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Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

5 People Who Became Famous By Singing Badly

Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Every once in a great while, a singer comes along who is so untalented, yet so willing to sing in public, that people buy records just to marvel at his or her awfulness. These "musicians" are actually selling laughs, and are even more effective if the audience isn't quite sure whether the artist is in on the joke.

Florence Foster Jenkins tells the story of one such artist. The movie stars Meryl Streep as a woman with a deep and abiding passion for music who couldn't carry a tune if it came with handles. Since it's in theaters today, let's start with her as we look at other infamously bad musicians.

These five acts have a few things in common: no stage fright, thick skin, and lasting fame. It takes guts and charm to pull off a career as a bad singer, but the rewards can be great.

1. FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS

Florence Foster Jenkins was born in 1868 and made recordings in the first half of the 20th century. She wanted to be an opera singer from an early age, but was discouraged by her parents and later by her husband. Yet she still pined for the stage, and after filing for a divorce and securing an inheritance from her father, she set out to build her career. She performed a handful of concerts in New York, Washington, and Newport, where the audience was filled with loyal friends who encouraged her to pursue her dreams, as well as curious music lovers who felt compelled to witness the carnage.

Jenkins could neither sing on key nor keep a rhythm, yet she loved performing, and her recitals included a number of elaborate costumes. Later called "The Diva of Din," she shrugged off laughter from the audience and less-than-stellar reviews, attributing them to jealousy. There is no evidence that Jenkins ever gave less than her best efforts. Many who knew the charming musician refused to discourage her as she led her deluded but happy life as a famous opera singer.

Jenkins avoided Carnegie Hall for most of her life, but finally booked it in October 1944 when she was 76 years old. Tickets sold out weeks before the show, and she was enshrined as the worst singer to ever play the venue. She died a month later, still oblivious to the mocking reality behind her fame.

Listen to Jenkins perform Mozart's "Queen of the Night" (if you can handle it).

2. MRS. MILLER

Elva Ruby Connes Miller was known to TV audiences simply as Mrs. Miller. She grabbed the attention of Baby Boomers and their parents with her appearances on The Tonight Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, Laugh-In, and other variety shows of the 1960s, but she began her career by singing gospel and children's songs, and then giving away the records. She was discovered by disc jockey Gary Owens, who put Miller's music on his radio show in 1960 to draw laughs. He'd later go on to become the announcer on Laugh-In.

Miller's first album. Mrs. Miller's Greatest Hits, was released in 1966 and sold 250,000 copies in three weeks. Even Miller was astonished by the reaction; she was also upset that her fame was a result of the poor quality of her singing, saying:

"I don't sing off-key and I don't sing off-rhythm. They got me to do so by waiting until I was tired and then making the record. Or they would cut the record before I could become familiar with the song. At first I didn't understand what was going on. But later I did, and I resented it. I don't like to be used."

However, money talks and Miller eventually got into the spirit of her act. She managed to stay in character while performing, as the unaware diva in the tradition of Florence Foster Jenkins. Miller was also a genuinely charming, ladylike rural character from Missouri who inspired respect as she sang for laughs. Her 1968 album Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing featured the grandmotherly woman offering a curious-looking plate of brownies on the cover and singing psychedelic '60s tunes. This endeared her to the hippie generation, but Miller always insisted she was not aware of the drug references.

Feeling betrayed, she left her recording label and tried to change her image to that of a conventional singer. That attempt failed. She retired in the 1970s, and died in 1997 at the age of 90, but you can still hear Mrs. Miller performing live with Jimmy Durante.

3. THE PORTSMOUTH SINFONIA

The Portsmouth Sinfonia was an orchestra formed in 1970 at England's Portsmouth School of Art. The original goal was to make the experience of musical performance open to those students who didn't have a background—or talent—in music. Those who played an instrument could join, but only if they switched to an instrument they weren't familiar with. In fact, members didn't even have to be students, and they were forbidden to play less than the best they could.

The band was an odd experiment that took off: They played concerts, then released an album, then played the Royal Albert Hall. The orchestra was led by several well-known guest conductors, the most illustrious regular member being Brian Eno, who went on to legendary fame as a member of Roxy Music and producer for David Bowie, U2, and more. Unfortunately or fortunately, the Sinfonia stopped performing in 1979. You can hear their recording "Classical Muddly" on YouTube.

4. WILLIAM HUNG

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William Hung found fame on the TV show American Idol in 2004. An engineering student at UC Berkeley at the time, Hung didn't make the cut for the competition, but his 2003 audition was featured in an episode dedicated to those who lacked the talent for the contest. His performance and his good-natured response to failure made him a sensation.

Hung was immediately invited to appear on various TV talk shows to discuss his experience—and sing. This led to a record deal from Koch Entertainment and three albums, plus appearances in sitcoms, movies, and advertisements. Hung also performed live at various sporting events. Despite a lack of singing talent, crowds loved him for his sincerity and humility. In April, Hung was invited to sing "She Bangs"—the song that made him infamous—on the American Idol finale.

5. WING

Wing Han Tsang, who records using only the name Wing, is a professional singer from New Zealand. Born in Hong Kong, Wing began singing in nursing homes soon after she immigrated to New Zealand. Wing's reviews compare her to immortals like Mrs. Miller and Jenkins, but her style is a bit more unconventional.

Wing became all the more famous when she was parodied on South Park; at one point you could even arrange for her to sing you a song over the phone for a nominal fee.Unfortunately, Wing retired from singing professionally in 2015. You can hear many of her performances online, such as her rendition of The Carpenters' "Close to You".

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8 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 3
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[Warning: There are lots of Stranger Things season two spoilers ahead.]

Stranger Things season two is in the books, and like we all hoped, it turned out to be a worthy follow-up to an addictive debut season. Now, though, we’re left with plenty of questions, mysteries, and theories to chew on as the wait for a third season begins. But for everything we don’t know about what the next year of Stranger Things will bring us (such as an actual release date), there are more than enough things we do know to keep those fan theories coming well into 2018. While the show hasn't been officially greenlit for a third season by Netflix yet, new details have already begun to trickle out. Here’s everything we know about Stranger Things season three so far.

1. THERE WILL BE ANOTHER TIME JUMP.

The third season of Stranger Things won’t pick up right where the second one left off. Like the show experienced between the first two seasons, there will be a time jump between seasons two and three as well. The reason is simple: the child actors are all growing up, and instead of having the kids look noticeably older without explanation for year three, the Duffer Brothers told The Hollywood Reporter:

“Our kids are aging. We can only write and produce the show so fast. They're going to be almost a year older by the time we start shooting season three. It provides certain challenges. You can't start right after season two ended. It forces you to do a time jump. But what I like is that it makes you evolve the show. It forces the show to evolve and change, because the kids are changing.”

2. THE IDEA IS TO BE SMALLER IN SCALE.

If the series’s second season was about expanding the Stranger Things mythology, the third season won't go bigger just for the sake of it, with the brothers even going so far as to say that it will be a more intimate story.

“It’s not necessarily going to be bigger in scale,” Matt Duffer said in an interview with IndieWire. “What I am really excited about is giving these characters an interesting journey to go on.”

Ross Duffer did stress, though, that as of early November, season three is basically “… Matt and me working with some writers and figuring out where it’s going to go.”

3. THE MIND FLAYER WILL BE BACK.

The second season ended on a bit of a foreboding note when it was revealed that the Mind Flayer was still in the Upside Down and was seen looming over the Hawkins school as the winter dance was going on. Though we know there will be a time jump at the start of next season, it’s clear that the monster will still have a big presence on the show.

Executive producer Dan Cohen told TV Guide: "There were other ways we could have ended beyond that, but I think that was a very strong, lyrical ending, and it really lets us decide to focus where we ultimately are going to want to go as we dive into Season 3."

What does the Mind Flayer’s presence mean for the new crop of episodes? Well, there will be plenty of fan theories to ponder between now and the season three premiere (whenever that may be).

4. PLENTY OF LEFTOVER SEASON TWO STORYLINES WILL BE IN SEASON THREE.

The Duffer Brothers had a lot of material for the latest season of the show—probably a bit too much. Talking to Vulture, Matt Duffer detailed a few details and plot points that had to be pushed to season three:

"Billy was supposed to have a bigger role. We ended up having so many characters it ended up, in a way, more teed up for season three than anything. There was a whole teen supernatural story line that just got booted because it was just too cluttered, you know? A lot of that’s just getting kicked into season three."

The good news is that he also told the site that this wealth of cut material could make the writing process for the third season much quicker.

5. THERE WILL BE MORE ERICA.

Stranger Things already had a roster of fan-favorite characters heading into season two, but newcomer Erica, Lucas’s little sister, may have overshadowed them all. Played by 11-year-old Priah Ferguson, Erica is equal parts expressive, snarky, and charismatic. And the Duffer Brothers couldn’t agree more, saying that there will be much more Erica next season.

“There will definitely be more Erica in Season 3,” Ross Duffer told Yahoo!. “That is the fun thing about the show—you discover stuff as you’re filming. We were able to integrate more of her in, but not as much you want because the story [was] already going. ‘We got to use more Erica’—that was one of the first things we said in the writers’ room.”

“I thought she’s very GIF-able, if that’s a word,” Matt Duffer added. “She was great.”

6. EXPECT KALI TO RETURN.

The season two episode “The Lost Sister” was a bit of an outlier for the series. It’s a standalone episode that focuses solely on the character Eleven, leaving the central plot and main cast of Hawkins behind. As well-received as Stranger Things season two was, this episode was a near-unanimous miss among fans and critics.

The episode did, however, introduce us to the character of Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), who has the ability to manipulate people’s minds with illusions she creates. Despite the reaction, the Duffers felt the episode was vital to Eleven’s development, and that Kali won’t be forgotten moving forward.

“It feels weird to me that we wouldn’t solve [Kali’s] storyline. I would say chances are very high she comes back,” Matt Duffer said at the Vulture Festival.

7. OTHER "NUMBERS" MIGHT SHOW UP.

We're already well acquainted with Eleven, and season two introduced us to Eight (a.k.a. Kali), and executive producer Shawn Levy heavily hinted to E! that there are probably more Hawkins Laboratory experiments on the horizon.

"I think we've clearly implied there are other numbers, and I can't imagine that the world will only ever know Eleven and Eight," Levy said.

8. THERE MIGHT NOT BE MANY SEASONS LEFT.

Don’t be in too much of a rush to find out everything about the next season of Stranger Things; there might not be many more left. The Duffer Brothers have said in the past that the plan is to do four seasons and end it. However, Levy gave fans a glimmer of hope that things may go on a little while longer—just by a bit, though.

“Hearts were heard breaking in Netflix headquarters when the Brothers made four seasons sound like an official end, and I was suddenly getting phone calls from our actors’ agents,” Levy told Entertainment Weekly. “The truth is we’re definitely going four seasons and there’s very much the possibility of a fifth. Beyond that, it becomes I think very unlikely.”

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20 Random Facts About Shopping
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Shopping on Black Friday—or, really, any time during the holiday season—is a good news/bad news kind of endeavor. The good news? The deals are killer! The bad news? So are the lines. If you find yourself standing behind 200 other people who braved the crowds and sacrificed sleep in order to hit the stores early today, here's one way to pass the time: check out these fascinating facts about shopping through the ages.

1. The oldest customer service complaint was written on a clay cuneiform tablet in Mesopotamia 4000 years ago. (In it, a customer named Nanni complains that he was sold inferior copper ingots.)

2. Before battles, some Roman gladiators read product endorsements. The makers of the film Gladiator planned to show this, but they nixed the idea out of fear that audiences wouldn’t believe it.

3. Like casinos, shopping malls are intentionally designed to make people lose track of time, removing clocks and windows to prevent views of the outside world. This kind of “scripted disorientation” has a name: It’s called the Gruen Transfer.

4. According to a study in Social Influence, people who shopped at or stood near luxury stores were less likely to help people in need.

5. A shopper who first purchases something on his or her shopping list is more likely to buy unrelated items later as a kind of reward.

6. On the Pacific island of Vanuatu, some villages still use pigs and seashells as currency. In fact, the indigenous bank there uses a unit of currency called the Livatu. Its value is equivalent to a boar’s tusk. 

7. Sears used to sell build-your-own homes in its mail order catalogs.

8. The first shopping catalog appeared way back in the 1400s, when an Italian publisher named Aldus Manutius compiled a handprinted catalog of the books that he produced for sale and passed it out at town fairs.

9. The first product ever sold by mail order? Welsh flannel.

10. The first shopping cart was a folding chair with a basket on the seat and wheels on the legs.

11. In the late 1800s in Corinne, Utah, you could buy legal divorce papers from a vending machine for $2.50.

12. Some of the oldest known writing in the world includes a 5000-year-old receipt inscribed on a clay tablet. (It was for clothing that was sent by boat from Ancient Mesopotamia to Dilmun, or current day Bahrain.)

13. Beginning in 112 CE, Emperor Trajan began construction on the largest of Rome's imperial forums, which housed a variety of shops and services and two libraries. Today, Trajan’s Market is regarded as the oldest shopping mall in the world.

14. The Chinese invented paper money. For a time, there was a warning written right on the currency that all counterfeiters would be decapitated.

15. Halle Berry was named after Cleveland, Ohio's Halle Building, which was home to the Halle Brothers department store.

16. At Boston University, students can sign up for a class on the history of shopping. (Technically, it’s called “The Modern American Consumer”)

17. Barbra Streisand had a mini-mall installed in her basement. “Instead of just storing my things in the basement, I can make a street of shops and display them,” she told Harper's Bazaar. (There are photos of it here.)

18. Shopping online is not necessarily greener. A 2016 study at the University of Delaware concluded that “home shopping has a greater impact on the transportation sector than the public might suspect.”

19. Don’t want to waste too much money shopping? Go to the mall in high heels. A 2013 Brigham Young University study discovered that shoppers in high heels made more balanced buying decisions while balancing in pumps.

20. Cyber Monday is not the biggest day for online shopping. The title belongs to November 11, or Singles Day, a holiday in China that encourages singles to send themselves gifts. According to Fortune, this year's event smashed all previous records with more than $38 million in sales.

A heaping handful of these facts came from John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, and James Harkin's delightful book, 1,234 Quite Interesting Facts to Leave You Speechless.

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