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Early jobs of Famous people
Published on 2/6/2007

Rod Stewart, the grave digger

Rod Stewart is the youngest of five children and was born in Highgate, North London to parents who owned a newsagents shop there. Minutes before Stewart was born, a German V-2 rocket scored a direct hit on Highgate Police Station just down the street. Rod Stewart had trials with the football clubs Celtic, and Brentford (based in West London). He then worked as a grave digger. He soon switched to a career in music joining folk singer Wizz Jones in the early 1960s as a street singer travelling around Europe; this resulted in his being deported from Spain for vagrancy.

Michael Dell, the diswasher

Michael Dell, founder and chairman of Dell Computer Corp., was a dishwasher at a Chinese restaurant earning $2.30 an hour. He is grateful for his early experience: "The best part was the wisdom of the restaurant owner, which I could capture if I came to work a little early. He took great pride in his work and cared about every customer who came through his door."

Sean "Diddy" Combs: paperboy

Diddy’s first job as a paperboy at 12 years old may have been a humble beginning for the hip-hop mogul, but he’s since soared from lowly to loaded.

Pol Pot, the School Teacher

Before he became a world-famous war criminal, Pol Pot was named Saloth Sar. As a young man, Sar studied carpentry and radio engineering, but proved a poor student so he became – what else? – a teacher. (And you thought your classrooms were scary.) From 1954 to 1963, Sar taught at a private school in Phnom Penh before being forced out because of ties to communism. Ever fond of alliteration, Saloth Sar became Pol Pot and devoted himself full-time to Cambodia’s Communist Party, eventually becoming the party’s leader, and by 1975, his Khmer Rouge guerrilla army had overthrown the same government that once fired him. In his four years of rule, Pot killed more than a million Cambodians. When the Vietnamese came to the rescue and invaded Cambodia in 1979, Pot retreated to the jungle, though he continued to orchestrate guerilla attacks until his arrest in 1997.

Oprah Winfrey, the young reporter

Oprah Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to a Baptist family. Her parents were unmarried teenagers. Winfrey's grandmother taught her to read before the age of three and took her to the local church, where she was nicknamed "The Preacher" for her ability to recite Bible verses. Winfrey was self-helping her way to the top long before the world ever heard of Dr. Phil. Arriving at a radio station to collect a watch she had won through a promotional contest, a 16-year-old Winfrey read for producers and secured herself a spot as an on-air reporter earning $100 per week.

Teri Hatcher, the Cheerleader

An only child, she was sexually abused from the age of 5 by Richard Hayes Stone, an uncle by marriage who was later divorced by Hatcher's aunt. Hatcher began her performing career as a young girl taking ballet lessons at the San Juan Girls' Ballet Studio in downtown Los Altos, California. She later studied acting at the American Conservatory Theater. One of her early jobs (in 1984) was as a cheerleader with the San Francisco 49ers.

Hitler, the postcard painter

As a child, Adolf Hitler attended a monastery school and harbored dreams of becoming a priest, but he dropped out after his father’s death in 1903. By then, Hitler had a new career in mind: professional artist. And though the Führer’s precise but emotionless landscapes showed moderate promise, he was rejected twice from Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts. Bitter, poor, and lonely, young Adolf moved between boardinghouses and hostels, earning a meager living painting postcards. Oddly enough, he might have been just another failed artist had it not been for World War I. Turning in his paintbrush for a pistol, Hitler volunteered as a runner for the German army. Turns out he enjoyed that world war so much that, a few decades later, he decided to start another one.

Sylvester Stalone, the lion cage cleaner

Sylvester Stalone, always the tough guy, was once employed as a lion cage cleaner. At fifteen, his classmates voted him the one "most likely to end up in the electric chair." In the 1960s, Stallone attended the University of Miami for three years. He came within a few credit hours of graduation, before he decided to drop out and pursue an acting career. Stallone's career began with the leading role, Stud, in a hard-core pornographic film called Party at Kitty and Stud's. The film was originally hard core and depicted sexual acts, but after Stallone's later success, the film was re-cut to soft-core and re-packaged as Italian Stallion (a reference to Rocky Balboa's nickname). The hardcore footage is apparently lost.

Dan Brown, the High School Teacher

Prior to papering the world many times over with his best-selling art historical novel, "The Da Vinci Code," Brown sculpted young minds as a high school English teacher.

Jennifer Lopez, the Legal Assistant

Long before Jennifer Lopez sang, danced and acted her way to superstardom, she briefly traded in her velour tracksuit for a suit of the pin-striped variety while working at a law office.

Benito Mussolini, the Writer

Before becoming the world’s first fascist dictator, Mussolini worked for a socialist paper, Il Popolo d’Italia, for which he wrote a serial later published as a novel. The Cardinal’s Mistress tells the tragic story of, you guessed it, a 17th-century cardinal and his mistress. And boy is it bad. It’s the sort of book where "terrible groan[s] burst forth from" characters' breasts, and characters ask one another to "cast a ray of your light into my darkened soul."

Papa Doc, the Doctor

François "Papa Doc" Duvalier was, in fact, a doctor – although we can only imagine his bedside manner. Favoring hypocrisy to the Hippocratic Oath, the dangerous dictator was first a physician in Port-au-Prince for nearly a decade before immersing himself in politics full-time in 1943. Even more surprising, he actually rose to power in a legitimately democratic election. And though he was voted in as president in 1957, Duvalier promptly showed his gratitude to the Haitian nation by killing anyone who expressed the slightest opposition to his government. By the mid-1960s, Duvalier had established himself not only as President for Life but also as a quasi-divine manifestation of Haiti’s greatest (he claimed to have supernatural powers; Papa Doc even said he placed a curse on John F. Kennedy that resulted in Kennedy’s assassination).

Fidel Castro, the frustrated Ballplayer

Persistent rumors would have you believe that old Fidel was a talented baseball player who once tried out for a major-league team in America … which is completely untrue. The fact is, Castro did play a little ball back in school: he seems to have been the losing pitcher in a 1946 intramural game between the University of Havana’s business and law schools. But the point there is that he was in law school not so much to win ball games as to study law. Castro graduated and practiced in Havana between 1950 and 1952, when he failed miserably in his first attempted coup d’état. After a brief stint in prison and a few years exiled in Mexico and the United States, Castro and his family finally took control of Cuba in 1959.


  • Bill Gates was a congressional page at the Washington state Capitol

  • William Watkins, current CEO of Seagate Technology, worked the night shift at a mental hospital restraining people who got out of control

  • Sidney Kimmel, founder and current chairman of Jones Apparel Group, was a shipping clerk for Morton Manufacturing.

  • Bill Murray stood outside a grocery store selling chestnuts

  • Rush Limbaugh shined shoes

  • Robin Williams performed as a street mime

  • When no stores were interested in carrying his jeans, designer Tommy Hilfiger sold them to buyers from the trunk of his car.

  • Jerry Seinfeld sold light bulbs by phone

  • Demi Moore worked for a debt collection agency

  • Van Halen's David Lee Roth fluffed pillows and emptied bedpans as a hospital orderly

  • Madonna worked behind the counter at Dunkin' Donuts
  • Jennifer Aniston was a waitress

  • Brad Pitt moved refrigerators

  • Just months before setting world records in country music, Garth Brooks was a salesman in a boot store.

  • Actor Jack Nicholson was "discovered" while working in the mailroom at MGM
  • Author Stephen King, who was a janitor, was cleaning the girls' locker room when he became inspired to write the novel "Carrie."

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