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The Quick 10: Happy Birthday, Jack!

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Sure, it's Earth Day. It's Administrative Professionals Day too. But an event that probably isn't pre-printed into your planner (or handwritten, for that matter) is Jack Nicholson's 72nd birthday. Love the guy or hate him, you have to admit that he has led a fascinating life. Here's 10 of the things that make him so interesting.

young jack1. Like something out of a soap opera, Jack grew up thinking his grandma Ethel May was his mom. Maybe that's not so weird, but he was also told that June, his real mom, was his sister. He didn't know any of this until after they were both dead, when an insensitive Time reporter asked how he felt about all of that. The usually unflappable Nicholson was stunned and immediately went home to call family members, who confirmed the story. He still doesn't know for sure who his real father was, although there are some pretty strong candidates. "Only Ethel and June knew and they never told anybody," he said.

2. He had some interesting jobs before he hit it big as an actor, including a go-fer in the MGM animation department and a writer for - get this - the Monkees' Head movie. I don't know about you guys, but I never would have associated Jack Nicholson with the Monkees. Jack actually showed some talent as an animator and was offered a job, but declined it because we wanted to pursue his acting career. I guess that worked out OK for him.

3. The statutory rape charges that have kept Roman Polanski out of the country for more than 30 years? The cause of those charges happened at Jack Nicholson's house. The two of them were and are very good friends.

4. Nicholson bought his swinging bachelor pad on Mulholland Drive more than 30 years ago - it cost him only $80,000. At one time, Warren Beatty and Marlon Brando lived in his neighborhood, which resulted in their section of Mulholland being nicknamed "Bad Boy Drive." Brando lived right next door and used to invite himself in even when Nicholson wasn't home, eating his food and leaving behind his underwear. Seriously.

lakers5. The dude is not a fickle fan. He has held Lakers season tickets since 1970 and has had courtside seats for most of those years. Jack isn't above going on the court to yell at the refs, either, but even if the refs didn't appreciate it, Shaq sure did. His movie contracts even sometimes stipulate that they must work around Lakers home games. And the loyalty isn't confined to the west coast - RottenTomatoes reports that when he was filming The Departed, if someone on set was caught wearing Celtics apparel, he would literally shut down the set until they were removed or a replacement shirt (or hat, or whatever) could be found. That's his son at the game with him in the picture.

6. A notorious womanizer, Jack has had relationships with actress Sandra Knight (the one and only time he got married), Michelle Phillips from The Mamas and the Papas, waitress Rebecca Broussard, Lara Flynn Boyle and Anjelica Huston. That last relationship lasted 17 years and ended when Broussard turned up pregnant. And all of those women make sense, really, but what he really lusts after are apparently women in power. He's mentioned that he has had fantasies about Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosalynn Carter; one of his rumored dalliances was Margaret Trudeau, the widow of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. He endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in the '08 election... I wouldn't be surprised if she made his fantasy list as well.

7. Jack has turned down (or just didn't get) roles just as prestigious as the ones he has played. Among them: Daddy Warbucks in Annie, Billy Bob Thornton's part in Bad Santa, Peter Dallow in The Bonfire of the Vanities, Ralphie's dad in A Christmas Story, Dick Tracy in the eponymous film, Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Paul Sheldon in Misery, Raymond in Rainman (yeah), Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, Gordon Gekko in Wall Street and Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

8. He has been at every Academy Awards since 1990. He's an active (and very passionate) member of the Academy who was very obviously stunned as he presented the 2005 Best Picture Oscar to the cast and crew of Crash. He had voted for Brokeback Mountain and was sure that it was going to win. Check it out:

9. He has made a lot of money not just for the roles he has taken, but for negotiating smaller salaries in exchange for a percentage of the film's gross. He did this for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1975 (his first Oscar-winning role) and for Batman in 1989, which reportedly netted him more than $60 million.

10. He has a pretty decent art collection, including a bunch of Picassos. His friends have joked that he lives in a $500,000 house (c'mon... you know it would go for a LOT more than that) with a $100 million art collection.

Do you have a favorite Nicholson flick or character? I think I have to go with the Joker, myself. I mean, I really loved Heath Ledger's Joker as well, but Jack's Joker is just so gleefully wicked, you gotta love it. At least, I do. Share your favorite in the comments!

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Food
Let Alexa Help You Brine a Turkey This Thanksgiving
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There’s a reason most of us only cook turkey once a year: The bird is notoriously easy to overcook. You could rely on gravy and cranberry sauce to salvage your dried-out turkey this Thanksgiving, or you could follow cooking advice from the experts.

Brining a turkey is the best way to guarantee it retains its moisture after hours in the oven. The process is also time-consuming, so do yourself a favor this year and let Alexa be your sous chef.

“Morton Brine Time” is a new skill from the cloud-based home assistant. If you own an Amazon Echo you can download it for free by going online or by asking Alexa to enable it. Once it’s set up, start asking Alexa for brining tips and step-by-step recipes customized to the size of your turkey. Two recipes were developed by Richard Blais, the celebrity chef and restaurateur best known for his Top Chef win and Food Network appearances.

Whether you go for a wet brine (soaking your turkey in water, salt, sugar, and spices) or a dry one (just salt and spices), the process isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. And the knowledge that your bird will come out succulent and juicy will definitely take some stress out of the holiday.

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Big Questions
Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.

HOW 'BOUT THEM COWBOYS?


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The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

WHAT'S WITH THE NIGHT GAME?


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In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.

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