Did Quaker Oats Experiment On Children With Radioactive Cereal?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to cuisine (chefs, dishes, etc.) and whether they are true or false.

CUISINE URBAN LEGEND: Quaker Oats ran experiments on children using radioactive cereal.

In 1877, Henry D. Seymour and William Heston formed what would become the Quaker Oats Company, which was famous for its oatmeal (it is STILL famous for its oatmeal, but nowadays there are a lot more breakfast options being mass-produced. Back in the turn of the 20th Century, the pickings were a good deal less robust, so Quaker Oats was a HUGE deal).

In the 1890s, their biggest competitor, the breakfast porridge known as Cream of Wheat, debuted.

The two companies fought tooth and nail as the two major mass produced breakfast meals of the early 20th Century and when World War II ended and the boom in both suburban living and kids being born in general made breakfast an even bigger deal. Quaker Oats’ sales reached almost $300 million after the War. One of their biggest sales pitches was how healthy oatmeal was, as this was around the time that dietary guidelines were actually pushed by the government for the first time.

Thus, it was a big blow when a study announced that high levels of phytate (which would be found in oats) could interfere with the absorption of iron in the body, something that was not the case with wheat. So suddenly Cream of Wheat had a big feather in its health cap that it could use against Quaker Oats.

So Quaker Oats decided to fund an experiment to prove that oatmeal delivered iron to the body fine, while also showing that oatmeal did similar things for calcium. HOW they went about it was very, very messed up and eventually cost the company over a million dollars due to a lawsuit.
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June 18th, 2021 | Posted in Cuisine Legends Revealed | No Comments

Did the Sopranos Almost Resolve the Mystery of the “Pine Barrens” In the Final Season?

TV URBAN LEGEND: “The Sopranos” almost revealed the mysterious final fate of the Russian gangster from the episode “Pine Barrens” in an episode in the final season of the series.

When long-running television series begin to reach the end of their runs, there is often an urge (very often driven by the fans of the show) to try to resolve any unresolved stories left over from past episodes, whether such an impulse really fits into the final plot of the series or not. “How I Met Your Mother”, for instance, tried valiantly to resolve their long-running pineapple mystery in their final episodes (they never found a way to make it work). “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, on the other hand, seems to delight in defying fans’ desire to learn the true name of the Waitress before the series ends. When you take into account the famous final scene of the hit HBO drama “The Sopranos”, the show’s creator, David Chase, seems to pretty clearly lean towards the latter school of thought. The finale famously lacked a clear cut resolution to the life of New Jersey crime boss Tony Soprano.

There was another famous unresolved plot line on the Sopranos, though. In the acclaimed season three episode “Pine Barrens” (written by longtime “Sopranos” writer Terence Winter, who later created “Boardwalk Empire” and “Vinyl”, based on an idea by frequent “Sopranos” director, Tim Van Patten, who also worked on “Boardwalk Empire” with Winter), Soprano made men Christopher and Paulie were forced to fill in on a collection duty for another member of the crime family.

They were irritated at having to do collections and when one of the people they were collecting from, a Russian gangster named Valery, gave them attitude, Paulie snapped and killed the man. Or at least he believed he killed him.

When Paulie and Christopher drove to the Pine Barrens (a heavily forested area in New Jersey) to get rid of his body, they were shocked to discover that Valery was still alive. They then gave him a shovel and made him dig his own grave. However, Valery waited until their guard was down and then used the shovel to attack them and escape. Paulie then shot him in the head. Amazingly, Valery got back up and continued to run away. When the two men returned to Christopher’s car, they discover that it was stolen. So now the two men have to worry not just about the missing Russian but about surviving the night. They never found Valery, but they are eventually saved by Tony, who explained to them that if Valery shows up again and it causes any sort of problem with the Russian mob boss, Slava, then Tony would force Paulie to take responsibility for what happened. Valery was never seen or heard of again on “The Sopranos” (Slava was, though, so the presumption was that Valery never made it back to tell Slava about what happened).

Reader Matt G. wrote in to ask about a story he once read about Tony Sirico (who played Paulie) saying that they nearly addressed the Valery situation. Sirico, did, in fact, tell the New York Times soon after “The Sopranos” ended:

We had a scene this season when Chris and I are talking in the bar about whatever happened to that Russian guy. And in the script we were supposed to go outside and there he was standing on the corner. But when we went to shoot it, they took it out. I think David didn’t like it. He wanted the audience just to suffer.

Is that true?
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June 16th, 2021 | Posted in TV Legends Revealed | No Comments

Was Looking Glass’s “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” Written About a New Jersey Legend of a Woman Spurned By a Sailor?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC LEGEND: Looking Glass’ “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” was written about a New Jersey urban legend of a woman spurned by a sailor.

In 1972, the band Looking Glass had its biggest hit with the song, “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl),” about a barmaid who is love with a sailor who can never truly love her back because he is too dedicated to his sailor’s life (As the chorus goes, “Brandy, you’re a fine girl. What a good wife you would be, but my life, my love and my lady, is the sea”).

The band Looking Glass formed as a college group when the members of the band were attending Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. (only lead singer and lead guitarist Elliot Lurie and pianist and backing singer Larry Gonsky stuck with the band after college, they added drummer Jeff Grob and Bassist and backing singer Pieter Sweval after they graduated).

Well, also in New Brunswick is a legend of a woman that bears a striking resemblance to the song, “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl).”

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June 14th, 2021 | Posted in Music Legends Revealed | No Comments

Did Jane Foster Become a Scientist In Thor Due to a Suggestion from a Scientific Advisor on the Film?

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Jane Foster became a scientist based on a suggestion by a scientist advising on the film.

It is always interesting to see how characters evolve from the beginning of a screenplay until they end up on the silver screen. We’ve seen in the past how just a re-written song took Elsa from the villain of Frozen to one of its heroes and we’ve also seen how Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was almost completely re-written to make Belle more of a feminist. This was also the case with Jane Foster in the 2011 hit Marvel film, Thor.

Natalie Portman starred as Foster, who is an astrophysicist in the film, forced to deal with the contrast between her belief in science and Thor’s seeming proof of the existence of magic. Of course, astrophysicist is a good deal different than Jane Foster’s career in the Thor comic books, where she was a nurse for decades before eventually becoming a medical doctor, as well. As the story goes (as suggested to me by my pal, Travis Pelkie), Marvel got the idea to make Jane a scientist from one of the scientists who helped Marvel as part of the Science and Entertainment Exchange, a project of the Naional Academy of Sciences that helps advise filmmakers about the science in their films.

Is that true?
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June 9th, 2021 | Posted in Movie Legends Revealed | No Comments

Was Dancing Star Juliet Prowse Really Mauled By the Same Jaguar Twice?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to dancing and dancers and whether they are true or false. Click here to see all of the dancing urban legends featured so far.

DANCING URBAN LEGEND: Juliet Prowse was mauled by the same jaguar twice.

Juliet Prowse was born in India to a British father and a South African mother. After her father died when she was just a toddler, she moved with her mother to South Africa and soon began studying dance at a young age. She was discovered as a dancer in Paris in her twenties and she was soon a key player in the 1960 film, Can-Can…

Prowse starred in her own sitcom a few years later after some more film roles, where she plays an actress who marries a guy in the Air Force and they try to live on his salary while she continues working as an actress.

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February 24th, 2021 | Posted in Dancing Legends Revealed, Grab Bag Legends | No Comments

Was the Original Female Lead on Seinfeld Replaced For Not Being ‘Sexy’ Enough?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: The original female lead on “Seinfeld” was replaced for not being sexy enough.

Television pilots can be fascinating to explore in greater detail. There is so much attention paid to just this one single episode (as the pilot typically determines whether the network wants to pick the television show up as an ongoing series) that the levels of micro-management on the pilot can go to extreme lengths. This is particularly evident when it comes to the cast of the series, as the pilot is often the first time that people are seeing the actors interacting on a finished product. Thus, very often actors are added or removed after the pilot. In one memorable instance, an actor was digitally added to the pilot of a hit TV series after the pilot had been finished but before it even aired! More often, though, pilots are where producers determine that certain characters don’t work and they get replaced on future episodes. That was the case in the original pilot for the “Big Bang Theory,” where there was an entirely different female lead at first. That was also the case in the original pilot for the hit TV series, “Seinfeld,” where the female lead on the series went in a dramatically different direction after the pilot.

Why did Lee Garlington get replaced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the female lead on “Seinfeld” after just one episode? There are a number of conflicting stories out there, including one that said that it was because the character needed to be “sexier.” What’s the truth? Read on to find out!
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January 25th, 2021 | Posted in TV Legends Revealed | No Comments

Did Zack Snyder Really Say That He Couldn’t Get Into ‘Normal Comics’ When He Was Younger Because of the Lack of Sex and Killing?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Zack Snyder said that he couldn’t get into “normal comics” when he was growing up because there was not enough “sex or killing.”

There is a popular meme going around with a purported quote from Watchmen, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice director, Zack Snyder, talking about his opinions about comic books when he was younger (I saw it shared by the very nice comic book site, youdon’treadcomics_.

In it, Snyder purportedly says about comics (while promoting his film adaptation of Watchmen):

I had a buddy who tried getting me into “normal” comic books, but I was all like, “No one is having sex or killing each other. This isn’t really doing it for me.” I was a little broken, that way. So when Watchmen came along, I was, “This is more my scene.”

So, is it a real quote?
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December 3rd, 2020 | Posted in Movie Legends Revealed | No Comments

Did George Lucas Want to Destroy All Copies of the Star Wars Holiday Special?

TV URBAN LEGEND: George Lucas once said, “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.”

The Star Wars Holiday Special is one of the most bizarre pieces of pop culture ever. A year after Star Wars debuted and was a huge success, they decided to do a TV special while waiting for the sequel to come out in 1980.

All of the major cast members showed up, from Mark Hamill to Harrison Ford to Carrie Fisher…

Of course, so did Bea Arthur…

The idea was that it was a variety special based on the basic concept of Han Solo and Chewbacca traveling to Chewy’s home world, Kashyyyk, to celebrate Life Day (essentially the Wookiee equivalent of Christmas).

The special is also known for having a cartoon in it that officially introduced Boba Fett before he showed up in the next film in the series.

Anyhow, the special was not warmly received and George Lucas clearly made a point to keep the show hidden. It made only a single official airing on broadcast television, but it aired in a number of other countries unofficially and those copies are the ones that places like YouTube air.

So Lucas did not like the special.

However, his dislike for it has created a bit of a legend.

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November 17th, 2020 | Posted in TV Legends Revealed | No Comments

How Did An Early Screener of Halloween Change the Film Forever?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: John Carpenter came up with the iconic score for Halloween only after an advanced screening of the film.

It’s really fascinating to realize that there is a whole genre of films that really only came about in the last 40 years or so. There had obviously been horror films before 1978’s Halloween and there had even been films that you could call “slasher” films before (heck, one of the classics in the genre, Alfred Hitchcok’s Psycho, came out almost 20 years before Halloween), but the specific set-up of director John Carpenter’s Halloween was a new one for Hollywood.

It told the story of a maniac named Michael Myers (or “The Shape”) terrorizing a suburban neighborhood on Halloween night, trying to kill as many babysitters as possible…

One heroic babysitter, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) was able to protect her young charges and ward off the killer…

“Slasher killer tries to kill teenagers” became its own extremely successful genre from this point on, although few of its copycats were ever able to duplicate the brilliance of Halloween, which stood out as a legitimately great film for its time, regardless of genre.

Written by Carpenter and his co-producer on the film, Debra Hill, the movie is also extremely well known for the brilliant, stripped-down score for the film by Carpenter himself. Movies traditionally have orchestral scores, so Carpenter’s simple keyboard score really stood out and his famed score was used for most Halloween sequels, even the ones that Carpenter wasn’t otherwise involved in making.

The film was made on a very small budget (under $400,000) and its stripped-down style was used beautifully by Carpenter and the almost guerrilla filmmaking somehow worked out perfectly (like the famous decision by costume designer Tommy Lee Wallace to use an adapted Captain Kirk face mask for Michael Myers’ iconic mask. Wallace just bought the mask from a costume shop for less than two dollars and transformed it into a piece of film history).

Carpenter, of course, was looking to do even bigger films and before the release of Halloween, he screened the almost-finished film for a Fox film executive as a sort of demonstration of his skills. Carpenter recalled how her reaction to the film changed it forever:

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October 31st, 2020 | Posted in Movie Legends Revealed | No Comments

Was Bela Lugosi Nearly the Original Universal Studios Frankenstein’s Monster?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Bela Lugosi nearly played Frankenstein’s Monster, who would have looked dramatically different!

I once asked my mother about the Outlander TV series. I had recalled that she had enjoyed the novels, so I recommended the TV series to her and she said she preferred not to watch it. When I asked why, she explained that she already had her vision of what the characters looked like and she wasn’t interested in seeing a conflicting version to spoil her own vision.

The interesting thing about that is that is very much what DOES happen with popular film adaptations of famous novels. The film version becomes the definitive version, whether it matches the novel at all. In the case of Frankenstein’s Monster, Mary Shelley’s novel describes the character MUCH differently than the version that was played by Boris Karloff in 1931’s Frankenstein, and yet the Karloff version is now the iconic depiction of what Frankenstein’s Monster looks like.

It’s fascinating to note, then, that said iconic depiction of Frankenstein’s Monster almost never came to pass!!

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October 31st, 2020 | Posted in Movie Legends Revealed | No Comments