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10 People We Lost in 2008 (Who Are Worth Remembering)

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At the end of each year, the media reflects on the famous people who died over the past 12 months. This year's notable losses include Paul Newman, Edmund Hillary, Tim Russert and Arthur C. Clarke. But many others have been ignored by most news outlets. Here are ten more people who passed away in 2008 who are certainly worth remembering, including a Civil War widow, the world's oldest blogger and the man behind the McMuffin.

1. Irena Sandler: Cunning War Hero

During World War II, Catholic social worker Irena Sandler saved some 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto. Disguised as a nurse, she would smuggle them out through the sewer, or in sacks, coffins, suitcases and "“ for one baby "“ a mechanic's toolbox. In 1943, she was captured by the Gestapo and tortured. Her legs and feet were broken, and her body suffered permanent scars, but she refused to identify the children (now living new lives) or her accomplices. She escaped after a guard was bribed, returning to work under a different identity.

Though she later won Poland's highest honor, and was nominated last year for a Nobel Peace Prize (she lost to Al Gore), she still suffered from Oscar Schindler-like feelings of guilt. "We who were rescuing children are not some kind of heroes," she said in 2005. "That term irritates me greatly. The opposite is true. I continue to have qualms of conscience that I did so little. I could have done more. This regret will follow me to my death."

2. Maudie Hopkins: The Last Civil War Widow

Maudie Hopkins was almost certainly the last surviving widow of a Confederate soldier "“ and as the Civil War came to an end in 1865, it was no small achievement that she made it all the way to 2008. OK, it helps to know that her husband, widower William M. Cantrell, was only 16 when he enlisted. In 1934, 86-year-old Cantrell and 19-year-old Hopkins entered a marriage of convenience, as he offered to bequeath his land and home to her if she looked after him in his final years. He died only three years later, and she lived off his land, marrying three more times. It might have required a 67-year age difference, but Hopkins seems to have been the last surviving Civil War widow "“ and she was born 50 years after the war!

3. Albert Hofmann: Discovered LSD

Swiss scientist Albert Hoffman made an accidental discovery in 1943, while researching the use of lysergic acid derivatives in medicinal drugs. Absorbing a small quantity through his fingertips, he felt the effects on a bicycle ride home, experiencing the world's first LSD trip. Three days later, he deliberately consumed larger quantities of LSD, writing of the "remarkable restlessness" and "extremely stimulated imagination" that it gave him. Though it was used successfully in psychoanalysis, it became popular as a recreational drug in the sixties, as Timothy Leary promoted acid tripping as a spiritual experience and countless rock stars used it for inspiration. Hofmann was unhappy with this, feeling that his discovery was being misused by youth culture "“ and of course, demonized by the authorities for its dangerous side effects. He went on to defend LSD in numerous articles and books, and in an international symposium held on his 100th birthday in 2006.

4. Anita Page: Silent Film Star

anita.jpgEighty years after the first sound movies (or "talkies") were made, there is almost nobody left from the silent movie era. Anita Page was one of the youngest silent movie stars, making her first movie (in a small role) at age 15 in 1925. Over the next few years, she would co-star with such silent screen legends as Joan Crawford, Lon Chaney and Buster Keaton. A very pretty blonde best known for playing lively flappers, Page's fans included Benito Mussolini, who (she claimed) proposed to her several times via fan mail. Page was the last survivor of the original Academy Awards ceremony in 1929, and starred in The Broadway Melody, the first talkie to win an Oscar for best film. She retired from movies at age 26, but made one of the most surprising comebacks in history 60 years later, at age 86, in the obscure thriller Sunset After Dark. When she died at age 98, her last film, Frankenstein Rising, was still in post-production. Not bad for someone who retired in 1936.

So was she the last of the adult silent film stars? You would think so, unless you discover that Barbara Kent, co-star of movies like Flesh and the Devil (1926) and No Man's Law (1927), is still apparently living in Idaho at age 102.

5. Tony Schwartz: The Man Behind "Daisy"

daisy.jpgYou might not know the name, but you probably know some of his work. Tony Schwartz was an advertiser, art director and political consultant whose most famous advertisement was "Daisy," a notorious 30-second spot that helped Lyndon Johnson win the 1964 Presidential election by a landslide. "Daisy" is still remembered today, which is highly impressive because a) it aired 44 years ago, and b) it aired only once during the election. In the days before cable, that's all it took for one powerful commercial to be effective "“ and whether you consider this an amazing work of art or a disgraceful piece of fear-mongering, this ad was certainly powerful. It showed a young girl innocently counting the petals on a daisy, while a narrator counts down. The camera ominously zooms into the pupil of the girl's eye "“ and a nuclear bomb detonates, releasing a mushroom cloud. "These are the stakes," says Johnson's voice, suggesting (convincingly, it would seem) that a vote for his opponent, Barry Goldwater, could lead to ultimate disaster.

Schwartz made many political ads, mainly for Democrats, but in his long career, he also conceived ads for companies like Chrysler and Coca-Cola.

6. Jo Stafford: "G.I. Jo"

If you've never heard of Jo Stafford, you're probably too young"¦ like most other people. While her death at age 90 went unnoticed by many, she was a huge recording star at her peak, known for her pure, melodic and versatile voice. That peak, however, was the early 1950s "“ so she outlived most of her fans. Starting as a Big Band singer during World War II, she went solo in 1944, recording no less than 93 songs over the years, including chart-topping classics like "You Belong to Me" (1952) and "Make Love to Me" (1954). She also had her own television series and sang for servicemen, who called her "G.I. Jo." But she didn't win a Grammy Award until 1960 "“ and she did it by joking around. After a recording session, she and her husband, musician Paul Weston, did some songs as a truly awful duet called Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, with "Darlene" singing off-key and "Jonathan" playing piano badly. For a laugh, they released a few songs in these personae, winning a Grammy for best comedy album. Silly as it was, it was perhaps Stafford's most influential work. She is now viewed as a pioneer of musical parody.

7. Herb Peterson: Inventor of the Egg McMuffin

herb.jpgMost great inventors are only known for one invention. Herb Peterson, a food scientist, gave the world one very common innovation, enjoyed by millions of people each day: the McDonald's Egg McMuffin, first sold in 1972 at a McDonald's franchise he owned in Santa Barbara, California. A big fan of eggs benedict, he devised the McMuffin as McDonald's answer to this traditional breakfast dish "“ although, to the serious café patron, processed cheese might not hold quite the same appeal as rich hollandaise sauce. Nonetheless, it worked for McDonald's, which soon had a signature breakfast sandwich to complement the burgers. The fast food chain has since earned $4-5 billion from the Peterson's invention.

8. Del Martin: Gay Rights Activist

Del Martin was a pioneer lesbian rights activist, in the days when women in general (gay or straight) struggled to be regarded as equals. In 1955, she and her partner, Phyllis Lyons, co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian political organization in the US (named after a 19th-century collection of Sapphic love poems). Martin was also the first openly gay board member of the National Organization of Women, and helped form the Council of Religion and Homosexuality in 1964, fighting to ensure that homosexuals were accepted in churches. Her hard work was finally rewarded on June 16, 2008, when the law allowing same-sex marriages was passed in California. She and Lyons were legally wed in California's first union of that type. They were just in time; Martin was 87. She died in August, only months before the law was rescinded.

9. Clay Felker: Magazine Pioneer

Just as today's magazine editors worry about the internet, their predecessors of 40 years ago feared losing their readers and advertisers to the growing popularity of television. In fact, Clay Felker is part of the reason there are still so many magazines on the newsstand. As founding editor of New York in 1968, he invented a new style of magazine: chic, energetic, gossipy, civic-minded, cynical and in-crowd. With star writers like Tom Wolfe, Gail Sheehy (whom he later married) and Jimmy Breslin, he pioneered the famous "new journalism." It changed and revitalized the magazine world. Felker would also edit Esquire, The Village Voice, Adweek and other magazines, and helped Gloria Steinem "“ one of his staff writers at New York "“ start the influential feminist magazine, Ms.

10. Olive Riley: World's Oldest Blogger


Born in 1899 in the Outback mining town of Broken Hill, Olive Riley disproves the idea that older people can't learn to use new technology. She started her blog, The Life of Riley, in 2006. Over the next two years, she would write 70 posts and "“ thanks partly to a documentary about her life "“ accumulated 1.2 million hits. She was even nominated for a Blogger's Choice Award. Though she was probably Australia's oldest woman, she took more pride in the title of World's Oldest Blogger. Inspiring as this was, her posts mainly chronicled her declining health. She also spoke about her love of the environment and the importance of saving energy, encouraging tinkerers and inventors to make energy-saving devices. She posted her last blog in April (though her friends kept readers updated in later installments), and died in July at the age of 108.

Mark Juddery is a Australian writer and historian. His latest book, Busted! The 50 Most Overrated Things in History, is published by Random House.

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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.


If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).


Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.


Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother


When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."


A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:


In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:


Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.


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