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Top 10 Celebrity Meltdowns
From Courtney to Whitney to Downey: when personal flameouts take place in the spotlight

By Kat Giantis
For MSN Entertainment

Courtney Love's recent trouble-filled visit to New York taught us one thing: watching a star self-destruct isn't all that much fun. Sure, we checked out those boob snaps, but we felt really guilty about it. What will happen to little Frances Bean, we wondered? And will her mom's problems add years to her presumed therapy?

Why are we fascinated with Love's out-of-control antics? Because when a celebrity flames out, it's usually not in front of camera-wielding witnesses. Handlers pocket big bucks to ensure that hospitalization is the result of "exhaustion" or "dehydration" and that pesky brushes with the law are "misunderstandings." On rare occasions when a star falls apart before a mass audience, we just can't tear our eyes away, despite our better judgment.

In the wake of Love's Big Apple breakdown, we decided to take a look at some other celebs who have spiraled downward in the public eye. Keep in mind that examples of the tragic (Kurt Cobain, River Phoenix), the tragically ludicrous (former child stars in handcuffs), and just plain ridiculous (O.J. in his pokey Bronco) have been nixed. 

So, prepare to go off the deep end as we count down the 10 worst celebrity meltdowns...

10. Mariah Carey, 34

Meltdown Moment: It was a cruel summer for Mariah Carey in July 2001. The octave-jumping, cleavage-abusing diva, busily promoting her soon-to-be-released, semi-autobiographical flick "Glitter" (and we all know how that turned out), seemed out of sorts. On MTV's TRL, she handed out popsicles before beginning a bizarre striptease. "I just want one day off when I can go swimming and eat ice cream and look at rainbows," Mariah told a befuddled Carson Daly. Days later, the pop star left a pair of rambling audio messages on her Web site. Hospitalization, officially blamed on "extreme exhaustion," soon followed. 

Dysfunctional Dialogue: "I just want you to know that I'm trying to understand things in life right now," Carey said on her Web site. "I just can't trust anybody anymore right now because I don't understand what's going on ... I'm desperately trying to get out of this room ... I allowed myself to be a little too paranoid about life ... I'm gonna take like a minute off... Nothing's wrong ..."

The Aftermath: The butterfly-loving chart-topper has yet to soar to her previous record-breaking heights. Post-breakdown, her record label, EMI, dumped her, though it kindly ponied up $28 million to buy out her contract. Her ultra-personal album "Charmbracelet" earned mixed reviews but solid sales, and she earned strong notices for her downscaled 2003 concert tour. She currently has a new album in the works and will once again brave the big screen as she plays against type as a diva in the upcoming flick "State Property II."

9. Margot Kidder, 55

Margot Kidder (Victor Spinelli/WireImage)

Meltdown Moment: In April 1996, the whisky-voiced actress, who hit it big as Superman's sweetie Lois Lane, suffered a manic-depressive episode while in L.A. and spent several days living on the streets, sharing a cardboard box with a homeless guy named Charlie. By the time police found her hiding in a stranger's back yard, she was dirty, dazed, missing her front dental bridge, and had hacked off her hair to escape detection from CIA agents and one of her ex-husbands (she was experiencing a wee bit of paranoia).

Dysfunctional Dialogue: "Mental illness is the last taboo," the actress told Barbara Walters shortly after her episode, admitting she had suffered from depression for decades. "It's the one that scares everyone to death, and I have to include myself in that until the last few months."

The Aftermath: According to Kidder, she's been able to keep her illness in check without drugs, instead relying on a combination of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. "For me, the solution was finally getting away from psychiatric drugs and actually healing my body so I wouldn't have the symptoms that are called mental illness," she told the AP. Despite breaking her pelvis in a 2002 car accident, she continues to act and will next be seen with Andie MacDowell in the supernatural thriller "The Last Signs."

8. Martin Lawrence, 39

Martin Lawrence (Steve GranitzWireImage)

Meltdown Moment: Tough call, given Lawrence's past troubles. Better known incidents include a sexual harassment suit filed by his "Martin" co-star Tisha Campbell, an attempt to board a plane with a Beretta, and a life-threatening coma caused by wearing heavy layers while jogging in 100-degree heat. But Martin's nadir probably came in 1996, when he was hospitalized after police found him at a busy L.A. intersection in a pot-induced stupor screaming at passing cars with a loaded gun in his pocket.

Dysfunctional Dialogue: "I'm still in this game and I'm still very much going strong," the funnyman told the L.A. Times last year. "For all my trials and tribulations, I am a man with a good heart. I am not out to hurt nobody. I just want to make you laugh."

The Aftermath: Despite a reputation for being difficult, Lawrence has continued to crank out hit films, most recently scoring with "Bad Boys II" opposite Will Smith. Next up is "Rage Control," in which he'll play a college basketball coach who's forced to head up a losing junior varsity team after suffering -- wink, wink -- a public meltdown. But he's not quite in the clear. In February, he was sued by a woman who alleges he popped her in the jaw. Lawrence's rep calls the suit "financially motivated."

7. Anne Heche, 34

Anne Heche (Steve Granitz/WireImage)

Meltdown Moment: On Aug. 19, 2000, the cute blonde best known as Ellen DeGeneres' better half knocked on the door of a modest Fresno home. Dazed and scantily clad, Heche said her SUV had broken down, asked to take a shower, and then made herself at home. When the cops arrived a short time later, the actress, who had publicly announced the end of her headline-grabbing three-year relationship with DeGeneres the day before, declared she was God and would take everyone back to heaven in her spaceship.

Dysfunctional Dialogue: In her 2001 autobiography, "Call Me Crazy," Heche explained that her disoriented Fresno daytrip was the result of mental illness (fueled by Ecstasy) stemming from childhood abuse by her father, which led her to create an alter ego named Celestia, "a being from the fourth dimension here to teach the world about love."

The Aftermath: The Fresno incident snapped Heche out of "31 years of a fantasy world that I created to make myself feel safe," she told People. Ellen's ex eventually settled into a more traditional life with blue-blooded husband Coleman Laffoon, who is a stay-at-home dad to their son, Homer, 2. Heche has earned rave reviews on Broadway for "Proof" and "Twentieth Century" and will play Nicole Kidman's best friend in the upcoming "Birth."

6. Whitney Houston, 40

Whitney Houston(Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Meltdown Moment: It's been a slow and painful slide for the once mega-selling, Grammy-winning superstar. Her downfall began in earnest in 1997 with a sweat-soaked live performance on HBO and continued with an airport pot bust; an Oscar-telecast firing by Burt Bacharach after she acted confused and forgot lyrics during rehearsals; an appearance at a Michael Jackson tribute concert, during which she looked frail enough to spark rumors that she was near death (producers later digitally altered Houston to look meatier); and a televised drug confession.

Dysfunctional Dialogue: "Is it alcohol? Is it marijuana? Is it cocaine? Is it pills?" Diane Sawyer asked Whitney during her ill-advised sit-down in 2002. "It has been at times," replied the "I Will Always Love You" belter, who was adamant she'd never used crack. Said Whit, "Crack is whack."

The Aftermath: Ongoing. Whitney continues to stand by her troubled man, Bobby Brown (see below), despite their domestic problems. Things started to look up in March when Houston checked into rehab, but she bolted a few days later. Her rep insists she's continuing treatment privately.

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