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The Final Resting Places of 11 Childhood Icons

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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


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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

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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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8 Gonzo Facts About Hunter S. Thompson
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Hunter S. Thompson in Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson (2008)
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Like any real-life legend, there are many myths surrounding the life and work of Hunter S. Thompson. But in Thompson’s case, most of those stories—particularly the more outlandish ones—are absolutely true. The founder of the “Gonzo journalism” movement is one of the most fascinating figures of the 20th century. In celebration of what would have been his 80th birthday, here are some things you might not have known about the eccentric writer.

1. HE WAS NAMED AFTER A FAMOUS SCOTTISH SURGEON.

Hunter S. Thompson was reportedly named after one of his mother’s ancestors, a Scottish surgeon named Nigel John Hunter. But Hunter wasn't just your run-of-the-mill surgeon. In a 2004 interview with the Independent, Thompson brought along a copy of The Reluctant Surgeon, a Biography of Nigel John Hunter, a biography of his namesake, which read: "A gruff Scotsman, Hunter has been described as the most important naturalist between Aristotle and Darwin, the Shakespeare of medicine and the greatest man the British ever produced. He was the first to trace the lymphatic system. He performed the first human artificial insemination. He was the greatest collector of anatomical specimens in history. He prescribed the orthopaedic shoe that allowed Lord Byron to walk."

When pressed about what that description had to do with him, Thompson responded: "Well, I guess that might be the secret of my survival. Good genes."

2. HE MISSED HIS HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION … BECAUSE HE WAS IN JAIL.

Just a few weeks before he was set to graduate from high school, at the age of 17, Thompson was charged as an accessory to robbery and sentenced to 60 days in jail. 

“One night Ralston Steenrod, who was in the Athenaeum with Hunter, was driving, and Hunter and another guy he knew were in the car,” Thompson’s childhood friend Neville Blakemore recalled of the incident. “As they were driv­ing through Cherokee Park, the other guy said, ‘Stop. I want to bum a ciga­rette from that car.’ People used to go park and neck at this spot. And the guy got out and apparently went back and mugged them. The guy who was mugged got their license number and traced the car, and within a very short time they were all three arrested.

“Just before this Hunter had been blamed for a nighttime gas-station rob­bery,” Blakemore added, “and before that he and some friends got arrested for buying booze under­age at Abe's Liquor Store on Frankfort Avenue by the tracks. So Hunter had a record, and he was already on probation. He was given an ultimatum: jail or the military. And Hunter took the Air Force. He didn't graduate with his class.”

3. IT WAS A FELLOW JOURNALIST WHO COINED THE TERM “GONZO.”

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While covering the 1968 New Hampshire primary, Thompson met fellow writer and editor Bill Carodoso, editor of The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, which is where Thompson first heard him use the word “Gonzo.” “It meant sort of ‘crazy’ or ‘off-the-wall,’” Thompson said in Anita Thompson’s Ancient Gonzo Wisdom: Interviews with Hunter S. Thompson. Two years later, in June 1970, Thompson wrote an article for Scanlan’s Monthly entitled “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,” which became a game-changing moment in journalism because of its offbeat, slightly manic style that was written with first-person subjectivity.

Among the many fellow journalists who praised Thompson for the piece was Cardoso, who sent a letter to Thompson that “said something like, ‘Forget all the sh*t you’ve been writing, this is it; this is pure Gonzo.’ Gonzo. Yeah, of course. That’s what I was doing all the time. Of course, I might be crazy.” Thompson ran with the word, and would use it himself for the first time a year later, in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

4. HE TYPED OUT FAMOUS NOVELS TO LEARN THE ART OF WRITING.

In order to get the “feel” of being a writer, Thompson used to retype his favorite novels in full. “[H]is true model and hero was F. Scott Fitzgerald,” Louis Menand wrote in The New Yorker. “He used to type out pages from The Great Gatsby, just to get the feeling, he said, of what it was like to write that way, and Fitzgerald’s novel was continually on his mind while he was working on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was published, after a prolonged and agonizing compositional nightmare, in 1972.”

"If you type out somebody's work, you learn a lot about it,” Thompson told Charlie Rose in 1997. “Amazingly it's like music. And from typing out parts of Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald—these were writers that were very big in my life and the lives of the people around me—so yeah, I wanted to learn from the best I guess."

5. HE RAN FOR SHERIFF IN COLORADO.

In 1970, Thompson ran for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado on what he called the Freak Power ticket. Among his political tactics: shaving his head so that he could refer to his opponent as his “long-haired opponent,” promising to eat mescaline while on duty, and campaigning to rename Aspen “Fat City” to deter "greed heads, land-rapers, and other human jackals from capitalizing on the name 'Aspen.'" Unfortunately, he lost.

6. HE STOLE A MEMENTO FROM ERNEST HEMINGWAY.

In 1964, three years after Ernest Hemingway committed suicide at his cabin in Ketchum, Idaho, Thompson traveled to the late author’s home in order to write “What Lured Hemingway to Ketchum?” While there, according to his widow, Hunter “got caught up in the moment” and took “a big pair of elk horns over the front door.” Last year, more than a decade after Thompson’s death, Anita returned the antlers to the Hemingway family—which is something she and Hunter had always planned to do. “They were warm and kind of tickled … they were so open and grateful, there was no weirdness,” Anita said.

7. HE ONCE USED THE INSIDE OF MUSICIAN JOHN OATES’ COLORADO CABIN AS HIS PERSONAL PARKING SPACE.

Magnolia Pictures

Earlier this month, musician John Oates—the latter half of Hall & Oates—shared a story about his ranch in Woody Creek, Colorado, just outside of Aspen, which is currently on the market for $6 million. In an interview with Colorado Public Radio, Oates recalled how when he first purchased the cabin, there was a red convertible parked inside. “I happened to ask the real estate agent who owned the convertible, and he said ‘your neighbor Hunter Thompson,’” Oates said. “Why is he keeping his car in a piece of property he doesn’t own? The real estate agent looked at me and said ‘It’s Woody Creek, you’ll figure this out. It’s a different kind of place.’” After sending several letters to his neighbor to retrieve his vehicle, Oates took matters into his own hands and deposited the car on Thompson’s lawn. Oates said that the two became friends, but never mentioned the incident.

8. AT HIS FUNERAL, HIS ASHES WERE SHOT OUT OF A CANNON.

On February 20, 2005—at the age of 67—Thompson committed suicide. But Thompson wasn’t about to leave this world quietly. In August of that year, in accordance with his wishes, Thompson's ashes were shot into the air from a cannon while fireworks filled the sky.

“He loved explosions," his widow, Anita, told ESPN, which wrote that, “The private celebration included actors Bill Murray and Johnny Depp, rock bands, blowup dolls and plenty of liquor to honor Thompson, who killed himself six months ago at the age of 67.”

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15 Memorable Quotes from George A. Romero
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Hollywood has lost one of its most iconic horror innovators with the death of George A. Romero, who passed away on Sunday at the age of 77. “He died peacefully in his sleep, following a brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer, and leaves behind a loving family, many friends, and a filmmaking legacy that has endured, and will continue to endure, the test of time,” his manager, Chris Roe, said in a statement.

Though he rose to prominence as the master of zombie flicks, beginning with Night of the Living Dead, Romero honed his filmmaking skills on a far less frightening set: shooting bits for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

“I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made,” Romero once said. “What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.” (Rogers returned the favor by being a longtime champion of Romero’s work—and even called Dawn of the Dead “a lot of fun.”)

It’s that high-spirited sense of fun that made Romero’s work so iconic—and kept the New York City native busy for nearly 50 years. To celebrate his life and career, here are 15 of his most memorable quotes on everything from the humanity of zombies to the horror of Hollywood producers.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A SENSE OF HUMOR

“For a Catholic kid in parochial school, the only way to survive the beatings—by classmates, not the nuns—was to be the funny guy.”

ON THE HOLLYWOOD WAY

“If I fail, the film industry writes me off as another statistic. If I succeed, they pay me a million bucks to fly out to Hollywood and fart.”

ON BEING PIGEONHOLED

“As a filmmaker you get typecast just as much as an actor does, so I'm trapped in a genre that I love, but I'm trapped in it!”

ON ZOMBIES AS A METAPHOR

“I also have always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters.”

ON FINDING OBJECTIVITY AS A FILMMAKER

“There are so many factors when you think of your own films. You think of the people you worked on it with, and somehow forget the movie. You can't forgive the movie for a long time. It takes a few years to look at it with any objectivity and forgive its flaws.”

ON THE REAL VALUE OF THE INTERNET

“What the Internet's value is that you have access to information but you also have access to every lunatic that's out there that wants to throw up a blog.”

ON THE HORROR OF DEALING WITH PRODUCERS

“I'll never get sick of zombies. I just get sick of producers.”

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF COLLABORATION

“Collaborate, don’t dictate.”

ON THE BEAUTY OF LOW-BUDGET MOVIEMAKING

“I don't think you need to spend $40 million to be creepy. The best horror films are the ones that are much less endowed.”

ON HUMANS BEING THE REAL VILLAINS

“My zombies will never take over the world because I need the humans. The humans are the ones I dislike the most, and they're where the trouble really lies.”

ON BEING IMMUNE TO TRENDS

“Somehow I've been able to keep standing and stay in my little corner and do my little stuff and I'm not particularly affected by trends or I'm not dying to make a 3-D movie or anything like that. I'm just sort of happy to still be around.”

ON THE HUMANITY OF HORROR

“My stories are about humans and how they react, or fail to react, or react stupidly. I'm pointing the finger at us, not at the zombies. I try to respect and sympathize with the zombies as much as possible.”

ON THE ENDURING APPEAL OF HORROR

“If one horror film hits, everyone says, 'Let's go make a horror film.' It's the genre that never dies.”

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SURROUNDING ZOMBIES WITH STUPID PEOPLE

“A zombie film is not fun without a bunch of stupid people running around and observing how they fail to handle the situation.”

ON LIFE AFTER DEATH

“I'm like my zombies. I won't stay dead!”

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