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10 Fun Facts About The Love Boat

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For nearly 10 years, TV viewers got to experience a journey aboard a cruise ship nearly every Saturday night as The Love Boat brought the misadventures and romantic escapades of the luxury liner life right into their living rooms. With a roster of memorable characters like Captain Stubing (Gavin MacLeod), "Doc" Bricker (Bernie Kopell), Burl "Gopher" Smith (Fred Grandy), Julie McCoy (Lauren Tewes), and the finger-gun flailing Isaac (Ted Lange), the series was an immediate hit, lasting from 1977 until the spring of 1986. Here are 10 facts you need to know about TV's The Love Boat

1. THE LOVE BOAT FOLLOWS THE LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE ANTHOLOGY FORMULA.

The Love Boat was unique for television at the time in that it was centered around multiple vignettes every week, chronicling the comedic (and romantic) misadventures of an ever-changing group of passengers and the stalwart crew of the ship.

The separate storylines would all have different writers and weave in and out throughout the episode. It wasn’t a typical sitcom, nor was it sketch comedy; it was a style that executive producer Aaron Spelling directly modeled after ABC’s earlier comic hit Love, American Style.

Aimed at an older audience—with an eye on comic hijinks dripping with sexual tension—The Love Boat found an audience instantly, debuting at number 14 on the Nielsen charts and staying strong until the finale.

2. THE SHOW WAS BASED ON A TELL-ALL BOOK BY A REAL CRUISE DIRECTOR.

There’s more reality to The Love Boat than most people would assume. The show was actually based on a book titled Love Boats by Jeraldine Saunders, the first female to become cruise director for Princess Cruises. The 1974 book is a tell-all, revealing anecdotes from Saunders’s decade-long career (at that point) as a cruise director and the various run-ins she had with colorful passengers, crew members, and exotic destinations.

3. IT WAS TURNED INTO THREE TV MOVIES FIRST.

Before The Love Boat became a weekly television show, ABC tested the waters with three made-for-TV movies acting as pilots: The Love Boat (1976), The Love Boat II (1977), and The New Love Boat (1977). The Love Boat II saw the eventual TV cast appear in early versions of their famous roles, including Bernie Kopell, Ted Lange, and Fred Grandy. And The New Love Boat was basically a pilot for what the finalized series was going to be.

After three TV movies and an overhaul of the cast, The Love Boat was ready to officially set sail on September 24, 1977.

4. ROBERT REED AND FLORENCE HENDERSON GUEST STARRED (BUT NOT AS MIKE AND CAROL BRADY).

The Love Boat was a destination for countless celebrity guest stars over the years. Each week, stars from both the big and small screens would make appearances, including Betty White, Joan Collins, Alan Thicke, Gene Kelly, Hulk Hogan, Jeffery Tambor, and Janet Leigh.

The Iron Woman of Love Boat guest stars was none other than Florence Henderson, who boarded the Pacific Princess a staggering nine times, playing various characters. During one of her guest-stints, the boat was also boarded by Robert Reed, who obviously played Mr. Brady on The Brady Bunch. Though the two were in separate vignettes and weren’t playing their former married selves, the show did acknowledge their sitcom past as Henderson briefly sees Reed’s character and the two share a knowing glance.

5. CHARLIE’S ANGELS WERE ONCE ONBOARD FOR A CROSSOVER.

In addition to The Love Boat, Spelling had another project on ABC, Charlie’s Angels, which preceded Love Boat by one year in 1976. So it was only natural to meld the two series—which have as little in common as humanly possible—for a 1979 crossover.

In the two-part episode “Love Boat Angels,” the Angels board the Pacific Princess in order to retrieve stolen pieces of art on a voyage to the Virgin Islands. Though the episode was about the Angels doing their Angel-y thing, The Love Boat favorites like Captain Stubing, Isaac, "Doc" Bricker, and Julie McCoy all made appearances.

6. ONLY THREE ACTORS APPEARED IN EVERY EPISODE OF THE SHOW.

During The Love Boat’s nine years on the air, plenty of the ship’s crew came and went, but three actors were onboard for the series’ entire 250-episode run: Gavin MacLeod, Bernie Kopell, and Ted Lange. Fred Grandy came close, starring in 246 episodes across the entire length of the show. Lange, Kopell, and MacLeod also starred in the 1990 TV movie The Love Boat: A Valentine Voyage and made appearances on Love Boat: The Next Wave.

7. THE SHOW WAS FILMED ON REAL BOATS WITH ACTUAL PASSENGERS.

To shoot The Love Boat you need a boat, right? To make the boat come alive, the production shot on two real cruise ships: The Pacific Princess and Island Princess. Real cruises were booked and actual passengers played extras during certain scenes that required a more authentic look. For the actual people on vacation, filming was just an added bonus, as extras would get a raffle ticket at the end of each day they filmed. The cruises known to double as shooting locales would always sell out.

Filming aboard an actual ship wasn’t the norm, though. Like any sitcom, The Love Boat was mostly shot on soundstages that could create the look of a cabin, dining area, or a ship’s hallways.

8. DIONNE WARWICK SANG THE THEME FOR THE FINAL SEASON.

The Love Boat’s iconic theme was written by Paul Williams—who had written for The Carpenters, David Bowie, and The Muppets—and Charles Fox, the man behind the music for the Wide World of Sports and the first theme for ABC’s Monday Night Football. And for the show’s first eight seasons, The Love Boat theme was performed by Jack Jones until season nine when hit singer Dionne Warwick took over.

Her version closed out the final season of the show, and a completely overhauled version would grace Love Boat: The Next Wave from the late ‘90s.

9. THE REAL LOVE BOAT BECAME A NOTORIOUS VESSEL FOR DRUG SMUGGLERS.

The life of an out-of-work Hollywood icon can be rough, and after The Love Boat went off the air, the Pacific Princess found itself mixed up in the seedy world of narcotics. In 1998, BBC reported that the liner had become “a major tool for smugglers bent on trafficking drugs around the Mediterranean,” and more than 50 pounds of heroin were found aboard in November of that year.

The ship was impounded in Greece during a cruise, stranding the 600 passengers there as the whole ordeal got sorted out.

10. THE PACIFIC PRINCESS WAS BROUGHT TO A SCRAP YARD IN 2013.

When The Love Boat ended, the Pacific Princess—eventually renamed the MS Princess—was still in operation as a functioning luxury liner. In addition to its previously known drug issues, the ship’s final years were spent in a state of constant repairs and unpaid debt. After going through numerous owners and financial maladies, the MS Princess was eventually sent to a Turkish scrap yard in 2013.

Before it went to scrap, the ship was already decommissioned, and getting it back into proper shape would have been senseless from a financial standpoint, according to Ersin Ceviker of the Ship Recyclers' Association of Turkey. During its trip to the Aliaga port in Turkey, the ship began taking on water and required additional tugboats to bring it to its final destination.

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10 Witty Facts About The Marx Brothers
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Talented as individuals and magnificent as a team, the Marx Brothers conquered every medium from the vaudeville stage to the silver screen. Today, we’re tipping our hats (and tooting our horns) to Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo—on the 50th anniversary of Groucho's passing.

1. A RUNAWAY MULE INSPIRED THEM TO TAKE A STAB AT COMEDY.

Julius, Milton, and Arthur Marx originally aspired to be professional singers. In 1907, the boys joined a group called “The Three Nightingales.” Managed by their mother, Minnie, the ensemble performed covers of popular songs in theaters all over the country. As Nightingales, the brothers enjoyed some moderate success, but they might never have found their true calling if it weren’t for an unruly equid. During a 1907 gig at the Nacogdoches Opera House in East Texas, someone interrupted the performance by barging in and shouting “Mule’s loose!” Immediately, the crowd raced out to watch the newly-liberated animal. Back inside, Julius seethed. Furious at having lost the spotlight, he skewered his audience upon their return. “The jackass is the finest flower of Tex-ass!” he shouted, among many other ad-libbed jabs. Rather than boo, the patrons roared with laughter. Word of his wit soon spread and demand for these Marx brothers grew.

2. THEY RECEIVED THEIR STAGE NAMES DURING A POKER GAME.

In May of 1914, the five Marxes were playing cards with standup comedian Art Fisher. Inspired by a popular comic strip character known as “Sherlocko the Monk,” he decided that the boys could use some new nicknames. Leonard’s was a no-brainer. Given his girl-crazy, “chick-chasing” lifestyle, Fisher dubbed him “Chicko” (later, this was shortened to “Chico”). Arthur loved playing the harp and thus became “Harpo.” An affinity for soft gumshoes earned Milton the alias “Gummo.” Finally, Julius was both cynical and often seen wearing a “grouch bag”—wherein he’d store small objects like marbles and candy—around his neck. Thus, “Groucho” was born. For the record, nobody knows how Herbert Marx came to be known as “Zeppo.”

3. GROUCHO WORE HIS TRADEMARK GREASEPAINT MUSTACHE BECAUSE HE HATED MORE REALISTIC MODELS.

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Phony, glue-on facial hair can be a pain to remove and reapply, so Groucho would simply paint a ‘stache and some exaggerated eyebrows onto his face. However, the mustache he later rocked as the host of his famous quiz show You Bet Your Life was 100 percent real.

4. HARPO WAS A SELF-TAUGHT HARPIST.

Without any formal training (or the ability to read sheet music), the second-oldest Marx brother developed a unique style that he never stopped improving upon. “Dad really loved playing the harp, and he did it constantly,” his son, Bill Marx, wrote. “Maybe the first multi-tasker ever, he even had a harp in the bathroom so he could play when he sat on the toilet!”

5. THE VERY FIRST MARX BROTHERS MOVIE WAS NEVER RELEASED.

Financed by Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and a handful of other investors, Humor Risk was filmed in 1921. Accounts differ, but most scholars agree that the silent picture—which would have served as the family’s cinematic debut—never saw completion. Despite this, an early screening of the work-in-progress was reportedly held in the Bronx. When Humor Risk failed to impress there, production halted. By Marx Brothers standards, it would’ve been an unusual flick, with Harpo playing a heroic detective opposite a villainous Groucho character.

6. GUMMO AND ZEPPO BECAME TALENT AGENTS.

World War I forced Gummo to quit the stage. Following his return, the veteran decided that performing was no longer for him and instead started a raincoat business. Zeppo—the youngest brother—then assumed Gummo’s role as the troupe’s straight-talking foil. A brilliant businessman, Zeppo eventually break away to found the talent agency Zeppo Marx Inc., which grew into Hollywood’s third-largest, representing superstars like Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, and—of course—the other three Marx Brothers. Gummo, who joined the company in 1935, was charged with handling Groucho, Harpo, and Chico’s needs.

7. CHICO ONCE LAUNCHED A BIG BAND GROUP.

Chico took advantage of an extended break between Marx brothers movies to realize a lifelong dream. A few months before The Big Store hit cinemas in 1941, he co-founded the Chico Marx Orchestra: a swinging jazz band that lasted until July of 1943. Short-lived as the group was, however, it still managed to recruit some amazing talent—including singer/composer Mel Tormé, who would go on to help write the “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” in 1945.

8. THEY TESTED OUT NEW MATERIAL FOR A NIGHT AT THE OPERA IN FRONT OF LIVE AUDIENCES.

With the script still being drafted, MGM made the inspired choice to let the brothers perform key scenes in such places as Seattle, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Once a given joke was made, the Marxes meticulously timed the ensuing laughter, which let them know exactly how much silence to leave after repeating the gag on film. According to Harpo, this had the added benefit of shortening A Night at the Opera’s production period. “We didn’t have to rehearse,” he explained. “[We just] got onto the set and let the cameras roll.”

9. GROUCHO TEMPORARILY HOSTED THE TONIGHT SHOW.

Jack Paar bid the job farewell on March 29, 1962. Months before their star’s departure, NBC offered Paar’s Tonight Show seat to Groucho, who had established himself as a razor-sharp, well-liked host during You Bet Your Life’s 14-year run. Though Marx turned the network down, he later served as a guest host for two weeks while Johnny Carson prepared to take over the gig. When Carson finally made his Tonight Show debut on October 1, it was Groucho who introduced him.

10. SPY MAGAZINE USED A MARX BROTHERS MOVIE TO PRANK U.S. CONGRESSMEN.

Duck Soup takes place in Freedonia, a fictional country over which the eccentric Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) presides. In 1993, 60 years after the movie’s release, this imaginary nation made headlines by embarrassing some real-life politicians. Staffers from Spy got in touch with around 20 freshmen in the House of Representatives, asking some variation on the question “Do you approve of what we’re doing to stop ethnic cleansing in Freedonia?” A few lawmakers took the bait. Representative Corrine Brown (D-Florida) professed to approve of America’s presence in Freedonia, saying “I think all of those situations are very, very sad, and I just think we need to take action to assist the people.” Across the aisle, Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) concurred. “Yeah,” he said, “it’s a different situation than the Middle East.”

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‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ Could Have Been a Meat Loaf Song
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Imagine a world in which Bonnie Tyler was not the star performer on the Royal Caribbean Total Eclipse Cruise. Imagine if, instead, as the moon crossed in front of the sun in the path of totality on August 21, 2017, the performer belting out the 1983 hit for cruise ship stargazers was Meat Loaf?

It could have been. Because yes, as Atlas Obscura informs us, the song was originally written for the bestselling rocker (and actor) of Bat Out of Hell fame, not the husky-voiced Welsh singer. Meat Loaf had worked on his 1977 record Bat Out of Hell with Jim Steinman, the composer and producer who would go on to work with the likes of Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand (oddly enough, he also composed Hulk Hogan’s theme song on an album released by the WWE). “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was meant for Meat Loaf’s follow-up album to Bat Out of Hell.

But Meat Loaf’s fruitful collaboration with Steinman was about to end. In the wake of his bestselling record, the artist was going through a rough patch, mentally, financially, and in terms of his singing ability. And the composer wasn’t about to stick around. As Steinman would tell CD Review magazine in 1989 (an article he has since posted on his personal website), "Basically I only stopped working with him because he lost his voice as far as I was concerned. It was his voice I was friends with really.” Harsh, Jim, harsh.

Steinman began working with Bonnie Tyler in 1982, and in 1983, she released her fifth album, Faster Than the Speed of Night, including “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” It sold 6 million copies.

Tyler and Steinman both dispute that the song was written specifically for Meat Loaf. “Meat Loaf was apparently very annoyed that Jim gave that to me,” she told The Irish Times in 2014. “But Jim said he didn’t write it for Meat Loaf, that he only finished it after meeting me.”

There isn’t a whole lot of bad blood between the two singers, though. In 1989, they released a joint compilation album: Heaven and Hell.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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