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

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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.

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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!

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15 Must-Watch Facts About The Ring
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DreamWorks

An urban legend about a videotape that kills its viewers seven days after they see it turns out to be true. To her increasing horror, reporter Rachel Keller (then-newcomer Naomi Watts) discovers this after her niece is one of four teenage victims, and is in a race against the clock to uncover the mystery behind the girl in the video before her and her son’s time is up.

Released 15 years ago, on October 18, 2002, The Ring began a trend of both remaking Japanese horror films in a big way, and giving you nightmares about creepy creatures crawling out of your television. Here are some facts about the film that you can feel free to pass along to anybody, guilt-free.

1. DREAMWORKS BOUGHT THE AMERICAN RIGHTS TO RINGU FOR $1 MILLION.

There were conflicting stories over how executive producer Roy Lee came to see the 1998 Japanese horror film Ringu, Hideo Nakata's adaptation of the 1991 novel Ring by Kôji Suzuki. Lee said two different friends gave him a copy of Ringu in January 2001, which he loved and immediately gave to DreamWorks executive Mark Sourian, who agreed to purchase the rights. But Lee’s close friend Mike Macari worked at Fine Line Features, which had an American remake of Ringu in development before January 2001. Macari said he showed Lee Ringu much earlier. Macari and Lee were both listed as executive producers for The Ring.

2. THE DIRECTOR FIRST SAW RINGU ON A POOR QUALITY VHS TAPE, WHICH ADDED TO ITS CREEPINESS.

Gore Verbinski had previously directed MouseHunt. He said the first time he "watched the original Ringu was on a VHS tape that was probably seven generations down. It was really poor quality, but actually that added to the mystique, especially when I realized that this was a movie about a videotape." Naomi Watts struggled to find a VHS copy of Ringu while shooting in the south of Wales. When she finally got a hold of one she watched it on a very small TV alone in her hotel room. "I remember being pretty freaked out," Watts said. "I just saw it the once, and that was enough to get me excited about doing it."

3. THE RING AND RINGU ARE ABOUT 50 PERCENT DIFFERENT.

Naomi Watts in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

Verbinski estimated that, for the American version, they "changed up to 50 percent of it. The basic premise is intact, the story is intact, the ghost story, the story of Samara, the child." Storylines involving the characters having ESP, a volcano, “dream logic,” and references to “brine and goblins” were taken out.

4. IT RAINED ALMOST EVERY DAY WHEN THEY FILMED IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON.

The weather added to the “atmosphere of dread,” according to the film's production notes. Verbinski said the setting allowed them to create an “overcast mood” of dampness and isolation.

5. THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER WAS INFLUENCED BY ANDREW WYETH.

Artist Andrew Wyeth tended to use muted, somber earth tones in his work. "In Wyeth's work, the trees are always dormant, and the colors are muted earth tones," explained production designer Tom Duffield. "It's greys, it's browns, it's somber colors; it's ripped fabrics in the windows. His work has a haunting flavor that I felt would add to the mystique of this movie, so I latched on to it."

6. THERE WERE RINGS EVERYWHERE.

The carpeting and wallpaper patterns, the circular kitchen knobs, the doctor’s sweater design, Rachel’s apartment number, and more were purposely designed with the film's title in mind.

7. WATTS AND MARTIN HENDERSON HAD A FRIENDLY INTERNATIONAL RIVALRY.

Martin Henderson and Naomi Watts star in 'The Ring' (1992)
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

The New Zealand-born Henderson played Noah, Rachel’s ex-husband. Since Watts is from Australia, Henderson said that, "Between takes, we'd joke around with each other's accents and play into the whole New Zealand-Australia rivalry."

8. THE TWO WEREN’T SURE IF THE MOVIE WAS GOING TO BE SCARY ENOUGH.

After shooting some of the scenes, and not having the benefit of seeing what they'd look like once any special effects were added, Henderson and Watts worried that the final result would not be scary enough. "There were moments when Naomi and I would look at each other and say, 'This is embarrassing, people are going to laugh,'" Henderson told the BBC." You just hope that somebody makes it scary or you're going to look like an idiot!"

9. CHRIS COOPER WAS CUT FROM THE MOVIE.

Cooper played a child murderer in two scenes which were initially meant to bookend the film. He unconvincingly claimed to Rachel that he found God in the beginning, and in the end she gave him the cursed tape. Audiences at test screenings were distracted that an actor they recognized disappears for most of the film, so he was cut out entirely.

10. THEY TRIED TO GET RID OF ALL OF THE SHADOWS.

Verbinski and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli used the lack of sunlight in Washington to remove the characters’ shadows. The two wanted to keep the characters feeling as if “they’re floating a little bit, in space.”

11. THE TREE WAS NICKNAMED "LUCILLE."

The red Japanese maple tree in the cursed video was named after the famous redheaded actress Lucille Ball. The tree was fake, built out of steel tubing and plaster. The Washington wind blew it over three different times. The night they put up the tree in Los Angeles, the wind blew at 60 miles per hour and knocked Lucille over yet again. "It was very strange," said Duffield.

12. MOESKO ISLAND IS A FUNCTIONING LIGHTHOUSE.

Moesko Island Lighthouse is Yaquina Head Lighthouse, at the mouth of the Yaquina River, a mile west of Agate Beach, Oregon. The website Rachel checks, MoeskoIslandLighthouse.com, used to actually exist as a one-page website, which gave general information on the fictional place. You can read it here.

13. A WEBSITE WAS CREATED BY DREAMWORKS TO PROMOTE THE MOVIE AND ADD TO ITS MYTHOLOGY.

Before and during the theatrical release, if you logged into AnOpenLetter.com, you could read a message in white lettering against a black background warning about what happens if you watch the cursed video (you can read it here). By November 24, 2002, it was a standard official website made for the movie, set up by DreamWorks.

14. VERBINSKI DIDN’T HAVE FUN DIRECTING THE MOVIE.

“It’s no fun making a horror film," admitted Verbinski. "You get into some darker areas of the brain and after a while everything becomes a bit depressing.”

15. DAVEIGH CHASE SCARED HERSELF.

Daveigh Chase in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

When Daveigh Chase, who played Samara, saw The Ring in theaters, she had to cover her eyes out of fear—of herself. Some people she met after the movie came out were also afraid of her.

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European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
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Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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