 1939, at the height of her stardom, a woman who thought Temple had stolen her daughter's soul attempted to freaking assassinate her during a radio interview. So it comes as no surprise that by 1949, she'd leave the industry altogether. Surely, at that point, she was so traumatized that she would spend the remainder of her tragically short life locked up in a mansion somewhere, Howard Hughes style ...

... Wait, she was completely untouched by the whole "child star" situation? And moved to politics, eventually becoming a successful diplomat? Holy crap.

Turns out, Shirley Temple wasn't just a whiz kid at acting. Arguably the greatest of her talents was the ability to survive the Hollywood grinder completely untouched. That black room where they used to punish her? She was fully aware of its potentially disastrous effects on her psyche, but felt that she had suffered no ill effects from it. The assassination attempt? She shrugged it off, commenting that the woman's tragic tale "seemed understandable" to her.

"Because I totally did steal her soul."

This complete inability to fall to the gazillion ill effects of her profession enabled her to walk away while she was ahead of the game and eventually move on to her real passion: politics. After a couple of decades away from the limelight, she became an active Republican. In 1967, she ran for Congress in California. When this attempt was unsuccessful, she was appointed as a delegate to the UN general assembly by President Nixon.

In 1969, she impressed Henry Kissinger at a White House dinner with her knowledge about Africa, which led to her entering the diplomat game. In 1974, President Ford appointed her the American ambassador to Ghana. This was a potentially disastrous move, seeing as Temple had four decades earlier starred in Kid in Africa, a stereotype-filled short film that featured a scene where cannibal savages were boiling her in a cauldron. However, she immediately proved to the Ghanaians that she was an extremely capable person and an astute diplomat. She disliked stuffy protocol, instead freely walking among the people and greeting them in their own language. She championed for more American aid to the region. Soon, her popularity reached "people name babies after her" levels.

After her diplomatic stint was over, she spent some time as the White House's Chief of Protocol, and later taught other diplomats how to diplomat. However, she longed for one more diplomatic posting for herself, feeling that she could do more good on the field. She openly championed for a gig in South Africa, because she wanted to go end this "apartheid" thing that she didn't much care for. However, her government didn't agree with her plans.

They did give her a new posting, though: To tumultuous Czechoslovakia, at the turn of the 1990s when communism was falling. She stayed until 1992 and played a part in facilitating the Velvet Revolution.

Multiple Big-Name Chefs Have Handed Back Their Michelin Stars

Most people have heard of the Michelin Guide, the restaurant guide that's immaculately (and inexplicably) maintained by the tire company of the same name. It awards 1-3 stars to select restaurants around the world, and the precious few restaurateurs whose establishments are awarded even a single star are considered the best of the best. The precious few that have gotten three stars are considered the ultimate in cuisine. Everyone looks up to them. Food lovers travel across continents to throw money at them.

And an increasing number of these elite chefs want nothing to do with that crap anymore.

In 2005, Parisian restaurateur Alain Senderens gave all three stars back to Michelin and left the upper echelons of the culinary world so hard that he changed his restaurant's name and menu, offering it at a fraction of his old three-star prices.

In 2008, Oliver Roellinger completely closed his restaurant in Cancale, thus throwing away the three Michelin stars that came with it.

In 2017, Sebastien Bras of the famous Le Suquet, holder of three stars for the last two decades, asked Michelin to remove his restaurant from their rankings altogether.

And then there's the one-star Jerome Bronchot. And the two-star Singapore restaurateur Andre Chiang. And other chefs who have not yet actually reacted, but feel that the world would be a much better place without such a "Top Restaurants" list.

You know it's bad when people decide, "The world would be better if you didn't exist."

The thing is, the restaurant business is an extremely difficult and stressful one even without tire companies lurking behind chefs' shoulders. When you're among the best of the best, things are decidedly NOT going to get easier. Oh, you might get fame and even turn a profit, but everything needs to be perfect. All. The. Time. The Michelin people might anonymously test your restaurant at any time. Every eater will settle on nothing but the perfect experience. What's worse, every single person at your employ also has to do everything perfectly -- if they mess up, you're responsible. No one can screw up. Ever.

You can probably guess that the human head-meat isn't equipped to deal with that kind of pressure. There is no joy of cooking in that kind of environment. Chefs have killed themselves under the stress. Hell, you're not even guaranteed to make a profit: Jerome Bronchot called it quits because it's very difficult to keep your ledger out of the red when your super-gourmet restaurant is located in the French equivalent of Brokeassville, Arkansas.

Thus, many restaurateurs have started to realize the attractiveness of leaving the A-list game. Most of the Michelin-quitters have gotten rid of their pesky star status by pulling a Dark Knight Rises: Stop being Restaurateur Batman, wait until the dust settles, and re-emerge in a cafe in Florence, free to cook whatever you like in blissful anonymity.

New Radicals Frontman Calls It Quits Just As They’re Making It Big

In 1999, it seemed like a sure-fire thing that the New Radicals were going to be huge. The fact that you probably just thought "Wait, the who now?" tells precisely how this went for them. Here, let us jog your memory, assuming you're old enough to remember their sole hit single:


Yeah, you remember that one. You might even have memories of the lead singer's goofy fisherman's hat and the mall invasion video. It's airy pop-rock sensibilities and well-crafted vocal hooks seem custom made to end up on playlists with uncomfortable names like "So this was ... the Nineties". It's actually pretty weird that a band with the ability to come up with such a neatly written tune didn’t have at least a couple more semi-successful singles in their back pocket. Turns out, there's a reason for that: the guy in the fisherman's hat.

Gregg Alexander, the singer and the main creative force of the band, realized early on that life as a rock star kind of sucked, especially when you've just had a huge hit and are in the middle of an album cycle. There was incessant traveling and performing, not to mention interviews, sleep deprivation and the constant schmoozing with various radio and retail folks that were unavoidable occupational hazards. He became so weary that his iconic hat wasn't just a wacky gimmick -- wearing it was necessary so that Alexander's apathy wouldn’t show when he was performing.

Editor's note: I still want that jacket and the pants on the left.

So he quit being famous.

In fact, he quit being famous so hard that he disbanded the New Radicals in a press release just before their second single ... after they'd already shot the video for it. Then, he stopped giving interviews. Alexander didn't even want to see how the song he'd written and shot a video for would do in the charts, and he didn't give a damn what people would think, let alone explain himself any further. That’s an expert level walk-out.

But how do we know that the New Radicals weren't a legitimate one hit wonder anyway? Maybe Gregg Alexander just realized he didn't have another good song in him and pulled out before anyone caught him? Here's how: Alexander quitting the limelight doesn't mean that he quit music. Remember Santana's Grammy-winning Game of Love? Or the Academy Award nominated Lost Stars? Or one of the other 31 of Alexander's songs with their own Wikipedia entries?

OK, maybe we'll call him a "few hits" wonder.

Charlie Korsmo Quits Fame To Become An Expert At Pretty Much Everything

Touchstone Pictures / Disney

Touchstone Pictures / Disney

You may not know the name Charlie Korsmo the same way you know, say, Shirley Temple or Haley Joel Osment, but boy, you've seen him around. He made his name in the industry as the kid from Hook, Dick Tracy, and What About Bob?. He handily plied his trade with legends like Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Bob Hoskins, Al Pacino, Bill Murray, Richard Dreyfuss and, uh, Madonna ... at the ripe old age of 12.

Then he quit acting to focus on his studies for a while, handily dodging the classic dangers of the child star status in the process. A cool 7-year gap in acting later, Korsmo made a well-received comeback in the sleeper hit high school comedy Can't Hardly Wait. He was back in the game, more mature and better than ever. The world was his oyster. Then he promptly walked away from the world of acting, and you never heard of him again.

Which we’re now going to fix, because it turns out Charlie Korsmo never stopped being awesome.

A large reason behind Korsmo's fame-quitting was that he'd discovered that he really, really liked studying. So he studied a lot. No, seriously, a lot. And it turns out that when you study nonstop, you end up becoming ... pretty much everything. We suspect it probably didn't hurt that he already possessed some significant skills as an actor and a buttload of cool stories about his old co-workers to break the ice in any situation ("Let me tell you a story about Warren Beatty ...").

It's great when you've done more than your life than your interviewer ever will.

Korsmo started out his adventures in academia by earning a degree in physics from MIT. He worked for the government for a while -- in missile defense, no less. Then, he moved on to a position at the Environmental Protection Agency. After that, he had staff gigs at the House Police committee and the Homeland Security committee in the House of Representatives. None of this, of course, meant that he stopped studying at any point. In 2006, he got a law degree from Yale, passed his Bar exam in New York, and became an associate at the Sullivan & Cromwell law firm. At one point, President Obama appointed Korsmo to the Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship. Let's see Pacino do that.

Of course, single-handedly juggling the careers of 12 or so lesser men wasn't enough for Korsmo. His next career step was to move back into academia, only this time on the other side of the pulpit. He's currently serving as an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University, a private university in Cleveland, Ohio.

Oh, and he is only 40 years old. Man, we kind of want to revisit this article in a few years and see how many paragraphs we have to add to this entry.

Like this article? Check out "6 WTF World Records Held By Celebrities" and "5 Legendary Excuses People Made For Their Bad Behavior".

The Modern Rogue is not owned by a giant, all-powerful corporation. We are a small group of freelancers. You can help us grow in three ways.


2) Become a Patron

3) Buy cool stuff from our store