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18 Bizarre Self-Proclaimed Capitals of the World

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Lots of places claim to be the world capital of something -- animals, fruits, vegetables, consumer goods, other odds and ends. But sometimes, that something is really, really strange.

1. Pearsonville, California: Hubcap Capital of the World

Image credit: Center for Land Use Interpretation

While Pearsonville, California, only has a population of 17, it’s still the Hubcap Capital of the World due to one woman’s efforts. Lucy Pearson, “The Hubcap Queen,” has collected thousands of hubcaps spread across three separate wrecking yards. The strange collection has led to television appearances for Pearson and made Pearsonville a filming location for several films, television shows, and commercials.

2. Anthony, New Mexico/Texas: Leap Year Capital of the World


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Anthony, a city straddling the border between Texas and New Mexico, started its Worldwide Leap Year Festival for a very simple reason: no one else was doing one. They established the Worldwide Leap Year Birthday Club in 1988 and now, every four years, the little city with a dual-identity holds a mass birthday party for anyone and everyone born on February 29th.

3. Scottsboro, Alabama: Lost Luggage Capital of the World


Image credit: Unclaimed Baggage Center

Ever wondered what airlines do with all their unclaimed luggage? They don’t just stuff it all in a huge warehouse. After making every reasonable attempt to find the owner of a piece of cargo, the airlines will typically sell it to Scottsboro’s Unclaimed Baggage Center: a huge store filled with the stuff other people have left behind. The weirdest thing ever found there? Hoggle, David Bowie's dwarf-goblin minion from the 1986 movie Labyrinth.

4. Willow Creek, California: Bigfoot Capital of the World


Image credit: Bigfoot's Blog

A small, mountainous town in Northern California with fewer than 2,000 residents typically wouldn’t be a big draw, but Willow Creek is different. It’s a huge tourist destination for people interested in Bigfoot, with an annual festival, a museum, dozens of statues and murals, and even foot-shaped burgers dedicated to the elusive creature.

5. La Crosse, Kansas: Barbed Wire Capital of the World


Image credit: KansasTravel.org

If you're big into devil's rope, head over to the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum, located in La Crosse, Kansas. They claim over 2,000 varieties of vintage barbed wire, dioramas, educational films, and antique fencing equipment. The Antique Barbed Wire Society, the group associated with the museum, even has its own magazine if you want to keep up with barbed wire year-round.

6. Bardstown, Kentucky: Bourbon Capital of the World


Image credit: user vtabora at CityProfile.com

If bourbon is your drink, you should make plans to visit Bardstown, Kentucky, where an incredible 97% of all bourbon is made. Their Bourbon Festival, held annually, is six whole days of celebrating the drink and the culture surrounding it. Bardstown is so associated with bourbon that the city has even trademarked its “Bourbon Capital of the World” moniker.

7. Rayne, Louisiana: Frog Capital of the World


Image credit: Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration, 1938

Frogs may not be welcome in your backyard, but they are in Rayne, Louisiana. Formerly a frog exportation center for restaurants worldwide, the town remembers its history with frog murals, statues, and even a yearly Frog Festival, which includes rides and events like the Frog Derby, where frogs dressed in elaborate costumes race against one another.

8. Colon, Michigan: Magic Capital of the World


Image credit: Vintage postcard via MichiganBackRoads.com

When you think of illusions, you probably think of Vegas, but Colon, Michigan, is the real home of magic. Legendary magician Harry Blackstone came to Colon in 1925 and, together with Percy Abbott, started Blackstone Magic Company, later Abbott’s Magic Company. Today, it’s one of the most popular manufacturers of illusions in the world and holds the yearly Abbott’s Get Together magic convention.

9. Dalton, Georgia: Carpet Capital of the World


Image credit: Deej at The World of Deej

You probably have no idea where your carpet comes from, but after reading this you’ll be able to make a pretty good guess: approximately 90% of the world’s carpet comes from the city of Dalton, Georgia. More than 30,000 people are employed by Dalton’s huge carpet industry, which is especially impressive when you consider that the city itself only has a population of just under 35,000.

10. Anoka, Minnesota: Halloween Capital of the World


Image credit: Roxie O. at The Halloween Honey

Today, we take big Halloween celebrations for granted, but back in 1920, it wasn’t really a thing yet. Sick of kids vandalizing everything on Halloween night, the city of Anoka, Minnesota, decided to throw a huge party to keep the youngsters distracted. It worked so well that it became an annual celebration and spread to other cities. By 1937, Congress had officially named Anoka “The Halloween Capital of the World.”

11. Auburn, California: Endurance Capital of the World

It seems like it would be difficult to consider yourself the capital of an abstract concept like “endurance,” but Auburn, California, pulls it off handily. Their Auburn State Park hosts dozens of the toughest endurance-based sporting events in the world every year. From running to biking to horseback riding, Auburn covers the whole spectrum.

12. Binghamton, New York: Carousel Capital of the World


Image credit: seller louloupostcards61 on eBay

The carefree antique carousel is endangered. Fewer than 200 still exist throughout the U.S. and Canada. So, if you want to hit up as many as possible in one trip, head to Binghamton, New York. The city currently holds six of them, each listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One even has Rod Serling’s name carved into it, an event recreated in the “Walking Distance” episode of The Twilight Zone.

13. Beaver, Oklahoma: Cow Chip Throwing Capital of the World


Image credit: Beaver Cow Chip News

If you didn’t grow up on a farm, you may not be aware of the phenomenon of cow chip throwing. Simply put, a cow chip is a large, flat, dried piece of cow poop. You take this and throw it as far as you can, like a Frisbee. If that sounds like your idea of a great time, Beaver, Oklahoma, has the world’s largest cow chip throwing competition every April. Knock yourself out!

14. Huntsville, Texas: Execution Capital of the World


Image credit: Getty Images

While you may know that Texas executes the most prisoners of any U.S. state, you may not be aware that they all go to the same place to die: the Huntsville Unit, located in Huntsville, Texas. Naturally, their title of “Execution Capital of the World” is unofficial and typically only used by critics of the death penalty, but it is still a fact that more criminals are put to death within those walls than anywhere else in the country.

15. Belleville, Dundee, and Elmwood, Wisconsin: UFO Capitals of the World


Image credit: Flickr user Kables

Traditionally, Roswell, New Mexico, is the place to go for UFOs, but no one told Wisconsin. There are not one, but three UFO Capitals of the World in the Badger State. Belleville, Dundee, and Elmwood, Wisconsin, all lay claim to the title, each at a different end of the state. It’s not just some oversight, either. The three towns have been arguing with each other that they are the true UFO capital for decades.

16. Dyersville, Iowa: Farm Toy Capital of the World


Image credit: Getty Images

Dyersville, Iowa, is known for being the location of the movie Field of Dreams. But Dyersville has another feather in its cap. It’s the location of the National Farm Toy Museum, the largest collection of its kind. The museum attracts approximately 30,000 visitors each year.

17. Bloomer, Wisconsin: Jump Rope Capital of the World

Jump rope isn’t an unusual thing in elementary school gym classes, but in 1960, Bloomer Elementary P.E. teacher Wally Mohrman took it to the next level. He began a speed jump roping contest with his students that continues to this day. Whoever jumps his or her rope the most in the time allotted is the winner. If that sounds interesting to you, be aware that even non-students are eligible to compete these days.

18. Lake Tomahawk, Wisconsin: Snowshoe Baseball Capital of the World


Image credit: Lake Tomahawk website

Most towns have their beloved local football teams. Lake Tomahawk, Wisconsin, has its beloved Snowshoe Baseball teams. It’s exactly what it sounds like. The players strap snowshoes onto their feet and play a game of baseball. That’s not the weirdest part, though -- they play it in the middle of summer with six to eight inches of sawdust spread over the diamond.

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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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