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The Final Resting Places of 11 Childhood Icons

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Sodahead

The news of Detroit’s bankruptcy filing probably didn’t come as a surprise to many this week, especially not creditors who are owed a total of $18 billion. What does come as a surprise is that the city may sell off some of its art collection to try to stop some of the bleeding—including Howdy Doody. Wait, what? How did Howdy Doody end up in Detroit? We have the answer, in addition to what happened to 10 other props you’ll remember from childhood.

1. Howdy Doody

So if you weren’t already aware, you now know that Howdy Doody (above), the beloved cowboy puppet from the 1950s-era children’s show of the same name, has called the Detroit Institute of Arts home for the last several years. But why? Howdy Doody host Buffalo Bob Smith was from Buffalo, New York (go figure). When he died in 1998, fights erupted between various groups of people who believed they had a claim to the marionette. The Detroit Institute of Arts—which has one of the largest collections of significant puppets in the world—eventually prevailed.

2. Hoggle

Unclaimed Baggage Center

Woe is Hoggle, the curmudgeonly dwarf from Labyrinth. Far from being carefully and lovingly preserved as our friend Howdy Doody was, Hoggle was just someone’s unwanted baggage. Literally. The foam puppet turned up in a crate at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. The folks there had the puppet restored to its former glory, so Hoggle now presides over the Unclaimed Baggage Museum as its rightful king. Take that, Jareth.

3. Rudolph and Santa

In 2005, a man cleaning out the family attic stumbled upon a couple of little puppets and recognized them from his childhood. And your childhood. And the childhood of anyone who has ever watched television. His aunt, a Rankin-Bass employee at the time Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was made in the early 1960s, took the wood, wool, and wire models home for her kids to play with. By the time the nephew discovered them and took them to Antiques Roadshow in 2005, Rudolph’s iconic nose was gone and Santa appeared to have waxed off both eyebrows and half of his mustache.

The toys have since been purchased by a private buyer and restored; they occasionally make appearances at Comic-Cons and museums across the country.

4. Kermit

Flickr

You can gaze upon the original Kermit the Frog—complete with ping pong ball eyeballs—at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in D.C. The original puppet was made using an old green coat and was part of a show called Sam & Friends starting in 1955. The show, appropriately, was a local Washington D.C. news program.

5. Charlie McCarthy

If Toy Story is an accurate representation of what happens when toy owners aren’t looking, perhaps Kermit hops out of his case to go chat with Edgar Bergen’s sidekick Charlie McCarthy, who also calls the Smithsonian home these days. And if the image of a nearly 60-year-old Muppet coming to life to get up to some shenanigans in an empty museum with a wooden ventriloquist’s dummy gives you nightmares tonight, well, I guess we’ll both have something to discuss with our therapists.

6. Effie Klinker and Mortimer Snerd

Along with another version of Mr. McCarthy, a couple of Edgar Bergen’s other famous dummies live behind glass at the National Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago.

7. Shotgun Red

Back when I was but a little shaver, I watched a lot of TNN (The Nashville Network) when my grandma babysat. I didn’t care for the Grand Ole Opry, so much, but I was a big fan of Shotgun Red on Nashville Now. I’m slightly elated to know that Shotgun Red is still “alive” and well, touring with his own variety show and making appearances on TV. 

Here he is back in the day:

8. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood Trolley

Getty Images

If this model train enthusiast is to be believed, all of the puppets and props, including the trolley that whisked us all to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood of Make Believe, are just sitting in a box somewhere at PBS. Curious as to where the old trolley had ended up, Chris from Duluth emailed PBS several years ago. Their reply:

Chris,
We received the email message you sent through our PBS Neighborhood web site. The Trolley from the Neighborhood program, along with all of the props and set pieces have been careful placed in storage. We have kept everything from the Neighborhood series in case we need it for future projects. We are continuing the work at the nonprofit company that Fred Rogers founded (Family Communications, Inc.) If you'd like to know more about the work of FCI, you can visit our web site at www.fci.org.

We appreciate your interest (and that of the fellow members of your model RR forum) in the Neighborhood Trolley.

9. Lost in Space robot

If you’ve ever hoped to hear “Danger Will Robinson! Danger!” in person, you’ll need to take it up with NASA. After Lost in Space creator Irwin Allen died, his widow donated at least one version of the robot to the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center. There’s another one in the Seattle Science Fiction Museum, and a private collector owns a costume version of the robot that was worn by an actor for shots that required a lot of movement.

10. ALF

We don’t know the exact location of everyone’s favorite cat-eating Melmackian, but as of a few years ago, Paul Fusco, the puppeteer and voice of ALF, assured People magazine that he was safe. “That would be a terrible thing, to tell the fans that he’s in a box somewhere!” Fusco said. Better a box than the Unclaimed Baggage Center, I always say.

11. E.T.

RogerEbert.com

Now, take this with an Elephant Man-sized grain of salt, but it’s said that Michael Jackson purchased one of the original E.T. puppets. It wouldn’t really be a surprising purchase—Jackson very much identified with the adorable little alien, telling Ebony magazine, “Well, look at his story. He’s in a strange place and wants to be accepted—which is a situation that I’ve found myself in many times when traveling from city to city all over the world. He’s most comfortable with children, and I have a great love for kids. He gives love and wants love in return, which is me. And he has that super power which lets him lift off and fly whenever he wants to get away from things on Earth, and I can identify with that.”

Jackson won a Grammy for narrating the E.T. audio book, because of course he did.

Primary image courtesy of Sodahead.

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Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images
60 Years Later, a Lost Stanley Kubrick Script Has Been Found
Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images
Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images

A “lost” screenplay co-written by famed filmmaker Stanley Kubrick has been found after 60 years, Vulture reports.

The screenplay is an adaptation of Stefan Zweig’s novella Burning Secret, which Vulture describes as a reverse Lolita (plot summary for those who forgot high school English class: a man enters a relationship with a woman because of his obsession with her 12-year-old daughter). In Burning Secret, a man befriends an adolescent boy in order to seduce his mother. Zweig’s other works have inspired films like Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel (which the director claims he "stole" from Zweig's novels Beware of Pity and The Post-Office Girl).

Kubrick’s screenplay adaptation is co-written by novelist Calder Willingham and dated October 24, 1956. Although the screenplay bears a stamp from MGM’s screenwriting department, Nathan Abrams—the Bangor University professor who discovered the script—thinks it’s likely the studio found it too risqué for mass audiences.

“The child acts as an unwitting go-between for his mother and her would-be lover, making for a disturbing story with sexuality and child abuse churning beneath its surface,” Abrams told The Guardian. It's worth noting, however, that Kubrick directed an adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita in 1962, which MGM distributed, and it was also met with a fair share of controversy.

Abrams said the screenplay for Burning Secret is complete enough that it could be created by filmmakers today. He noted that the discovery is particularly exciting because it confirms speculations Kubrick scholars have had for decades.

“Kubrick aficionados knew he wanted to do it, [but] no one ever thought it was completed,” Abrams told The Guardian.

The Guardian reports that Abrams found the screenplay while researching his book Eyes Wide Shut: Stanley Kubrick and the Making of His Final Film. The screenplay is owned by the family of one of Kubrick’s colleagues.

[h/t Vulture]

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
12 Surprising Facts About Robin Williams
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA

Robin Williams had a larger-than-life personality. On screen and on stage, he embodied what he referred to as “hyper-comedy.” Offscreen, he was involved in humanitarian causes and raised three children—Zak, Zelda, and Cody. On July 16, HBO debuts the documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, directed by Marina Zenovich. The film chronicles his rise on the L.A. and San Francisco stand-up comedy scenes during the 1970s, to his more dramatic roles in the 1980s and '90s in award-winning films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; Awakenings; The Fisher King; and Good Will Hunting. The film also focuses on August 11, 2014, the date of his untimely death. Here are 12 surprising facts about the beloved entertainer.

1. ROBIN WILLIAMS GOT HIS START AT A COMEDY WORKSHOP INSIDE A CHURCH.

A still from 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind' (2018)
HBO

After leaving Juilliard, Robin Williams found himself back in his hometown of San Francisco, but he couldn’t find work as an actor. Then he saw something for a comedy workshop in a church and decided to give it a shot. “So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was stand-up comedy, so you don’t get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo," he told NPR. "And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there."

2. HE FORMED A FRIENDSHIP WITH KOKO THE GORILLA.

In 2001, Williams visited Koko the gorilla, who passed away in June, at The Gorilla Foundation in Northern California. Her caregivers had shown her one of his movies, and she seemed to recognize him. Koko repeatedly signed for Williams to tickle her. “We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” Williams said of the encounter. On the day Williams died, The Foundation shared the news with Koko and reported that she fell into sadness.

3. FOR A TIME, HE WAS A MIME IN CENTRAL PARK.

In 1974, photographer Daniel Sorine captured photos of two mimes in New York's Central Park. As it turned out, one of the mimes was Williams, who was attending Juilliard at the time. “What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity,” Sorine said. In 1991, Williams revisited the craft by playing Mime Jerry in Bobcat Goldthwait’s film Shakes the Clown. In the movie, Williams hilariously leads a how-to class in mime.

4. HE TRIED TO GET LYDIA FROM MRS. DOUBTFIRE BACK IN SCHOOL.

As a teen, Lisa Jakub played Robin Williams’s daughter Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. “When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy,” Jakub wrote on her blog. “My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a ‘non-traditional’ student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.”

Sensing Jakub’s distress over the situation, Williams typed a letter and sent it to her school. “A student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work,” he wrote. “She should also be encouraged to return to the classroom when she’s done to share those experiences and motivate her classmates to soar to their own higher achievements … she is an asset to any classroom.”

Apparently, the school framed the letter but didn’t allow Jakub to return. “But here’s what matters from that story—Robin stood up for me,” Jakub wrote. “I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.”

5. HE WASN’T PRODUCERS' FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY MORK ON MORK & MINDY.

Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Don Most told The Hallmark Channel that a different actor was originally hired to play Mork for the February 1978 Happy Days episode “My Favorite Orkan,” which introduced the alien character to the world. “Mork & Mindy was like the worst script in the history of Happy Days. It was unreadable, it was so bad,” Anson Williams said. “So they hire some guy for Mork—bad actor, bad part.” The actor quit, and producer Garry Marshall came to the set and asked: “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” They hired Williams to play Mork, and from September 1978 to May 1982, Williams co-headlined the spinoff Mork & Mindy for four seasons.

6. HE “RISKED” A ROLE IN AN OFF-BROADWAY PLAY.

Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California
Michael Caulfield, Getty Images for PCA

In 1988, Williams made his professional stage debut as Estragon in the Mike Nichols-directed Waiting for Godot, which also starred Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham. The play was held off-Broadway at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The New York Times asked Williams if he felt the show was a career risk, and he responded with: “Risk! Of never working on the stage again! Oh, no! You’re ruined! It’s like you're ruined socially in Tustin,” a town in Orange County, California. “If there’s risk, you can’t think about it,” he said, “or you’ll never be able to do the play.”

Williams had to restrain himself and not improvise during his performance. “You can do physical things,” he said, “but you don’t ad lib [Samuel] Beckett, just like you don’t riff Beethoven.” In 1996, Nichols and Williams once again worked together, this time in the movie The Birdcage.

7. HE USHERED IN THE ERA OF CELEBRITY VOICE ACTING.

The 1992 success of Aladdin, in which Williams voiced Genie, led to more celebrities voicing animated characters. According to a 2011 article in The Atlantic, “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney’s 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin.” Since then, big names have attached themselves to animated films, from The Lion King to Toy Story to Shrek. Williams continued to do voice acting in animated films, including Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2.

8. HE FORGOT TO THANK HIS MOTHER DURING HIS 1998 OSCAR SPEECH.

In March 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. In 2011, Williams appeared on The Graham Norton Show, and Norton asked him what it was like to win the award. “For a week it was like, ‘Hey congratulations! Good Will Hunting, way to go,'” Williams said. “Two weeks later: ‘Hey, Mork.’”

Then Williams mentioned how his speech accidentally left out one of the most important people in his life. “I forgot to thank my mother and she was in the audience,” he said. “Even the therapist went, ‘Get out!’ That was rough for the next few years. [Mom voice] ‘You came through here [points to his pants]! How’s the award?’”

9. HE COMFORTED STEVEN SPIELBERG DURING THE FILMING OF SCHINDLER’S LIST.

At this year’s 25th anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, held at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Steven Spielberg shared that Williams—who played Peter Pan in Spielberg’s Hook—would call him and make him laugh. “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” Spielberg said. “I would laugh hysterically, because I had to release so much.”

10. HE HELPED ETHAN HAWKE GET HIS AGENT.

During a June 2018 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Ethan Hawke recalled how, while working on Dead Poets Society, Williams was hard on him. “I really wanted to be a serious actor,” Hawke said. “I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane [Williams] got. He would make fun of me. ‘Oh this one doesn't want to laugh.’ And the more smoke would come out of my ears. He didn’t understand I was trying to do a good job.” Hawke had assumed Williams hated him during filming.

After filming ended, Hawke went back to school, but he received a surprising phone call. It was from Williams’s agent, who—at Williams's suggestion—wanted to sign Hawke. Hawke said he still has the same agent today.

11. HE WAS ALMOST CAST IN MIDNIGHT RUN.

In February 1988, Williams told Rolling Stone how he sometimes still had to audition for roles. “I read for a movie with [Robert] De Niro, [Midnight Run], to be directed by Marty Brest,” Williams said. “I met with them three or four times, and it got real close, it was almost there, and then they went with somebody else. The character was supposed to be an accountant for the Mafia. Charles Grodin got the part. I was craving it. I thought, ‘I can be as funny,’ but they wanted someone obviously more in type. And in the end, he was better for it. But it was rough for me. I had to remind myself, ‘Okay, come on, you’ve got other things.’”

In July 1988, Universal released Midnight Run. Just two years later, Williams finally worked with De Niro, on Awakenings.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND WILLIAMS USED TO TALK ON THE PHONE FOR HOURS.

Actors Robin Williams (L) and Billy Crystal pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Columbia Picture's 'RV' on April 23, 2006 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Starting in 1986, Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg co-hosted HBO’s Comic Relief to raise money for the homeless. Soon after Williams’s death, Crystal went on The View and spoke with Goldberg about his friendship with Williams. “We were like two jazz musicians,” Crystal said. “Late at night I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.”

“Gary” turned out to be Williams.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres on Monday, July 16 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.

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