The Quick 10: Happy Birthday, Oprah!

Yes "“ the world's most powerful woman (according to some reports, anyway) is celebrating the big 5-6 today. Even if you're not a big fan, you have to admit, the woman's done pretty well herself. Oprah hasn't kept too many secrets about herself over the years, so I'm avoiding the big shockers that she has revealed on air "“ the child she had at 14, the sex abuse she suffered at the hands of relatives. These are just a few fun facts about O.

oprah and ebert1. If things had been just a little bit different, she could have been Oprah Ebert. Doesn't have a great ring to it, does it? The talk show host and the film critic went on a few dates in the "˜80s before deciding they worked better as friends. It's Ebert who convinced Oprah she should syndicate her talk show, though. During a date at the Hamburger Hamlet ("My treat," Ebert said) she asked his advice. He told her what he was making to do his syndicated show, then told her to double it, since she wouldn't be using a co-host, then told her to double it again, because her show would be an hour instead of 30 minutes, then told her to multiply that by five since she would be on all week, then told her to double everything because her ratings would be better than his. That's when Oprah decided to syndicate.

2. You've probably heard the story that Oprah's name was supposed to be "Orpah" after a character in the Book of Ruth, but it was spelled wrong on her birth certificate, and so she became Oprah. Well, that's not entirely true. According to Oprah herself, her birth certificate really does say "Orpah," but no one could pronounce it. Somehow the "R" and the "P" always got switched, and eventually "Oprah" was just easier.

3. Even Oprah's theme song boasts a rich history. Musical heavyweights who have composed lyrics or music for her opening tune include Paul Simon, Quincy Jones and Patti LaBelle. In 1999, Oprah took voice lessons so she could sing her own theme song, "Run On." She made a music video for the song as well.

4. Only one author has ever turned down the opportunity for his book to be featured as one of Oprah's Book Club books "“ Jonathan Franzen. Oprah chose Franzen's novel The Corrections to be featured in 2001, and initially he accepted. Then he decided that having Oprah's logo on his cover might alienate him from a male audience and rather insulted the intelligence of the people who read the books featured in her club by saying, "It's a hard book for that audience." Ouch.

pageant5. She won the Miss Fire Prevention Contest when she was 17. She claims she was the only African-American in a pageant full of fair-skinned girls with auburn hair, so she wasn't really banking on winning. When they got to the Q&A portion of the contest, she wasn't really concerned about giving the cliché "world peace" answer. She responded to the question, "What would you do with a million dollars?" by saying, "I would be a spendin' fool. I'm not quite sure what I would spend it on, but I would spend, spend, spend. Spendin' fool." Apparently the judges liked her humor and candor, because Oprah won. And now she has a million dollars many times over.

6. But not all critically-acclaimed authors shun the power of Oprah: in 2007, she was granted the first-ever onscreen interview with the notoriously private Cormac McCarthy when she chose The Road as one of her Book Club books.

7. Oprah's idea of heaven? "A great big baked potato and someone to share it with."

8. When Oprah opened her own studio, she was only the third woman in history to do so. The two before were Mary Pickford and Lucille Ball, so it had been quite a while since a woman had the pull and capital to do so.

regiment9. The Oprah studio might be haunted. In the early 1900s, the land her studio complex in Chicago occupies today obviously wasn't a television studio "“ it was Chicago's Second Regiment Armory. When the SS Eastland overturned in the Chicago River in 1915, nearly 850 people died. The Armory was turned into a makeshift morgue where the hundreds of recovered bodies were brought for identification. These days, employees of Harpo Studios report seeing an apparition they call "The Gray Lady" and hearing phantom laughter at night.

10. The first-ever "The Oprah Winfrey Show" was called "How to Marry the Man or Woman of Your Choice." Ironic, considering the fact that she says she and longtime boyfriend Stedman Graham will never marry, despite dating since 1986. Although they were once engaged, they later decided that they would rather have a "spiritual union" and that a traditional marriage would never work with the craziness of their lives.

Will you be devastated when Oprah goes off the air next year? Or will you not even notice? I'm in the latter category "“ although I'm very impressed with Miss O as a businesswoman and a person, I've never really gotten into her show.

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.



More from mental floss studios