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Pop annotations: "Show Stopper" by Danity Kane

While most of us sneak peeks at the footnotes while trying to decipher baffling classics like Finnegan's Wake, we seem to do fine without expertly-annotated copies of In Style. Truth is, we don't know what we're missing. To remedy that, there's Pop Annotations, our weekly column exposing profundities lurking below the surface of today's hit songs. This week we tackle newly-minted supergroup Danity Kane's new single, "Show Stopper."

We in the car, we ride slow
We doin' things that the girls don't do1
The boys stare, we smile back
All my girls in the rainbow Cadillacs, yeah!2

1. In a subculture where the ample-booty'd are treated like fleshy fashion accessories, could this be hip-hop's long-awaited rallying cry to feminism; Danity Kane nothing less than a pop-lockin' quintet of fly Betty Friedans?
2. Despite the connotations here, DK are apparently not lesbians.

Showstoppin' at the latest spot3
The ride shinin' with the open top
Hydraulics make our heads go nod
Hair blowin' in the breeze
Yo, we superstars!4

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3. The band's latest spot, according to Billboard, was #1 on the album charts -- not bad for a group Frankensteined into existence by rap impresario Sean "Puffy "˜P. Diddy'" Combs, who discovered them on his reality show Making the Band. DK was assembled from the reanimated corpses of Salt "˜n' Pepa, En Vogue and Destiny's Child. Professors of Victorian literature predict it's only a matter of time before the girls turn on their creator and eat Diddy.
4. "Yo" is the name of a deity worshipped by the Bambara tribe of Mali, who believe the universe began and will end with the sound "yo!" "Superstar" refers to the prevailing cosmological paradigm explaining the origin of the universe, in which a tremendously dense and hot supermass (or "superstar") existed for a brief time, 13.7 billion years ago, before it expanded into what we today refer to as "everything." Therefore, the Big Bang sounded something like this.

Put in the keys, make that engine purr
Three in the back, one in the passenger
Slow-creepin' cause we look that fly
All the boys tryn'a taste our candy ride5

Icecream.jpg

5. Champion racehorse Candy Ride would indeed be difficult for the boys to taste, not only because he is exceedingly fast "“ running a mile in just 1:31.01 "“ but thanks also to American taboos re: the consumption of horseflesh. Such taboos, however, don't exist in Japan, where the boys might sample some Candy Ride-flavored ice cream (gag -- pictured).

[Chorus]
Bet you ain't never seen (hey!)
Chicks ridin this clean (hey!)
Louis Vuitton seats (oh, oh, oh!)6
We do it deadly7
That's how we keep it poppin' (hey!)
Make sure the bass knockin' (hey!)
So when you see us ridin' (oh, oh, oh!)
We call it Show Stoppin'

6. French luggage-maker Louis Vuitton, who would be 185 this year if he hadn't died in the 19th century, can lay claim to having founded the world's first designer label. As a device originally meant to combat counterfeiting, the Vuitton monogram has been a colossal failure: these days, just over 1% of "Vuitton"-branded items are not counterfeit.
7. Diddy knows deadly: in 1991, a judge ruled him 50% responsible for the deaths of nine people at a concert he promoted, at which he had blocked all exits with heavy tables so that fans without tickets wouldn't be able to sneak inside. But as the third law of Peediddydynamics states, "if the ticketless can't get in, the ticketed can't get out" "“ a stampede did the rest.

We sittin' on 22s plus 28
Mink bucket seats, neon blue9
Color-coordinate with them shoes
Yeah, we divas but we ride like big boys do

8. That is, 24-inch wheel rims. ("We sittin' on 48s divided by the cube root of 16s" just didn't have the same ring to it.)
9. Didn't they just say the seats were Vuitton leather?

Black-tinted with a white stripe interstate
Lookin' in the mirror at my Bad Boy fitted, yup10
Show stoppin' till they lose they breath
Turn the wheel to the right
Turn the wheel to the left

10. "Bad Boy" being Diddy's record label, Bad Boy Records; "fitted" being a hat. Diddy, remember, is also a fashion designer, and so understands the hidden relationship between hats and record albums: when people buy either of them, Diddy gets paid.

This is for my ladies in the 280 Mercedes
In the H3, Baby Ranges, Bentley Coupes, Escalades
Break 'em off somethin' proppa like a real show stoppa11
This is for chicas with the Beemers, A6's
"˜67 Chevy, Maserati, or a Lexus

brass_knucks.jpg

11. According to the Dictionary of Fringe English, to break off means "to freely or gratuitously give something (to someone), especially money or something highly prized; in the form break (someone) off a piece, to give or receive sexual favors." While breakin' someone off a piece in the latter sense would undoubtedly be a show-stoppa "“ especially while riding clean in, say, a Baby Range "“ I don't think this is something that hip-hop's most outspoken feminists meant to imply. Therefore, they must be giving away cars like Oprah; hook a blogga up, ladiez!

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13 Great Facts About Bad Lieutenant
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Bad Lieutenant can be accused of many things, but one charge you can't level against it is false advertising. Harvey Keitel's title character, whose name is never given, is indeed a bad, bad lieutenant: corrupt, sleazy, drug-addled, irresponsible, and lascivious, all while he's on the job. (Imagine what his weekends must be like!)

Abel Ferrara's nightmarish character study was controversial when it was released 25 years ago today, and rated NC-17 for its graphic nudity (including a famous glimpse at Lil’ Harvey), unsettling sexual violence, and frank depiction of drug use. The film packs a wallop, no doubt. Here's some behind-the-scenes info to help you cope with it.

1. THE PLACID WOMAN WHO HELPS THE LIEUTENANT FREEBASE HEROIN WROTE THE MOVIE.

That's Zoë Tamerlis Lund, who starred in Abel Ferrara's revenge-exploitation thriller Ms. 45 (1981) more than a decade earlier, when she was 17 years old. She and Ferrara are credited together for writing Bad Lieutenant, though she always insisted that wasn't the case. "I wrote this alone," she said. "Abel is a wonderful director, but he's not a screenwriter. She said elsewhere that she "wrote every word of that screenplay," though everyone agrees the finished movie included a lot of improvisation. Lund was a fascinating, tragic character herself—a musical prodigy who became an enthusiastic and unapologetic user of heroin before switching to cocaine in the mid-1990s. She died of heart failure in 1999 at age 37.

2. CHRISTOPHER WALKEN WAS SUPPOSED TO STAR IN IT.

Christopher Walken had starred in Ferrara's previous film, King of New York (1990), and was set to play the lead in Bad Lieutenant before pulling out at almost the last minute. Ferrara was shocked. "[Walken] says, 'You know, I don't think I'm right for it.' Which is, you know, a fine thing to say, unless it's three weeks from when you're supposed to start shooting," Ferrara said. "It definitely caught me by surprise. It put me in terminal shock, actually." Harvey Keitel replaced him (though not without difficulty; see below), and the film's editor, Anthony Redman, thought Keitel was a better choice anyway. "Chris is too elegant for the part," he said. "Harvey is not elegant." 

3. HARVEY KEITEL'S INITIAL REACTION TO THE SCRIPT WAS NOT PROMISING.

"When we gave [Keitel] the script the first time, he read about five pages and threw it in the garbage," Ferrara said. Keitel's recollection was a little more diplomatic. As he told Roger Ebert, "I read a certain amount of pages and I put it down. I said, 'There's no way I'm gonna make this movie.' And then I asked myself, 'How often am I a lead in a movie? Read it, maybe I can salvage something from it …' When I read the part about the nun, I understood why Abel wanted to make it."

4. IT WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY.


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

"It was always, in my mind, a comedy," Ferrara said. He cited the scene where the Lieutenant pulls the teenage girls over as a specific example of how Christopher Walken would have played it, and how Harvey Keitel changed it. "The lieutenant was going to end up dancing in the streets with the girls as the sun came up. They'd be wearing his gun belt and hat, and they'd have the radio on, you know what I mean? But oh my God, Harvey, he turned it into this whole other thing." Boy, did he. 

5. THAT SCENE WITH THE TEENAGE GIRLS HAD A REAL-LIFE ELEMENT THAT MADE IT EVEN CREEPIER.

One of the young women was Keitel's nanny. Ferrara: "I said, 'You sure you want to do this with your babysitter?' He says, 'Yeah, I want to try something.'"

6. MUCH OF IT WAS FILMED GUERRILLA-STYLE.

Like many indie-minded directors of low-budget films, Ferrara didn't bother with permits most of the time. "We weren't permitted on any of this stuff," editor Anthony Redman admitted. "We just walked on and started shooting." For the scene where a strung-out Lieutenant walks through a bumpin' nightclub, they sent Keitel through an actual, functioning club during peak operating hours.

7. A GREAT DEAL OF THE DIALOGUE AND ACTION WERE MADE UP ON THE FLY.

The script was only about 65 pages at first, which would have made for about a 65-minute movie. "It left a lot of room for improvisation," producer Randy Sabusawa said, "but the ideas were pretty distilled. They were there."

Script supervisor Karen Kelsall said supervising the script was a challenge. "Abel didn't stick to a script," she said. "Abel used a script as a way to get the money to make a movie, and then the script was kind of—we called it the daily news. It changed every day. It changed in the middle of scenes." Ferrara was unapologetic about the script's brevity. "The idea of wanting 90 pages ... is ridiculous."

8. AND THERE WERE EVEN MORE IDEAS THAT THEY DIDN'T USE.

Ferrara said a scene that epitomized the movie for him—even though he never got around to filming it—was one where the Lieutenant robs an electronics store, leaves, then gets a call about a robbery at the electronics store. He responds in an official capacity (they don't recognize him), takes a statement, walks out, and throws the statement in the garbage. "And that to me is the Bad Lieutenant, you know?" Ferrara said. 

9. THE BASEBALL PLAYOFF SERIES IS FICTIONAL.

The Mets have battled the Dodgers for the National League championship once, in 1988. (The Dodgers beat 'em and went on to win the World Series.) For the narrative Ferrara wanted—the Mets coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win the pennant—he had to make it up. He used footage from real Mets-Dodgers games (including Darryl Strawberry's three-run homer from a game in July 1991) and added fictional play-by-play. But the statistics were accurate: no team had ever been down by three in a best-of-seven series and then come back to win. (It's happened once since then, when the 2004 Red Sox did it.)

10. THEY HAD HELP FROM THE COP WHO SOLVED A SIMILAR CASE.

The disgusting crime at the center of the film (we won't dwell on it) was inspired by a real-life incident from 1981, which mayor Ed Koch called "the most heinous crime in the history of New York City." The street cop who solved it, Bo Dietl, advised Ferrara on the film and had an on-screen role as one of the detectives in our Lieutenant's circle of friends.

11. THEY DESECRATED THE CHURCH AS RESPECTFULLY AS THEY COULD.

Production designer Charles Lagola had his team cover the church’s altar and other surfaces with plastic wrap, then painted the graffiti and other defacements on the plastic.

12. IT WAS RATED NC-17 IN THEATERS, WITH AN R-RATED VERSION FOR HOME VIDEO.

Blockbuster and some of the other retail chains wouldn't carry NC-17 or unrated films, so sometimes studios would produce edited versions. (See also: Requiem for a Dream.) The tamer version of Bad Lieutenant was five minutes and 19 seconds shorter, with parts of the rape scene, the drug-injecting scene, and much of the car interrogation scene excised.

13. THE "SEQUEL" HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT, NOR DID FERRARA APPROVE OF IT.


First Look International

Movie buffs were baffled in 2009, when Werner Herzog directed Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, starring Nicolas Cage. It sounds like a sequel (or a remake), but in fact had no connection at all to the earlier film except that both were produced by Edward R. Pressman. Herzog said he'd never seen Ferrara's movie and wanted to change the title (Pressman wouldn't let him); Ferrara, outspoken as always, initially wished fiery death on everyone involved. Ferrara and Herzog finally met at the 2013 Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, where Herzog initiated a conversation about the whole affair and Ferrara expressed his frustration cordially. 

Additional sources:
DVD interviews with Abel Ferrara, Anthony Redman, Randy Sabusawa, and Karen Kelsall.

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Big Questions
How Are Balloons Chosen for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?
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Getty Images

The balloons for this year's Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade range from the classics like Charlie Brown to more modern characters who have debuted in the past few years, including The Elf On The Shelf. New to the parade this year are Olaf from Disney's Frozen and Chase from Paw Patrol. does the retail giant choose which characters will appear in the lineup?

Balloon characters are chosen in different ways. For example, in 2011, Macy’s requested B. Boy after parade organizers saw the Tim Burton retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. (The company had been adding a series of art balloons to the parade lineup since 2005, which it called the Blue Sky Gallery.) When it comes to commercial balloons, though, it appears to be all about the Benjamins.

First-time balloons cost at least $190,000—this covers admission into the parade and the cost of balloon construction. After the initial year, companies can expect to pay Macy’s about $90,000 to get a character into the parade lineup. If you consider that the balloons are out for only an hour or so, that’s about $1500 a minute.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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