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7 TV Celebrities Your Parents Loved

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The trailer for the new movie Julie & Julia brings back fond memories. Julia Child was the first voice impression I perfected as a teenager. My kids have no idea who she was. At the same time, they know who Billy Mays was and I didn't until his recent death made the news. That caused me to think about the celebrities my generation shared and of whom those of you under 35 probably have no experience. It didn't take long to think of a half-dozen people who achieved television fame in the 60s, 70s, and 80s even though they weren't actors or singers.

1. Euell Gibbons

Say the name Euell Gibbons and people of a certain age will tell you that many parts of a pine tree are edible. Born in 1911, Gibbons helped his family through the Depression by gathering wild foods. As an adult, he traveled the country, trying out various jobs and homes and always foraged for food growing wild. His first book, "Stalking the Wild Asparagus" became a classic. Gibbons was regarded with respect by the natural food movement. His appearances on TV shows and in commercials made him a household name, and the subject of jokes and parodies. Gibbons died in 1975 at age 64.

2. Clara Peller

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Many Baby Boomers who wouldn't recognize the name Clara Peller will know who she is as soon as they hear her say, "Where's the Beef?" The Wendy's ad campaign that began in 1984 made Peller a star. She was 80 years old before she began her acting career. "Where's the Beef?" became a nationwide catch phrase, and Peller appeared on talk shows, other commercials, and even in a couple of movies using the phrase (or something close to it) for comedic purposes. Peller died in 1987 at age 85.

3. Justin Wilson

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Louisiana native Justin Wilson made a career of telling Cajun stories and jokes, but his biggest fame came from cooking shows he did for PBS. Wilson's Cajun idioms and delivery as well as the stories he told while cooking kept the audience glued to their sets, waiting to hear the catchphrase "I gar-on-teee!" Wilson was 87 when he died in 2001. See a clip of Wilson in action.

4. Dr. Ruth Westheimer

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Dr. Ruth make sex easier to talk about. Before Dr. Ruth, no one said "penis" in public, and we weren't all that sure how to pronounce "vagina" because even our sex education teachers used euphemisms. Her radio show Sexually Speaking took off in 1980 and led to a syndicated show and then television. The 4'7" sex therapist with the cute accent reminded us of our grandmothers, which made hearing her advice even more fun. What a lot of people didn't know was that her life before becoming a sex icon was even more amazing. Dr. Ruth was born in Germany in 1928 and was sent to an orphanage to escape the Nazis. Both her parents died in concentration camps. She emigrated to Palestine at age 17 and lived in a kibbutz. She joined the Haganah and served as a sniper in the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. Ruth Siegel, as she was named then, was wounded by an exploding shell and spent months in recovery. Her formal education began in 1950, which led to several degrees and a career as a sex educator and television personality. Dr. Ruth is still active at age 81.

5. Marlin Perkins

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Marlin Perkins hosted the nature show Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom from 1963 to 1985. He was a respected zoologist and zoo curator, and had accompanied Sir Edmund Hilary on a 1960 Himalayan expedition to find the yeti. Perkins' more than two decades in the national spotlight made him a spokesman for the conservation movement, and he helped popularize the idea of protecting endangered species. As the years went by, Perkins handed more and more of the fieldwork for the show off to co-host Jim Fowler, which led to affectionate parody and running jokes. The show itself was unpredictable, with the animals sometimes upstaging the hosts. Perkins died in 1986 at the age of 81.

6. Bob Ross

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Bob Ross is one bygone celebrity that mental_floss readers are familiar with, whether or not they ever saw him in his heyday. He was the host of The Joy of Painting on PBS from 1983 to 1994. He always completed a painting in the alloted half-hour or less, impressing everyone with his speed and confidence. Ross used the wet-on-wet oil painting technique, where layers of paint could be partially mixed and shaded because all the painting was done before any paint was allowed to dry. He described his landscapes as happy places, and encouraged viewers to lift their spirits through painting. Ross died in 1995 at age 52. You can still buy painting kits and supplies through his website.

7. Julia Child

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Julia Child was America's first celebrity chef. She was born in 1912 and served in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II handling classified communications. After the war, Child went to cooking school in France, where she teamed up with two other chefs to open a school of their own and published Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 1961. Her first TV show premiered in 1963. Child had several series on PBS up through the 1990s, drawing an audience who wanted to cook for the joy and pleasure of it. They also loved the chef with her inimitable voice and laid-back personality. Child died in 2004, two days before her 92nd birthday. Her kitchen is now a part of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, and can be seen in this interactive site. You can watch Child cook and listen to her marvelous delivery in several videos.

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Art
Get Crazy With the Official Bob Ross Coloring Book
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If you watched Bob Ross's classic series The Joy of Painting for hours on end but didn’t come away a terribly capable artist, you can still enjoy replicating the amazing public television personality’s work. You can now pretend you’re painting along with the late, great PBS star using a brand-new adult coloring book based on his art.

The Bob Ross Coloring Book (Universe) is the first authorized coloring book based on Ross’s artistic archive. Ross, who would have turned 75 later this year, was all about giving his fans the confidence to pursue art even without extensive training. “There’s an artist hidden at the bottom of every single one of us,” the gentle genius said. So what better way to honor his memory than to relax with his coloring book?

Here’s a sneak peek of some of the Ross landscapes you can recreate, all while flipping through some of his best quotes and timeless tidbits of wisdom.

An black-and-white outline of a Bob ross painting of a mountain valley

A black-and-white outline of a Bob Ross painting shows a house nestled among trees.

A black-and-white outline of a Bob Ross painting shows a farm scene.

And remember, even if you color outside the lines, it’s still a work of art. As Ross said, “We don’t make mistakes. We just have happy accidents.”

You can find The Bob Ross Coloring Book for about $14 on Amazon. Oh, and if you need even more Ross in your life, there’s now a Bob Ross wall calendar, too.

All images courtesy of Rizzoli.

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entertainment
8 Movies That Almost Starred Keanu Reeves
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Kevin Winter/Getty Images

He may not have the natural ease of Al Pacino, the classical training of Anthony Hopkins, the timeless cool of Jack Nicholson, or the raw versatility of Gary Oldman, but Keanu Reeves has been around long enough to have worked alongside each of those actors. Yet instead of Oscar nods, the actor whose first name means “cool breeze over the mountains” in Hawaiian has a handful of Razzie nominations.

While critical acclaim has mostly eluded Reeves during his 30-plus years in Hollywood, his movies have made nearly $2 billion at the box office. Whether because of his own choosiness or the decisions of studio powers-that-be, that tally could be much, much higher. To celebrate The Chosen One’s 53rd birthday, here are eight movies that almost starred Keanu Reeves.

1. X-MEN (2000)

In Hollywood’s version of the X-Men universe, Hugh Jackman is the definitive Wolverine. But Jackman himself was a last-minute replacement (for Dougray Scott) and other, bigger (in 2000) names were considered for the hirsute superhero—including Reeves. Ultimately, it was the studio that decided to go in a different direction, much to Reeves’ disappointment. “I always wanted to play Wolverine,” the actor told Moviefone in 2014. “But I didn't get that. And they have a great Wolverine now. I always wanted to play The Dark Knight. But I didn't get that one. They've had some great Batmans. So now I'm just enjoying them as an audience.”

2. PLATOON (1986)

For an action star, Reeves isn’t a huge fan of violence, which is why he passed on playing the lead in Oliver Stone’s Oscar-winning Vietnam classic. “Keanu turned it down because of the violence,” Stone told Entertainment Weekly in 2011. “He didn’t want to do violence.”

3. THE FLY II (1989)

Few people would likely mistake Reeves for the son of Jeff Goldblum, but producers were anxious to see him play the next generation of Goldblum’s insectile role in the sequel to The Fly. But Reeves wasn’t having any of it. Why? Simple: “I didn't like the script,” he told Movieline in 1990.

4. SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL (1997)

Speaking of sequels (and bad scripts): Reeves was ready to reprise his role as Jack Traven in Jan de Bont’s second go at the series … then he read it. “When I was offered Speed 2, Jan came to Chicago and so did Sandra, and they said, ‘You’ve got to do this,’” Reeves recalled to The Telegraph. “And I said, 'I read the script and I can’t. It’s called Speed, and it’s on a cruise ship.” (He's got a point.)

Even when the studio dangled a $12 million paycheck in front of him, Reeves said no. “I told [William Mechanic, then-head of Fox], ‘If I do this film, I will not come back up. You guys will send me to the bottom of the ocean and I will not make it back up again.’ I really felt like I was fighting for my life.”

5. HEAT (1995)

Reeves’ refusal to cave on Speed 2 didn’t sit well in Hollywood circles. And it didn't help that he also passed on playing Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer’s role) in Michael Mann’s Heat in order to spend a month playing Hamlet at Canada’s Manitoba Theatre Centre. From that point on, Reeves told The Telegraph that it’s been a struggle for him to book any studio movies. “That’s a good old Hollywood story! That was a whole, 'Hey, kid, this is what happens in Hollywood: I said no to the number two and I never worked with the studio again!’”

6. BOWFINGER (1999)

By the time Frank Oz’s Bowfinger rolled around, Eddie Murphy was pretty much the go-to guy for any dual role part, but the movie wasn’t always intended to play that way. Steve Martin, who both starred in and wrote the movie, had actually penned the part of Kit Ramsey for Reeves (whom he had worked with a decade earlier in Parenthood).

“When Steve gave me the script for Bowfinger, it wasn't written for Eddie Murphy,” producer Brian Grazer explained. “It was written for a white action star. It was written for Keanu Reeves, literally. I said, 'Why does it have to be an action star?' He said, 'That's the joke.' I said: 'What if it were Eddie Murphy, and Eddie Murphy played two characters? That could be really funny.' He said: 'You know, that'd be great—that'd be brilliant. Let's do that.' He processed it in about a minute, and he made a creative sea change.”

7. WATCHMEN (2009)

A year before Zack Snyder’s Watchmen hit theaters, Reeves confirmed to MTV what many had speculated: that he had turned down the chance to play Dr. Manhattan in the highly anticipated adaptation. But it wasn’t because of lack of interest on Reeves’ part; it just “didn't work out.” Still, he made it as far as a set visit: “They were shooting in Vancouver while we were filming so I went over to the set to say, 'hi.' They showed me some stuff and it looks amazing! I can’t wait. It’s going to be so killer, man!”

8. TROPIC THUNDER (2008)

By the time Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder made its way into theaters in the summer of 2008, the meta-comedy had been more than a decade in the making. So it’s understandable that the final product veered from Stiller’s original plan for the film, which included Reeves playing the role of Tugg Speedman (Stiller’s eventual part). Initially, Stiller had planned to cast himself as smarmy agent Rick Peck (Matthew McConaughey picked up the slack).

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