22 Facts I Learned This Week That Are Surprising, Shocking, And Just Plain Fascinating
In 2002, Mila Kunis filmed a movie called The Girl Who Wouldn't Die. When the film went into post-production, filmmakers decided they wanted to turn the movie into a sequel to American Psycho, and ended up adding several flashback scenes connecting Kunis's character to the original film's lead character, Patrick Bateman.
1.In a very interesting twist, the Church of England technically owns a stake in some of the world's biggest songs, including Rihanna's "Umbrella," Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack," and Beyoncé's "Single Ladies." The church is one of several investors in Hipgnosis, a company that has spent over $1 billion to acquire the rights to tons of beloved songs. Every time a song owned by Hipgnosis plays, the church earns royalties from the track. According to Merck Mercuriadis, the founder of Hipgnosis, the music the company owns is "more valuable than gold or oil." He added that the purchase of music is one of the most stable investments, adding that buying a hit song can result in 30–40 years of reliable income.
2.While Dirty Dancing is considered a classic today, filmmakers had pretty low expectations ahead of the movie's 1987 release. The movie was reportedly turned down 43 times before coming to fruition. In 2017, screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein revealed that she was asked to remove several controversial plot points, including an abortion storyline and commentary about race, war, and politics, from the film. The movie's producers had allegedly secured a sponsorship from an acne cream company, who reportedly tried to back out after learning there was a scene with an illegally performed abortion. Bergstein said she refused to remove it because without it, the movie's entire plot would "fall apart."
The movie also was almost renamed I Was a Teenage Mambo Queen in the lead-up to its release, after Canadian authorities reportedly held up the film's dailies at the border, believing it was pornography. Dirty Dancing initially received bad reviews from test audiences. During one screening, 39% of audience members claimed they didn't even realized that the movie had an abortion subplot. As a result, it was decided that the movie would only run in theaters for a week, then would go straight to home video. To everyone's surprise, the movie went on to become a massive success, bringing in $214 million at the box office. The movie's theme song, "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" even won the Oscar for Best Song.
3.Turns out that Apple founder Steve Jobs was quite the prank caller! In 2007, Jobs made the first public call from an iPhone, during which he called a San Francisco Starbucks and ordered 4,000 lattes. The call took place in front of a huge audience at Apple's iPhone unveiling. Jobs immediately told the barista who answered the call — "Hannah" Zhang — that he was just kidding. Zhang said she had no idea that Jobs was the prank caller. "I feel very happy and lucky that I had a chance to actually talk to him," she told Fast Company. "It means a lot to me that he picked our Starbucks." Zhang also added that the call inspired hundreds of copycat pranksters over the years.
4.Crazy Rich Asians, written by Kevin Kwan, began as a bestselling book series, then went on to become one of the biggest films of 2018. The movie, which was notably comprised of an all-Asian cast, made headlines for the way the film finally centered Asian stories. In 2013, shortly after the first novel in the trilogy was released, the film rights were bought by a production company called Color Force. Instead of attaching the movie to a mainstream studio, they instead tried to secure funding from Asian sources in order to stay as true to the source material as possible. Kwan told the Hollywood Reporter that he was disheartened when he learned that some studios were interested in "whitewashing" the film by casting white actors to portray Asian characters.
When it came to determining who would control the film's release, it started a bidding war between major studios and streaming services. In October 2016, it came down to a competition between Warner Brothers and Netflix to decide who would distribute the movie, which was the first film with an all-Asian cast since 1993's The Joy Luck Club. Warner Brothers had beaten out all of the other major studios, while Netflix was reportedly offering massive salaries for the cast, a fully green-lit trilogy deal, and complete artistic freedom. After learning this, Warner Brothers reportedly told Kwan, director Jon M. Chu, and the movie's producers that they had 15 minutes to decide, otherwise their offer was taken off the table.
Kwan ultimately decided to turn down Netflix's offer, because the streamer reportedly did not want to grant the film a theatrical run. "We wanted to have that cinematic experience," he said. "We wanted to have a huge premiere and an opening, and we wanted to play in theaters where families, friends, people could really come together as communities and see this movie." He told CNN that the filmmakers were aware that his decision was a huge gamble, but he ultimately believed the movie could be more impactful if it had a theatrical run. Kwan also revealed that if he had taken the Netflix deal, he "could have moved to an island and never worked another day." Turns out, his gamble paid off! Crazy Rich Asians went on to make $239 million at the box office and was widely praised for bringing Asian representation to the big screen.
5.Pelicans became extremely popular in medieval art because they were seen as symbols of sacrifice, and were often used in Christian allegories. When the birds were unable to find food for their young, they would peck flesh from their own breast in order to nourish their babies. As a result, depictions of this process were often seen on liturgical crosses, church doorways, and altars.
6.I wouldn't expect Princess Diana to be an American football fan, but in 1991, she was spotted sporting a Philadelphia Eagles jacket. The photos recently resurfaced in the lead-up to the Super Bowl, where the Eagles lost to the Kansas City Chiefs. So, how did a British royal with no apparent connection to Philly end up with the coat? Legend has it that Diana met Jackie Edelstein, a former statistician for the Eagles, at Grace Kelly's funeral. Although Kelly, who was the Princess of Monaco, and Diana were acquainted because of their royal connections, Kelly was actually born and raised in Philadelphia.
Diana and Edelstein reportedly got to talking, and the royal confessed that silver and green (the colors of the Eagles), was her favorite color combination. Edelstein took that as a sign and decided to send Diana some Eagles merch. The problem? According to Marnie Schneider, the daughter of a former Eagles owner, the team wanted to send Diana Eagles apparel fit for a royal. "My grandfather said, 'She’s the princess! You can't send her just T-shirts,'" she said. "'We gotta do something special for this woman.'" The team ended up sending Diana a gift box, which included the classic Eagles jacket. Diana was later spotted wearing it while dropping Prince Harry off at school.
7.In 2002, Mila Kunis starred in American Psycho 2, in which she played a college student studying criminology by day, and an aspiring serial killer by night. Patrick Bateman, the star of the original American Psycho, even made several appearances in flashback scenes, although he was not portrayed by Christian Bale, who played the character in the first film. The issue? Kunis had no idea the movie was going to become a sequel to American Psycho. She filmed it under the impression that it would be a completely different film called The Girl Who Wouldn't Die. After shooting was completed, filmmakers decided to link it to the original film and filmed additional scenes featuring Bateman that are supposed to be told from Kunis's character's memories.
8.The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" inspired Brian Wilson to revamp the Beach Boys' music. Wilson, who estimates that he's listened to the song over 1,000 times, told the New York Times that he was so shocked the first time he heard the song that he had to pull his car over. At the time, Wilson said he was discouraged by the surf music the Beach Boys had been putting out, so he bought a copy of the single and began studying it to determine exactly why he loved it so much. "I started analyzing all the guitars, pianos, bass, drums and percussion," he said. "Once I got all those learned, I knew how to produce records."
Despite his intense studying, Wilson said he believes he has never been able to produce a record as good as "Be My Baby." "It’s the greatest record ever produced," he said. "No one will ever top that one." In fact, "Be My Baby" is such a beloved song that it has memorably appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows, from Baby Mama to The Wonder Years. The song has since been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and was even sampled in Eddie Money's 1980s hit "Take Me Home Tonight," which helped to reinvigorate Ronettes member Ronnie Spector's career. It's estimated that the song has played on the radio so frequently, that it has the equivalent of 17 years of continuous airplay time.
9.Ever wondered why MTV always uses space motifs in their branding, including their signature Moonman trophies? It all started when the channel launched on August 1, 1981, and used space mission footage acquired from NASA, juxtaposed with MTV co-founder John Lack announcing, "Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll." The space theme was supposed to represent the way the channel was conquering "unchartered territory" by broadcasting music videos. The space footage went on to air at the top of every hour for the next five years. When developing a trophy for the VMAs in 1984, the channel echoed its space roots with the Moonman trophy. The astronaut's lifted foot was supposed to represent the way the awards were "one small step for man, but a giant step for all music."
10.While you likely have heard of Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal, have you ever learned about the Teapot Dome Scandal, which has been dubbed the Watergate of the early 20th century? Albert Fall, the secretary of the interior under President Warren G. Harding, used his position to illegally give his friends in the oil business government-owned land in exchange for money. During Harding's campaign, he received financial support from many influential men in the oil business. Fall was friends with many of them, and his appointment to Harding's cabinet was likely influenced by these connections.
Prior to joining Harding's administration, Fall worked as a lawyer for the logging and mining business. In 1922, he attempted to use his political power to grant these businesses the use of public lands, which was shot down by Congress. Fall then set his sights on using public lands as storage sites for oil reserves. This had been attempted by William Howard Taft during his presidency, but Fall was finally able to push it through. He ended up granting only his own business contacts use of the land, which included Teapot Dome in Wyoming.
Fall eventually ended up receiving gifts from many of the men in exchange for granting them use of the land. The gifts caused the Senate to take attention, and they soon launched an inquiry under suspicion of bribery. Fall was found guilty of accepting the bribes, and became the first Cabinet member to ever go to prison. Harding unexpectedly died in 1923 before facing any repercussions from his own alleged involvement in the scheme. As a result of the scandal, he has gone down in history as one of the worst presidents of all time. The Teapot Dome scandal also changed the Senate forever: it marked the first time Congress was able to subpoena witnesses in investigations.
11.Things looked pretty dire for the bald eagle population in the United States for a long time. In the late 1960s, there were reportedly less than 500 breeding pairs of the birds left. This decline was attributed to both hunting and the use of DDT, an insecticide that made eagle eggs so fragile that they often broke during the incubation period. In 1972, DDT was banned, and soon, the bald eagle populations started to trend upwards. Now, bald eagles are no longer facing extinction. In 2021, NPR reported that there are over 70,000 breeding pairs of bald eagles in the United States. Despite this success story, about two-thirds of native bird species are now endangered due to rising temperatures.
12.Have you ever noticed that on tons of TV shows, characters all drink beer from the same fictional brand? Heisler Beer has appeared on pretty much every show under the sun, from New Girl to Brooklyn 99, Stranger Things to True Detective. In fact, Heisler is so ubiquitous that it's been dubbed the "Bud Light of fake beers." The brand was developed by Studio Graphics, a branch of Independent Studio Services, a company that creates tons of movie and TV props.
Heisler first appeared on-screen in the 1990s, and its origin story is a bit of a mystery. According to Molly Rummel, the assistant manager of Studio Graphics, no one quite knows who ended up designing the label, which has since grown to include the original Heisler, Heisler Lite, and several different vintage labels from the 1940s to the 1980s. They also can't pinpoint the first time it appeared on-screen, although it's now a TV staple. It's estimated that the production team for New Girl bought over 40 cases of Heisler over the show's run. Studio Graphics has actually developed about 40 fictional beer brands, but Heisler has stood out as the most enduring. The wide use of the labels has even contributed to fan theories that their favorite shows are somehow connected.
Rummel said that developing fictional alcohol brands is necessary for TV because it's incredibly difficult to get permission to use real beer labels on camera. "No one's drinking a beer and going to bed. That would be boring," she told Thrillist. "People are drinking a beer and beating somebody up or getting drunk." Rummel also revealed Studio Graphics will often fill the cans or bottles with non-alcoholic beer to add to the authenticity, but added that a lot of actors end up replacing it with water or soda while filming multiple takes. Studio Graphics ended up patenting the Heisler name, which they believe marks the first time a fictional brand has filed for a patent.
13.While raw salmon in sushi is pretty common these days, it was actually unheard of in Japan for years. Salmon in sushi was popularized by Norwegians in an attempt to tame their overabundance of salmon. In 1980, the Norwegian government hired Bjorn Eirik Olsen to sell salmon to a country that frequently used fish in its cuisine. Olsen set his sights on Japan and approached Japanese fish industry executives to sell the salmon. Much to his surprise, the executives said they didn't want salmon sushi, because they didn't like the color or the taste. Eventually, Olsen ended up striking a deal with Nishi Rei, a freezer food company, to create salmon sushi to sell in grocery stores. Soon, salmon sushi became incredibly popular and started showing up in cheap sushi shops in Japan.
14.The demand for memorabilia from space missions skyrocketed after the successful Apollo space missions in the late 1960s. In 1970, three Apollo 15 astronauts — Jim Irwin, David Scott, and Al Worden — were contacted by Walter Eierman, a memorabilia dealer who was working with Hermann Sieger, a German stamp collector. Eierman had concocted a plan: each astronaut would get $7,000 in exchange for bringing a large number of Sieger's stamp covers to space, so they could be sold as items that had been on a space mission. The astronauts had to covertly hide the covers in their pockets in order to prevent officials from seeing the contraband.
After returning from space, the astronauts handed the covers over and received their money. The issue? Eierman and Sieger began to not-so-secretly sell the covers for $1,500 apiece throughout Europe. US authorities soon caught wind of the scam and ended up confiscating the unsold covers. Not only did the astronauts end up having to forfeit the money they made, but NASA also ended up banning them from all future space flights. Turns out that each astronaut was in breach of their contract, which clearly stated all astronauts were forbidden from taking memorabilia for profit into space.
15.I don't know exactly what flavor I was expecting the white mystery Airhead to be, but it turns out, it can honestly vary from day to day! In 1993, a teen wrote into Airheads suggesting a white mystery flavor. The brand loved the idea, and set out to formulate exactly what this mysterious flavor might be. All Airheads actually start out white, with the food coloring being added later in the production process. At the end of each day, there are normally flavors left over. The company takes all of the remaining flavors that aren't quite enough to make a full batch, and blends them together to create the beloved white mystery Airhead, meaning that any given mystery Airhead might taste sliiiightly different.
16.Fred Rogers was notorious for the gentle manner in which he explained some tough topics to his young audience, and Robert Kennedy's assassination was no exception. In February 1968, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood made its TV debut. The following months proved to be extremely tumultuous: Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed in April, and tensions surrounding the Vietnam War during the Tet Offensive were building, spurring protests and social unrest. On June 6, 1968, Robert Kennedy, a Democratic candidate in the presidential primary, was killed in California. During the next episode of Mister Roger's Neighborhood, a puppet named Daniel Tiger asks the host, "What's assassination?"
Rogers, assuming many children had likely seen or heard news coverage about the assassination, reportedly stayed up all night following Kennedy's funeral to perfect his script. In the episode, Rogers encouraged children to cope with tragedy in ways that felt comfortable to them. In the years that followed, Rogers consoled American children after tragedies like the murder of John Lennon, 9/11, and a series of devastating child murders in Atlanta from 1979–1981. "What children probably need to hear most from us adults is that they can talk with us about anything and that we will do all we can to keep them safe in any scary time," he said of his approach to teaching about tragedy.
17.During World War II, British intelligence officials used every possible method to gain insight into Hitler's plans, even studying his horoscope for clues. After learning that Hitler reportedly had a personal astrologer, Ludwig von Wohl, a Hungarian hired by British intelligence to investigate Hitler's strategies, claimed that he believed they could use astrological predictions to determine what Hitler might do next. The proposal got mixed reviews. While some political executives were reportedly excited by the idea, MI5 and M16 leaders were allegedly horrified. Now, historians believe that Hitler never actually paid close attention to astrology as previously reported.
18.Stevie Wonder's "Happy Birthday," which has often been dubbed "the Black birthday song," was originally performed as a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Wonder reportedly grew up in awe of King's efforts to end segregation, and even attended King's funeral after he was assassinated in 1968. Wonder soon teamed up with Rep. John Conyers Jr. to support a bill that would create a national holiday in honor of King. Although many were in support of the bill, it got held up for years by politicians who thought King was "lawless" and supported Communism.
While working to push the holiday through, Wonder decided he would create a musical birthday tribute to King. However, Wonder reportedly didn't quite know the musical arrangement for "Happy Birthday," and instead ended up writing an entirely new birthday song, with lyrics referencing King. After Jimmy Carter was elected president, the movement to officially recognize King's birthday picked up steam. Wonder made appearances with King's widow, planned a four-month tour to increase buzz about the proposed holiday, and included his version of "Happy Birthday" on a 1981 album. By 1983, Congress agreed to recognize King's birthday. The first official celebration was held in 1986, with Wonder headlining the concert.
19.Richard Norris Williams II survived the sinking of the Titanic, then went on to become a decorated war hero and a Wimbledon champion. Williams reportedly helped passengers board lifeboats for hours, before jumping into the water. He was eventually pulled onto a half-submerged lifeboat. Once he was rescued, he was told his legs had likely been permanently damaged from spending hours in freezing water. Six weeks later, Williams remarkably headed back to the tennis courts, winning his first tournament back. Although Williams had racked up several big wins and an acceptance to Harvard, he enlisted in the Army in 1916. Upon his return, he won Wimbledon in 1920 and went on to win an Olympic medal in 1924.
20.Chances are, you were assigned Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird at some point in your schooling. Lee, who lived in a small Alabama town, had always dreamed of becoming a writer and longed to follow her friend, Truman Capote, to New York City to kickstart her literary career. In 1956, two of Lee's close friends gave her the equivalent of a year's salary for Christmas so she could quit her job and write her novel. Lee ended up completing a novel that she titled Go Set A Watchman. After selling the book to a publisher, she was encouraged to expand on the flashback scenes in the novel, and ended up spending two years rewriting the book. The book, which was renamed To Kill A Mockingbird, became an immediate success.
Despite the positive reaction to the novel, Lee never published another book, and remained incredibly private for the rest of her life. In the years following the book's release, some speculated that Lee actually didn't write the novel, and insisted that Capote was the actual mastermind behind the beloved book. This theory was seemingly debunked after a letter Capote wrote to his aunt in 1959 was discovered. In the note, Capote told his aunt that he had read Lee's novel and was impressed, never once claiming he had any involvement. In 2015, HarperCollins published Go Set A Watchman, despite criticism that Lee, who was living at an assisted living facility, was being taken advantage of in order for the publisher to profit from the novel. The book sold 1.1 million copies in the first week. Lee died in 2016.
21.If you have a pair of Converse sneakers, you might have noticed that there's a thin layer of felt on the bottom of the shoe. Turns out, shoes with the fuzzy fabric on the sole are taxed less than solid soles while being imported, saving the company major money on tariffs. By maintaining the felt soles, Converse is likely taxed at only 3%, instead of 37.5%.
22.And finally, Charlotta Bass was the first Black woman to run for vice president of the United States. Bass was born in South Carolina but moved to Rhode Island to attend Pembroke, a women's college. While in Rhode Island, she began selling ads and subscriptions for the Providence Watchman, a Black newspaper. Bass was forced to leave Rhode Island because of health concerns and settled in California, where the climate was better for her asthma and arthritis. In California, she took a job at the Eagle, a Black-owned newspaper. In 1912, she was asked to take over the paper when the founder died. A few months later, Bass was able to buy the paper using $50 she borrowed from a storeowner, making her one of the first Black women to own a newspaper.
In 1914, she married Joseph Bass, and together, the couple transformed the paper into the largest Black-owned paper on the West coast. Bass used her platform to speak out about injustices against Black people, and soon began touring the country to speak out against racism, covering everything from racist hiring practices to the KKK. The KKK even sued Bass for printing a letter that exposed their plans to harm a Black leader, but she won the case. A few members came to her office at night, but she reportedly scared them off with a pistol. Through the 1930s and 1940s, Bass continued advocating for Black communities, encouraging them to only spend their money at businesses that supported desegregation, and demanding police reform.
Up to this point, Bass was reportedly a Republican, but switched to become Independent after expressing dissatisfaction with the way both parties treated Black voters. She was often suspected of being a Communist due to her vocal opposition to the atomic bomb. Bass also was spotted visiting the Soviet Union, which caused the FBI to launch an investigation. The US Postal Service also attempted to revoke the mailing rights for the Eagle because of her alleged connection to the Communist party. In 1951, Bass sold the paper and moved to New York, where she became the first Black woman to run for vice president. Bass was part of the Progressive Party's ticket and ran alongside Vincent Hallinan, an attorney from California. After losing the election, Bass returned to California, where she still advocated for equality and voter rights until her death in 1969.