Pop Culture | Celebrities | 80s

He Invented Rock 'N' Roll, But Chuck Berry's 'Ding-A-Ling' Turned Him Into A Peeping Tom

When it comes to leaving a lasting legacy, very few people can hold a candle to the musical prowess of the late Chuck Berry.

Born on October 18, 1926, the Grammy Award winning artist was renown for being a pioneer of rock and roll music, where the critical acclaim he received often overshadowed his scandalous behavior, and illegal activities.

Despite the recent media scrutiny to the sexual predators of Hollywood, in the past many men would take advantage of their position of power, and get away with their vile behavior in the eyes of the public. Even if it resulted in suffering from the legal consequences that may have hindered their career.

Berry was one these men.

He was only a teenager when he was sentenced to three years in prison for armed robbery, but that didn’t stop him from achieving stardom. Nor did it deter him from having another brush with the law.

In 1959, Berry was at the height of his career. However, that didn’t stop authorities from arresting the musician in St. Louis, Missouri for taking 14-year-old Janice Escalanti across state lines for “immoral purposes.” He would serve 20 months in prison for his crime.

Fellow performer, Carl Perkins said he believed prison had severely impacted Berry in a thoroughly negative way.

“He had been an easy going guy before, the kinda guy who’d jam in dressing rooms, sit and swap licks and jokes. [But] in England he was cold, real distant and bitter,” Perkins said.

Fast forward two decades later and Berry would be behind bars once again after he pled guilty to tax evasion. In July 1979, he was sentenced to four months in jail and 1,000 hours of community service. Luckily, performing benefit concerts could be counted towards that.

After three convictions, you would think Berry would become a law abiding citizen, but sadly that wasn’t the case. The man with seemingly everything wanted something more, something that was illegal.

In December 1989, Berry was accused of recording women in the bathroom of his restaurant, The Southern Air in Wentzville, Missouri. Hosana A. Huck, the restaurant’s former waitress, sued Berry and said he had been making the videotapes "for the improper purpose of entertainment and gratification."

The lawsuit claimed Berry had installed videotaping equipment in the restaurant’s bathroom, and had “intentionally and without just cause or excuse intruded upon Huck's seclusion and privacy without her permission by surreptitiously making or manufacturing videotapes depicting Huck undressing and dressing and using the toilet at the restaurant.” It also called the recordings ''outrageous, beyond all possible bounds of decency.''

Huck claimed she had suffered emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation. She sought out unspecified damages.

Berry claimed the cameras weren’t installed to spy on his employees or customers, but rather to catch a staff member stealing from his business.

With the lawsuit still looming over his head in the new year, things only got worse. Police believed he had been involved in a multimillion dollar drug ring, by helping smuggle cocaine in his guitar case.

However, the police didn’t find any cocaine, but rather only about two ounces of pot, some hashish, two rifles, a shotgun, and more than $122,000 in cash.

But they would later uncover a significant cache of pornography, which included dozens of videotapes, slides, and books - some of which showcased underage girls. He was promptly charged with possession of marijuana and three counts of child abuse in relation to having ownership of the pornography featuring underage girls.

Berry then sued the county prosecutor, William J. Hannah for filing “malicious and politically motivated charges.” The singer eventually accepted a plea deal, which dismissed his child-abuse charges. He was sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay $5,000 to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.

In 1993, Spy Magazine published an exposé on Berry’s supposed perverted activities, confirming his indecency.

A tirade of women came together to file a class action lawsuit against Berry for filming them in the bathroom without their consent. Spy reported one camera “was evidently behind the toilet seat,” while the other recording devices captured “aerial views of the toilets contents during the seconds after the women stood but before they flushed.”

The videos were dubbed the “toilet tapes” by the media, as they showed hundreds of females caught “relieving themselves.”

“Sometimes the frame [was] frozen for a few seconds, lingering on moments that must have been considered particularly moving,” Spy reported.

In 1994, Berry’s legal troubles were finally resolved as he settled his lawsuits by paying more than $1.2 million to the group 59 plaintiffs, including Huck.

Berry passed away earlier this year on March 18, at the age of 90. Despite his disturbing criminal history, he is still remembered as a legend in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.