Chris Farley as Shrek and Other Lost Performances

I recently finished reading The Chris Farley Show "“ a biography of the late, great comedy star. The book features a fascinating rundown of Farley's life from growing up in Wisconsin to his days onstage in the Chicago improv scene to SNL and through his brief movie career, all told through painfully honest interviews with his family members, best friends and co-stars. Reading it only made me love and miss the genius that brought us Matt Foley the Motivational Speaker, Bennett Brauer and Tommy Callahan all the more.

One of the most interesting parts of the book for me were the few pages which discussed Farley's work as the original voice of the character Shrek. We all now know Mike Myers as the big, lovable green ogre. But most people don't know that the role was originally Farley's "“ and according to the book, his version was much different than the one we ended up seeing on screen. Plus, it's implied in the book that the character was designed to look like him.

Locked away somewhere in a vault in Hollywood are the audio recordings of Farley as Shrek.

I don't suspect we'll ever hear them, but man would I love to. There are so many cases like this "“ stars recast half-way through a movie, musicians who socked away a partially completed album, novels rumored to exist in the estate of deceased authors.

So, my question for you is this: What hidden pop culture gems would you like to get your hands on?

(For example, footage of Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly.)


Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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