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10 Lost Treasures That Could Make You Very Rich

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You’ll need more than a map and a shovel to find these cultural gems. But trust us, it will be worth the effort.

1. Hitchcock's Missing Ending

Just a few years into his career, 24-year-old Alfred Hitchcock was already wearing a lot of hats. On 1923’s hastily produced The White Shadow, Hitchcock served as writer, set designer, assistant director, and even editor. Unfortunately, he didn’t reap much reward for all that effort. The film about twin sisters, one of whom was good while the other was—brace yourself—evil, quietly bombed at the box office. Before long, all known copies had disappeared.

That is, until 2011. In a twist straight out of one of his own films, three of the movie’s six reels turned up in New Zealand. The reels had been nestled safely in the New Zealand Film Archive’s holdings since 1989.

How did the British film stock end up on the other side of the world? Blame nitrate. In movies’ early days, reels of nitrate film circled the globe as a picture played in one country after another. Because the reels were incredibly flammable, transporting them was risky and expensive. And because New Zealand was often the end of the theatrical line, studios usually destroyed a film’s reels there rather than shipping them home.

One projectionist, Jack Murtagh, couldn’t bear to trash the art, so he built up a formidable collection of terrible films—including half of The White Shadow—in his garden shed. When he passed away, his grandson donated most of the shed’s contents to the Film Archive, where the reels sat patiently for nearly 22 years.

Surprisingly, the first half of The White Shadow held up quite well during its stay in Murtagh’s shed, but the last three reels remain lost—as do several of Hitchcock’s other early projects. Today, any one of those films would fetch millions of dollars on the market.

2. The Makings of a Very Pricy Omelet

From 1885 until the Russian Revolution in 1917, Saint Petersburg’s House of Fabergé created 50 Imperial Easter Eggs as special commissions for the Tsar’s family. These baubles weren’t just encrusted with the world’s most precious stones and metals; each shell opened to reveal a “surprise”—anything from a ruby pendant to a tiny bejeweled train with working mechanics.

When Communists seized control of Russia, they didn’t have much use for these decadent symbols. In 1927, Joseph Stalin’s young regime was dangerously low on cash, so the Soviets decided to hold what amounted to an extended high-end yard sale. Foreign collectors snapped up the Fabergé offerings, and today only 10 of the 50 original eggs still reside at the Kremlin. Of the remaining 40, 32 are in museums or private collections. But eight have vanished entirely. Estimates value the missing Imperial eggs at as much as $30 million apiece! Whether they’re lost or residing in private collections, these Easter eggs are definitely worth finding.

3. The World Loses Its Cup

Two years before soccer’s governing body, FIFA, staged the first World Cup in 1930, it commissioned a trophy to match the quadrennial tournament’s prestige: a gold-plated silver cup atop a sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike. After every tournament, the victorious nation would hold onto the fancy hardware until the next Cup. As added incentive, the first nation to win the Cup three times would become the trophy’s permanent owner.


In 1970, Brazil accomplished that feat with a Pelé-led squad. FIFA held a design contest to create a new award, while the original trophy was sent to Rio de Janeiro for a quiet retirement. The Brazilian Football Confederation kept it displayed in a special cabinet fronted with bulletproof glass. Unfortunately, the cabinet’s wooden frame was less secure. In 1983, thieves burst into the confederation’s headquarters, overpowered a guard, and pried open the display to make off with the trophy. Although four men were later convicted for the heist, the trophy was never recovered.

While Pelé has appealed for the hardware’s return, police believe it was likely melted down for its precious metals. The trophy’s true whereabouts remain unknown, but fans can still enjoy a tangible symbol of Brazil’s futebol supremacy—in 1984, Kodak’s Brazilian division presented the country with a gold replica.

4. The Classic Novel No One's Read

When the Modern Library pegged Arthur Koestler’s 1940 novel, Darkness at Noon, as the eighth-best English-language novel of the 20th century, it was a curious choice. Not because the book is bad; the incredible account of a Communist revolutionary’s fall from grace, imprisonment, and interrogation gave the West a glimpse of the paranoia and repression that infected Stalin’s regime. No, praising Darkness at Noon as an English-language novel is odd because it was written in German.


Koestler penned the work in France while living with his companion, the British sculptor Daphne Hardy. The couple sent the German manuscript to Koestler’s publisher, but held onto one copy that Hardy had translated into English. With the Nazis advancing on Paris, Koestler and Hardy fled to Bordeaux, where Hardy took the manuscript and boarded a ship home to the United Kingdom. Soon after Hardy set sail, Koestler received terrible news: Her boat had been sunk by a torpedo. Having lost both his lover and the last remaining copy of his novel, Koestler attempted suicide, but failed—and before he could try again, the bereaved novelist learned that the reports had been erroneous.

The English translation of Darkness at Noon was published to great praise in London, but in the chaos of the early days of World War II, the German manuscript disappeared, leaving scholars with no clues about the original text of one of the 20th century’s greatest novels.

5. A Prehistoric Bird Flies the Coop

As any dinosaur-obsessed kid knows, Archaeopteryx is the link that proves that today’s birds are descendants of Jurassic dinos. But for all its fame, the Archaeopteryx is one rare creature—only 11 fossils are known to exist, and one of those is hopelessly lost.

In 1956, German quarry workers unearthed the “Maxberg specimen,” but the dino-bird sat in storage for two years as an anonymous slab of rock until quarry owner Eduard Opitsch loaned it to a geologist. Only then did paleontologists realize that the fossil was an Archaeopteryx. At the time, it was just the third known Archaeopteryx fossil, so the scientific community went nuts for it. Opitsch allowed the Maxberg Museum to display the specimen (hence the name) while he worked out a plan to sell it to the highest bidder. A German museum offered $10,000, but the notoriously cranky Opitsch balked at the idea of paying taxes on his windfall. In 1974, he simply took his Archaeopteryx and went home.

It’s unclear what exactly Opitsch did with one of the most important paleontological finds of the 20th century, but he refused to show his Archaeopteryx to anyone. According to one story, he kept the fossil under his bed. Others speculate that he buried the slab for safekeeping or secretly sold it to a collector. Whatever happened, the Archaeopteryx was nowhere to be found when Opitsch passed away in 1991. Fossil sleuths have been digging around for it ever since, but the Maxberg specimen seems to have flown away.

6. Wheeeeeere’s Johnny?

Host Johnny Carson’s three-decade stint at The Tonight Show is the stuff of late-night legend, but physical evidence of Carson’s first decade behind the desk is surprisingly scarce.

In the 1960s, archiving was not a priority; NBC would air an episode of The Tonight Show and then promptly erase the tape. While it sounds unthinkable now, it was standard business practice at the time. Though the show was making NBC millions, tapes cost $300 apiece (nearly $2,000 in today’s money). Because each one could be erased and reused up to 50 times, watershed moments such as Carson’s debut show—when he was introduced by Groucho Marx—are lost forever. The network did save a few tapes for reruns, but more than 90 percent of Carson’s jokes aired just once.

There is some hope for Carson fanatics, though. Other lost recordings from the same era have turned up in recent years. In 2011, a tape of the 1967 broadcast of Super Bowl I (the holy grail of missing sports footage) was discovered in a Pennsylvania attic, so we may still get a chance to hear a young Ed McMahon bellow, “Heeeeeere’s Johnny!”

7. The Best Argument for Paying Ransoms

The Bishop of Ghent probably wished he’d stayed in bed on the morning of April 11, 1934. The Belgian clergyman awoke to learn that a burglar had broken into St. Bavo’s Cathedral and pilfered a section of “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” a 15th-century altarpiece and national treasure painted by Flemish masters Hubert and Jan van Eyck. Because swiping the entire artwork would have been cumbersome—it measures 11.5 by 14.5 feet—the thief instead boosted two of the 20 panels, including “The Just Judges,” the bottom left section.

Shortly after the theft, ransom notes appeared demanding 1 million Belgian francs for the work’s return. The bishop agreed. He put down a 25,000-franc installment on the ransom, but he couldn’t get the full million. Instead, the police pressed the bishop to play hardball by offering another 225,000 francs and not a centime more.

The thief was not impressed, writing, “[W]e keep thinking that what we ask is not excessive or impossible to realize.” After the church rebuffed an offer to hand over the ransom on a payment plan, the thief dropped the correspondence and kept his prize.

Authorities believe the frustrated burglar was a stockbroker, amateur artist, and crime-novel buff named Arsène Goedertier. Just a few months after the theft, Goedertier allegedly made a deathbed confession. But he died before he could reveal the piece’s whereabouts. If Goedertier actually squirreled the panels away, he did a terrific job of hiding them. Although “The Just Judges” was replaced with a copy, the work’s fate remains one of the art world’s most elusive mysteries.

8. The Found Object That Got Lost

French artist Marcel Duchamp shocked the world in 1917 when he unveiled a run-of-the-mill urinal as the sculpture “Fountain.” Eager to make the point that ordinary found objects could be art, he submitted the piece to an avant-garde Society of Independent Artists exhibit that promised to show the work of any artist who forked over a $6 fee. Duchamp signed the work “R. Mutt,” presumably so his fame from paintings such as “Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2)” wouldn’t affect the piece’s reception. Still, he hoped his readymade idea would get a big showcase.


Unfortunately for Duchamp, not even his artist pals got the joke. The show’s board of directors dismissed the piece as vulgar, while a magazine essay decried it as “plagiarism, a plain piece of plumbing.” Forgetting its promise to exhibit any submitted work, the show refused to display “Fountain,” forcing Duchamp to convince journalists to write essays about the work to spread his message. Famed photographer Alfred Stieglitz snapped a picture of the piece, but the original disappeared shortly thereafter. Someone probably made the assumption that the stray urinal was trash and tossed it.

Years later, Duchamp began overseeing a painstaking re-creation of “Fountain” for collectors and museums. Today, more than a dozen of his meticulous replicas—absolutely identical to his original found object—exist and are priced at as much as $2.5 million when they hit the market. But Duchamp’s original is lost to the ages.

9. Lincoln's Speech That Wasn't Fit to Print

Contrary to what your history teacher said, Abraham Lincoln’s finest speech didn’t begin with the phrase “four score.” Instead, it was a thunderous antislavery oration delivered to the first convention of the Illinois Republican Party on May 29, 1856. Schoolchildren don’t recite these words for a simple reason: Nobody wrote them down.

It’s not clear how the text of the speech became lost, but the traditional explanation is that the speech was too powerful. Instead of transcribing Lincoln’s fiery words, entranced journalists forgot to take notes. The Chicago Democrat reported, “Abraham Lincoln for an hour and a half held the assemblage spellbound by the power of his argument, the intense irony of his invective, the brilliancy of his eloquence. I shall not mar any of its fine proportions by attempting even a synopsis of it.”

Some modern scholars have a different theory; they speculate that the speech was suppressed, not lost. Lincoln’s words may have been such an intense rebuke of slavery that their publication had the potential to shake a fragile nation. The speech’s reputation only grew as Lincoln’s national stature skyrocketed. Several “firsthand accounts” of the speech have surfaced over the years, only to be debunked, leaving historians hungrier than ever for an accurate transcript.

10. Russia and Prussia Get a Room

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What do you give the tsar who has everything? In 1716, Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I needed to give Russia’s Peter the Great a gift magnificent enough to solidify the countries’ alliance against Sweden. Friedrich Wilhelm’s present swung for the diplomatic fences: a room with walls made from six tons of amber backed with gold leaf. At 180 square feet, the Amber Room lived up to its nickname, “The Eighth Wonder of the World.” Needless to say, the gift went over swimmingly. The room was installed in a palace near Saint Petersburg, where it instantly became one of Russia’s greatest treasures.

When the Nazis embarked on a massive art-looting binge more than two centuries later, the Amber Room posed a bit of problem. Unlike a canvas or a sculpture, there was no sneaky way to stash a very large, very famous room. Amber’s fragility made moving the entire chamber a dicey proposition, so the room’s caretakers attempted to hide its opulence behind a layer of wallpaper.

Given the room’s fame, this bluff didn’t stand a chance. Nazi soldiers located the Amber Room in October 1941 and shipped its panels to a castle in Königsberg, Germany. The reconstructed room was briefly on display in Königsberg before it was crated up as the war drew to a close. And nobody has seen it since!

Many scholars think the room was destroyed when Königsberg weathered heavy Allied bombings in 1944 or during the city’s surrender the following year. Others speculate that the Nazis tried to sneak the treasure out of the city on a boat that sank or buried it in a shallow lagoon off of the Baltic Sea. Art historians estimate the Amber Room would be worth as much as $250 million today, but nearly seven decades of treasure hunts haven’t turned up anything aside from a pair of small pieces. Still, if you’re itching to see what the room looked like, there’s a way. In 1979, Soviet craftsmen began using photographs to reconstruct the Amber Room in its pre-looting home; the project was completed in 2003, just in time for Saint Petersburg’s 300th birthday.

This article originally appeared in mental_floss magazine, available wherever brilliant/lots of magazines are sold. Get a free issue here!

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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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