By Cintra Wilson
Sunday, April 4, 2010; B02
When Tiger Woods returns to the Masters tournament in Augusta, Ga., this week, his most fearsome opponent might be F. Scott Fitzgerald, who declared, "There are no second acts in American lives."
The "Gatsby" author had a point: A great number of scandalized public figures retreat from the klieg lights of scrutiny to live out their remaining days in the dark motel of shame. But a few manage to rise from humiliation and reenter public life to become even brighter and more beloved than they were before they blew it.
Few stars have fallen more precipitously in recent months than Woods, a one-man industrial complex whose public image had been hovering above mortals for years.
Tiger's halo clattered violently around his ankles after that overpublicized incident in November involving car windows, golf clubs and his very, very unhappy wife -- and it was not helped by subsequent revelations suggesting that Tiger's legendary swing was not limited to the golf course.
Woods has made some valiant, if desperate-looking, attempts at public atonement, and the odds are tilting in his favor: He is expected to make a full professional recovery from personal disgrace. An adoring public -- in America, especially -- likes to see character flaws in its stars. The gaffes and screw-ups provide a more intimate understanding through which we might relate more personally to our heroes. To wit: Good Tiger + Bad Tiger = Human Tiger.
And he's in good company. The following luminaries all thrived in one way or another after similar disasters befell them:Woody Allen
Not a whole lot of men in public life would have the chutzpah to pull such a stunt, but the incorrigible Allen couldn't help himself. In 1992, at the age of 56, he became involved with 21-year-old Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow, his girlfriend of 12 years.
"The heart wants what it wants," he reasoned. "There's no logic to those things."
His film "Husbands and Wives" opened during the scandal to widespread cringing as audiences watched Allen's character, an aged university professor, drool over the young Juliette Lewis.
Allen and Farrow came to an acrimonious end, but Allen remained involved with Previn and went on to make some of the most artistically and commercially successful films of his career, such as "Match Point" (for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay).
In 2005, Allen referred to Mia Farrow's discovery of naked pictures of her daughter in his possession as "one of the fortuitous events, one of the great pieces of luck in my life. . . . It was a turning point in my life for the better."Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr., who made his screen debut at age 5, was on a seemingly unstoppable trajectory through the '80s, an ascent that culminated in an Academy Award nomination for his role as Charlie Chaplin in 1992's "Chaplin."
But Downey struggled for years with drugs. From 1996 to 2001, amid reports of wacky behavior, he whirled between numerous arrests for drug possession and stints at various rehabilitation and incarceration facilities, including nearly a year at a California state prison.
Today, an apparently rehabilitated Downey is best known for the colossal success of "Iron Man" ("Iron Man 2" opens next month) and received a second Oscar nomination, in 2008, for his divine portrayal of an obnoxious Australian method actor playing an African American in "Tropic Thunder."Charlie Chaplin
In 1943, Joan Barry, an actress in her early 20s, claimed to be pregnant with the child of 54-year-old Charlie Chaplin, who was already on thin ice with moral crusaders such as Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper because of his notorious affection for very young women.
Chaplin was pilloried. Several years of trials ensued, replete with salacious details. His public image went further south when, during the ordeal, he wed 18-year-old Oona O'Neill.
Chaplin, a British citizen, was prosecuted and sued for paternity. During a boat trip to Europe in 1952, he was barred from returning to the United States, and he lived in exile in Switzerland for 20 years. At 83, Chaplin returned briefly to Hollywood to pick up an honorary Oscar, and the entertainment world finally cared more about his contributions than his sins.Ingrid Bergman
On Feb. 2, 1950, Ingrid Bergman gave birth to Renato Roberto Giusto Giuseppe Rossellini -- the son of Italian film director Roberto Rossellini. This would have been a joyous Hollywood event if Bergman hadn't been married at the time to a neurosurgeon named Peter Lindstrom. Hollywood moralists whipped up a storm of public outrage against the actress.
With wretched timing, the infidelity scandal broke while her latest film, "Joan of Arc," was still in theaters -- with Bergman in the titular role as the virgin saint.
The actress arranged a quickie divorce and a marriage to Rossellini, but it was too late: Her films her films were picketed and criticized by clergymen. And the actress so beloved for her role as a freedom fighter in "Casablanca" was denounced on the Senate floor in 1950 by Edwin C. Johnson (D-Colo.), who described her as a "free-love cultist" and a "powerful influence for evil."
But Bergman came back with a bang, winning an Academy Award for "Anastasia" in 1957 and her third Oscar in 1975, as Best Supporting Actress in "Murder on the Orient Express."Hugh Grant
Who can forget the skulking mug shot of that chick-flick Romeo, Hugh Grant, after he was caught in his car with Hollywood prostitute Divine Brown in 1995?
Grant made the rounds of the talk show circuit to publicly atone for his indiscretion and was forgiven by the American public, if not ex-fiancee Elizabeth Hurley. He went on to enjoy healthy box-office revenues from such projects as the "Bridget Jones's Diary" franchise, "About a Boy" and "Love Actually."Ulysses S. Grant
While Gary Hart and Bill Clinton spring to the front of the mind when considering political animals who more or less recovered from scandal, the story of Ulysses S. Grant is perhaps one of the most compelling examples of post-disgrace success.
Grant was infamous throughout his military career for being a staggering lush, given to dipsomaniacal benders.
"Grant is a drunkard," claimed Maj. Gen. Charles S. Hamilton.
"Our noble Army of the Mississippi is being wasted by a foolish, drunken, stupid Grant," editor Murat Halstead wrote in the Cincinnati Commercial.
Still, despite being drunk, Grant handily led his troops to take the city of Vicksburg, Miss., in 1863, a victory that prompted President Abraham Lincoln to promote him to the rank of major general. The president also commented that if he could find the brand of whiskey Grant drank, he would promptly distribute it to the rest of his generals.
Grant went on to be elected president in 1868 and was reelected in 1872. He is considered to be one of the worst presidents in America's history . . . but hey, he got elected. Twice.Martha Stewart
The cover of New York magazine in May 1995 proclaimed Martha Stewart "the definitive American woman of our time." By 1999, Stewart was virtually omnipresent -- her crafty solutions for better living were all over television, her face dominated magazine racks, her products were flooding stores. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia went public, and she became a billionaire on paper.
Then came the scandal. Stewart, acting on an inside tip, sold her shares in ImClone shortly before the announcement of an FDA ruling that would cause their value to dive. Stewart was indicted on a number of counts and went to trial in 2004. She was found guilty and sentenced to serve five months in a federal correctional facility, with two years of supervised release.
But sympathies turned toward Stewart during her incarceration: She was perceived as a high-profile scapegoat for a Wall Street culture that, even before the recent economic nosedive, was presumed to be rife with corruption.
A softer, more human-seeming Stewart was released from prison in 2005, wearing a fabulous handmade poncho. Her star rose again. "Martha," a talk show launched after her release, is in its fifth season; she continues to release new lines of products for the home.Mike Tyson
Iron Mike was always a beast in the ring and the last person on Earth anyone wanted to meet in a dark alley. After a string of horrific scandals -- his brief, volatile marriage to actress Robin Givens, a rape allegation and a fight with Evander Holyfield in which he bit Holyfield's ear -- Tyson seemed to have abandoned himself to his demons.
Now, since his cameo appearance in "The Hangover" and the release of "Tyson," a soul-searching biographical documentary, he has given the public a new impression. He is no longer a man who thinks of himself as an animal and behaves like one. The chastened, self-reflective Tyson isn't America's scariest living human anymore -- he has earned new sympathy, respect and affection.
Cintra Wilson is the author of several books, including "A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-examined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease and Other Cultural Revelations."