9 Pre-Internet Viral Stories And Where They Are Now


Before the internet, anyone who wanted to know what was going on around the world had to watch a television, read a newspaper, or talk to another human being. It’s hard to believe that the idea of “googling” something or opening an app on your smartphone were once non-existent, but believe it or not, people still managed to stay informed and others were able to make headlines that were seen around the world! Even though the term “viral” wasn’t used back then, the concept behind it was — things happened, people heard about it, they lost their minds, and then they became completely invested in it.

In the years before the internet, many stories came to be that would without question be considered “viral” today. Below are just a few examples of individuals who, if given the opportunity, would have taken the internet by storm and completely saturated everyone’s newsfeeds.


1. Tonya Harding & Nancy Kerrigan Then

Known as “the whack heard around the world,” after practice on January 6, 1994, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was viciously attacked as she was making her way off the ice. She was hit in the knee with a metal baton by a man named Shane Stant, who was hired by the ex-husband of fellow figure skater Tonya Harding. Even though the attack was meant to prevent Kerrigan from competing in the ’94 Olympics, the injury only stopped her from performing in the U.S. Championships that were taking place the following day. Due to the circumstances, the United States Figure Skating Association granted her a spot on the Olympic team. Kerrigan went on to win a silver medal and Harding finished in 8th place. 
Harding plead guilty to conspiracy to hinder prosecution in March 1994. The judge ordered her to pay $160,000 in fines and contributions and gave her three years of probation. She then got a lifetime ban from the U.S. Figure Skating Association. 


After the incident, Kerrigan continued to skate. She received a number of lucrative endorsements, married, and became a mother. Harding’s life, on the other hand, continued to be riddled with scandal and hardship, including a leaked sex tape and a drunk-driving arrest. She also appeared in television spots on shows like The Weakest Link and Celebrity Boxing. Harding married for a third time in 2010 and had a son in 2011.

2. O.J. Simpson Then

There is no doubt that if the internet had been around, both the Bronco chase and murder trial of O.J. Simpson would have been plastered all over the place. In 1994, after leading the LAPD on a slow-speed car chase that was broadcast on national television, O.J. Simpson was arrested and charged with the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman. Because of his status as a football legend and popular actor, O.J.’s 1995 trial was televised, and to this day is considered “The Trial of the Century.” A comedy of investigative errors, along with racially charged tensions and a number of memorable performances from Johnnie Cochran and the rest of the defense team all led to O.J. Simpson being acquitted of both murders. However, in 1997, O.J. was found liable for both deaths in civil court and ordered to pay the Browns and Goldmans millions in damages. He tried to return to show business but failed, and he also had to sell most of his memorabilia in order to raise money for the civil suit.


In 2006, O.J.was going to publish a ghostwritten book titled If I Did It that outlined how he would have hypothetically carried out the murders of Nicole and Ron. However, the rights were eventually awarded to the Goldman family and they published it under the title If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer in 2007.Finally, in 2008, Simpson was charged and convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping after trying to rob sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison and will be eligible for parole in October 2017. This is his most recent mugshot.

3. Dennis Rodman Then

When you ask a basketball fanatic who the all-stars of the NBA were back in the day, most would probably say Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, or Magic Johnson, and there is no question that they dominated both the game and the record books. However, if you were to ask who would have been considered the most “viral,” I bet a lot of people would name Dennis Rodman as their number one pick, and not just for his outrageous hairstyles and wardrobe choices either. With assaulting a cameraman and an official, teaming up with Hulk Hogan in the WCW, wearing a wedding dress during a book signing, dating Madonna, and marrying Carmen Electra, Rodman always gave the media something to talk about. 


In 2011, Rodman was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, but he has continued to give media outlets the thing they love most: controversy. He’s made appearances on The Apprentice, Celebrity Rehab, andSober House, and most notably, he took a trip to North Korea in 2013 where he met with Kim Jong-un. The two watched a game of basketball together and when Rodman returned to the United States, he claimed the North Korean leader was his friend. After a second trip to North Korea, Rodman upset numerous people when he went on a rant about Kenneth Bae, an American being held in a North Korean prison. It was later revealed that he wasn’t in a proper state of mind during the interview, which resulted in a public apology.According to his website, the basketball star is currently represented by Prince Marketing Group and will continue to make appearances “just being Dennis Rodman!”

4. Charles Manson Then

Manson is an American cult leader who convinced a handful of his followers to murder numerous people in the late 1960s. The Family, which was comprised of approximately 100 followers, settled in the San Fernando Valley after 1967 and believed that Manson was Jesus. Their extreme devotion made it easy for him to carry out the heinous acts that eventually took place in 1969.Manson’s first victims were Sharon Tate and her unborn baby, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring, and Steven Parent. They were all murdered while staying in a Beverly Hills home that belonged to Roman Polanski. The following night, The Family’s second set of victims included Leo LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary.On January 25, 1971, Manson was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. However, that initial sentence was then commuted to life in prison. 


Today, Charles Manson is still serving out his sentence in Corcoran State Prison in California and he has been denied parole 12 times. His next hearing is scheduled for 2027, when he will be 92 years old. He also made headlines in 2014 when he and a woman named Afton Elaine Burton (who was 27 years old at the time) were granted a marriage license. However, that document expired in 2015 and has not been reissued.  

5. Sharbat Gula – “Afghan Girl” Then

In June 1985, Sharbat Gula captivated the world with her piercing green eyes when she appeared on the cover of National Geographic. The image, taken by Steve McCurry, has become one of the most iconic images of the magazine’s history and still leaves readers in awe. Back in 1984, Sharbat was a young Afghan attending school and living in a Pakistani refugee camp. She not only remembers McCurry taking her picture all those years ago, but also recalls how angry she was — he was a stranger and she had never been photographed before. In fact, she wouldn’t have her picture taken again until her and McCurry reunited 17 years later.


During their second encounter, McCurry discovered that Sharbat was married and a mother of three children, aged 13, 3, and 1. And according to her brother, Sharbat had never known happiness, except perhaps on her wedding day, which happened when she was either 13 or 16 (no one is sure).Today, Sharbat is still remembered for her unforgettable portrait, but she has also made headlines over the last two years for something completely different: getting arrested. On two separate occasions, once in 2015 and again just this past October, Sharbat was arrested for possessing a fake identity card in Pakistan.

6. Rachel Giordano Then

In 1981, four-year-old Rachel Giordano became a poster child for Lego when she appeared in this memorable advertisement showing off one of her creations. The ad, which was meant to show that creativity is not a boy thing or a girl thing, was actually quite controversial at the time and almost didn’t happen. Judy Lotas, one of the women responsible for the ad, actually had to fight to have Rachel included in it because it was argued that boys were the ones who liked to build things, not girls. Luckily, Lotas stood her ground and ended up with one of the most powerful, iconic ads of all time — one that today’s toy and advertising industries can learn from. 


Now, Rachel is a 39-year-old doctor who actually revisited her unforgettable Lego spot in 2014 when she teamed up with Lori Day, a psychologist, parenting coach, and HuffPost blogger.Together, they recreated the 1981 ad to demonstrate the difference between the advertising industry’s approach to children’s toys then and now. According to Rachel, back in the ’80s, Lego was gender-neutral, but today, everything is either pink or blue and toys deliver messages about gender to children, which is completely unnecessary. According to Lotas, “Boys and girls are different, but not to the exclusion of wanting to create and build. That is not a gender issue.” 

7. Mikhail Gorbachev Then

Gorbachev was the last leader of the Soviet Union before the party was dissolved in 1991. He became known for his port-wine stained birthmark across his head, earning him attention from cartoonists and critics alike. 


Since his days as a political ruler came to an end, he has remained in the political sphere. Recently he was banned from the Ukraine for supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea. 

8. Queen Elizabeth Then

Ascending to the throne in 1952, America got a sneak peak at the soon to be Queen in 1951 when she stepped in for her ailing father to visit President Harry S. Truman in Washington. On April 9, 1952, she proclaimed that the Royal House would remain the House of Windsor, and not take on her husband’s name. 


In October 2016, Queen Elizabeth became the longest currently living monarch and head of state, along with being the longest-reigning British monarch and the longest-reigning queen regnant and female head of state in world history. 

9. “Mean” Joe Greene & Tommy Okon Then

Super Bowl commercials are the most expensive and sought-after television spots advertisers can buy. While there are a number of memorable commercials from recent years, one of the most iconic is actually from 1979, which starred Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle “Mean” Joe Greene and a young boy named Tommy Okon. The ad shows a hobbling, defeated Greene making his way off the field and Tommy offering him his Coke. After accepting the soda and drinking it, Greene says the famous words, “Hey kid, catch!” as he throws his jersey to the smiling, wide-eyed boy.


Today, Greene is a retired Hall of Famer and Tommy works for a stone-importing business in Queens, and they still consider themselves great friends. The two actually reunited for a CBS special earlier this year and reminisced about their time on set creating the commercial.According to Greene, the experience is “still special, after all these years.”  
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