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Jennifer Aniston, George Clooney, Kevin Bacon's early struggles before Hollywood fame

Kevin Bacon recently discussed his early years as a struggling actor. Jennifer Aniston, George Clooney and Mariah Carey have also opened up about their journeys to fame.

Kevin Bacon recently opened up about his early years as a struggling actor before finding fame.

During an appearance Monday on "The Kelly Clarkson Show," the 65-year-old "Footloose" star recalled sleeping on his sister's couch for four months after moving to New York City in 1976.

Bacon explained that he later began searching for his own place but only had a $150 budget to rent an apartment in Manhattan.

"So, I saw an ad on the back of the Village Voice, and it said 'Artists, actors, musicians residence,' and I thought, 'Well, that sounds good,'" he recalled. 


"It was basically a flophouse," he admitted. "I guess there were some artists there, but not a lot."

The Pennsylvania native told Clarkson he walked into the rental office only to be told there were no one-room apartments available, but he could rent a two-room unit.

"So, basically, it was a kitchen and another room," Bacon recalled. "And he said, 'That's three and a quarter a month. And I said, 'I can't afford that, and I don't have a roommate.' 

"And he said, ‘What about this guy?’ I'm sitting on the couch, and I look, and I don't know this guy. And he goes, ‘You want to live together? I was like,’ Yeah, OK. Yeah, OK. We'll live together.'

"And we lived together for four years. In fact, I just had lunch with him the other day."

Bacon said his roommate was a classical pianist who worked nights at the legendary Copacabana.

"He was great. Played beautiful," he said. 

The actor remembered that he would come home to hear his roommate playing the piano in the middle of the day. 

"It was really cool," Bacon said.

After moving to the Big Apple at the age of 18, Bacon began bussing tables at a café between auditions. He was eventually hired as a waiter at the storied All Star Cafe. In 1978, Bacon landed his first movie role in the classic comedy "National Lampoon's Animal House."

During a 2019 appearance on "The Corp" podcast, Bacon said he believed his money struggles were over at the time.

"I thought that I was 100% done," he said. "The movie paid … more money than I had ever imagined. It was something like 700 bucks a week. And I was out there for five weeks."

However, Bacon recalled that he quickly found himself working as a waiter again after blowing through all the money that he made from "Animal House."

"I went through the money like that. I just went right through it, had to get my job back as a waiter," he said. "Honestly, it was a great lesson."

Six years later, Bacon was finally able to quit waiting tables for good after making his career breakthrough when he starred in the 1984 musical comedy "Footloose." 

"I felt like, 'OK, things are starting to even out a little bit,’" he recalled.

Bacon is among a number of stars who have opened up about their journeys on the way to fame and fortune. Here's a look at three other celebrities who have shared their stories leading up to their big breaks.

George Clooney launched his acting career in 1982, but it would be over a decade before he landed his star-making role in the medical drama "ER." 

Though Clooney, now 62, was the son of TV journalist Nick Clooney and the nephew of legendary singer and actress Rosemary Clooney, the Kentucky native was determined to make it on his own.

"I had no idea what I was going to do," he told Parade magazine in 1998. "I bounced from job to job, never mastering any of them because I secretly thought I’d never be great at it.

"I went to Northern Kentucky University. I went all these routes, trying to figure out what I could be. I couldn’t live with the idea of just being Nick Clooney and Rosemary Clooney’s relative all my life. I needed success or failure on my own. I had to make a name for myself."

After moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting, Clooney stayed with Rosemary before moving in with his friend, actor Thom Mathews, where he lived for eight months.

"We took a bunk bed mattress and laid it on the floor of the walk-in closet in Thom’s small apartment," the two-time Academy Award winner recalled. "I lived in that closet, and it was the greatest time of my life. Because of it, Thom will always be my best friend."

Clooney worked in construction to make ends meet and appeared in guest roles on television series and a series of failed TV pilots. After 12 years, Clooney found fame in 1994 when he was cast in "ER" and became one of Hollywood's most bankable leading men.

However, Clooney never forgot the friends who helped him when he was a struggling actor. During a 2020 interview with GQ, Clooney confirmed he gave $1 million in cash in a suitcase to 14 of his closest friends.

Clooney told the outlet he decided to share the wealth after receiving a windfall from the profits of his 2013 movie "Gravity." 

"They didn't want to pay us. They gave us percentages of the movie 'cause they thought it was gonna be a flop, and that ended up being a very good deal," Clooney said of the Academy Award-winning film, which made $723 million at the worldwide box office.

At the time, Clooney had just met his future wife Amal Alamuddin, but they hadn't started dating yet. The actor was 52 and didn't have expectations he would have a family of his own one day.

"And I thought, what I do have are these guys who've all, over a period of 35 years, helped me in one way or another," Clooney told GQ. 


"I've slept on their couches when I was broke. They loaned me money when I was broke. They helped me when I needed help over the years. And I've helped them over the years. We're all good friends.

"And I thought, 'You know, without them I don't have any of this.' And we're all really close, and I just thought basically if I get hit by a bus, they're all in the will. So why the f--- am I waiting to get hit by a bus?"

Before playing waitress Rachel Green in the mega-hit sitcom "Friends," Jennifer Aniston worked as a real-life waitress for years in New York City.

Though both of Aniston's parents were actors, they discouraged her from following in their footsteps. During a 2012 interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Aniston recalled her father advising her against pursuing an acting career.


"‘Don’t do it," she remembered the "Days of Our Lives" star telling her. "'Become a doctor. Become a lawyer.’

"He didn’t want me to be heartbroken because he knew it was a tough business. It compelled me to go for it even harder. Do what keeps you happy, and don’t ever let people box you in."

After graduating from high school in 1987, Aniston supported herself with part-time jobs while auditioning for acting roles. In 1994, the Emmy Award winner finally found success when she was cast in "Friends."

"I was such a grown-up by then," Aniston told the outlet. "I had moved away from home. I had been on six failed television shows.

"I waitressed for years in New York before I got anything. And I was a telemarketer selling timeshares in the Poconos. I didn't make one sale. I was terrible at it. I was like, 'Why do we have to call people at dinnertime?'"

During a 2019 appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," Aniston recalled her time as a waitress at the Manhattan restaurant Jackson Hole Hamburgers.


"I was a terrible waitress," she admitted. "I was a hostess, and then they finally allowed me to be a waitress.

"I had slippery fingers as a waitress — was the problem." 

After Colbert asked if "slippery fingers" meant that she stole from customers, Aniston clarified that she frequently dropped trays and tripped. 

"I was very klutzy," she explained.

Aniston said she eventually became a better waitress after working at Jackson Hole for 2½ years. Aniston said the experience made her appreciate good service.

"And I always tip very, very well because I appreciate it," she added.

Mariah Carey overcame poverty and early career struggles before becoming one of the world's bestselling singers and a five-time Grammy Award winner.

In her 2020 memoir "The Meaning of Mariah Carey," the "Fantasy" hitmaker recalled growing up in an impoverished, unstable household and moving 13 times around Long Island, New York.

Carey moved to Manhattan in 1987 at the age of 17 to pursue a singing career. During a 1997 interview with Ebony magazine, Carey explained that she lived in a one-bedroom apartment with two other struggling entertainers.


She told the outlet she slept on a mattress on the floor and worked as a hat checker, waitress and restaurant hostess to support herself while shopping around her demo tapes.

During a 2020 appearance on "Late Night with Stephen Colbert," Carey admitted she was a "horrible" waitress.

"First of all, I hated it, so that contributed to it," Carey explained when Colbert asked her why she was bad at the job.

"One of the things was — and this is sad because I also failed remedial math even though my father was an aeronautical engineer. I didn't get any of that. So, I couldn't work the cash register properly," she added with a laugh.

"One other thing was no one could remember my name. So, I didn't want to always have to explain, 'Oh, Mariah, this is how you pronounce it,' because, back then, nobody had that name."


"So, I would often make up a name. I would say my name was like Debbie or something more common and then I'd forget what name I told that table. So, they'd be like 'Debbie?' and I'm sitting there like listening to my demo like not even aware that someone's calling me."

Carey's big break came after she landed a gig singing backup vocals for singer Brenda K. Starr. 

"We became good friends, and she helped me out a lot," Carey told Ebony of Starr. "She was always saying, ‘Here's my friend Mariah, here's her tape; she sings, writes…’"

Starr later brought Carey to an industry party where she handed her demo tape to music executive Tommy Mottola. After listening to the tape on the way home, Mottola was so impressed he had the limo turn around and return to the party. 

Though Carey had already left, Mottola eventually tracked her down and signed her to Columbia Records in 1988. Carey rose to fame two years later after releasing her self-titled debut album, which topped the Billboard 200 chart for 11 weeks and was certified platinum nine times. 

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