The Quick 10: 10 Facts About Grauman's Chinese Theater

I'm back from my trip and have lots of flossy goodness to share with you all week, starting with one of the most well-known tourist traps in L.A. and probably all of California "“ Grauman's Chinese Theater. With handprints, footprints and signatures of the stars peppered across the forecourt of the theater and characters from Spiderman to Spongebob to take pictures with, poor tourists can't really help themselves. It's like moths to a flame (and I should know). But there's more to it than meets the eye "“ here are some details that are easily missed.

chinese1. It may (arguably) be the most well-known of Grauman's theaters these days, but it was the last of the three to be built. After Sid Grauman was unsuccessful at gold mining during the Klondike days, he decided to open up a chain of theaters in Alaska and Northern California before setting his sights on Los Angeles. The Million Dollar Theater (which actually cost $800,000 to built, not $1 million) opened in 1918 and the Egyptian Theater opened in 1922. Hollywood quickly caught on to Sid's movie theater vision and started booking his establishments for high-profile events. In fact, the first-ever film premiere, Robin Hood starring Douglas Fairbanks, was held at the Egyptian the same year it opened. Sid built the first two to appeal to the public, and once they were successful, he was able to build a theater in the style that he personally really wanted to see, and that ended up being the Chinese Theater.

2. Are you sitting there thinking to yourself, "Isn't it Mann's Chinese Theater?" Well, you're right "“ it was. Ted Mann purchased the theater in 1973 (Sid Grauman had been dead for nearly 25 years) and renamed the historic landmark. In fact, Ted had a wax likeness of his wife, actress Rhonda Fleming, made to go with the Chinese wax figures that stand in the lobby. She used to sit in a chair right in the middle of them. They divorced in 2001, which was the year before Ted declared bankruptcy and sold the theater to a Warner Brothers/Paramount partnership. Which sort of explains why certain stars have been chosen in the past few years, doesn't it? The Harry Potter kids? Totally makes sense. Warner Brothers and Paramount still own Grauman's today and restored its original name in 2002.

mary3. The first footprint was supposedly Norma Talmadge. The story of how the idea to immortalize celebs in cement came about has been told in many a brochure about the place, but it may not necessarily be true. The story is that Norma, a friend of Sid Grauman's, stepped out of her car to check out Sid's new digs. The cement was still wet, and a lightbulb went off in old Sid's head. But Sid himself later said that yes, it was an accident, but HE was the one who stepped in the fresh sludge, not Norma. The first "official" signature in the forecourt was Mary Pickford's. Mary and her then-husband Douglas Fairbanks were the theater's co-owners - that's them with Sid in the picture.

4. The inside of the theater is decorated with authentic treasures hand-selected from China by Sid Grauman himself. But one of the things that draws the most attention is the Chinese wax figures. They were once considered to be so lifelike that people would actually try to talk to them, then turn away in embarrassment when their lack of response tipped the inquisitive conversationalist off to the fact that they were just wax. It used to be good luck for actors and film execs to come to the theater and touch the wax people for good luck before embarking upon a new project "“ I'm not sure if they still do that or not. I can't say I spotted Spielberg there groping the mannequins or anything.

5. Hugh Jackman is the person who most recently went through the hand and footprint ceremony at Grauman's. I'm guessing he'll be pretty popular. According to the website, which will also give you a complete listing and map of whose signatures are where, the most-viewed stars are: Warren Beatty, Jack Lemmon, John Travolta, John Wayne, Bud Abbot and Lou Costello, Shirley Temple, Bette Davis, Mel Gibson, Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, Judy Garland, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Walter Matthau, Denzel Washington, Susan Sarandon, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Tom Hanks, Richard Gere, Michael Douglas, Johnny Depp, Al Pacino and Sean Connery. Some of them surprise me "“ Brad Pitt and George Clooney don't make the popular list? Tom Cruise? Clint Eastwood?

betty6. Should you ever get the chance to press your palms into cement at Grauman's, feel free to think outside of the box and include more than just your hands, feet and signature. Whoopi Goldberg pressed a dreadlock into the cement, Betty Grable did an imprint of her leg (pictured), George Burns left his cigar print and John Wayne left his fist. Rumor has it that Marilyn Monroe wanted to sit her backside in the cement and was encouraging Jane Russell to leave her front side in the cement, but they were shot down. Marilyn also dotted the "I" in her name with a rhinestone but some souvenir-hunter chipped it out of the cement.

7. Once a slab of cement has been signed, it stays in the forecourt forever. Some suspect that Charlie Chaplin used to have his signature and prints there and it was later removed, but this isn't true. Even the guy who won Talent Quest in 1949 was immortalized, and although he won the contest, he ended up more like Ruben Studdard than Carrie Underwood. He is relatively unknown today and could probably be removed without anyone protesting too much, but he's still there today.

8. You might find a few unfamiliar names in the cement "“ Charles Nelson, the Talent Quest winner, for one. But there's also former Yahoo! chairman and CEO Terry Semel; Clarence Nash, the voice of Donald Duck; opera singers Lauritz Melchior and Ezio Pinza; gossip columnist Louella Parsons; and Adolph Zukor, whom film buffs will know as the founder of Paramount. Any of the other unfamiliar names are probably older actors. Rosa Grauman is the only person in the forecourt with her own square who has nothing to do with the entertainment industry except for the fact that she gave birth to Sid. What a good son! Also vying for the best son title: actor Donald O'Connor, who had his mom write her name in his square right next to his.

marquee9. The exterior architecture has changed a bit over the years. Right now, it's simply the theater and the forecourt. But there used to be marquees on either side of the pagoda-esque building announcing what movie was playing and who was starring in it. And at one point, a Cinemascope sign stood directly in the view of the pagoda. There also used to be a small ticket booth right in the middle, because the theater was (and still is) used as a real, working theater "“ not just a showcase for premieres and galas. It's gone now as well.

10. Movies that premiered at Grauman's include A Farewell to Arms, The King and I, Shane, Giant, West Side Story, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Mary Poppins, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Hello Dolly, Jungle Book, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Star Wars, Kill Bill, Oceans 11 (and 12 and 13) Batman Begins and Watchmen. The next one is Land of the Lost and it's this Saturday, if you're going to be around.

By the way, everyone puts their hands and feet in to see how they compare to their favorite stars. But if you can fit your footprint in to Jeanette MacDonald's prints, it will really be quite a feat (ha) "“ her prints measure a mere 6.5 inches.

So check out the list of names and tell me who you think is missing. My list include a bunch of older stars - where's Marlene Dietrich? Claudette Colbert? Clara Bow? I know"¦ it's impossible to get them all crammed into the forecourt there at Grauman's, but it's fun to complain about who should be there. Share yours in the comments!

Live Smarter
Nervous About Asking for a Job Referral? LinkedIn Can Now Do It for You

For most people, asking for a job referral can be daunting. What if the person being approached shoots you down? What if you ask the "wrong" way? LinkedIn, which has been aggressively establishing itself as a catch-all hub for employment opportunities, has a solution, as Mashable reports.

The company recently launched "Ask for a Referral," an option that will appear to those browsing job listings. When you click on a job listed by a business that also employs one of your LinkedIn first-degree connections, you'll have the opportunity to solicit a referral from that individual.

The default message that LinkedIn creates is somewhat generic, but it hits the main topics—namely, prompting you to explain how you and your connection know one another and why you'd be a good fit for the position. If you're the one being asked for a referral, the site will direct you to the job posting and offer three prompts for a response, ranging from "Sure…" to "Sorry…".

LinkedIn says the referral option may not be available for all posts or all users, as the feature is still being rolled out. If you do see the option, it will likely pay to take advantage of it: LinkedIn reports that recruiters who receive both a referral and a job application from a prospective hire are four times more likely to contact that individual.

[h/t Mashable]

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Essential Science
What Is a Scientific Theory?
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

In casual conversation, people often use the word theory to mean "hunch" or "guess": If you see the same man riding the northbound bus every morning, you might theorize that he has a job in the north end of the city; if you forget to put the bread in the breadbox and discover chunks have been taken out of it the next morning, you might theorize that you have mice in your kitchen.

In science, a theory is a stronger assertion. Typically, it's a claim about the relationship between various facts; a way of providing a concise explanation for what's been observed. The American Museum of Natural History puts it this way: "A theory is a well-substantiated explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can incorporate laws, hypotheses and facts."

For example, Newton's theory of gravity—also known as his law of universal gravitation—says that every object, anywhere in the universe, responds to the force of gravity in the same way. Observational data from the Moon's motion around the Earth, the motion of Jupiter's moons around Jupiter, and the downward fall of a dropped hammer are all consistent with Newton's theory. So Newton's theory provides a concise way of summarizing what we know about the motion of these objects—indeed, of any object responding to the force of gravity.

A scientific theory "organizes experience," James Robert Brown, a philosopher of science at the University of Toronto, tells Mental Floss. "It puts it into some kind of systematic form."


A theory's ability to account for already known facts lays a solid foundation for its acceptance. Let's take a closer look at Newton's theory of gravity as an example.

In the late 17th century, the planets were known to move in elliptical orbits around the Sun, but no one had a clear idea of why the orbits had to be shaped like ellipses. Similarly, the movement of falling objects had been well understood since the work of Galileo a half-century earlier; the Italian scientist had worked out a mathematical formula that describes how the speed of a falling object increases over time. Newton's great breakthrough was to tie all of this together. According to legend, his moment of insight came as he gazed upon a falling apple in his native Lincolnshire.

In Newton's theory, every object is attracted to every other object with a force that’s proportional to the masses of the objects, but inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. This is known as an “inverse square” law. For example, if the distance between the Sun and the Earth were doubled, the gravitational attraction between the Earth and the Sun would be cut to one-quarter of its current strength. Newton, using his theories and a bit of calculus, was able to show that the gravitational force between the Sun and the planets as they move through space meant that orbits had to be elliptical.

Newton's theory is powerful because it explains so much: the falling apple, the motion of the Moon around the Earth, and the motion of all of the planets—and even comets—around the Sun. All of it now made sense.


A theory gains even more support if it predicts new, observable phenomena. The English astronomer Edmond Halley used Newton's theory of gravity to calculate the orbit of the comet that now bears his name. Taking into account the gravitational pull of the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn, in 1705, he predicted that the comet, which had last been seen in 1682, would return in 1758. Sure enough, it did, reappearing in December of that year. (Unfortunately, Halley didn't live to see it; he died in 1742.) The predicted return of Halley's Comet, Brown says, was "a spectacular triumph" of Newton's theory.

In the early 20th century, Newton's theory of gravity would itself be superseded—as physicists put it—by Einstein's, known as general relativity. (Where Newton envisioned gravity as a force acting between objects, Einstein described gravity as the result of a curving or warping of space itself.) General relativity was able to explain certain phenomena that Newton's theory couldn't account for, such as an anomaly in the orbit of Mercury, which slowly rotates—the technical term for this is "precession"—so that while each loop the planet takes around the Sun is an ellipse, over the years Mercury traces out a spiral path similar to one you may have made as a kid on a Spirograph.

Significantly, Einstein’s theory also made predictions that differed from Newton's. One was the idea that gravity can bend starlight, which was spectacularly confirmed during a solar eclipse in 1919 (and made Einstein an overnight celebrity). Nearly 100 years later, in 2016, the discovery of gravitational waves confirmed yet another prediction. In the century between, at least eight predictions of Einstein's theory have been confirmed.


And yet physicists believe that Einstein's theory will one day give way to a new, more complete theory. It already seems to conflict with quantum mechanics, the theory that provides our best description of the subatomic world. The way the two theories describe the world is very different. General relativity describes the universe as containing particles with definite positions and speeds, moving about in response to gravitational fields that permeate all of space. Quantum mechanics, in contrast, yields only the probability that each particle will be found in some particular location at some particular time.

What would a "unified theory of physics"—one that combines quantum mechanics and Einstein's theory of gravity—look like? Presumably it would combine the explanatory power of both theories, allowing scientists to make sense of both the very large and the very small in the universe.


Let's shift from physics to biology for a moment. It is precisely because of its vast explanatory power that biologists hold Darwin's theory of evolution—which allows scientists to make sense of data from genetics, physiology, biochemistry, paleontology, biogeography, and many other fields—in such high esteem. As the biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky put it in an influential essay in 1973, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

Interestingly, the word evolution can be used to refer to both a theory and a fact—something Darwin himself realized. "Darwin, when he was talking about evolution, distinguished between the fact of evolution and the theory of evolution," Brown says. "The fact of evolution was that species had, in fact, evolved [i.e. changed over time]—and he had all sorts of evidence for this. The theory of evolution is an attempt to explain this evolutionary process." The explanation that Darwin eventually came up with was the idea of natural selection—roughly, the idea that an organism's offspring will vary, and that those offspring with more favorable traits will be more likely to survive, thus passing those traits on to the next generation.


Many theories are rock-solid: Scientists have just as much confidence in the theories of relativity, quantum mechanics, evolution, plate tectonics, and thermodynamics as they do in the statement that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

Other theories, closer to the cutting-edge of current research, are more tentative, like string theory (the idea that everything in the universe is made up of tiny, vibrating strings or loops of pure energy) or the various multiverse theories (the idea that our entire universe is just one of many). String theory and multiverse theories remain controversial because of the lack of direct experimental evidence for them, and some critics claim that multiverse theories aren't even testable in principle. They argue that there's no conceivable experiment that one could perform that would reveal the existence of these other universes.

Sometimes more than one theory is put forward to explain observations of natural phenomena; these theories might be said to "compete," with scientists judging which one provides the best explanation for the observations.

"That's how it should ideally work," Brown says. "You put forward your theory, I put forward my theory; we accumulate a lot of evidence. Eventually, one of our theories might prove to obviously be better than the other, over some period of time. At that point, the losing theory sort of falls away. And the winning theory will probably fight battles in the future."


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