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The Quick 10: 10 Nuggets About McDonald's

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It was 69 years ago this month that a couple of brothers in San Bernardino, California, decided to set up a quick-service restaurant selling barbeque to travelers. Thanks to them, we're clogging our arteries with the Big Mac and Filet-O-Fish today, so let's pay homage to the great Mickey D's with a bit of trivia about the company and their goods.

first1. The first official McDonald's was called McDonald's Bar-B-Q and stood on the corner of 14th and E Streets in San Bernardino. They sold primarily barbeque, obviously, and offered about 25 different menu items, brought out to vehicles by carhops. No indoor seating was available.
2. Although the barbeque business was pretty banging, they shut down for a bit in 1948 and revamped the place. When they reopened three months later, the place re-emerged as a self-service joint with burgers, fries, potato chips, soda, milk, coffee and pie. A hamburger would set a patron back 15 cents.

3. 1954: the famous Ray Kroc enters the picture. The 52-year-old milkshake machine salesman intended to talk the McDonald brothers into buying more of his products, but ended up franchising the small, family-run business. Kroc's first McDonald's opened a year later in Des Plaines, Illinois, with the now-ubiquitous golden arches. By 1958, more than 100 million hamburgers had been sold. The brothers weren't really interested in expanding any more; they were perfectly satisfied with the growth they had already seen from their meager hamburger stand in San Bernardino. But Kroc had bigger visions for the company and bought the brothers out for a reported $2.7 million in 1961.

4. Kind of a jerk move, if you ask me: the McDonald brothers retained the right to the very first restaurant in San Bernardino, which really angered Ray, so he opened a McD's right by their original store and ran them out of business. The site of the first-ever McDonald's is now home to the corporate headquarters of Juan Pollo restaurants. And because the brothers refused to sell the original building and the land it stood on, Kroc refused to recognize the royalty agreement that they had verbally settled on before - 0.5% of the chain's annual revenues. Although it seemed like an astronomical sum at the time, I'd say old Ray definitely got a heck of a bargain when he bought out McDonald's for $2.7 million. That's chump change to the corporation these days.

scott5. Ronald McDonald first appeared on the scene in 1963. Willard Scott claims to have invented him - at the time, he was playing Bozo the Clown. When Bozo went off the air in 1962, Scott says McDonald's came to him and asked him to create a character that would equal Bozo in popularity. There is another person trying to claim the Ronald throne, though: performer George Voorhis said he was the original Ronald, and has a newspaper clipping from 1963 that touts his appearance as the famous clown at a local restaurant. McDonald's doesn't acknowledge either claim, but does admit that the first-ever appearance of its mascot was performed by Scott (that's his terrifying portrayal in the picture). Ronald is officially recognized as the "Chief Happiness Officer" of the corporation. Gag.

6. Some of the company's greatest hits have been created by franchisees, not chefs at the home office. The Filet-O-Fish was invented by Lou Groen, a franchiser in Cincinnati whose restaurants were struggling. Noting the large number of Catholic customers, he decided to add a fish sandwich to the menu and it caught on like wildfire. The Big Mac was created by Jim Delligatti, who had several restaurants around Pittsburgh. He wanted it to compete with the Big Boy. Herb Peterson, the operator of a McDonald's in Santa Barbara, was the genius behind the Egg McMuffin. He asked Ray Kroc to look at adding the item to the menu but started serving it before he got approval from McDonald's corporate. They weren't happy at first, but the popularity of the McMuffin proved too great for corporate to ignore.

7. Those of us who are of a certain age remember McDonaldland and its cheerful citizens Grimace, Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese, Birdie and the Fry Kids. The McDonaldland crew is still around today to some extent, but they're not the craze that they were when I was a kid. There are a few characters that were dropped even before these main characters started being phased out, though: Officer Big Mac, Captain Crook and Uncle O'Grimacey. Officer Big Mac resembled Mayor McCheese, except he was a policeman and obviously had that extra bun in the middle of his head. He was created to chase after the Hamburglar and Captain Crook. Crook was, as you might imagine, a take-off on Captain Hook from Peter Pan. He wasn't after hamburgers like the Hamburglar was, though - Crook's idea of serious booty was the Filet-O-Fish sandwich. Uncle O'Grimacey was, go figure, Grimace's uncle from Ireland. He visits Grimace in the States every year to herald the coming of the Shamrock Shake in March. At least, he used to. Now the shakes just show up of their own accord, because Uncle O'Grimacey doesn't appear to be in the advertising plan anymore.

8. Speaking of the delightful Shamrock Shake, it's definitely my favorite McDonald's menu item, and I miss it EVERY YEAR. I love all things mint... so it's weird that I would love the Shamrock Shake, because "mint" or "mint flavoring" is not among the ingredients listed in a Shamrock Shake. And as an aside, this actually made me laugh out loud: apparently McDonald's introduced the "Minty Mudbath" as a promotional item to go with Shrek the Third a couple of years ago. It was a Shamrock Shake with chocolate mixed in. They pulled the item after it was discovered that "minty mudbath" is slang for a fetish sex act. I'm not going to spell it out for you, but Urban Dictionary will.

9. The Happy Meal has been around since 1979. That first one cost only a buck and would get kids a hamburger or cheeseburger, a 12-ounce soda, small french fries, an assortment of little cookies and some sort of little extra: a stencil, a puzzle book, a wrist wallet, an ID bracelet or erasers shaped like McDonaldland characters. They didn't take long to hook up with Hollywood - the first movie-based Happy Meal toy was featured the same year the set was introduced. The toys were based on Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I can't remember being infatuated with any of the McDonald's toys, but I do remember having to own all of the California Raisins collectibles you could get at Hardee's.

10. McDonald's has stores in 119 countries on six continents. In Singapore, you can place your order over the phone and have your McD's delivered to you. In Germany (and other European countries) you can enjoy a Pilsner with your Big Mac and fries. If you check out menus in Japan you may find a green tea-flavored milkshake and shrimp nuggets. In Uruguay, you can get a McHuevo, which is a burger topped with a poached egg. I know several people who think any sandwich can be improved by being topped with an egg, so this makes sense to me. And in Norway, you can enjoy a McLak, a salmon sandwich.

So I now have this craving for a Shamrock Shake that I'm not going to be able to satisfy until next March. Awesome. Do you have a favorite McDonald's item, or do you swear off fast food? Honestly, I'm more of a Wendy's girl, myself.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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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.


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