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The Stories of 10 People Featured on Historically Bad Album Covers

Bargain bin recording artists are people, too. In the interest of balanced reporting, I hereby submit to you the very human stories behind some of those infamous photos.

1. I Love My Life – Jim Post

Ten years before the above album was released, Jim Post had a Top 10 hit with his then-wife, Cathy. Recording as the folk duo Friend and Lover, "Reach Out of the Darkness" became something of an anthem for the flower power movement with its "I think it's so groovy now, that people are finally getting together" chorus.

In recent years, Jim has published a series of successful children's books and also puts that impressive 'stache to good use by touring the country in a one-man show as Mark Twain.

2. Julie's Sixteenth Birthday – John Bult

A girl's Sweet Sixteen should be special, but it looks like poor Julie received some bad news instead of a new car. I'm guessing Pop is reassuring her that everything will be OK. "Just tell me the boy's name, and I'll get my shotgun and Ma will rustle up the preacher..."

John Bult hails from Lake Charles, Louisiana, and once performed on the legendary Louisiana Hayride. He's a house painter by trade these days, although he still loves to sing and brings his guitar to crawfish boils to entertain family and friends. By all accounts he's just one all-around good ol' devoted family guy (he and his long-time wife, an Extension Agent with Louisiana State University, have two grown children, and neither one is named "Julie") who has a million stories to tell and will do so with minimal prompting.

3. Live at the Open Face Sandwich Club – Eddie Mack

Eddie Mack has a bona fide show business pedigree; his father was Charlie Mack, one half of the very successful vaudevillian comedy team "Moran and Mack, the Two Black Crows." (Yes, it was a blackface act, but in the 1920s that sort of thing still passed as entertainment.) When Eddie was four years old he was standing backstage one afternoon during auditions for a Broadway show. A man ambled up behind him, placed his hands on young Eddie's shoulders, and asked Charlie, "So, who is this brat?" Eddie was offended by the "brat" remark and kicked the man, who happened to be W.C. Fields, in the shin. As a result, even when Eddie was approaching adulthood, W.C. Fields always referred to him as "Charlie Mack's Brat."

Eddie grew up to be a talented pianist, singer, and actor. He was married and divorced six times. (The beauty perched on the piano was married to him for a brief period – Eddie was old-fashioned and didn't believe in "shacking up.") In 1969 he was on stage in Toronto as a member of the touring company of There's a Girl in My Soup (starring Don Ameche) when his throat started hemorrhaging during a song. He was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with throat cancer. Greasepaint was in his blood, though, so even though he couldn't speak while recuperating from surgery and radiation, he got a job leading the orchestra on a cruise ship and communicated with the musicians via gestures and a Magic Slate.

4. Push Push – Herbie Mann

A sweaty, nude man holding a flute (the classic phallic instrument) on the cover of a record entitled Push Push... You don't have to be Sigmund Freud to figure out that this is, as NPR's Jazz Profiles described it in Mr. Mann's obituary, a "sexually charged album." When Mann was a youngster growing up in 1930s Brooklyn, he loved rhythm and wanted to be a drummer. Drum kits were (and still are) expensive, so his mother bought him a clarinet instead. He developed an interest in jazz and learned to play several other instruments, finally settling on the flute because there was a surplus of clarinet and saxophone players vying for the limited amount of openings in professional jazz bands. Mann was known in the music industry for always being at least one step ahead of the current trend. He traveled the globe in search of inspiration and released a series of albums that were influenced by Afro-Cuban rhythms, Yiddish music, Brazilian bossa nova, and straight-ahead R&B. Sadly, Mann lost his battle with prostate cancer in 2003.

5. By Request Only – Ken

There are certain times when one feels a twinge of guilt for poking fun at some anonymous unsuspecting mook on the internet. One of those times is when said mook is found to be alive and well and aware of his infamy. Such is the case with Ken Snyder, a devout Christian (currently living in Iowa) who once upon a time found that he was best able to express his faith via song. Ken traveled the country, performing his original tunes and spreading The Word. So many people asked for a recording of his songs that he went into a South Carolina studio in 1976 and cut By Request Only. The album wasn't originally available in record stores; he carried them in his car and fans had to purchase them directly from Ken after his shows (he, that's how MC Hammer got his start!).

When Ken was contacted by a curious album owner a few years ago, he admitted that he knew he'd been voted "worst album cover" some place on the internet, but he was truly taken aback at just how many web pages had picked up on the Ken meme. And he was downright dumbfounded to learn that a copy of By Request Only had sold for $135.50 on eBay in 2007.

(In the more recent photo at left, Ken is on the far right.)

6. Something Special – Jeff Steinberg

Something Special was released in 1974, a time when folks with disabilities were more often described as "crippled" rather than as a person with "special needs." Jeff Steinberg was born with no arms and malformed legs. He spent most of his childhood first at a Shriner's Hospital and then at The Good Shepherd Home for the Physically Handicapped. His birth mother was Jewish, but Steinberg converted to Christianity after being fostered by a local Christian couple. The "Tiny Giant" (he stands 4'6") and his wife travel the world ministering through humor, scripture, and song, urging people to "Quit focusing on the handicap and start appreciating the Gift."

7. Reborn – Orion

Once upon a time, Georgia-based writer Gail Brewer-Giorgio concocted a story about a popular Southern rock and roll singer named Orion Eckley Darnell. Orion became so famous that his fans referred to him as "The King." Sadly, Orion eventually felt trapped by his success and staged his own death, complete with a wax figure in his likeness and an elaborate funeral. Elvis Presley died in August 1977 and shortly afterward Brewer-Giorgio's story was published. It didn't take fans and conspiracy theorists very long to decide that she was telling the true story of the King, and that the real Elvis was alive somewhere. A producer named Shelby Singleton sensed the opportunity and found a singer named Jimmy Ellis whose voice and style were nearly identical to Presley. Singleton dyed Ellis' hair black and had him grow some sideburns, but there was no hiding the fact that his face didn't look anything like Elvis'. Shelby had a brainstorm – have Ellis perform while wearing a mask. Not only that, but have him perform under the name "Orion," just like the guy in that book.

Ellis wasn't wild about having to perform incognito, but he went along with it and achieved an amazing level of success, considering his whole career was based on keeping fans guessing as to whether or not he was really Elvis Presley. His voice was so similar to Presley's that RCA almost sued Singleton; they thought he'd unearthed some pirated unreleased Elvis tracks. Orion recorded nine albums in three years and played to sold-out crowds in medium-sized venues. His career ended just that quickly, though, when he ripped off his mask onstage in a fit of anger during a performance in 1981.

A tragic postscript to the Orion story: Jimmy Ellis and his wife were shot to death in 1998 when the pawn shop they owned was robbed by armed bandits.

8. Joyce

Joyce Drake is a devout Christian woman who lives in Sealy, Texas. Her father, the late Reverend Billy Yeats, was an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God for 60 years during which time he pastored at seven different churches. Likewise, Joyce's husband Clyde was a long-time pastor at the First Assembly of God Church, where Joyce often played piano and sang during his services. It is unclear whether Rev. Clyde is still preaching regular Sunday worship, but the Sealy-area obituaries indicate that he's been in high demand as an officiant for local funeral services in recent years. As for Joyce, well, I did find a telephone number for her but I couldn't bring myself to interrupt her while she's probably busy delivering Meals on Wheels and reading to the blind just to quiz her about an unflattering album cover photo.

9. Por Primera Vez (For the First Time) – Tino

Constantino Fernández Fernández, known to his fans as Tino, was one of many hopefuls who answered a 1979 ad in a Barcelona newspaper looking for pre-teens to be part of a pop group that Belter Records was assembling. Tino made the final cut and became the "red" member of Parchís; the band's name meant "Parcheesi" in Spanish and each member was assigned a different color to represent the tokens in the traditional board game. Parchís was very successful in Spain for two years (one of their biggest hits was a Spanish rendition of the Village People's "In the Navy") but by 1983 they were overshadowed by Latin-American boy band sensation Menudo. Tino left the group that same year at age 16 and launched a short-lived solo career aimed at capitalizing on his heartthrob status. Sadly, he later lost that provocatively positioned left arm in an automobile accident while driving in Buenos Aires.

10. Liebe Mutter (Dear Mother)... – Heino

"A Bouquet That Never Wilts" is German singer Heino's personal Valentine to dear ol' Mom. The cover photo just radiates familial affection, doesn't it? You can almost hear his mother murmuring, "Heino, my son, you are beautiful and angular and you make my uterus implode with affection" as she cuddles him.

Heino was born Heinz Georg Kramm in Dusseldorf, Germany, in 1938. When he was 10 years old his mother got him an accordion for Christmas, though the family could ill afford such an expense. Five years later he formed a musical trio with two friends and got a regular gig playing at a local bakery. Eventually, in between playing for pumpernickel, the group gained notice when they took the top prize at the Oberbilker Markt hometown festival and they secured both a manager and a record deal. Critics described Heino's style as "folk music with a Beatles beat;" that may have been stretching the truth a bit, but he did have a certain appeal that inspired lumberjacks. Heino has sold more than 50 million albums over the course of his career and he's still performing today, with his basso cantante voice and platinum hair both intact.

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The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now
Disney/Marvel
Disney/Marvel

If you’re in the mood for some speculative fiction and your pile of Arthur C. Clarke books has been exhausted, you could do worse than to tune in to Netflix. The streaming service is constantly acquiring new films in the sci-fi and fantasy genres that should satisfy most fans of alternative futures. Here are five of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix right now.

1. CUBE (1997)

This low-budget independent film may have helped inspire the current "escape room" attraction fad. Six strangers wake up in a strange room that leads only to other rooms—all of them equipped with increasingly sadistic ways of murdering occupants.

2. METROPOLIS (1927)

Inspiring everything from Star Wars to Lady Gaga, Fritz Lang’s silent epic about a revolt among the oppressed people who help power an upper-class city remains just as visually impressive today as it did nearly 100 years ago.

3. TROLL HUNTER (2010)

A Norwegian fairy tale with bite, Troll Hunter follows college-aged filmmakers who convince a bear trapper to take them along on his exploits. But the trapper fails to disclose one crucial detail: He hunts towering, aggressive trolls.

4. NEXT (2007)

Nic Cage stars a a magician who can see a few minutes into the future. He's looking to profit with the skill: the FBI and others are looking to exploit it.

5. THE HOST (2006)

A slow-burn monster movie from South Korea, The Host has plenty of tense scenes coupled with a message about environmental action: The river-dwelling beast who stalks a waterfront town is the product of chemical dumping.  

6. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 2 (2017)

Marvel's tale of a misfit band of space jockeys was a surprise hit in 2014. The sequel offers more Groot, more Rocket Raccoon, and the addition of Kurt Russell as a human manifestation of an entire sentient planet.

7. STARDUST (2007)

Director Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel features Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro as supporting players in the tale of a man (a pre-Daredevil Charlie Cox) in search of a fallen star to gift to his love.

8. KING KONG (2005)

Director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) set his considerable sights on a remake of the 1933 classic, with the title gorilla pestered and exploited by opportunistic humans.

9. DONNIE DARKO (2001)

What will a teenage mope do when a giant rabbit tells him the world is about to end? The answer comes in this critical and cult hit, which drew attention for its moody cinematography and an arresting performance by a then-unknown Jake Gyllenhaal.  

10. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)

Soon we'll have a movie for every single major or minor incident ever depicted in the Star Wars universe. For now, we'll have to settle for this one-off that explains how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on the plans for the Death Star.

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Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain
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9 False Rumors With Real-Life Consequences
King Louis XV of France
King Louis XV of France
Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Don’t believe everything you read—or everything you hear. Unverified but plausible-sounding rumors have been the basis for violent death and destruction throughout history, whether or not the stories had anything to do with the truth.

In their book A Colorful History of Popular Delusions, Robert Bartholomew and Peter Hassall describe rumors as “stories of perceived importance that lack substantiating evidence.” They also note that the sociologist Tamotsu Shibutani describes rumors as “improvised news,” which tends to spread when the demand for information exceeds supply. Such an information deficit most often occurs during wars and other crises, which might explain why some rumors have had such dramatic results. Here’s a selection of some of the most interesting rumors with real-life results collected in Bartholomew and Hassall’s book.

1. KING LOUIS XV WAS KIDNAPPING CHILDREN.

In 1750, children began disappearing from the streets of Paris. No one seemed to know why, and worried parents began rioting in the streets. In the midst of the panic, a rumor broke out that King Louis XV had become a leper and was kidnapping children so that he could bathe in their blood (at the time, bathing in the blood of children was thought by some to be an effective leprosy cure).

The rumor did have a tiny kernel of truth: Authorities were taking children away, but not to the king’s palace. A recently enacted series of ordinances designed to clear the streets of “undesirables” had led some policemen—who were paid per arrest—to overstep their authority and take any children they found on the streets to houses of detention. Fortunately, most were eventually reunited with their parents, and rumors of the king’s gruesome bathing rituals were put to rest.

2. LONDON WAS GOING TO BE DESTROYED BY AN EARTHQUAKE.

Two small earthquakes struck London at the beginning of 1761, leading to rumors that the city was due for “the big one” on April 5, 1761. Supposedly, a psychic had predicted the catastrophe. Much of the populace grew so panicked that they fled town for the day, with those who couldn’t afford fancier lodgings camping out in the fields. One soldier was so convinced of the impending doom that he ran through the streets shouting news of London’s imminent destruction; sadly, he ended up in an insane asylum a few months later.

3. JEWS WERE POISONING WELLS.

A deep well
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Reports that Jews ritually sacrificed Christian children were not uncommon during the Middle Ages, but things took a particularly terrible turn during the spread of the Black Plague. In the 14th century, thousands of Jews were killed in response to rumors that Satan was protecting them from the plague in exchange for poisoning the wells of Christians. In 1321 in Guienne, France alone, an estimated 5000 Jews were burned alive for supposedly poisoning wells. Other communities expelled the Jews, or burned entire settlements to the ground. Brandenburg, Germany, even passed a law denouncing Jews for poisoning wells—which of course they weren't.

4. BRIGANDS WERE TERRORIZING THE FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE.

In July 1789, amid the widespread fear and instability on the eve of the French revolution, rumors spread that the anti-revolutionary nobility had planted brigands (robbers) to terrorize the peasants and steal their stores of food. Lights from furnaces, bonfires, and even the reflection of the setting sun were sometimes taken to be signs of brigands, with panic as the predictable result. Provincial towns and villages formed militias in response to the rumors, even though, as historian Georges Lefebvre put it, “the populace scared themselves.” In one typical incident, near Troyes on July 24, 1789, a group of brigands were supposedly spotted heading into some woods; an alarm was sounded and 3000 men gave chase. The “brigands” turned out to be a herd of cattle.

5. GERMAN-AMERICANS WERE PLOTTING SNEAK ATTACKS ON CANADA.

Officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police marching in a Canada Day parade
iStock

Canada entered World War I in 1914, three years before the United States did. During the gap period, rumors circulated that German-Americans sympathetic to their country of origin were planning surprise attacks on Canada. One of the worst offenders of such rumor-mongering, according to authors Bartholomew and Hassall, was British consul-general Sir Courtenay Bennett, then stationed in New York. In the early months of 1915, Bennett made “several sensational claims about a plan in which as many as 80,000 well-armed, highly trained Germans who had been drilling in Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York, were planning to invade Canada from northwestern New York state.” Bizarre as it may sound, there was so much anxiety and suspicion during the period that Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden requested a report on the story, which the Canadian police commissioner determined to be without any foundation whatsoever.

6. THE INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT WAS HUNTING HEADS FOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS.

In certain parts of Indonesia, locals reportedly believe—or once did—that large-scale construction projects require human heads to keep the structures from crumbling. In 1937, one island was home to a spate of rumors saying that a tjoelik (government-sanctioned headhunter) was looking for a head to place near a local jetty construction project. Locals reported strange noises and sights, houses pelted with stones, and attacks from tjoelik wielding nooses or cowboy lassos. Similar rumors surfaced in 1979 in Indonesian Borneo, when government agents were supposedly seeking a head for a new bridge project, and in 1981 in Southern Borneo, when the government headhunters supposedly needed heads to stabilize malfunctioning equipment in nearby oil fields. Terrified townspeople began curtailing their activities so as not to be in public any longer than necessary, although the rumors eventually died down.

7. POWERFUL APHRODISIAC GUM WENT ON SALE IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

An assortment of sticks of pink bubble gum
iStock

In the mid-1990s, the Middle East was home to some alarming rumors about aphrodisiacal gum. In 1996 in Mansoura, Egypt, stories began spreading that students at the town’s university had purchased gum deliberately spiked with an aphrodisiac and were having orgies as a result. One local member of parliament said the gum had been distributed by the Israeli government as part of a plot to corrupt Egyptian youth. Mosque loudspeakers began warning people to avoid the gum, which was supposedly sold under the names “Aroma” or “Splay.” Authorities closed down some shops and made arrests, but never did find any tainted gum. Similar rumors cropped up the following year in the Gaza Strip, this time featuring a strawberry gum that turned women into prostitutes—supposedly, the better to convince them to become Shin Bet informants for the Israeli military.

8. SORCERERS WERE PLAGUING INDONESIA.

In the fall of 1998, a sorcerer scare in East Java, Indonesia, resulted in the deaths of several villagers. The country was in crisis, and while protests raged in major cities, some in the rural area of Banyuwangi began agitating for restitution for past wrongs allegedly committed by sorcerers. The head of the local district ordered authorities to move the suspected sorcerers to a safe location, a process that included a check-in at the local police station. Unfortunately, villagers took the suspects’ visits to police stations as proof of their sorcery and began killing them. Anthropologists who studied the incident said the stories of supposed sorcery—making neighbors fall sick, etc.—were based entirely on rumor and gossip.

9. OBAMA WAS INJURED BY A WHITE HOUSE EXPLOSION.

These days, rumors have advanced technology to help them travel. On April 23, 2013, a fake tweet from a hacked Associated Press account claimed that explosions at the White House had injured Barack Obama. That lone tweet caused instability on world financial markets, and the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index lost $130 billion in a short period. Fortunately, it quickly recovered. (Eagle-eyed journalists were suspicious of the tweet from the beginning, since it didn’t follow AP style of referring to the president with his title and capitalizing the word breaking.)

An earlier version of this story ran in 2015.

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