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American Monuments: The Statue of Liberty

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This week, David Clark will be our tour guide as we take a closer look at some of America's greatest monuments. His series kicks off today with highlights from the history of "Liberty Enlightening the World," known to the masses as the Statue of Liberty: her life as modern colossus, wartime pin-up centerfold, copper bosom to comfort the weary, hostage for the dissatisfied, and bane of Vigo.

The Conception and Birth of Our Stern Green Giant

Ambitions ran high towards the end of the 19th century, and French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi was aching to build a modern colossus. The Colossus of Rhodes, archetype of Western colossi, was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: a hundred-foot-high sculpture of the Greek sun-god Helios that loomed over the harbor of Rhodes in the 3rd century B.C. Many people agreed that Bartholdi's modern colossus idea was a fine one -- then as now, people liked anything big, and always found it gratifying to compare themselves to Ancient Greeks -- but when it came time to shell out for materials, the rich and powerful would shrug, mutter something about other priorities, and shuffle away. (If Bartholdi hadn't been frustrated at first, Lady Liberty might have been built in Egypt as a lighthouse for the Suez Canal, titled "Egypt Bringing Light to Asia." As though they don't have enough hulking monuments already.)


Nevertheless, circumstances eventually granted Bartholdi his chance. The French were planning to give an ostentatious gift to the United States in honor of the centennial anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and in celebration of our mutual affection for liberty and republics and that kind of thing. Bartholdi pitched the idea of a giant Lady Liberty -- a symbol that tied modern republican ideals to classical Rome -- and France deemed it worthy. She would be titled "Liberty Enlightening the World," she would have skin of beaten copper, and she would bear the Torch of Enlightenment, a seven-pointed halo, an unwieldy toga, a strong and sober brow, and a tablet spelling out in Roman numerals the birthday of the USA (July IV, MDCCLXXVI).

Work began in Paris during the 1870s, but only an arm was ready for 1876, the true centennial year.

This limb was exhibited at the World's Fair in Philadelphia that year; then the head appeared two years later at another World's Fair, in Paris. The full woman was finally ready for display in 1884, so they packed her into hundreds of crates, shipped her oversea, and rebuilt the Statue atop a star-shaped pedestal the US had set up for her (with much less enthusiasm and much more fundraising troubles than the French had), on a little island that had served in the past as a pesthouse, quarantine station, gallows, military prison, and dump, among other things. Then during a grand celebration in late 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated, and its face was dramatically unveiled from behind a French flag. At the time, she was the tallest structure in New York, at 305 feet. Rumor has it she looks like Bartholdi's mother.

The American Colossus quickly turned green -- which was inevitable, since copper will oxidize whenever given the chance. But nobody minded terribly except maybe Bartholdi, who had hoped the statue would be gilded, and in fact never felt satisfied that the Americans understood how fantastic his statue truly was, how symbolically potent, how politically inspiring, and so on.

Military Icon and Mother of Exiles

After the parades, high-flown rhetoric and fanfare of her unveiling, the Statue of Liberty endured periods of neglect and indifference. Some regarded her as little more than New York's ornate, bedraggled lighthouse. The World Wars, however, bolstered public appreciation for Lady Liberty: she was the symbolic crusader against tyranny and feminine counterpart to Uncle Sam -- the original Ms. America. A celebration of her 50th anniversary, presided over by President Roosevelt, stimulated further interest in the Statue as an icon of the American Way.

colossus.jpgThrough those years of growing favor, Lady Liberty acquired another meaning, as well -- something less militant, more maternal. Due in part to her proximity to Ellis Island, the Statue came to represent America as a refuge for immigrants, and embodied for weary sea travelers the promise of freedom and prosperity. The Statue doesn't quite have the eyes of a welcoming mother, but she's at least humanoid, and unarmed, so that's welcome enough. Early in the Statue's life, the poet Emma Lazarus divined this significance and dubbed her "Mother of Exiles," in a sonnet that is now world famous -- but was little known until the 1930s. Inspired by an influx of harried Jews fleeing persecution in Russia, Lazarus wrote the celebrated lines: "Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breath free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore." Titled "The New Colossus" and engraved inside the pedestal's entrance in 1903, Lazarus' sonnet captures an interpretation of the Statue that later generations would come to embrace.

The Ultimate Hostage, the Ultimate Hippie

Since World War II, Americans have considered the Statue a vital national symbol, manifesting any number of powerful and sometimes clashing values. As a locus of American identity and the troubled American Dream, she became a potent object for political gestures -- and in the 1970s these culminated in a series of occupations. Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) snuck into the Statue and barricaded her entrances in 1971. They flew the flag upside down from Liberty's crown and remained inside for a VVAW.jpgcouple of days, demanding withdrawal from Vietnam, before they peacefully dispersed. The VVAW re-occupied the Statue after the war's end to draw attention to the wretched treatment of American veterans. In 1977, a group of Iranians holed up inside the Statue to protest the Shah's crimes in Iran, and America's role in them. Then again that same year, Puerto Rican nationalists captured the Statue and draped a Puerto Rican flag from the crown.


There was a more passive attempt to appropriate the national icon in 1968, when a well-meaning hippie offered a colorful, colossus-sized string of beads that he'd custom-made for Lady Liberty. "They are lightweight, waterproof and made to go around her neck and extend to her waist," he wrote; and by wearing them the Statue would "reflect the fashion of the forward-thinking people who are changing the attitudes in America today." Sadly, the Park Service turned down the gift -- or else we might have witnessed the spectacle of an angry President Nixon, emphatic enemy of the so-called counterculture, slashing and tearing the beads from Lady Liberty like one of Cinderella's vicious step-sisters . . .

The Spectacle of Lady Liberty

Hollywood hasn't shied from making a spectacle of the Statue and all its symbolic suggestions. She's served as the scene for a number of climactic battles, from Hitchcock's Saboteur to X-Men. She's been demolished, toppled, beheaded, and burned by the many enemies of Life and Liberty -- including aliens, sea beasts, the prehistoric reptile Rodan (enemy of Godzilla), Nuclear Man (who throws the Statue at Superman), Mother Nature (famous for mood swings), and the self-destructive human race -- whom Charlton Heston dramatically damns to hell at the end of Planet of the Apes.

I say the Statue's most profound and moving role (at least her most mobile) is in Ghostbusters II. Animated by reactive purple mood goo, the power of positive thinking, and some hot dance music, Lady Liberty struts through Manhattan and cheers up New Yorkers enough that their high spirits bring down Vigo the Carpathian, that dark sorcerer and savage baby-thief. Bartholdi himself could not have envisioned that his Statue would work such untold wonders.

See Also: The Unfinished Tribute to Crazy Horse, The Washington Monument, The Gateway Arch (And Why It's Not Fascist)

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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.

THE AD

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).

SKINHEADS, A DISCUS THROWER, AND A SCI-FI DIRECTOR

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.

WHAT EXECUTIVES AT APPLE THOUGHT

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

WHAT EVERYBODY ELSE THOUGHT

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."

THE AWFUL 1985 FOLLOW-UP

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:

20-YEAR ANNIVERSARY

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:

FURTHER READING

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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