June 22, 2018 / 3:07 PM

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Amanda Bynes, Johnny Cash and Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes: 5 Cases of Celebrity Arson and Other Fire Crimes


Steve Miller found himself in the hot seat when he arrested for disorderly conduct after he lit a pile of his friend's belongings on fire and attempted to fight police who responded to the call (how good of a friend this was seems like a question worth asking). The leader of the Steve Miller Band should consider himself lucky that his dumb decision didn't get out of control. Most of the individuals arrested or charged with the crimes listed below had to deal with much more severe consequences for their actions. From least to most destructive:

05) Amanda Bynes

Frequent readers of entertainment news are grateful that they haven't seen actress Amanda Bynes' name in the paper recently. The former Disney channel stalwart went through a bizarre phase during 2012-'13 where she appeared in the tabloids frequently for her erratic behavior, including several arrests, for charges ranging from driving while under the influence to tampering with evidence. The most bizarre was when police responded to a call that the actress had set fire to a neighbor's driveway. Bynes apparently took a jug of gasoline and doused the driveway before lighting two fires that reached heights of up to five feet. Reports from the owner of the home, who had never met Bynes, claimed that the actress sat in the driveway while her own pants caught fire and that her own dog was burned in the incident. Although Bynes was never formally charged (and no damage was done, save for charring the driveway) but this was the moment that led law enforcement to place her under a psychiatric hold. Her parents would then apply for a conservatorship.

04) Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes

Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes and NFL receiver Andre Rison were one of the celebrity couples to watch for tabloid readers during the '90s. Roughly half a year before her group, TLC, released its hit album CrazySexyCool, Lopes and her boyfriend got into an altercation at their home in Atlanta, and Rison apparently abused the performer (according to later reports). She tried to get back at him by taking his sneakers and setting them ablaze in the couple's bath tubs. The fire spread out of control however and ended up burning down the entire mansion. The vocalist was sentenced to do five years of probation and therapy for alcoholism after the event but somehow the couple managed to stay together. That's not to say it was a good thing: The pair remained tabloid fodder until her death during 2002. Unfortunately the arson remained prominent on her reputation until her death.

03) Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash eventually grew into one of the most universally beloved performers of all time but his life during the '60s was madness. Some of his best music was made but outside of the recording studio (sometimes in it as well), his life was a mess of drug and alcohol abuse, and all the side crimes that come with it. One that often gets forgotten was the time that the country music star burned down hundreds of acres of national forest in California. Cash was driving through Las Casitas when he wrecked his truck and, rather than tending to the fire he had started, went fishing instead. The resulting blaze burned hundreds of acres. Although no humans were harmed, the event almost led to the extinction of the famous California condor, as 49 of the 53 rare birds in the area were killed. He eventually mended his ways, but karma would be a b*tch: One of Cash's personal ostriches, perhaps sensing its owner's past crimes, nearly gored him during the '80s.

02) '90s Black Metal

Much of metal features messages and themes that your mother would be appalled by. The reason why the original wave of black metal musicians from Scandinavia are held in such high regard (despite being generally awful at making music) was that they acted upon the hatred of Christianity and humanity that other metal bands preached. During the four year stretch between 1992 and 1996, more than 50 churches were reported having been attacked by arsonist black metal members and fans. The most notorious figure in the scene, Varg Vikernes (the leader of Burzum) was found guilty of at least four of the burnings. He didn't do much to make himself appear innocent: Burzum's 1993 EP Aske (ashes) featured a photo of the Fantoft Stave Church, one of the buildings we was accused of torching. That, plus a number of murders and terrorist plots has resulted in an annoying fan base that refuses to acknowledge modern black metal bands such as Deafheaven and Krieg as "authentic."

01) Julio Gonzalez

One of the major reasons why The Bronx is the poorest of the five boroughs in New York and struggles so much accordingly is that it doesn't have the features that its neighbors can boast, including music venues. If you can't fill Yankee Stadium, it's tough to find a place to stage a show. Not all of this can be traced back to the Happy Land nightclub fire, but reminders of the tragedy still ring today, 25 years later. The club had previously been issued orders to close, by both its landlords and the city, for a number of safety violations including a lack of fire sprinklers and emergency exits (which had been blocked to prevent people from entering without paying cover). The venue remained open however, and disaster struck while local Hondurans were celebrating Carnival at the club. Julio Gonzalez had an argument with his girlfriend, who was working at the coat check. She broke up with him and he was thrown out. He returned with gasoline and started a fire on the steps that led up to the entrance, before leaving. Panic and the lack of exits resulted in nearly 90 deaths. Gonzalez was given a sentence of 4,350 years—the longest in New York state history—and the event inspired songs from Duran Duran ("Sin of The City"), Tom Russell ("A Dollar's Worth of Gasoline") and Joe Jackson ("Happyland").

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