In 2017, Sofia Coppola directed The Beguiled, a Civil War-era drama. Although the movie, which follows a group of Southern women who care for a wounded Union soldier, takes place in Virginia, Coppola chose to shoot the film in Louisiana to give it an atmospheric feel. She selected various locations around New Orleans, including the home of actor Jennifer Coolidge. Most of the movie’s interior scenes were shot in Coolidge’s historic Garden District home. Coolidge said she first fell in love with New Orleans during a New Year’s trip. “You cannot have a plan and end up doing something really interesting and fun,” she said.
If you like yogurt, you low-key owe the Grateful Dead a big thank you. Prior to the 1970s, yogurt wasn’t super popular in America. In 1972, the band learned that the Springfield Creamery, owned by Chuck and Sue Kesey, was in financial trouble. The Oregon creamery had recently debuted Nancy’s Yogurt, which they were marketing as a new probiotic product. Chuck’s brother Ken was an early Grateful Dead fan, and had introduced the couple to the band. The Keseys decided to reach out to the Dead to see if they were willing to put on a concert in a field in order to raise money to save the business. By this point, they were close enough with the band that they compared reaching out to them to asking a family member for help. The Grateful Dead agreed.
The issue? They only had about a month to organize the logistics of the concert. The Keseys rented a massive field and enlisted a crew of volunteers to help build the stage. On August 27, 1972, the Grateful Dead put on the benefit concert, which was dubbed “The Field Trip.” Tickets for the event were printed on unused yogurt labels. It was sweltering hot during the show, with temperatures reportedly topping 100 degrees. Kesey had filled a creamery truck with water to drink, but said that concertgoers ended up swimming in the water tank. The concert raised an estimated $12,000, which was enough to keep the creamery running. “This is the greatest band ever invented by humanity,” Kesey said after the show.
There are two species of sea slugs — the Elysia marginata and Elysia atroviridis — that decapitate themselves, then grow new bodies from their severed heads. This bizarre phenomenon occurs when the slugs are infected by parasites. Within three weeks, a new, parasite-free body has grown from the slug’s head. To make this even more chill-inducing, the decapitated head can move around independently for up to three days before the new body grows.
After leaving the White House in 1913, former president William Howard Taft moved to Connecticut, where he taught at Yale Law School. In 1920, Taft’s home was burglarized by Carl Panzram, who was a serial criminal. Panzram’s parents were abusive, and he was arrested for public drunkenness when he was just 8 years old. His parents sent him to a Christian reform school, where he claimed he was raped and beaten. Panzram eventually ran away and lied his way into the Army when he was just 15 years old. Soon after, he was put in military prison for larceny. Upon his release, he spent a decade traveling around the country, committing crimes.
By 1920, Panzram had set his sights on Taft, who was the Secretary of War at the time of his military arrest. Panzram reportedly blamed Taft for his time in prison, and wanted to get revenge. In the robbery, Panzram stole cash, bonds, jewelry, and Taft’s personal Colt M1911 .45-caliber pistol. Panzram used the money to purchase a yacht that he allegedly used to lure in soldiers on leave in New York City so he could sexually assault, then kill them. He reportedly killed at least 10 people with the gun stolen from Taft’s home. After several weeks, people reportedly started to get suspicious of Panzram, and he decided to flee New York. During the voyage, his boat got caught in a storm and sunk. Panzram and the two victims on board survived.
From there, Panzram claimed he boarded a boat headed to Africa, where he committed several more crimes before returning to the United States. In 1928, he was arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison after admitting that he had killed two young boys. While in prison, Panzram beat an employee to death, and his sentence was upgraded to death. In 1930, Panzram was executed. In his writings, he admitted to killing at least 21 people, and claimed he had assaulted thousands.
Things might have been a lot different on the Titanic if the ship’s lookouts had access to their binoculars! Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee, the ship’s lookouts, reportedly didn’t have binoculars during the voyage, and had to rely only on their eyesight to help guide the ship. The ship’s second officer had been replaced just before the Titanic set sail. During the transition, the key to the locker containing the binoculars was misplaced. The key was actually later found and sold for $130,000 at an auction in 2010.
Friday Night Lights, which chronicles the lives of the players, coaches, and fans involved with the football team in a small Texas town, is beloved by both football fans and teen TV show aficionados alike. In the late 1980s, journalist Buzz Bissinger wanted to capture life in a football-crazed small town. He ended up moving his family to Odessa, Texas so he could spend a year following the Odessa Permian Panthers and their fans as they sought out a state championship. His book, Friday Night Lights, was released in 1990 and quickly became a bestseller. Following the success of the book, NBC tried to get the rights to develop a TV series.
Although NBC attempted to purchase the book’s rights soon after it was released, they weren’t fast enough, and the book ended up becoming a film instead. Despite NBC’s failure to secure the rights to the book, they weren’t quite ready to give up on the small town football plot line. Instead, the network started production on an unofficial adaption of the book, called Against the Grain. The series, which aired in 1993, starred Ben Affleck, who was just 21 years old, as the star quarterback. The show lasted eight episodes before being canceled. In 2006, NBC’s new Friday Night Lights series debuted. The series ran for five seasons and received high praise.
Devon Island, a remote island in Canada, is often called “Mars on Earth,” because of its desolate environment and freezing temperatures. The island, which is located about 15 degrees south of the North Pole, is home to the Haughton-Mars Project, where scientists attempt to recreate the conditions of Mars in preparation for future exploration. The base is located in the space left by a crater from an asteroid or comet that hit Earth an estimated 23 million years ago, and is home to eight structures where scientists reside during experimentation periods. Although temperatures on the base tend to hover between 34 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit, high winds often result in a below-freezing feel.
In the 1970s, Neil Young, who is Canadian, took digs at the politics and history of the American South in his music. This upset Ronnie Van Zant, the frontman of southern band Lynyrd Skynyrd, who was such a big fan of Young and his music that he often wore a Neil Young T-shirt during his performances. In 1970, Young released the song “Southern Man,” in which he sang about racism and slavery. The song reportedly angered a lot of Young’s southern fans, including Van Zant. Young later said that the song was supposed to be about the Civil Rights Movement, but many took it as a criticism of the South. Two years later, Young released “Alabama,” a song that once again criticized the South. Young argued that the song wasn’t only about Alabama, and said that he used the state to represent his feelings about the politics of the entire region.
After “Alabama” was released, Van Zant and his Lynyrd Skynyrd bandmates said they felt compelled to stand up for their home state, arguing that Young was making generalizations about southerners. “We thought Neil was shooting all the ducks in order to kill one or two,” Van Zant told Rolling Stone. “We’re southern rebels, but more than that, we know the difference between right and wrong.” Although the band spoke out in the press, they also took to the studio to create a musical rebuttal to Young’s comments. “Sweet Home Alabama,” one of the band’s most famous songs, was written in part as a response to Young, and even includes the line, “I hope Neil Young will remember, a southern man don’t need him around anyhow.”
“Sweet Home Alabama” became a hit. The song’s impact even caused Young to reflect on his comments. After the song’s release, Young reached out to the band to make amends. “They play like they mean it, I’m proud to have my name in a song like theirs,” he said. In 1977, the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd were killed in a plane crash. Weeks later, Young performed a medley of “Alabama” and “Sweet Home Alabama” in tribute to the band. In his 2012 memoir, Waging Heavy Peace, Young formally apologized for his commentary. “‘Alabama’ richly deserved the shot Lynyrd Skynyrd gave me with their great record,” he wrote. “I don’t like my words when I listen to it. They are accusatory and condescending, not fully thought out, and too easy to misconstrue.”
In 1912, Tokyo’s Mayor Ozaki gifted the United States with 3,000 cherry blossom trees to represent the growing friendship between Japan and the US. This wasn’t the first time the trees came from Japan to Washington, DC. In 1910, a batch of cherry blossom trees arrived in the nation’s capital, only to quickly die due to disease. Two years later, a group of political figures and scientists worked together to ensure the cherry blossoms would thrive in America. On March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, who was the wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees on the north side of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. The National Cherry Blossom Festival has been held nearly every year since to memorialize the moment.
Honestly, I’m obsessed with this duo and firmly believe that we should have gotten a scene about this in The Crown! In the 1980s, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury was known for always being down for a good time, and as a result, people who were looking for an escape often gravitated to him. Princess Diana was reportedly one of the people who turned to Mercury to take her mind off of the pressures of her life as a royal, and the two soon became close friends. On one occasion, Mercury and his friend Cleo Rocos decided to take the princess out for a much-deserved night on the town to one of their favorite bars, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in South London.
The issue? It was pretty much impossible to take a member of the royal family out to a bar without drawing attention. According to Rocos, the pair decided to dress Diana up as a male model to ensure she would get into the club unnoticed. “When we walked in…we felt she was obviously Princess Diana and would be discovered at any minute,” Rocos said. “But people just seemed to blank her. She sort of disappeared. But she loved it. She did look like a beautiful young man.” The disguise was reportedly comprised of sunglasses, a bomber jacket, and a baseball hat. Although the plan worked, Rocos said the gang left the bar after just 20 minutes, perhaps out of nerves that Diana’s cover would be blown.
Although I low-key thought ligers were a fictional animal made up by Napoleon Dynamite for a long time, they truly exist, and are bred in zoos by mating a male tiger with a female lion. In contrast, a tigon is bred by mating a tigress with a male lion. These animals can actually grow bigger than a typical lion or tiger because they lack certain growth-limiting genes. Because female lions often mate with multiple lions throughout their lives, male lions have genes that adapt to maximize the growth of their offspring to ensure that his children could compete with those of other lions. While female lions have genes that help to keep these lions in a given size range, female tigers do not, so the size of ligers technically have no limits.
Richard Nixon was notorious for recording both personal thoughts and conversations with others during his presidency and after he left the White House. In one of the recordings, the former president admitted that he had once considered becoming a rapper. “I have often thought that if there had been a good rap group around in those days, I might have chosen a career in music instead of politics,” Nixon said. Nixon actually had a pretty musical past. His mother Hannah bought him multiple instruments and encouraged her son to practice the piano every day after school. In 1963, Nixon even went on The Jack Paar Program to perform a piano concerto that he wrote himself.
The rapping revelation made headlines multiple times. It was first discovered in 1990, after which the New York Times wrote their own rap for the president. In 1997, a Washington Post reporter rediscovered the recording during a tour of the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California, and wrote a piece pondering what could have been for the former president. “Of all the revisionist history presented here, this conceit is the most boggling: Richard Milhous Nixon as Snoop Doggy Dick.” Nixon died in 1994, and never addressed the quote when it first resurfaced.
If you’ve ever listened to any of Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s music, then you’d probably assume the entire band was from the South, given their accents and lyrics. Turns out, all of the members were actually from San Francisco, and had never even visited the places they were singing about. In 1970, lead singer John Fogerty said he was in his California apartment when he thought of the phrase “born on the bayou.” He claimed he began writing around the phrase, and soon had penned several songs all connected to the southern theme. Even though the band is largely known for popularizing southern rock, some of the band’s songs do reference California, while many of them were vague enough that they could have taken place anywhere in America.
I suppose this is a spoiler if you haven’t seen Pretty in Pink, but considering the movie came out in 1986, what are you waiting for? The original ending for the teen flick featured Andie, played by Molly Ringwald, realizing that she was in love with her quirky best friend Duckie (Jon Cryer), and not Blane, the popular guy in school, who was played by Andrew McCarthy. When the movie was screened for test audiences, they reportedly loved the movie until the ending. McCarthy claimed that the audience booed when Andie and Duckie got together. McCarthy actually revealed that he nearly dropped out of the movie because he disliked the original ending so much! Filmmakers knew they had to change up the end of the film to make it appeal to audiences, and filmed a new scene where Andie and Blane got together.
The issue? They had already tapped the band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark to record the track for the movie’s final scene, and with the plot change, their song “Goddess of Love” no longer worked. Producers reportedly asked the band, who was about to embark on tour, if they could write and record a new song by the next day. “We went in the studio and completely off the top of our heads did the song, which I think we finished the rough demo of at about 3 o’clock in the morning,” band member Andy McCluskey told Entertainment Weekly. The new song, called “If You Leave,” ended up becoming the band’s biggest American hit, reaching No. 4 on the Billboard charts. And luckily for Duckie, the filmmakers decided to show him finding a new love of his own at prom.
We’re deep in March Madness, the annual collegiate basketball tournament. Although the March Madness moniker signifies the college championship, the name actually originated during a high school basketball game. Legend has it that Henry V. Porter was officiating a game at a high school in Illinois when the phrase “March Madness” was first used. The NCAA didn’t adopt the term until 1982, when commentator Brent Musburger referred to the tournament as March Madness while covering a game.
In 1911, Charles Dawes wrote instrumentals for the song “Melody in A Major.” Dawes, who worked as a lawyer and banker, claimed that he thought of the tune and simply couldn’t get it out of his head, so he felt like he had to write it down. The song sold very well as a phonograph record. In 1925, Calvin Coolidge named Dawes his vice president. About 40 years later, lyricist Carl Sigman decided to use “Melody in A Major” as the tune for a new song. His song, titled “It’s All in the Game,” was covered by several artists over the next few decades. In 1958, Tommy Edwards’s version of the song went No. 1, making Dawes the only US Vice President to have a No. 1 single.
Mel Blanc was the voice actor responsible for over 1,000 different characters from Bugs Bunny to Daffy Duck. In 1988, Blanc told the New York Times that he started smoking at just 9 years old, and continued to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day until he was 77. Blanc originally wanted to become a musician, and studied the bass, violin, and sousaphone. In 1933, he married Estelle Rosenbaum, and together, the couple scored a contract performing radio plays. The station claimed they couldn’t afford to hire additional actors, so Blanc decided to diversify his talents, and learned how to perform all of the necessary voices.
This talent earned Blanc a spot at Leon Schlesinger Productions, the cartoon workshop that created Looney Tunes. Blanc’s first major character was Porky Pig. Blanc later helped shape Bugs Bunny, who was originally named Happy Rabbit. He not only came up with the Bugs Bunny name, but coined the character’s iconic “What’s up doc?” catchphrase. “Bugs is so popular because other men would like to do what he does but don’t have the guts,” Blanc said. In the 1980s, Blanc notably participated in an ABC audition where actors anonymously read for each part. Much to everyone’s surprise, Blanc was selected as the winner for all five of the available voice roles. Blanc later trained his son, Noel, to take the reins for all of his voice work after Warner Brothers tapped the actor with finding his eventual replacement.
Have you ever noticed that many cartoon characters only have four fingers? Blame Mickey Mouse! When animators were working on developing the beloved mouse, they realized that drawing him with five fingers looked awkward. As a result, they decided to test out giving Mickey just three fingers and a thumb. They decided it looked far more natural that way, and the four finger look stuck. Today, characters on shows like The Simpsons and Bob’s Burgers only have four fingers.
Clifford Irving was at the center of one of the biggest literary hoaxes of the 20th century. In 1970, Irving read a Newsweek article about Howard Hughes, the notoriously reclusive and pretty bizarre billionaire. At that point, Hughes had not spoken to the press since 1958, and had left America to live in solitude in the Bahamas. Irving, who had written a few novels, was interested in Hughes’s life, and set out to write a biography of the billionaire. After all, Irving had just written Fake!: The Story of Elmyr de Hory, the Greatest Art Forger of Our Time, an “as-told-to memoir.” Irving told his editors at McGraw-Hill that Hughes had read the book and wanted Irving to write a similar one about his life.
In order to pull the whole thing off, Irving studied letters written by Hughes that appeared in the article so he could forge similar ones. He called his publisher with updates from exotic places, where he claimed to be spending time with Hughes. Irving was convinced that Hughes wouldn’t even contact him about the book because he was so reclusive. Ahead of the book’s publication, Irving received a massive advance and was able to fool lawyers, journalists, and handwriting experts who were skeptical that he was in contact with Hughes. In 1971, Hughes shocked everyone by publicly admitting that he didn’t know Irving. By 1972, Irving and his wife had pled guilty to conspiracy in federal court. Irving served 17 months in prison. He later said that he had no idea he was committing a crime, and claimed he thought the whole thing was just an elaborate hoax.
Although you might think of TV Land as only airing older TV shows like The Andy Griffith Show and M*A*S*H, the channel also liked to honor popular new shows during their annual TV Land Awards. From 2003 to 2010, the network presented a current TV show with the Future Classic Award. I’ve gotta say, their intuition was spot-on for some of their picks! Fan favorites like Arrested Development, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, and Glee all took home the prize.
And finally, Annie Jump Cannon was known for revolutionizing the way scientists classified stars through the development of the Harvard spectral system. As a child, Cannon was encouraged to learn about science by her mother. The two reportedly often climbed on the roof of their Delaware home to look at the stars. After being accepted to Wellesley College, Cannon decided to pursue astronomy and physics, where she studied under Sarah Frances Whiting, who was known as a pioneer of the field. Despite her early passion for science, Cannon ended up returning home to Delaware after her graduation, and turned her focus to photography. After her mother died in 1894, Cannon decided to once again pursue science. She returned to Wellesley, where she taught courses while continuing her graduate studies.
Cannon also enrolled in courses at Radcliffe College, the women’s branch of Harvard University. She became what was known as a “computer,” or a woman who manually classified stars. Cannon and her fellow computers ended up completing the Henry Draper Catalogue, which catalogued every known star in the sky. In 1901, Cannon released her own catalogue, in which she found a way to classify stars based on their temperature. This became known as the Harvard spectral system, and is still used today. From 1911 to 1915, she was credited with classifying about 5,000 stars per month, and ended up being known for classifying a total of about 350,000 stars during her lifetime. Cannon was also known for being a vocal supporter of women’s suffrage.