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Unsolved Mysteries: More Than Just a Creepy Theme Song

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Unsolved Mysteries was ahead of its time. It was one of the first reality television shows, and it was also interactive - viewers had the chance to call in with tips to help solve real-life mysteries. The show introduced host Robert Stack to a whole new generation of fans, caused more than one sleepless night with its creepy theme song, helped put lots of crooks behind bars, and reunited about 100 “Lost Loves” that had been disconnected by fate and time. So come along as we dig a little deeper and try to uncover the true story behind Unsolved Mysteries.

A History of Mystery

Most people remember long-time host Robert Stack walking through the fog, often illuminated by a car's headlights, armed with his signature trench coat and unmistakable raspy voice. But Stack was not the only person to ever host the show. In fact, he wasn't even the first.

The first host of Unsolved Mysteries was none other than Raymond Burr, star of the classic TV series Perry Mason. The first episode was only slated to be a one-hour special broadcast on NBC on January 20, 1987. But because it was such a huge hit, the network ordered additional specials. When Burr demanded too much money to return, the producers tapped Karl Marlden, a well-known film and television actor, whose role as a grizzled police lieutenant on the popular 1970s show, The Streets of San Francisco, helped solidify UM's crime-solving theme. After two more specials in 1987, Malden also asked for a bigger paycheck, and he was replaced by another TV cop, Robert Stack, who played Elliott Ness on The Untouchables. Stack's authoritative voice and stern demeanor became synonymous with the show, and to many people, it came to define his career.

But even Stack shared the stage during his tenure. From 1995-1997, Keely Shaye Smith, who would later marry James Bond (Pierce Brosnan), became an on-air correspondent for the show. After it was canceled, CBS picked it up in 1997. They added Virginia Madsen (pictured with Stack), future Oscar nominee for her role in Sideways, as a co-host to try to boost ratings. However, the show was canceled again in 1999, only to be resurrected by The Lifetime Network in 2001, this time with Stack as the lone host. He remained the voice of Unsolved Mysteries until it was once again canceled in 2002.

Stack passed away in 2003 at the age of 84, so when the show was brought back again in 2008 by SPIKE TV, Dennis Farina — best-known for playing mobsters and police officers in films like Get Shorty and Out of Sight — was brought on board. With Farina in tow, Unsolved Mysteries has is part of the Lifetime Network's daily afternoon line-up, proving that you just can't keep a good show down. These new episodes are little more than re-cut segments from the Stack-era with new voice overs and updated information on the cases shown.

That Song

For many fans, the theme song was either their favorite or the most terrifying part of the show. The music was composed and performed by Michael Boyd and Gary Remal Malkin, who also wrote the score for the 1984 classic cheese film, Breakin', which introduced much of America to breakdancing. The theme song won back-to-back American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) Film and Television Music Awards for Top TV Series in both 1992 and 1993. If you'd like to relive the memories (or maybe prevent yourself from falling asleep tonight), check out the theme song on YouTube:

Before They Were Stars

One of the highlights of Unsolved Mysteries was the dramatic reenactments. Many people wonder if any of the actors involved were ever wrongfully accused of being the actual wanted fugitive. While there's no evidence this ever happened, that doesn't mean the actors never got noticed. In fact, a handful of people who appeared on the show went on to bigger and better things.

One such actress is Stephnie Weir, who played a nondescript resident at a hotel in a May 1992 episode. In 2000, Weir joined MADtv and stayed there for six seasons, becoming one of the longest-running members of the cast. Another funny lady, Cheryl Hines, who would later star as Larry David's wife on Curb Your Enthusiasm, played a nurse in a 1997 episode. Fans of Lost will recognize a familiar face if they catch the 1991 segment on the murder of Su-Ya Kim. A friend of the victim's husband is played by Daniel Dae Kim, the actor that played Jin on the island, and is currently co-starring on the reboot of Hawaii Five-O. Perhaps the biggest name to have been featured on UM, though, is heartthrob Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey appeared in a 1992 episode as Larry Dickens, a man murdered in cold blood by Edward Howard Bell in 1978. As a precursor to the rest of his career (and personal life for that matter), McConaughey runs around with his shirt unbuttoned in the recreation. (Skip to 3:30 below.)

Not-So-Unsolved Mysteries

According to the official Unsolved Mysteries website, 47% of the wanted fugitive cases featured on the show have been solved thanks to tips reported by viewers. During that time, some pretty amazing stories have centered around the show and its successes.

The first case closed thanks to Unsolved Mysteries was the apprehension of Robert Weeks. Weeks was suspected of murdering three women, including his wife Patricia, and had become a fugitive before a solid case could be made against him. The night his segment aired, the woman Weeks was currently dating while living under an assumed name, called the 800 number to report him. The next day, Weeks was picked up and later convicted of all three murders.
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Cheryl Holland holds the record for the shortest time from her television debut until her capture. Holland was accused of killing her aunt and uncle in Tennessee, and stealing money from them to partially pay off her debt to drug dealers. After the segment appeared on TV, she was arrested in Texas just 45 minutes later thanks to a viewer who called into the show.
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Jerry Strickland and Missy Mundy were wanted for armed robbery, kidnapping and murder when their segment aired in February 1988. They watched the episode they were featured on at home—Unsolved Mysteries was one of Jerry's favorite shows. Afterwards, the couple went over to a friend's house and waited patiently until the police tracked them down the next morning.
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Louis Carlucci has the honor of having been featured on the show twice. The first time was because he was on the run for committing fraud. After he got caught thanks to viewer tips, he jumped bail and disappeared again. UM ran another segment a year later and, once again, thanks to viewer tips, he was apprehended shortly afterwards.
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A friend told Alexander Graham he was featured on America's Most Wanted earlier that night. When Graham confirmed that Most Wanted hadn't even been on, he figured the person was just fooling around. The next morning, he went into work as usual, but the federal authorities were waiting for him. Graham, whose real name was Gregory Barker, was wanted in connection with as many as 16 murders. A woman at the office building where he worked recognized him from the episode of Unsolved Mysteries (not America's Most Wanted) that she'd watched the night before, and called-into the show.
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Perhaps the most astonishing story on Unsolved Mysteries was their 150th solved case – the case of Tony Miller. Miller had been eating at a restaurant with friends in Toledo, OH, in December 1983. Moments after they left, a man entered the restaurant and robbed it at gunpoint, then, during his escape, shot and wounded a police officer. The employees fingered Miller as the crook and the prosecution found a witness who said he saw a man who looked like Miller leaving the scene. A month later, police arrested another man, Joseph Clark, for an unrelated crime, who confessed to the robbery. But when pressed for details, he recanted his story. Instead, Miller was arrested, tried, and sentenced to serve 20 - 40 years in prison for the crime.

Eight years later, Miller was featured on Final Appeal: From the Files of Unsolved Mysteries, a spin-off attempt that lasted only six episodes in 1992. The short-lived show, also hosted by Stack, focused on people who claimed to have been wrongly convicted. Among the audience watching that night was the witness for the prosecution who said he saw Miller running from the scene. During the program, mug shots of Miller and Clark were shown side-by-side, giving the witness the first opportunity he'd ever had to see the two men together. He called the 800 number to say that his testimony had been wrong – the man he saw running away that night was actually Joseph Clark. Because the witness had changed his story, Tony Miller was released from jail just a few weeks later – almost nine years after he was convicted of a crime he didn't commit.
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What were some of your favorite memories of Unsolved Mysteries?? Did the theme music keep you awake at night? Did you ever call into the show with a hot tip? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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11 Popular Quotes Commonly Misattributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald
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F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a lot of famous lines, from musings on failure in Tender is the Night to “so we beat on, boats against the current” from The Great Gatsby. Yet even with a seemingly never-ending well of words and beautiful quotations, many popular idioms and phrases are wrongly attributed to the famous Jazz Age author, who was born on this day in 1896. Here are 11 popular phrases that are often misattributed to Fitzgerald. (You may need to update your Pinterest boards.)

1. “WRITE DRUNK, EDIT SOBER.”

This quote is often attributed to either Fitzgerald or his contemporary, Ernest Hemingway, who died in 1961. There is no evidence in the collected works of either writer to support that attribution; the idea was first associated with Fitzgerald in a 1996 Associated Press story, and later in Stephen Fry’s memoir More Fool Me. In actuality, humorist Peter De Vries coined an early version of the phrase in a 1964 novel titled Reuben, Reuben.

2. “FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE OR, IN MY CASE, TOO EARLY TO BE WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE.”

It’s easy to see where the mistake could be made regarding this quote: Fitzgerald wrote the short story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in 1922 for Collier's Magazine, and it was adapted into a movie of the same name, directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, in 2008. Eric Roth wrote the screenplay, in which that quotation appears.

3. “OUR LIVES ARE DEFINED BY OPPORTUNITIES, EVEN THE ONES WE MISS.”

This is a similar case to the previous quotation; this quote is attributed to Benjamin Button’s character in the film adaptation. It’s found in the script, but not in the original short story.

4. “YOU’LL UNDERSTAND WHY STORMS ARE NAMED AFTER PEOPLE.”

There is no evidence that Fitzgerald penned this line in any of his known works. In this Pinterest pin, it is attributed to his novel The Beautiful and Damned. However, nothing like that appears in the book; additionally, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Association, although there were a few storms named after saints, and an Australian meteorologist was giving storms names in the 19th century, the practice didn’t become widespread until after 1941. Fitzgerald died in 1940.

5. “A SENTIMENTAL PERSON THINKS THINGS WILL LAST. A ROMANTIC PERSON HAS A DESPERATE CONFIDENCE THAT THEY WON’T.”

This exact quote does not appear in Fitzgerald’s work—though a version of it does, in his 1920 novel This Side of Paradise:

“No, I’m romantic—a sentimental person thinks things will last—a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t. Sentiment is emotional.” The incorrect version is widely circulated and requoted.

6. “IT’S A FUNNY THING ABOUT COMING HOME. NOTHING CHANGES. EVERYTHING LOOKS THE SAME, FEELS THE SAME, EVEN SMELLS THE SAME. YOU REALIZE WHAT’S CHANGED IS YOU.”

This quote also appears in the 2008 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button script, but not in the original short story.

7. “GREAT BOOKS WRITE THEMSELVES; ONLY BAD BOOKS HAVE TO BE WRITTEN.”

There is no evidence of this quote in any of Fitzgerald’s writings; it mostly seems to circulate on websites like qotd.org, quotefancy.com and azquotes.com with no clarification as to where it originated.

8. “SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL, BUT NOT LIKE THOSE GIRLS IN THE MAGAZINES. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR THE WAY SHE THOUGHT. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR THE SPARKLE IN HER EYES WHEN SHE TALKED ABOUT SOMETHING SHE LOVED. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR HER ABILITY TO MAKE OTHER PEOPLE SMILE, EVEN IF SHE WAS SAD. NO, SHE WASN’T BEAUTIFUL FOR SOMETHING AS TEMPORARY AS HER LOOKS. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL, DEEP DOWN TO HER SOUL.”

This quote may have originated in a memoir/advice book published in 2011 by Natalie Newman titled Butterflies and Bullshit, where it appears in its entirety. It was attributed to Fitzgerald in a January 2015 Thought Catalog article, and was quoted as written by an unknown source in Hello, Beauty Full: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You by Elisa Morgan, published in September 2015. However, there’s no evidence that Fitzgerald said or wrote anything like it.

9. “AND IN THE END, WE WERE ALL JUST HUMANS, DRUNK ON THE IDEA THAT LOVE, ONLY LOVE, COULD HEAL OUR BROKENNESS.”

Christopher Poindexter, the successful Instagram poet, wrote this as part of a cycle of poems called “the blooming of madness” in 2013. After a Twitter account called @SirJayGatsby tweeted the phrase with no attribution, it went viral as being attributed to Fitzgerald. Poindexter has addressed its origin on several occasions.

10. “YOU NEED CHAOS IN YOUR SOUL TO GIVE BIRTH TO A DANCING STAR.”

This poetic phrase is actually derived from the work of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who died in 1900, just four years after Fitzgerald was born in 1896. In his book Thus Spake ZarathustraNietzsche wrote the phrase, “One must have chaos within to enable one to give birth to a dancing star.” Over time, it’s been truncated and modernized into the currently popular version, which was included in the 2009 book You Majored in What?: Designing Your Path from College to Career by Katharine Brooks.

11. “FOR THE GIRLS WITH MESSY HAIR AND THIRSTY HEARTS.”

This quote is the dedication in Jodi Lynn Anderson’s book Tiger Lily, a reimagining of the classic story of Peter Pan. While it is often attributed to Anderson, many Tumblr pages and online posts cite Fitzgerald as its author.

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Fumbled: The Story of the United States Football League
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There were supposed to be 44 players marching to the field when the visiting Los Angeles Express played their final regular season game against the Orlando Renegades in June 1985.

Thirty-six of them showed up. The team couldn’t afford more.

“We didn’t even have money for tape,” Express quarterback Steve Young said in 1986. “Or ice.” The squad was so poor that Young played fullback during the game. They only had one, and he was injured.

Other teams had ridden school buses to practice, driven three hours for “home games,” or shared dressing room space with the local rodeo. In August 1986, the cash-strapped United States Football League called off the coming season. The league itself would soon vaporize entirely after gambling its future on an antitrust lawsuit against the National Football League. The USFL argued the NFL was monopolizing television time; the NFL countered that the USFL—once seen as a promising upstart—was being victimized by its own reckless expansion and the wild spending of team owners like Donald Trump.

They were both right.

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Spring football. That was David Dixon’s pitch. The New Orleans businessman and football advocate—he helped get the Saints in his state—was a fan of college ball and noticed that spring scrimmages at Tulane University led to a little more excitement in the air. With a fiscally responsible salary cap in place and a 12-team roster, he figured his idea could be profitable. Market research agreed: a hired broadcast research firm asserted 76 percent of fans would watch what Dixon had planned.

He had no intention of grappling with the NFL for viewers. That league’s season aired from September through January, leaving a football drought March through July. And in 1982, a players’ strike led to a shortened NFL season, making the idea of an alternative even more appealing to networks. Along with investors for each team region, Dixon got ABC and the recently-formed ESPN signed to broadcast deals worth a combined $35 million over two years.

When the Chicago Blitz faced the Washington Federals on the USFL’s opening day March 6, 1983, over 39,000 fans braved rain at RFK Stadium in Washington to see it. The Federals lost 28-7, foreshadowing their overall performance as one of the league’s worst. Owner Berl Bernhard would later complain the team played like “untrained gerbils.”

Anything more coordinated might have been too expensive. The USFL had instituted a strict $1.8 million salary cap that first year to avoid franchise overspending, but there were allowances made so each team could grab one or two standout rookies. In 1983, the big acquisition was Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, who opted out of his senior year at Georgia to turn pro. Walker signed with the New Jersey Generals in a three-year, $5 million deal.

Jim Kelly and Steve Young followed. Stan White left the Detroit Lions. Marcus Dupree left college. The rosters were built up from scratch using NFL cast-offs or prospects from nearby colleges, where teams had rights to “territorial” drafts.

To draw a line in the sand, the USFL had advertising play up the differences between the NFL’s product and their own. Their slogan, “When Football Was Fun,” was a swipe at the NFL’s increasingly draconian rules regarding players having any personality. They also advised teams to run a series of marketable halftime attractions. The Denver Gold once offered a money-back guarantee for attendees who weren’t satisfied. During one Houston Gamblers game, boxer George Foreman officiated a wedding. Cars were given away at Tampa Bay Bandits games. The NFL, the upstart argued, stood for the No Fun League.

For a while, it appeared to be working. The Panthers, which had invaded the city occupied by the Detroit Lions, averaged 60,000 fans per game, higher than their NFL counterparts. ABC was pleased with steady ratings. The league was still conservative in their spending.

That would change—many would argue for the worse—with the arrival of Donald Trump.

Despite Walker’s abilities on the field, his New Jersey Generals ended the inaugural 1983 season at 6-12, one of the worst records in the league. The excitement having worn off, owner J. Walter Duncan decided to sell the team to real estate investor Trump for a reported $5-9 million.

A fixture of New York media who was putting the finishing touches on Trump Tower, Trump introduced two extremes to the USFL. His presence gave the league far more press attention than it had ever received, but his bombastic approach to business guaranteed he wouldn’t be satisfied with an informal salary cap. Trump spent and spent some more, recruiting players to improve the Generals. Another Heisman winner, quarterback Doug Flutie, was signed to a five-year, $7 million contract, the largest in pro football at the time. Trump even pursued Lawrence Taylor, then a player for the New York Giants, who signed a contract saying that, after his Giants contract expired, he’d join Trump’s team. The Giants wound up buying out the Taylor/Trump contract for $750,000 and quadrupled Taylor’s salary, and Trump wound up with pages of publicity.

Trump’s approach was effective: the Generals improved to 14-4 in their sophomore season. But it also had a domino effect. In order to compete with the elevated bar of talent, other team owners began spending more, too. In a race to defray costs, the USFL approved six expansion teams that paid a buy-in of $6 million each to the league.

It did little to patch the seams. Teams were so cash-strapped that simple amenities became luxuries. The Michigan Panthers dined on burnt spaghetti and took yellow school buses to training camp; players would race to cash checks knowing the last in line stood a chance of having one bounce. When losses became too great, teams began to merge with one another: The Washington Federals became the Orlando Renegades. By the 1985 season, the USFL was down to 14 teams. And because the ABC contract required the league to have teams in certain top TV markets, ABC started withholding checks.

Trump was unmoved. Since taking over the Generals, he had been petitioning behind the scenes for the other owners to pursue a shift to a fall season, where they would compete with the NFL head on. A few owners countered that fans had already voiced their preference for a spring schedule. Some thought it would be tantamount to league suicide.

Trump continued to push. By the end of the 1984 season, he had swayed opinion enough for the USFL to plan on one final spring block in 1985 before making the move to fall in 1986.

In order to make that transition, they would have to win a massive lawsuit against the NFL.

In the mid-1980s, three major networks meant that three major broadcast contracts would be up for grabs—and the NFL owned all three. To Trump and the USFL, this constituted a monopoly. They filed suit in October 1984. By the time it went to trial in May 1986, the league had shrunk from 18 teams to 14, hadn’t hosted a game since July 1985, kept only threadbare rosters, and was losing what existing television deals it had by migrating to smaller markets (a major part of the NFL’s case was that the real reason for the lawsuit, and the moves to smaller markets, was to make the league an attractive takeover prospect for the NFL). The ruling—which could have forced the NFL to drop one of the three network deals—would effectively become the deciding factor of whether the USFL would continue operations.

They came close. A New York jury deliberated for 31 hours over five days. After the verdict, jurors told press that half believed the NFL was guilty of being a monopoly and were prepared to offer the USFL up to $300 million in damages; the other half thought the USFL had been crippled by its own irresponsible expansion efforts. Neither side would budge.

To avoid a hung jury, it was decided they would find in favor of the USFL but only award damages in the amount of $1. One juror told the Los Angeles Times that she thought it would be an indication for the judge to calculate proper damages.

He didn’t. The USFL was awarded treble damages for $3 in total, an amount that grew slightly with interest after time for appeal. The NFL sent them a payment of $3.76. (Less famously, the NFL was also ordered to pay $5.5 million in legal fees.)

Rudy Shiffer, vice-president of the Memphis Showboats, summed up the USFL's fate shortly after the ruling was handed down. “We’re dead,” he said.

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