Did Empty Nest Spin-Off From the Golden Girls Without Using Characters From the Golden Girls?

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: Empty Nest was a spin-off without actually spinning off the lead characters.

Empty Nest, the sitcom starring Richard Mulligan as a recent widower dealing with both the death of his wife and his two adult daughters moving back home, is already notable as one of the few spin-off TV series to ever spin its own series off (which Empty Nest did with Nurses in 1991).

The show ran from October 1988 to April 1995. Paired with The Golden Girls, it was a mighty ratings one-two punch in the late 80s/early 90s for NBC (and Mulligan even took home an Emmy for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy in 1989).

However, the show had a rather bizarre lineage from Golden Girls to Empty Nest. You see, the show was a spin-off of the Golden Girls without any of the lead characters actually ever appearing on an episode of The Golden Girls before the first episode of Empty Nest!

Continue reading “Did Empty Nest Spin-Off From the Golden Girls Without Using Characters From the Golden Girls?”

Was Cheers a Fire Hazard?

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: Cheers was a fire hazard.

On November 28, 1942, the trendy Boston nightclub, the Cocoanut Grove, caught fire with a packed crowd inside of over 1,000 people (the club’s capacity was 460).

The club had recently expanded with an attached lounge (the Melody Lounge). The club was decked up in a Casablanca theme, so there were paper and cloth decorations hanging from the ceiling and paper palm trees everywhere. Around 10:30 PM, a busboy went to replace a missing/blown out light bulb and dropped the replacement. He lit a match to find the bulb on the dark floor, found the bulb, blew out the match and replaced the bulb. However, the match managed to set a nearby paper palm tree on fire. That lit up and quickly spread to the ceiling where it set other decorations on fire – soon the fire was feeding off of oxygen and spread through the club.

Decades later, a re-opened fire investigation determined that it was actually methyl chloride that had leaked from a faulty refrigerator in the Melody Lounge that had led to the fire spreading so quickly.

In any event, while the fire itself was deadly, easily HUNDREDS of lives could have been saved had it not been for the construction of the bar. The main entrance was a lone revolving door. As you might imagine, a lone revolving door is quickly rendered useless by hundreds of people charging at it. Other sidedoors were actually bolted shut to keep patrons from skipping out on their bill. A stained-glass window was boarded over. And the few doors that WERE open were doors that opened IN to the building, and again, when a large group of people are charging towards a door, a door that opens IN to a building is effectively useless.

The tragedy was horrific, and actually stole some headlines from World War II.

The owner of the bar was later arrested and convicted on 19 charges of involuntary manslaughter (19 random victims were chosen to represent the dead as a whole).

So what does this gruesome turn of events have to do with Cheers, you ask?

Continue reading “Was Cheers a Fire Hazard?”

Was Mr. Potato Head Nearly Just a Cereal Giveaway?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about toys and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all toy urban legends featured so far!

TOY URBAN LEGEND: Mr. Potato Head quite nearly was “doomed” to simply being a cereal giveaway.

In 1949, a toy developer named George Lerner came up with an idea that would go on to become one of the most popular toys of all-time. But in 1949, Lerner’s idea for a “funny face” kit where children could dress up potatoes or other vegetables with eyes, ears, a mouth, hats, etc. was not a particularly popular one.

Lerner was turned down by every toy company out there, even a company that Lerner had worked for during the war! The prevailing theory is that in the post-World War II environment, rationing was still fresh in everyone’s minds, so “wasting” vegetables and potatoes like that was almost blasphemous.

What happened next nearly de-railed one of the most popular toys of the 20th Century…

Continue reading “Was Mr. Potato Head Nearly Just a Cereal Giveaway?”

Was John Tyler Playing Marbles When He Found Out He Was Now President?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about toys and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all toy urban legends featured so far!

TOY URBAN LEGEND: John Tyler was playing marbles when he was informed that President Harrison had died and Tyler was now President.

Marbles have been a popular game for centuries, possibly even in the time of Ancient Egypt (marbles existed back then, but I am unsure if they were used as a game – I know by the time of the Roman Empire, the game of marbles existed).

Marbles were little glass balls (nowadays ceramic marbles are used) that were used to play a game (in the most popular version of marbles, known as “ringer) that involved drawing a circle in sand and then players would take turns knocking other players’ marbles out of the circle with their own marble.

But how does this involve John Tyler?

John Tyler was the running mate for William Henry Harrison in the famous 1840 United States Presidential Election that involved the famous “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too” slogan (Harrison was known as a war hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe, where U.S. forces in the Indiana Territory under the leadership of Harrison launched a pre-emptive strike on the American Indian Indian confederation led by Tecumseh – Harrison’s forces were victorious, although the highly outnumbered Tecumseh’s group). The pair were elected, defeating incumbent President Martin Van Buren (only the third sitting President to be defeated in a general election).

Tyler instantly became a major part of United States history when, after just a month in office, President William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia. For the first time in U.S. history, a sitting President was dead. Unlike today, the country was not exactly sure how to proceed, as the Constitution only says:

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President.

So the question was – do just the DUTIES devolve to the Vice-President, or does the Vice-President BECOME the President?

Ultimately, it was the latter, but for a period in time, there was actual uncertainty as to what would happen with the Presidency.

In any event, a popular legend involving John Tyler is what he was doing when he was notified that Harrison was dead.

Just from a sampling of the internet…

Tyler was playing marbles when he learned that he was to be President.

He was on his knees playing marbles when informed that he had become president upon the death of Harrison.

So, is it true?

Continue reading “Was John Tyler Playing Marbles When He Found Out He Was Now President?”

Was Play-Doh Created as Wallpaper Cleaner?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about toys and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all toy urban legends featured so far!

TOY URBAN LEGEND: Play-Doh was created as and originally produced as wallpaper cleaner!

It’s often fascinating to look back at every day life in, say, 1940, and see just how many products that were in use at the time that are not only not used today, but to describe the product today would leave people puzzled at how such a product could ever be considered a “household” product.

One such product is wallpaper cleaner.

You see, back in the days when homes were often heated by coal furnaces, the soot from the coal would cover most of the house. For most of the stuff in the house, while that was inconvenient, it was not a major deal, as you would just dust the soot off or otherwise wash it off. However, with wallpapers, you were in trouble because you could not wash it off, since it was, you know, paper. So people came up with home remedies including mixing flour, salt, water and some chemicals to roll up and down the wall to take off the soot.

Soon, companies were producing this themselves.

One such company was Kutol Products, which was a soap company out of Cincinatti that almost went under until a young man named Cleo McVicker turned it around in 1927. First, he brought his brother Noah into to run the company while he toured the country pushing their soap product. But the real turnaround came in 1933 when McVicker came up with the idea of turning the company into a discount wallpaper cleaner company.

Kutol Products wallpaper cleaner sold decently for a number of years, and the company even managed to survive McVicker’s death in 1949. His son, Joseph, joined his uncle Noah in running the company.

However, in the early 1950s, a couple of major things changed the world of wallpaper cleaner, making it the utterly obsolete product that it is today.

1. Oil and gas heat came into play, so that coal furnaces were no longer a problem.

2. Vinyl wallpaper was introduced, which took away the whole “can’t wash the wallpaper” problem.

So now Kotul Products had a product that was more or less unsellable, a point made clear during the Winter of 1954 when sales were practically nil (Winter was the time when sales were usually at their peak, with stores making their orders for the spring cleaning season). So they soon made a decision that would change their company and the world of toys forever!

Continue reading “Was Play-Doh Created as Wallpaper Cleaner?”

My New Book Is Out!

My new book, Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? (the answer, of course, is so he can repel sharks…and other dangerous sea creatures) is out today!

The book contains a series of lists about comic books. Some examples include the three topics depicted on the cover (which was drawn by Kevin Hopgood, the fellow who designed War Machine’s armor)…

Seven Bands That Got Their Names from Comic Books
Six Fellow Superheroes That Wolverine Has Stabbed at One Point or Another
Ten Crazy Items Found in Batman’s Utility Belt

Essentially, it is all the sort of stuff you expect from my comic book writing! Roughly 75% of it is brand-new material!

In addition, there are twenty-two guest lists by a whole bunch of great comic creators. Some examples include the three creators mentioned on the cover….

Mark Millar’s “Five ‘WTF?’ Moments in Comic Book History?”
Dave Gibbons’ “Six Great Silver Age Covers”
Geoff Johns’ “Nine Iconic Green Lantern Covers”

The other creators who contributed lists are (in alphabetical order): Jason Aaron, Scott Allie, Paige Braddock, Peter David, J.M. DeMatteis, Mike Deodato, Jay Faerber, Kieron Gillen, Gabriel Hardman, Frazer Irving, Jeff Lemire, Greg Pak, Jimmy Palmiotti, John Rozum, Marc Sumerak, Eric Trautmann, Fred Van Lente, Mark Waid, Zeb Wells and Skottie Young.

Order a copy today at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, Powell’s Books and many more fine online bookstores (or buy it in whichever brick and mortar store you enjoy)!

If you buy it from Amazon, I get a cut, but really, buy it from wherever you’d like! A sale is a sale!

The important thing is buying it. 😉

Magazine Urban Legends Revealed #1

Monday is “Grab Bag” day here at Entertainment Legends Revealed, with each Monday featuring a different area of the world of arts and entertainment (that is not featured on the other four days of the week, that is). They’ll eventually repeat, but for now, we’re still on the initial installments of each of the various “Grab Bag” legends!

This is the first in a series of examinations of legends related to magazines and whether they are true or false.

Let’s begin! Continue reading “Magazine Urban Legends Revealed #1”

Movie Urban Legends History

Here are quick descriptions of each of the previous editions of Movie Urban Legends Revealed.

To see if they are true or false, you have to click on the link!

1. Ariel from the Little Mermaid was based on the facial features of Alyssa Milano.

2. George Reeves had a number of scenes cut out of From Here to Eternity because test audiences were too jarred at seeing TV’s Superman in the film.

3. J. Edgar Hoover had casting say over the film The FBI Story.

4. Tony Curtis said that kissing Marilyn Monroe was “like kissing Hitler.”

5. Kirk Cameron will not kiss any woman other than his wife, not even for an acting role.

6. The actor who played Alfalfa in the Little Rascals films is buried with a drawing of his dog from the films.

7. Nia Vardalos worked on the film Sorority Sluts 3.

8. Filming of Cheyenne Autumn was halted due to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

9. In Singin’ in the Rain, there was a bizarre series of voice dubbings.

10. Vera Ellen neck had to be covered at all times in the film White Christmas because her neck was ravaged by the effects of anorexia.

11. Burt Reynolds turned down an Academy Award-winning acting role that was specifically written with him in mind so that he could do Stroker Ace.

12. People all across the United States were flooded with calls due to their number being shown in the film Bruce Almighty, including a church with a pastor named Bruce!!!

13. “As Time Goes By” would have been removed from Casablance had it not been for a haircut.

14. John Patrick Shanley has it written into his contract that no words in his screenplays can be changed.

15. Kevin Smith once picketed his own film.

16. W.C. Fields has an epitaph on his gravestone referring to Philadelphia.

17. An early film adaptation of Anna Karenina contained two versions of the ending, one happy and one sad.

18. Frank Sinatra kept the Manchurian Candidate under wraps for years in the wake of the Kennedy Assassination.

19. Elvis Presley’s first on-screen kiss became a Catholic nun a few years later.

20. Frances McDormand almost lost her role in Blood Simple because she had to watch a soap opera.

21. John Gilbert’s voice translated so poorly to “talkies” that his career was ruined.

22. Die Hard was a screen adaptation of the sequel of a book that also was adapted into a film.

23. Oliver Reed appeared in scenes in Gladiator filmed after the actor died.

24. The FBI felt that It’s a Wonderful Life was communist propaganda.

25. A scene had to be removed from the film The Program because teenagers were killed imitating it.

26. Fritz Lang changed the title of his film, M, because he thought it sounded better and not because of any fear of Nazi persecution.

27. Robert Towne’s original ending for Chinatown was about the complete opposite of the ending that Roman Polanski went with.

28. There was an alternate ending filmed for Raiders of the Lost Ark that was cut from all U.S. prints of the film for fear it would be offensive to U.S. film-goers.

29. Gone With The Wind used the line “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” in violation of the Motion Picture Association Production Code.

30. William Wyler had a rather interesting excuse for not being there to accept his Best Director Academy Award in 1943.

31. A trained camel saved Peter O’Toole’s life on the set of Lawrence of Arabia.

32. The last words Walt Disney wrote before he died were “Kurt Russell”

33. Roger Moore was Ian Fleming’s first choice to portray James Bond on film.

34. Underage actors resulted in a number of interesting filming issues during Superbad.

35. Ten months after the release of Forrest Gump, the studio behind the film ostensibly were in the HOLE over $60 million on the film!

36. Beverly Hills Cop was written for Sylvester Stallone.

37. Universal Studios used to offer an incentive tied in with a joke from National Lampoon’s Animal House.

38. Ava Gardner made extremely disparaging comments about filming in Melbourne, Australia.

39. An actress took on the name of the character she was playing in a film.

40. The Jean-Claude Van Damme film Cyborg was originally going to be both the sequel to the Masters of the Universe film AND a Spider-Man film.

41. Army of Darkness featured a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle as a cameo/joke.

42. Steven Spielberg won a percentage of the profits of the original Star Wars film in a bet.

43. Don Ameche’s name used to be slang for “telephone.”

44. Jean Acker sued for the right to call herself “Mrs. Rudolph Valentino.”

45. There really a giant octopus in The Goonies.

46. John Wayne once took a George Stevens cue in a memorably pun-derful direction.

47. The dog Pal was acquired TWICE for sums that, in retrospect, seem to be quite astronomically low.

48. Die Hard With a Vengeance was originally written as Lethal Weapon 4

49. FedEx paid to have their products appear in the film Cast Away.

50. Tom Hanks’ acceptance speech at the Academy Awards inspired the movie In & Out.

51. An actor was almost denied appearing in the film Philadelphia because of his HIV status.

52. During work on Toy Story 2, the vast majority of the film was accidentally deleted due to a pair of computer errors.

53. The negative reaction to the death of Optimus Prime in the Transformers movie saved Duke from dying in the G.I. Joe movie.

54. The sequel to Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension was re-worked into the screenplay for Big Trouble in Little China.

55. Ray Bolger occasionally set himself on fire while on set during the filming of the Wizard of Oz.

56. Howard Hughes filmed an entirely different ending to Scarface (withOUT actor Paul Muni) to help appease censors.

57. Four million dollars worth of animation had to be redone on Shrek when Mike Myers decided to redo all of his dialogue on the film with a Scottish accent.

58. Marlon Brando made a “miraculous recovery” while preparing for his first motion picture role.

59. Shirley Williams almost got the lead in National Velvet!

60. A fictional character was nominated for a Best Screenplay Academy Award.

61. Leonard Nimoy requested that Spock be killed off if Nimoy was to play Spock again in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

62. Michael Bay apologized for the film Armageddon

63. A case of mistaken identity led to the inclusion of a number of Al Kapone songs on the soundtrack to Hustle and Flow.

64. Fast Times at Ridgemont High used the song “Kashmir” even though it did not fit into the script.

65. Carol Reed hired Anton Karas to do the soundtrack of The Third Man based on seeing him play at a bar in Vienna.

66. Michael Corleone avenged his wife’s murder in each of the first two Godfather films, but each time it was cut from the actual movie.

67. A Hard Day’s Night was filmed in black and white to save on costs.

68. A John Wayne anti-Communism film was dubbed in Europe and other places as an anti-drug film.

69. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was essentially a film-length commercial for a new line of candy from Quaker Oats.

70. Mandy Patinkin’s character in Alien Nation was going to be named George Jetson but a rights issue spoiled the opportunity.

71. The Trayvon Martin case led to a Sci-Fi comedy film changing its title.

72. Bela Lugosi learned his lines for the film Dracula phonetically – he did not speak English at the time!

73. The car chase in The French Connection was done without any permits.

74. A dealer raising his price for professional wrestling footage led to the making of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

75. There is an X-Rated Director’s Cut of the film Scarface

76. House Party nearly starred DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.

77. 20th Century Fox tried to work out a “trade” of Jean Harlow and Clark Gable so that Shirley Temple could star in MGM’s Wizard of Oz.

78. A dispute with Technicolor kept the MGM Wizard of Oz as the first instance of black and white turning to color at Dorothy’s arrival in Oz.

79. Victor Fleming had an…interesting method for getting Judy Garland to keep from laughing during the filming of a scene for the Wizard of Oz.

80. Marty McFly originally time-traveled in a refrigerator in Back to the Future.

81. Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin had a memorable first meeting outside of a movie theater.

82. Carole Lombard’s death led to a notable edit in her last film.

83. James Cameron used a trickier method than trick camera work to have two Sarah Connors in a scene in Terminator 2.

84. Was Nightmare on Elm Street seriously inspired by the 1970s pop hit “Dream Weaver”?

85. Dimitri Tiomkin asked for and received the publication rights for “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’” for free!

86. Did famed Alien designer H.R. Giger really design a Batmobile for Batman Forever?

87. Stephen Spielberg directed his first work for a studio when he was 21 years old.

88. Bob Dylan co-wrote “The Ballad of Easy Rider.”

89. Nintendo owns the rights to Super Hornio Brothers, a porn parody of Super Mario Brothers.

90. The assistant in Frankenstein was named Igor.

91. Frank Capra had a Machiavellian way to get Claudette Colbert to show her legs in It Happened One Night.

92. Concern over toy sales kept Han Solo from being killed off in Return of the Jedi.

93. A typo led to the title of the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies.

94. Did Dracula (and vampires in general) not have vampire fangs in films until a Turkish film in the 1950s?

95. Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel won two Academy Awards for Documentaries.

96. The University of Oregon agreed to let Animal House film at their college because their Dean of Students had earlier turned down The Graduate.

97. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was originally going to be a horror film.

98. Gwyneth Paltrow had an interesting approach to a radio contest revolving around her.

99. Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. attended Harvard University.

100. More than 40 actors in Philadelphia died of AIDS within a few years of the film’s release.

101. The Wampa attack on Luke Skywalker in the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back was written to explain away Mark Hamill’s facial injuries he suffered in a car accident.

102. A scene of Jack Palance mounting a horse in Shane was a rewound shot of Palance dismounting the horse!

103. Sigourney Weaver actually making a trick shot ended up causing a bit of a scene during the filming of Alien Resurrection.

104. 20th Century Fox tried to hide the fact that Miracle on 34th Street was a Christmas film when the film was first released.

105. The plot of the film adaptation of The Big Sleep was so convoluted that not even the screenwriters fully understood the plot.

106. Walt Disney kept the actress who played Snow White under contract for years to keep her from ruining the illusion behind Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by performing elsewhere.

107. James Dean not only was a “Stunt Tester” for Beat the Clock, but he was fired from the gig for an amusing reason.

108. David Mamet’s first work writing for films was in Garage Girls, Who Stole My Wheels?…and it was rejected!

109. Lalo Schifrin re-used his rejected score for The Exorcist for The Amityville Horror.

110. Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, was allergic to carrots.

111. Darth Vader was not originally Luke Skywalker’s father in The Empire Strikes Back.

112. Robin Williams vowed never to work for Disney again over a dispute over the size of the genie on the Aladdin movie poster.

113. Godzilla was originally going to be a giant octopus.

114. There was no secret decoder ring in A Christmas Story.

115. Black Widow very nearly had a movie before Iron Man and Thor.

116. Pretty in Pink originally ended with Andie and Duckie together.

117. The unrated and sexually explicit trailer for Nymphomaniac was accidentally shown to attendees of a showing of the children’s animated film, Frozen.

118. All of the timepieces in Pulp Fiction are set to 4:20.

119. ‘N Sync filmed appearances as Jedi knights in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

120. Universal Studios sued Nintendo over Donkey Kong infringing on their King Kong trademark.

121. Walt Disney used to not allow women to be trained as animators for his company.

122. An NFL team once drafted John Wayne when he was 63 years old.

123. A film that pushed a horse off of a cliff led to the film industry allowing the American Humane Association oversight over treatment of animals in films.

124. Star Wars was originally subtitled “Episode IV A NEW HOPE” as an homage to Flash Gordon cliffhangers and not because of any planned sequels

125. There was no “Episode IV A NEW HOPE” subtitle in the original Star Wars film because 20th Century Fox had it removed because it would be too confusing for moviegoers.

126. Dumbledore was originally going to be straight in the Harry Potter movies.

127. The song “Let it Go” in Frozen saved Elsa from being a villain.

128. Robin Williams ad-libbed so much of Aladdin that the movie was rejected for a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

129. Edward Bennett Williams turned down 10% of the production company that made box office smashes Vera Cruz and Marty.

130. George Lucas added a scene involving a severed arm to assure that Star Wars would be rated PG rather than G.

131. Harrison Ford accidentally auditioned for the role of Han Solo in Star Wars.

132. Joss Whedon cast one of the leads in his film Much Ado About Nothing based on just a single scene in The Avengers where she was an extra.

133. The mask used in Scream was discovered in an abandoned house during location scouting for the film.

134. Kevin Smith wrote a decoy screenplay for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

135. The film Major League originally had a dramatic twist at the end involving the team’s owner.

136. Superman Returns used CGI to reduce the size of Brandon Routh’s crotch while he was wearing his Superman costume.

Ta da!