Buena Vista Pictures
Buena Vista Pictures

12 Fun Facts About Can’t Buy Me Love

Buena Vista Pictures
Buena Vista Pictures

Before Patrick Dempsey was Dr. McDreamy on Grey's Anatomy, he played a high school geek named Ronald Miller. Popular cheerleader Cindy Mancini (Amanda Peterson) borrows her mom’s expensive suede outfit and ruins it. When Ronald offers her $1000 to be his girlfriend for a month so she can purchase a new suede skirt and fringed jacket, she accepts his proposal and then takes him through a Pygmalion-like transformation. Through association, Ronald also becomes popular—and then goes back to being unpopular—much to Cindy’s chagrin. And, just like in so many other teen films about opposites attracting, Cindy and Ronald eventually end up together.

The movie opened on August 14, 1987, and became a sleeper hit, grossing $31 million on a $1.8 million budget. It’s endured to the level that in the 2010 film Easy A, Emma Stone also rides off on a lawnmower, like in the ending of Can’t Buy Me Love. Here are 12 loving facts about the ‘80s rom-com on its 30th anniversary.

1. YES, THE MOVIE WAS NAMED AFTER THE BEATLES’ SONG.

The Beatles' song “Can’t Buy Me Love,” from the album A Hard’s Day Night, became a huge hit in 1964. By 1987, Michael Jackson owned the rights to the tune, so Disney reportedly had to pay The King of Pop $100,000 to use it in the movie. The title insinuates prostitution, but writer Paul McCartney disagrees.

“I think you can put any interpretation you want on anything, but when someone suggests that 'Can’t Buy Me Love' is about a prostitute, I draw the line,” McCartney said. “The idea behind it was that all these material possessions are all very well but they won’t buy me what I really want.”

2. THE ORIGINAL TITLE WAS BOY RENTS GIRL.

Michael Swerdlick’s script was originally called Boy Rents Girl, but director Steve Rash and the producers thought the title sounded “sexist.” “We found that a lot of people had an immediate resentment factor because of the implications of those words,” Rash said. “As it turns out, I don’t think there’s a sexist moment in the film, but the title Boy Rents Girl sounds sexist.” Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner is the one who suggested Can’t Buy Me Love.

3. THE MOVIE ALMOST DIDN’T GET MADE, BECAUSE OF PROSTITUTION.

Swerdlick sold his script to TriStar Pictures and met with the studio executives for a first notes meeting. “I come into the first meeting and the six studio executives are sitting there,” Swerdlick told an audience at a 2011 reunion screening. “And there’s one woman sitting there, and she’s like, ‘Well, I don’t know why we bought this movie, because it’s almost like prostitution the way they treat this girl.’ Guess what? TriStar put it in turnaround,” which involved the company dumping the script.

4. IT WAS SHOT AS AN INDIE FILM.

During the reunion Q&A, Swerdlick explained that after TriStar dissolved the deal, the script landed in the hands of Apollo Pictures founder Jere Henshaw, who was interested in Swerdlick rewriting a motocross script for him. Swerdlick’s agent sent Henshaw Boy Rents Girl as a writing sample, and he loved it so much he financed the film.

Once finished, they needed a distributor. As luck would have it, one of the film’s producers, Mark Burg, had a friend who played an extra in the movie. Two weeks after filming finished, the friend got a job as Head of Acquisitions at Disney. He encouraged Disney top brass Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg to watch the film, and they liked it enough to buy it for $6 million. According to Swerdlick, it was one of the first outside acquisitions in the history of the Walt Disney Company.

5. ONE OF THE EARLY DRAFTS OF THE SCRIPT FEATURED SOME R-RATED MATERIAL.

Rash told Moviehole that one of the drafts he read made it seem like the movie would be “an R-rated sexploitation movie, with gags like a football player ejaculating in a teenage girl’s hair.” He convinced the producers the story needed to return to a PG-13 plot catering to teen girls. Rash got with Swerdlick and rewrote the script. “I spent six weeks, starting all over with his original spec script, and threw away all the R-stuff that had been added over the years,” Rash said. “My most significant contribution was the Airplane Graveyard.”

6. THEY PURPOSELY CAST AN UNKNOWN FOR RONALD.

Rash and Henshaw agreed that Ronald Miller needed to be someone who wasn’t already famous. “If Ronald Miller is a star when you meet him on his lawn mower, you’ll never believe he is a nerd, so you’ll never care when he’s not a nerd,” Rash told Moviehole. Even though Dempsey had starred in a Fast Times at Ridgemont High TV adaptation and a few other movies, Can’t Buy Me Love became his breakout role.

7. SETH GREEN WAS IN THE MOVIE.

Green was only 13 years old when he played Patrick Dempsey’s brother, Chuckie. Green looked so different that he’s surprised when people do recognize him. “I can’t believe how many people actually remember me from that movie, because it doesn’t even look like me,” he said.

8. THE STUDIO ALMOST REMOVED KENNETH’S FAMOUS QUOTE.

As a Halloween prank, Ronald and two jocks throw a bag of dog poop at fellow nerd Kenneth Wurman’s (Courtney Gains) front door, causing Ronald and Kenneth’s already fractured friendship to end. Ronald confronts Kenneth at a video arcade, and after Ronald’s mea culpa, Wurman exclaims, “You sh*t on my house!” In an interview, Gains said the studio wanted to take that line out “because they thought it was too edgy for a teenage movie.” He went on to say the producers fought to keep it. “It’s obviously gone on to be a quotable line in the lexicon of teen cinema,” Gains said.

9. AMANDA PETERSON DIED IN 2015.

Post-Can’t Buy Me Love, Peterson acted in more films and TV spots but none of them resonated the way the teen film did. In 1994, she retired from acting and fell into drug and alcohol abuse. On July 3, 2015, just five days short of her 44th birthday, she died from an accidental morphine overdose. She was supposedly taking the drug to relieve pain from a surgery.

10. PAULA ABDUL CHOREOGRAPHED THE AFRICAN ANTEATER RITUAL DANCE.

At a school dance, Ronald breaks out into a weird tribal dance which incites the students to follow along—but the dance worried Rash. “That fake cultural dance could so easily be perceived as racist or stupid,” he told Moviehole. “Either would have been fatal to the movie.” He hired then-choreographer Paula Abdul to create the dance in a culturally sensitive way. “She conceived the African anteater ritual and then came to Tucson to coach a gymnasium full of teenagers. I owe my creative life to Paula.”

11. 1990s MUSIC SENSATION GERARDO CO-STARRED.

Three years before Gerardo Mejía made waves with his hit song “Rico Suave,” he played the shirtless Ricky, a sort of suave high schooler. It was his film debut—he also starred in the 1988 Sean Penn film Colors—and he told a Can’t Buy Me Love reunion crowd it’s the most popular thing he’s done. “I get calls like crazy,” he said. “They always call me: ‘Dude, that mullet. Is that for real?’” Yes, yes it was real. At least he grew it out by the time “Rico” was released.

12. IN 2003, WARNER BROS. REMADE THE MOVIE AS LOVE DON’T COST A THING.

A loose remake, Nick Cannon plays the nerd (Alvin) and Christina Milian plays the girlfriend (Paris). She crashes her car and Alvin, a mechanic, agrees to repair it if she dates him for two weeks. Mark Burg, a producer on Can’t Buy Me Love, was also a producer on Love Don't Cost a Thing. The film grossed $21 million at the box office—less than the original. It’s unclear if the movie was named after Jennifer Lopez’s 2001 hit, “Love Don’t Cost A Thing.”

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Revisit Your Teen Years With Vintage Sweet Valley High Editions
Always Fits
Always Fits

The '80s and '90s were a special time to be a reading-obsessed child. Young adult series like The Baby Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High were in their prime (and spawning plenty of spinoffs and blatant knockoffs), with numerous books a year—Sweet Valley High creator Francine Pascal published 11 books in her series in 1984 alone.

You can't find original Sweet Valley High books on the shelves anymore (unless you want to read the tweaked re-release versions published in 2008), but fans of Jessica and Elizabeth no longer have to trawl eBay looking for nostalgic editions of their favorite installments of the series. Always Fits, a website that sells gifts it describes as “nostalgic, feminine, feminist and wonderful,” has tracked down as many vintage teen series from the '80s and '90s as it can, including a number of Sweet Valley High books.

A stack of Sweet Valley High books
Always Fits

The collection of books was sourced by the Always Fits team from vintage shops and thrift stores, and covers editions released between 1983 and 1994 (the series ran until 2003). While you can’t get a shiny new copy of books like Double Love, you can pretend that the slightly worn editions have been sitting on the bookshelf of your childhood bedroom all along.

Each of the Sweet Valley High books comes with an enamel pin inspired by the cover for one of the series's classic titles, Secrets. Unfortunately, you can’t pick and choose which installment you want—you’ll have to content yourself with a mystery pick, meaning that you may get In Love Again instead of Two-Boy Weekend. Hopefully you’re not trying to fill in that one hole from your childhood collection. (You may not be able to get Kidnapped by the Cult!, but it appears that Crash Landing!, with its amazingly ridiculous paralysis storyline, is available.)

The Sweet Valley High book-and-pin set is $18, or you can get a three-pack of random '80s books for the same price.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Love Connection
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Telepictures

Between September 19, 1983 and July 1, 1994, Chuck Woolery—who had been the original host of Wheel of Fortune back in 1975—hosted the syndicated, technologically advanced dating show Love Connection. (The show was briefly revived in 1998-1999, with Pat Bullard as host.) The premise featured either a single man or single woman who would watch audition tapes of three potential mates discussing what they look for in a significant other, and then pick one for a date. The producers would foot the bill, shelling out $75 for the blind date, which wasn’t taped. The one rule was that between the end of the date and when the couple appeared on the show together, they were not allowed to communicate—so as not to spoil the next phase.

A couple of weeks after the date, the guest would sit with Woolery in front of a studio audience and tell everybody about the date. The audience would vote on the three contestants, and if the audience agreed with the guest’s choice, Love Connection would offer to pay for a second date.

The show became known for its candor: Couples would sometimes go into explicit detail about their dates or even insult one another’s looks. Sometimes the dates were successful enough to lead to marriage and babies, and the show was so popular that by 1992, the video library had accrued more than 30,000 tapes “of people spilling their guts in five-minutes snippets.”

In 2017, Fox rebooted Love Connection with Andy Cohen at the helm; the second season started airing in May. But here are a few things you might not have known about the dating series that started it all.

1. AN AD FOR A VIDEO DATING SERVICE INSPIRED THE SHOW.

According to a 1986 People Magazine article, the idea for Love Connection came about when creator Eric Lieber spied an ad for a video dating service and wanted to cash in on the “countless desperate singles out there,” as the article states. “Everyone thinks of himself as a great judge of character and likes to put in two cents,” Lieber said. “There’s a little yenta in all of us.”

2. CONTESTANTS WERE GIVEN SOMETHING CALLED A PALIO SCORE.

Staff members would interview potential contestants and rate them on a PALIO score, which stands for personality, appearance, lifestyle, intelligence, and occupation. Depending on the results, the staff would rank the potential guests as either selectors or selectees.

3. IN 1987, THE FIRST OF MANY LOVE CONNECTION BABIES WAS BORN.

John Schultz and Kathleen Van Diggelen met on a Love Connection date, which didn’t end up airing. “They said, ‘John, she’s so flat, if you can’t rip her up on the set, we can’t use you,’” he told People in 1988. “I said, ‘I can’t do that.’” However, they got married on an episode of Hollywood Squares. As the article stated, “Their son, Zachary, became the first baby born to a Love Connection-mated couple.”

4. IT LED TO OTHER DATING SHOWS, LIKE THE BACHELOR.

Mike Fleiss not only created The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, but he’s also responsible for reviving Love Connection. “I always had a soft spot for that show,” Fleiss told the Los Angeles Times in 2017. He said he was friends with Lieber and that the show inspired him to “venture into the romance TV space.” “I remember it being simple and effective,” he said about the original Love Connection. “And I remember wanting to find out what happened on those dates, the he said-she said of it all. It was intriguing.”

5. A FUTURE ACTOR FROM THE SOPRANOS WAS A CONTESTANT.

Lou Martini Jr., then known as Louis Azzara, became a contestant on the show during the late 1980s. He and his date, Angela, hit it off so well that they couldn’t keep their hands off one another during the show. Martini famously talked about her “private parts,” and she referred to him as “the man of my dreams.” The relationship didn’t last long, though. “I had just moved to LA and was not ready to commit to anything long-term," Martini commented under the YouTube clip. "The show was pushing me to ask her to marry me on the show!" If Martini looks familiar it’s because he went on to play Anthony Infante, Johnny Sack’s brother-in-law, on four episodes of season six of The Sopranos.

6. BEFORE THE SHOW WENT OFF THE AIR, A LOT OF CONTESTANTS GOT MARRIED.

During the same Entertainment Weekly interview, the magazine asked Woolery what the show’s “love stats” were, and he responded with 29 marriages, eight engagements, and 15 children, which wasn’t bad considering 2120 episodes had aired during its entire run. “When you think that it’s someone in our office putting people together through questionnaires and tapes, it’s incredible that one couple got married, much less 29,” he said.

7. CHUCK WOOLERY WAS AGAINST FEATURING SAME SEX COUPLES.

In a 1993 interview with Entertainment Weekly, the interviewer asked him “Would you ever have gay couples on Love Connection?” Woolery said no. “You think it would work if a guy sat down and I said, ‘Well, so where did you meet and so and so?’ then I get to the end of the date and say, ‘Did you kiss?’ Give me a break,” he said. “Do you think America by and large is gonna identify with that? I don’t think that works at all.” What a difference a quarter-century makes. Andy Cohen, who is openly gay, asked Fox if it would be okay to feature gay singles on the new edition of Love Connection. Fox immediately agreed.

8. ERIC LIEBER LIKED THE SHOW’S “HONEST EMOTIONS.”

When asked about the show's winning formula, Lieber once said: “The show succeeds because we believe in honest emotions. And, admit it—we’re all a little voyeuristic and enjoy peeking into someone else’s life.”

9. IN LIVING COLOR DID A HILARIOUS PARODY OF THE SHOW.

In the first sketch during In Living Color's pilot—which aired April 15, 1990—Jim Carrey played Woolery in a Love Connection parody. Robin Givens (played by Kim Coles) went on a date with Mike Tyson (Keenan Ivory Wayans) and ended up marrying him during the date. (As we know from history, the real-life marriage didn’t go so well.) The audience had to vote for three men: Tyson, John Kennedy Jr., and, um, Donald Trump. Tyson won with 41 percent of the vote and Trump came in second with 34 percent.

10. A PSYCHOLOGIST THOUGHT THE SHOW HAD A “MAGICAL HOPEFULNESS” QUALITY.

In 1986, People Magazine interviewed psychologist and teacher Dr. Richard Buck about why people were attracted to Love Connection. “Combine the fantasy of finding the perfect person with the instant gratification of being on TV, and the two are a powerful lure,” he said. “There’s a magical hopefulness to the show.”

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