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30 Famous People With Law Degrees

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Second-guessing your career choice? You're not alone. Even people who put themselves through many extra years of schooling sometimes end up changing their minds. That's the case with many of these people, who ditched their law degrees in favor of other pursuits — quite successful ones at that.

Authors

1. Washington Irving. The author of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow once admitted that he just barely squeaked by the bar exam. Still, he was able to combine his lawyerly knowledge with his famous writing flair in 1807, when Aaron Burr was tried for Alexander Hamilton’s murder and Irving served as a trial spectator. He wrote juicy descriptions of the events, such as when Burr "turned his head, looked him full in the face with one of his piercing regards, swept his eye over the whole person from head to foot, as if to scan his dimensions, and then coolly resumed his former position."

2. Charles Perrault. Perrault, better known to some as the author of Tales of Mother Goose in 1697, practiced law for a few years before becoming an aide to his architect brother. Perrault didn’t actually start his fairytale career until after he retired from his government job - he was secretary to King Louis XIV’s finance minister - at the age of 65.

3. John Grisham.

After a series of unsatisfying jobs such as plumber’s assistant and underwear salesman, bestselling author John Grisham decided he should probably get serious about a "real" career. Though his original goal was to become a tax lawyer, he barely passed the first class and decided the thrill of being a trial lawyer was more up his alley. Observing the heart-wrenching rape case of a young girl inspired him to write A Time to Kill.

Actors/Celebrities

4. John Cleese. One of the funniest men in the history of comedy has a law degree from no less than Cambridge. But he didn’t leave the jury rolling in the aisles: Cleese never actually practiced. After meeting writing partner Graham Chapman at school, Cleese went on to co-found a little comedy troupe called Monty Python.

5. Geraldo Rivera. A young Gerald Riviera (not Jerry Rivers, as the urban legend says) was one of the top five in his Brooklyn Law School class in 1969. As the lawyer for a Puerto Rican activist group called the Young Lords, Rivera caught the eye of an Eyewitness News exec who offered him a job, and his career in journalism began.

6. Ben Stein. It will surprise no one that brainiac Ben Stein started his professional life as a lawyer. He was the valedictorian of his Yale Law School class in 1970, but Stein makes it clear that his fellow classmates elected him as valedictorian due to his popularity, not his grades.

7. Gerard Butler. Butler worked as a trainee lawyer for a couple of years at a Edinburgh law firm and was just a week away from qualifying when he got fired. Though he didn’t quite make the grade, Butler has admitted that the degree has come in handy during his own brushes with the law.

8. Jerry Springer. After getting his law degree from Northwestern in 1968, Springer got a job as a campaign aide to Robert Kennedy. After Kennedy was assassinated, Springer signed with a law firm in Cincinnati. Wondering how that ended up as a career in scandal journalism? Well, he got involved in local politics and became a small-scale celebrity, which earned him a radio show in the ‘80s. It snowballed from there.

9. Ozzie Nelson. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet star graduated from Rutgers, law degree in hand, in 1930. This no doubt came in handy when he negotiated the first-ever "noncancellable ten-year contract,” an agreement with ABC that gave the Nelsons a salary for 10 years, even if they weren’t working.

10. Jeff Cohen. Unlike most of the others on this list, these next few were famous before getting their law degrees. After getting his B.S. in Business Administration from UC Berkeley - and becoming president of the student body under the campaign slogan “Chunk for President” - the Goonies actor earned his law degree from the UCLA School of Law. He became an entertainment lawyer and founded the firm Cohen & Gardner.

11. Josh Saviano. Joining Jeff Cohen in the lawyer-slash-child-actor category is Josh Saviano, a.k.a. Kevin’s sidekick Paul Pfeiffer in The Wonder Years. After getting his B.A. at Yale, Saviano got his J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and now practices in New York. Also: he is not Marilyn Manson.

12. Charlie Korsmo. Score another one for child actors who grew up to be responsible, well-adjusted adults. I best remember Korsmo as Siggy Marvin in What About Bob?, but you might remember him as The Kid in Dick Tracy or Peter Pan’s son Jack in Hook. After an appearance in 1998’s Can’t Hardly Wait, Korsmo earned a degree in physics from M.I.T. and got a federal job working in missile defense while getting his J.D. from Yale on the side. He then became a professor at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University School of Law. Last year, he was awarded a spot in President Obama’s administration. You go, Siggy Marvin.

Entrepreneurs

13 & 14. Nina and Tim Zagat. The husband-and-wife team met when they were both attending Yale Law School. They were at a dinner party in 1979 when friends began discussing how unreliable a certain major newspaper’s restaurant reviews were. Tim suggested surveying a larger population of people on their foodie opinions instead of relying on the biases of one reviewer, and the Zagat Survey was born.

15. Elizabeth Holloway Marston. Marston and her husband William Moulton Marston created the character Wonder Woman in the early ‘40s, but that was a far cry from her original career. After earning her B.A. in psychology from Mount Holyoke, Elizabeth went to Boston University for her LLB. She wanted to go to Harvard alongside her husband, but Harvard didn’t accept women at the time. It didn’t bother her in the end: “I finished the [Massachusetts Bar] exam in nothing flat and had to go out and sit on the stairs waiting for Bill Marston and another Harvard man to finish.”

16. Jeffrey Chodorow. If the Zagats ever run across restaurateur Chodorow, they’ll have something other than food to discuss. Chodorow has a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania, but it was developing shopping centers that made him a millionaire.

Leaders

© Bettmann/CORBIS

17. Fidel Castro. Castro was admitted to the bar in 1950 after studying at the University of Havana. He had his own firm for a time - Azpiazo, Castro & Resende.

18. Gandhi. Yeah, you feel bad about all of those lawyer jokes now, don’t you? After studying at University College London, he passed the bar in 1891 and returned to India to practice in Bombay. It was then that he figured out being a lawyer may not have been his calling - he was too shy to speak loudly in court.

19. Nelson Mandela. As the first black law partnership in South Africa, the office Mandela and his partner Oliver Tambo shared in Johannesburg is now being made into a museum.

Artists

20. Henri Matisse. Mostly to make his lawyer father happy, the French artist went to Paris to study law in 1887. When he came back to Saint-Quentin, he got a job as a clerk in a law office - and promptly came down with appendicitis. His mother brought him oil paints to pass the time during recovery, and that was that. “From the moment I held that box of colors in my hand, I knew this would be my life,” Matisse later said.

21. Wassily Kandinsky. The abstract artist was more involved in abstractions of a different kind during his younger years. He studied law and economics at the University of Moscow and taught them both not long after getting his degree.

Sports Figures

22. Howard Cosell. Believing that having a lawyer for a son would make his parents proud, Cosell enrolled in the NYU School of Law and started practicing in Manhattan after WWII. His clients included Willie Mays and the New York Little League. He organized a radio show to help promote the latter and ended up being a natural at interviewing. He quit his law practice in 1956 to do sports reporting for ABC.

23. Steve Young. Here’s something most of us will never do: win a Super Bowl and complete a law degree in the same year. San Francisco 49er Steve Young managed to check both of those things off of his bucket list in 1994. Though he retired from career #1 in 1999, Young isn’t making use of his J.D. just yet. In fact, he pokes fun at lawyers in this 2011 spot for BYU.

24. Dick Button. After winning gold medals at the ‘48 and ‘52 Winter Olympics, the American figure skater decided to see how he would fare at Harvard Law School. Turns out he was pretty good at that, too: he graduated in 1955 and even skated with the Ice Capades when he was on break from school.

25. Tony La Russa. After bouncing from baseball team to baseball team - mostly in the minors - Tony La Russa figured he’d probably better have a backup plan and graduated from the Florida State University College of Law in 1978. He was offered a position coaching the White Sox farm team right around the same time. “I decided I’d rather ride the buses in the minor leagues than practice law for a living,” he later said. La Russa was called up to manage in the majors shortly thereafter.

26. David Stern. The commissioner of the NBA went to Columbia Law School and was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1966. During his early law career, he worked with a firm that represented the NBA. He signed on as the NBA’s general counsel in 1978 and his career grew from there. This David Stern is not to be confused with Florida lawyer and “Foreclosure King” David Stern, by the way.

Musicians

27. Francis Scott Key. The Star-Spangled Banner writer was a lawyer before he wrote the national anthem in 1814, and he continued to be a lawyer afterward. In fact, he represented Sam Houston when he was put on trial for assaulting a Congressman in 1832, and served as the District Attorney of the United States.

28. Andrea Bocelli. To earn money while studying law at the University of Pisa, Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli started singing at Italian piano bars. It worked - he graduated in the mid-80s and practiced law for a year before realizing that his heart belonged to music and his voice belonged to the world. “I knew my voice was special,” he said. “I came to believe that if you have a gift, you have an obligation to share it with others. It's as simple as that.”

29. Julio Iglesias. Had the famous crooner not been in a car accident, he might never have pursued a singing career. Iglesias was a law student in Spain in 1963 when a collision left him paralyzed. He taught himself guitar during the three-year recovery process and ended up discovering a natural talent for music. Iglesias eventually completed his law degree in 2001.

Puzzle Makers

30. Will Shortz. The puzzlemaster could have been a lawyer - he got his JD from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1977, but passed up the bar to get the world’s only degree in enigmatology instead. Despite eschewing the bar, Shortz believes his schooling was helpful. “Law is great training for the mind for almost any career. It was good for me because the thinking skills you get from law school are important in puzzle-solving and puzzle-making.”
* * *
Lots of U.S. Presidents were lawyers, too. How about you guys? Anyone with a law degree thriving in another field?

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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.

THE AD

If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).

SKINHEADS, A DISCUS THROWER, AND A SCI-FI DIRECTOR

Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.

WHAT EXECUTIVES AT APPLE THOUGHT

Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother

WHAT EVERYBODY ELSE THOUGHT

When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."

THE AWFUL 1985 FOLLOW-UP

A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:

20-YEAR ANNIVERSARY

In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:

FURTHER READING

Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.

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