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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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The Sweet Surprise Reunion Mr. Rogers Never Saw Coming
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Family Communications Inc./Getty Images

For more than 30 years, legendary children’s show host Fred Rogers used his PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to educate his young viewers on concepts like empathy, sharing, and grief. As a result, he won just about every television award he was eligible for, some of them many times over.

Rogers was gracious in accepting each, but according to those who were close to the host, one honor in particular stood out. It was March 11, 1999, and Rogers was being inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, an offshoot of the Emmy Awards. Just before being called to the stage, out came a surprise.

The man responsible for the elation on Rogers’s face was Jeff Erlanger, a 29-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin who became a quadriplegic at a young age after undergoing spinal surgery to remove a tumor. Rogers was surprised because Erlanger had appeared on his show nearly 20 years prior in 1980 to help kids understand how people with physical challenges adapt to life’s challenges. Here's his first encounter with the host:

Reunited on stage after two decades, Erlanger referred to the song, “It’s You I Like,” which the two sang during their initial meeting. “On behalf of millions of children and grown-ups,” Erlanger said, “it’s you I like.” The audience, including a visibly moved Candice Bergen, rose to their feet to give both men a standing ovation.

Following Erlanger’s death in 2007, Hedda Sharapan, an employee with Rogers’s production company, called their poignant scene “authentic” and “unscripted,” and that Rogers often pointed to it as his favorite moment from the series.

Near the end of the original segment in 1980, as Erlanger drives his wheelchair off-camera, Rogers waves goodbye and offers a departing message: “I hope you’ll come back to visit again.”

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20 Things You Might Not Have Known About Firefly
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© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox

As any diehard fan will be quick to tell you, Firefly's run was far, far too short. Despite its truncated run, the show still offers a wealth of fun facts and hidden Easter eggs. On the 15th anniversary of the series' premiere, we're looking back at the sci-fi series that kickstarted a Browncoat revolution.

1. A CIVIL WAR NOVEL INSPIRED THE FIREFLY UNIVERSE.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels from author Michael Shaara was Joss Whedon’s inspiration for creating Firefly. It follows Union and Confederate soldiers during four days at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Whedon modeled the series and world on the Reconstruction Era, but set in the future.

2. ORIGINALLY, THE SERENITY CREW INCLUDED JUST FIVE MEMBERS.

When Whedon first developed Firefly, he wanted Serenity to only have five crew members. However, throughout development and casting, Whedon increased the cast from five to nine.

3. REBECCA GAYHEART WAS ORIGINALLY CAST TO PLAY INARA.

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Before Morena Baccarin was cast as Inara Serra, Rebecca Gayheart landed the role—but she was fired after one day of shooting because she lacked chemistry with the rest of the cast. Baccarin was cast two days later and started shooting that day.

4. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS WAS ALMOST DR. SIMON TAM.

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Before it went to Sean Maher, Neil Patrick Harris auditioned for the role of Dr. Simon Tam.

5. JOSS WHEDON WROTE THE THEME SONG.

Whedon wrote the lyrics and music for Firefly’s opening theme song, “The Ballad of Serenity.”

6. STAR WARS SPACECRAFT APPEAR IN FIREFLY.

Star Wars was a big influence on Whedon. Captain Malcolm Reynolds somewhat resembles Han Solo, while Whedon used the Millennium Falcon as inspiration to create Serenity. In fact, you can spot a few spacecraft from George Lucas's magnum opus on the show.

When Inara’s shuttle docks with Serenity in the pilot episode, an Imperial Shuttle can be found flying in the background. In the episode “Shindig,” you can see a Starlight Intruder as the crew lands on the planet Persephone.

7. HAN SOLO FROZEN IN CARBONITE POPS UP THROUGHOUT FIREFLY.

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Nathan Fillion is a big Han Solo fan, so the Firefly prop department made a 12-inch replica of Han Solo encased in Carbonite for the Canadian-born actor. You can see the prop in the background in a number of scenes.

8. ALIEN'S WEYLAND-YUTANI CORPORATION MADE AN APPEARANCE.

In Firefly’s pilot episode, the opening scene features the legendary Battle of Serenity Valley between the Browncoats and The Union of Allied Planets. Captain Malcolm Reynolds takes control of a cannon with a Weyland-Yutani logo inside of its display. Weyland-Yutani is the large conglomerate corporation in the Alien film franchise. (Whedon wrote Alien: Resurrection in 1997.)

9. ZAC EFRON'S ACTING DEBUT WAS ON FIREFLY.

A 13-year-old Zac Efron made his acting debut in the episode “Safe” in 2002. He played Young Simon in a flashback.

10. CAPTAIN MALCOLM REYNOLDS'S HORSE IS A WESTERN TROPE.

At its core, Firefly is a sci-fi western—and Malcolm Reynolds rides the same horse on every planet (it's named Fred).

11. FOX AIRED FIREFLY'S EPISODES OUT OF ORDER.

Fox didn’t feel Firefly’s two-hour pilot episode was strong enough to air as its first episode. Instead, “The Train Job” was broadcast first because it featured more action and excitement. The network continued to cherry-pick episodes based on broad appeal rather than story consistency, and eventually aired the pilot as the show’s final episode.

12. THE ALLIANCE'S ORIGINS ARE AMERICAN AND CHINESE.

The full name of The Alliance is The Anglo-Sino Alliance. Whedon envisioned The Alliance as a merger of American and Chinese government and corporate superpowers. The Union of Allied Planets’ flag is a blending of the American and Chinese national flags.

13. THE SERENITY LOUNGE SERVED AS AN ACTUAL LOUNGE.

Between set-ups and shots, the cast would hang out in the lounge on the Serenity set rather than trailers or green rooms.

14. INARA SERRA'S NAME IS MESOPOTAMIAN.

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Inara Serra is named after the Mesopotamian Hittite goddess, the protector of all wild animals.

15. THE CHARACTERS SWORE (JUST NOT IN ENGLISH).

The Firefly universe is a mixture of American and Chinese culture, which made it easy for writers to get around censors by having characters swear in Chinese.

16. THE UNIFORMS ARE RECYCLED FROM STARSHIP TROOPERS.

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The uniforms for Alliance officers and soldiers were the costumes from the 1997 science fiction film Starship Troopers. The same costumes were repurposed again for the Starship Troopers sequel.

17. "SUMMER!" MEANS SOMEONE MESSED UP.

Every time a cast member flubbed one of his or her lines, they would yell Summer Glau’s name. This was a running gag among the cast after Glau forgot her lines in the episode “Objects In Space.”

18. THE SERENITY SPACESHIP WAS BUILT TO SCALE.

The interior of Serenity was built entirely to scale; rooms and sections were completely contiguous. The ship’s interior was split into two stages, one for the upper deck and one for the lower. Whedon showed off the Firefly set in one long take to open the Serenity movie.

19. "THE MESSAGE" SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE SHOW'S FAREWELL.

Although “The Message” was the twelfth episode, it was the last episode filmed during Firefly’s short run. Composer Greg Edmonson wrote a piece of music for a funeral scene in the episode, which served as a final farewell to the show. Sadly, it was one of three episodes (the other two were “Trash” and “Heart of Gold”) that didn’t air during Firefly’s original broadcast run on Fox.

20. FIREFLY AND SERENITY WERE SENT TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.

American Astronaut Steven Ray Swanson is a big fan of Firefly, so when he was sent to the International Space Station for his first mission (STS-117) in 2007, he brought DVD copies of Firefly and its feature film Serenity aboard with him. The DVDs are now a permanent part of the space station’s library.

This post originally appeared in 2014.

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