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11 Debuts That Got Booed

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Getty Images

1. Charlie Sheen's Torpedo of Truth Tour

Photo by flickr.com user Pranav Bhatt.

After Charlie Sheen's high-profile media meltdown that got him kicked off of Two and a Half Men, he capitalized on the attention and launched a 20-city live "comedy" tour. Nobody quite knew what to expect from the Torpedo of Truth tour, named after one of his many outrageous descriptions of himself. The event kicked off in Detroit and the crowd cheered when he entered flanked by his "goddesses," but soon it turned ugly. He joked about the city's history of crack cocaine, answered questions from the audience, and showed a short film he had written several years earlier. The crowd booed, chanted "refund," and had mostly filed out before the show ended. Sheen retooled the show for future dates to eventually focus on some of his outrageous Hollywood stories and pulled in comedian Jeff Ross to roast him in several more cities.

2. The Barber of Seville

It's believed that Gioachino Rossini wrote the music for his comic opera in less than three weeks, not out of the norm for a man known for cranking out two operas per year. Still, Rossini could not have been prepared for the opera's disastrous opening in Rome. During the show, one of the singers tripped over a loose board. Then a cat wandered onto the stage near the end of the first act, prompting laughter from the audience and overshadowing the performance. After the show closed to deafening boos on opening night, Rossini locked himself in his dressing room for the show's second performance the next day, and nearly missed the standing ovation from the more receptive crowd. Interestingly, the French play on which the opera was based, Le Barbier de Séville, was also booed on its opening night and was hastily rewritten.

3. Bob Dylan Going Electric

Bob Dylan had been known as a leader in the folk movement, but his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home marked a shift by backing him with an electric band. He brought his new sound to the 1965 Newport Folk Festival to mixed results. Dylan opened his performance with Maggie's Farm and some in the crowd instantly started booing, which continued throughout most of the set. It's unclear if the crowd was really booing Dylan's electric transition: some think the crowd was upset with festival organizers for only giving Dylan 45 minutes, and others said it had to do with poor sound quality. (Pete Seeger said in his memoir that he was standing backstage during the set and wanted to cut the microphone cord because of all the distortion.) Dylan wouldn't return to the Newport festival until 2002.

4. The Rite of Spring


Igor Stravinsky's ballet is now famous for its avant-garde structure, use of dissonance and unusual rhythms. But those features were far less appreciated during the ballet's debut in 1913. The audience famously began laughing just as the introduction started and continued as the dancers on stage performed unfamiliar, jerky moves. Some of the dancers even said it was difficult to hear the music on the stage, the audience was so loud. Theater managers even had to flash the house lights to suppress a possible riot. The controversial piece would eventually be recognized as a touchstone of 20th century music and even made its way into Disney's Fantasia.

5. 2009 Philadelphia Phillies

Coming off a World Series win in 2008—the city's first sports title in 25 years—the Phillies opened in front of a sellout crowd. Of course, being a sellout Philadelphia crowd, it naturally ended in booing (sound familiar, Santa Claus?). A lengthy ceremony honoring the championship win was marred when manager Charlie Manuel was stranded high on a platform in center field; the ladder had been removed. And the game only got worse from there: the Phillies failed to score a single run until the ninth inning, and starter Brett Myers gave up four runs on three homers to seal the loss and get the crowd jeering. The Phillies did eventually rebound, though, and made it to another World Series that season.

6. Lauryn Hill


As a 13-year-old, the future Grammy winner appeared on amateur night on It's Showtime at the Apollo. As she launched into Smokey Robinson's "Who's Loving You?," the normally raucous crowd almost immediately began to boo, and someone even shouted "Step up to the mike" to get her to project (check out the video here). Hill kept going and eventually won over the crowd. Just a few years later, Hill would go on to appear in Sister Act II and join the Fugees, launching a successful career. Hill is not alone in overcoming a tough Apollo crowd: Luther Vandross, James Brown, and Dave Chapelle were all once booed at the Harlem theater.

7. The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick's 2011 film stretched from the dawn of the universe to the end of the Earth (or the afterlife or something), all while being anchored in a story about a 1950s family led by Brad Pitt; it's tough to explain and even tougher to watch. And audiences reflected that at the film's debut at the Cannes Film Festival, where the screening was met with a mix of boos and cheers. The film got some critical appeal after its dicey reception, winning the Palme d'Or at that year's festival and scoring an Oscar nomination, but it continued to split audiences.

8. L'Avventura

There's actually a rich tradition of critics and the press booing films at Cannes. Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny, and Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain were all jeered during initial screenings. Audiences were even so noisy at the end of Lars von Trier's 2009 film Antichrist that they booed straight through a credit paying tribute to late Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. But one of the more famous negative reactions was to the 1960 Italian film L'Avventura, where heckling grew so loud that director Michelangelo Antonioni and star Monica Vitti fled the theater. A second screening was better received, and the film won a jury prize and is now regarded as a touchstone in film for its slow pacing and visual style.

9. The Seagull


Anton Chekhov's seminal comedy is regarded as a touchstone of theater for its use of subtext and subtleties. Its premiere in St. Petersburg, however, was an unmitigated disaster. Lead actress Vera Komissarzhevskaya lost her voice and was mocked by the audience. The crowd booed the performance, and Chekhov himself even hid backstage for the final two acts. After the performance, Chekhov vowed to never write another play, although thankfully he broke that promise.

10. Eminem

Eminem may be one of the best-selling artists of all time, but his rap career almost ended before it started. In one of his first public performances at a Detroit club, he remembers being booed. In an interview, he said the experience was "f***ing traumatic, and I think I went home and I was like, man, I quit."

11. Bryce Harper

Even before he made his major league debut, Harper had appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated (at age 17), won the Golden Spikes Award for the nation's best amateur baseball player, been the number one overall draft pick and had been hyped beyond belief. His reputation for brashness and showboating had also led many to form their opinion of him. And when the Washington Nationals called him up for his first game (against the Los Angeles Dodgers) on April 28 this year, the L.A. crowd let him know what it was: he was resoundingly booed before his first at bat (he would ground out) and even his first hit was marred by a fan mooning the camera. Harper ended up having a stellar rookie season and was even named to the All Star Game as a replacement player.

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Apeel
New Plant-Based Coating Can Keep Your Avocados Fresh for Twice as Long
Apeel
Apeel

Thanks to a food technology startup called Apeel Sciences, eating fresh avocados will soon be a lot easier. The Bill Gates–backed company has developed a coating designed to keep avocados fresh for up to twice as long as traditional fruit, Bloomberg reports, and these long-lasting avocados will soon be available at 100 grocery stores across the Midwestern U.S. Thirty or so of the grocery stores involved in the limited rollout of the Apeel avocado will be Costcos, so feel free to buy in bulk.

Getting an avocado to a U.S. grocery store is more complicated than it sounds; the majority of avocados sold in the U.S. come from California or Mexico, making it tricky to get fruit to the Midwest or New England at just the right moment in an avocado’s life cycle.

Apeel’s coating is made of plant material—lipids and glycerolipids derived from peels, seeds, and pulp—that acts as an extra layer of protective peel on the fruit, keeping water in and oxygen out, and thus reducing spoilage. (Oxidation is the reason that your sliced avocados and apples brown after they’ve been exposed to the air for a while.) The tasteless coating comes in a powder that fruit producers mix with water and then dip their fruit into.

A side-by-side comparison of a coated and uncoated avocado after 30 days, with the uncoated avocado looking spoiled and the coated one looking fresh
Apeel

According to Apeel, coating a piece of produce in this way can keep it fresh for two to three times longer than normal without any sort of refrigeration of preservatives. This not only allows consumers a few more days to make use of their produce before it goes bad, reducing food waste, but can allow producers to ship their goods to farther-away markets without refrigeration.

Avocados are the first of Apeel's fruits to make it to market, but there are plans to debut other Apeel-coated produce varieties in the future. The company has tested its technology on apples, artichokes, mangos, and several other fruits and vegetables.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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iStock
The Curious Origins of 16 Common Phrases
iStock
iStock

Our favorite basketball writer is ESPN's Zach Lowe. On his podcast, the conversation often takes detours into the origins of certain phrases. We compiled a list from Zach and added a few of our own, then sent them to language expert Arika Okrent. Where do these expressions come from anyway?

1. BY THE SAME TOKEN

Bus token? Game token? What kind of token is involved here? Token is a very old word, referring to something that’s a symbol or sign of something else. It could be a pat on the back as a token, or sign, of friendship, or a marked piece of lead that could be exchanged for money. It came to mean a fact or piece of evidence that could be used as proof. “By the same token” first meant, basically “those things you used to prove that can also be used to prove this.” It was later weakened into the expression that just says “these two things are somehow associated.”

2. GET ON A SOAPBOX

1944: A woman standing on a soapbox speaking into a mic
Express/Express/Getty Images

The soapbox that people mount when they “get on a soapbox” is actually a soap box, or rather, one of the big crates that used to hold shipments of soap in the late 1800s. Would-be motivators of crowds would use them to stand on as makeshift podiums to make proclamations, speeches, or sales pitches. The soap box then became a metaphor for spontaneous speech making or getting on a roll about a favorite topic.

3. TOMFOOLERY

The notion of Tom fool goes a long way. It was the term for a foolish person as long ago as the Middle Ages (Thomas fatuus in Latin). Much in the way the names in the expression Tom, Dick, and Harry are used to mean “some generic guys,” Tom fool was the generic fool, with the added implication that he was a particularly absurd one. So the word tomfoolery suggested an incidence of foolishness that went a bit beyond mere foolery.

4. GO BANANAS

chimp eating banana
iStock

The expression “go bananas” is slang, and the origin is a bit harder to pin down. It became popular in the 1950s, around the same time as “go ape,” so there may have been some association between apes, bananas, and crazy behavior. Also, banana is just a funny-sounding word. In the 1920s people said “banana oil!” to mean “nonsense!”

5. RUN OF THE MILL

If something is run of the mill, it’s average, ordinary, nothing special. But what does it have to do with milling? It most likely originally referred to a run from a textile mill. It’s the stuff that’s just been manufactured, before it’s been decorated or embellished. There were related phrases like “run of the mine,” for chunks of coal that hadn’t been sorted by size yet, and “run of the kiln,” for bricks as they came out without being sorted for quality yet.

6. READ THE RIOT ACT

The Law's Delay: Reading The Riot Act 1820
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When you read someone the riot act you give a stern warning, but what is it that you would you have been reading? The Riot Act was a British law passed in 1714 to prevent riots. It went into effect only when read aloud by an official. If too many people were gathering and looking ready for trouble, an officer would let them know that if they didn’t disperse, they would face punishment.

7. HANDS DOWN

Hands down comes from horse racing, where, if you’re way ahead of everyone else, you can relax your grip on the reins and let your hands down. When you win hands down, you win easily.

8. SILVER LINING

The silver lining is the optimistic part of what might otherwise be gloomy. The expression can be traced back directly to a line from Milton about a dark cloud revealing a silver lining, or halo of bright sun behind the gloom. The idea became part of literature and part of the culture, giving us the proverb “every cloud has a silver lining” in the mid-1800s.

9. HAVE YOUR WORK CUT OUT

The expression “you’ve got your work cut out for you” comes from tailoring. To do a big sewing job, all the pieces of fabric are cut out before they get sewn together. It seems like if your work has been cut for you, it should make job easier, but we don’t use the expression that way. The image is more that your task is well defined and ready to be tackled, but all the difficult parts are yours to get to. That big pile of cut-outs isn’t going to sew itself together!

10. THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

A grapevine is a system of twisty tendrils going from cluster to cluster. The communication grapevine was first mentioned in 1850s, the telegraph era. Where the telegraph was a straight line of communication from one person to another, the “grapevine telegraph” was a message passed from person to person, with some likely twists along the way.

11. THE WHOLE SHEBANG

The earliest uses of shebang were during the Civil War era, referring to a hut, shed, or cluster of bushes where you’re staying. Some officers wrote home about “running the shebang,” meaning the encampment. The origin of the word is obscure, but because it also applied to a tavern or drinking place, it may go back to the Irish word shebeen for a ramshackle drinking establishment.

12. PUSH THE ENVELOPE

Pushing the envelope belongs to the modern era of the airplane. The “flight envelope” is a term from aeronautics meaning the boundary or limit of performance of a flight object. The envelope can be described in terms of mathematical curves based on things like speed, thrust, and atmosphere. You push it as far as you can in order to discover what the limits are. Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff brought the expression into wider use.

13. CAN’T HOLD A CANDLE

We say someone can’t hold a candle to someone else when their skills don’t even come close to being as good. In other words, that person isn’t even good enough to hold up a candle so that a talented person can see what they’re doing in order to work. Holding the candle to light a workspace would have been the job of an assistant, so it’s a way of saying not even fit to be the assistant, much less the artist.

14. THE ACID TEST

Most acids dissolve other metals much more quickly than gold, so using acid on a metallic substance became a way for gold prospectors to see if it contained gold. If you pass the acid test, you didn’t dissolve—you’re the real thing.

15. GO HAYWIRE

What kind of wire is haywire? Just what it says—a wire for baling hay. In addition to tying up bundles, haywire was used to fix and hold things together in a makeshift way, so a dumpy, patched-up place came to be referred to as “a hay-wire outfit.” It then became a term for any kind of malfunctioning thing. The fact that the wire itself got easily tangled when unspooled contributed to the “messed up” sense of the word.

16. CALLED ON THE CARPET

Carpet used to mean a thick cloth that could be placed in a range of places: on the floor, on the bed, on a table. The floor carpet is the one we use most now, so the image most people associate with this phrase is one where a servant or employee is called from plainer, carpetless room to the fancier, carpeted part of the house. But it actually goes back to the tablecloth meaning. When there was an issue up for discussion by some kind of official council it was “on the carpet.”

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