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11 Reasons Agatha Christie Was as Interesting as Her Characters

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From MI5 investigations to going missing for 11 days, Agatha Christie led a life that was every bit as interesting as her novels.

1. She started writing mystery novels after her older sister told her she couldn’tthe plots were just too complicated and she didn’t think Agatha was capable of weaving them together.

2. Christie liked to dream up plot ideas while soaking in her large Victorian bath, munching on apples. She stopped the habit when she became dissatisfied with the baths available to her. “Nowadays they don’t build baths like that. I’ve rather given up the practice.”

3. In reference to how she was able to churn out so many books, Christie once called herself “a sausage machine, a perfect sausage machine.” For many years she was on a tight schedule of two books per year, including one that was always released right before the holiday season, which was marketed as “Christie for Christmas.”

4. Christie helped resolve a crime after her death. A toddler was dying from some sort of wasting disease that no one could seem to identify, until one of her nurses recalled The Pale Horse, the Christie novel she was reading. The Christie character was a victim of thallic poisoning and suffered from many of the same symptoms as the dying tot. In a last-ditch effort to figure out what was going on, the nurse had the patient’s thallium levels tested. They were more than 10 times the normal amount. After treatment, the girl made a full recovery. It was later determined that pesticides containing the deadly substance were regularly used around her home.

5. In a plot twist worthy of her own novels, Christie disappeared for 11 days in 1926.

Her mother had recently died, and on top of that, her husband was cheating on her quite blatantly. On December 3, 1926, Agatha kissed her daughter goodnight, then promptly got in her car and left. Her abandoned vehicle was found a few miles away, but the writer herself had completely vanished. Lakes were dredged, 15,000 volunteers combed the area, and Archie Christie’s phone was tapped. Those who thought Archie was guilty of foul play were surprised when Agatha was located safe and sound a week and a half later, holed up at a hotel and spa in Harrogate, England—but the mystery wasn’t over. She never said why she disappeared, leading to wild speculation. Did she have amnesia resulting from a car crash? Was it a publicity stunt for her next book? Was she trying to frame her philandering husband for murder? We’ll never know, because Agatha never said. It’s worth noting, though, that Christie checked into the hotel under the surname “Neele”—the last name of her husband’s lover.

6. Before things went south for Agatha and Archie, they were some of the first British people to ever try surfing.

Image courtesy of Museum of British Surfing/SWNS.com

Already a bodyboarder, Agatha was excited to try the new sport when she and Archie visited Hawaii in 1922. “I learned to become expert, or at any rate expert from the European point of view—the moment of complete triumph on the day that I kept my balance and came right into shore standing upright on my board!” she wrote in her autobiography. She was also delighted by her purchase of ''a wonderful, skimpy emerald green wool bathing dress, which was the joy of my life, and in which I thought I looked remarkably well!''

A researcher from the Museum of British Surfing says that only one other Brit seems to have taken up surfing before the Christies: Prince Edward.

7. In addition to 66 novels and 15 short story collections, Christie also wrote six romance novels under the name Mary Westmacott. It wasn’t her only pseudonym: she originally submitted her work to editors under the name “Monosyllaba.”

8. One of Christie’s books hit a little too close to the truth during WWII—so close, in fact, that MI5 launched an investigation. In her novel N or M, a character named Major Bletchley claims he knows critical British wartime secrets. It just so happened that Christie’s good friend Dilly Knox was a well-known codebreaker at Bletchley Park, so insiders at MI5 wondered if the wartime secrets known by the fictional character were actually real details that Knox had spilled. Knox denied that he had told Christie anything, but MI5 wasn’t convinced. If the author didn’t know anything, why had she given that specific character a name based on that location? Knox agreed to ask her, and it seems MI5 was satisfied by her answer: “Bletchley? My dear, I was stuck there on my way by train from Oxford to London and took revenge by giving the name to one of my least lovable characters."

9. Christie’s famous Belgian detective character Hercule Poirot is the only fictional character to receive an obituary in the New York Times.

10. Another of her famous characters, spinster detective Miss Marple, was based, in part, on her step-grandmother and “some of my step-grandmother's Ealing cronies—old ladies whom I have met in so many villages where I have gone to stay as a girl." You can hear snippets of her talking about it here—some of the only known recordings of Christie’s voice. And she sounds pretty much exactly what you’d expect her to sound like.

11. Christie's second husband, Max Mallowan, was a renowned British archaeologist. Christie loved to accompany him on digs and serve as his assistant, cleaning objects, matching shards of pottery, and helping to catalog items. She once remarked to Mallowan that she wished she had taken up archaeology as a girl so she would have been more knowledgeable on the subject as an adult. He responded, "Don't you realize that at this moment you know more about prehistoric pottery than any woman in England?"

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XOXO: 20 Things You Might Not Know About Gossip Girl
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Giovanni Rufino - © 2012 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Ten years ago, Gossip Girl became appointment television for America’s teenagers—and a guilty pleasure for millions more (whether they wanted to admit it or not). Like a new millennium version of Beverly Hills, 90210, the series—which was adapted from Cecily von Ziegesar’s book series of the same name—saw The O.C.’s Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage trade in their west coast cool for New York City style as the show followed the lives of a group of friends (and sometimes enemies) navigating the elite world of prep schools and being fabulous on Manhattan's Upper East Side. In honor of the series’ tenth anniversary, here are 20 things you might not have known about Gossip Girl.

1. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A LINDSAY LOHAN MOVIE.

Originally, the plan for adapting Gossip Girl wasn’t for a series at all. It was supposed to be a feature film, with Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino writing the script and Lindsay Lohan set to star as Blair Waldorf. When those plans fell through, the producers approached Josh Schwartz—who was just wrapping up work on The O.C.—about taking his talent for creating enviable high school worlds to New York City’s Upper East Side.

"The books are a soap opera, and TV makes a lot of sense," executive producer Leslie Morgenstein told Backstage of the decision to go the small-screen route. "When we made the list of writers who would be the best to adapt Gossip Girl for television, Josh was at the top of the list."

2. PENN BADGLEY INITIALLY TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF DAN HUMPHREY.

Barbara Nitke - © 2012 THE CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Though he was hardly a household name when Gossip Girl premiered, Penn Badgley had been acting for nearly a decade—and had a lot of experience working on first season TV shows that never took off—when he was offered the role of Brooklyn outsider Dan Humphrey, and his initial response was: thanks, but no thanks.

“The reason I turned it down initially was because I was just frustrated,” Badgley told Vulture in 2012. “I was frustrated and I was broke and I was depressed and I was like, ‘I cannot do that again. I can't.’ … Stephanie Savage, the creator [of Gossip Girl], she said to me, ‘I know you might not want to do this again, but just take a look at it.’ And I actually was like, ‘I appreciate so much that you thought of me. I just don't want to do this. Thank you for understanding that I wouldn't want to do this.’ And then they couldn't find anybody for it—which is weird, because a million people could play Dan Humphrey—and she came back around, I was about to get a job as a waiter, and I was like, ‘Okay.’”

3. ULTIMATELY, BADGLEY PROBABLY WISHES HE HAD FOLLOWED HIS INITIAL INSTINCT.

Badgley told Vulture that, “I wouldn't be here without Gossip Girl, so I will always be in debt and grateful. And I've said some sh*t that ... I don't regret it, but I'm just maybe too honest about it sometimes.”

But executive producer Joshua Safran had a different view on the situation. “Penn didn’t like being on Gossip Girl, but …. he was Dan,” Safran told Vanity Fair. “He may not have liked it, but [his character] was the closest to who he was.”

4. THE CREATORS GOT THE IDEA TO CAST BLAKE LIVELY FROM THE INTERNET.

According to Vanity Fair, when it came time to casting the show’s main roles, they cruised some of the online message boards related to the Gossip Girl book series to see which actors fans of the books were suggesting. One name they kept seeing for the role of Serena van der Woodsen: Blake Lively, who had starred in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. “We didn’t see a lot of other girls for Serena,” Schwartz said. “She has to be somebody that you believe would be sitting in the front row at Fashion Week eventually.”

5. LIKE BADGLEY, LIVELY WAS ON THE VERGE OF QUITTING ACTING.

© 2008 Warner Bros. Television

Like her onscreen (and eventually off-screen) love interest Penn Badgley, Blake Lively was also considering leaving Hollywood when Gossip Girl came calling, so she turned the producers down.

“I said, ‘No, I want to go to college. Thank you, though,’” Lively told Vanity Fair. “Then they said, ‘OK, you can go to Columbia [University] one day a week. After the first year [of the show], it’ll quiet down. Your life will go back to normal and you can start going to school. We can’t put it in writing, but we promise you can go.’ So that’s why I said, ‘OK. You know what? I’ll do this.’”

As for that going back to school and life going back to normal? “When they say, ‘We promise, but we can’t put it in writing,’ there’s a reason they can’t put it in writing,” she said.

6. LEIGHTON MEESTER DYED HER HAIR TO GET THE PART OF BLAIR.

Because Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodsen were both best friends and occasional enemies, it was important to the show’s creators that the characters did not look like the same person. That fact almost cost Leighton Meester the role of Blair.

“She came in and she was really funny, and really smart and played vulnerable,” Schwartz recalled of Meester’s audition. “But there was one problem: she was blonde. And Blake was blonde, obviously; Serena had to be blonde. So, [Leighton] went to the sink and dyed her hair. She wanted it.’” (Sounds like something Blair would do.)

7. THE NETWORK WORRIED THAT ED WESTWICK LOOKED LIKE A “SERIAL KILLER.”

Giovanni Rufino - © 2012 THE CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Ed Westwick, who originally auditioned for the role of Nate Archibald but ended up playing bad boy Chuck Bass, almost didn’t land a role on the show at all. Though the show’s co-creators, Schwartz and Savage, loved the darker edge that Westwick brought to the group of friends, The CW worried “that he looked more like a serial killer than a romantic lead.”

“He's menacing and scary, but there's a twinkle in his eye,” casting director David Rapaport told BuzzFeed. “You want to hate him, but you would also probably sleep with him. He's one of those guys you hate for always getting away with things, but you also want to hang out with him and see what he's up to next. He's the guy that's going to give you a joint for the first time or get you drunk for the first time, so you know he's wrong for you, but he's fun.” Fans clearly agreed.

8. WESTWICK CHANNELED HIS INNER CARLTON BANKS TO PLAY CHUCK BASS.

In order to perfect his posh American accent, Westwick—who was born in London—looked to another iconic American television character for help: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s Carlton Banks (Alfonso Ribeiro). “There’s a slight thing in Carlton Banks,” Westwick told Details Magazine in 2008, “that kind of über-preppy, that I did pick up on.”

9. GRETA GERWIG AUDITIONED FOR THE SHOW … IN OVERALLS.

In 2015, Golden Globe-nominated actress Greta Gerwig—who just wrote and directed Lady Bird, starring Saoirse Ronan—talked to HuffPost Live about the mistakes she made early on in her career as an actress. “I have had moments when I was starting out when I was auditioning for things like Gossip Girl," she said. “And they would look at me like, 'Why are you wearing overalls to this audition?' And I'd be like, 'They said she was from a farm!' and they would be like, 'Well, this is Gossip Girl.’” (The role she was auditioning for, Eva Coupeau—a love interest for Chuck—eventually went to Clémence Poésy, who played Fleur Delacour in the Harry Potter movies.

10. BLAIR WALDORF HAD TWO MOMS.

© 2008 Warner Bros. Television

In Gossip Girl’s pilot episode, Blair’s mom—popular women’s clothing designer Eleanor Waldorf—was played by Florencia Lozano. In episode two, and throughout the rest of the series, Eleanor was portrayed by Margaret Colin.

11. IT WAS ONE OF TELEVISION’S FIRST STREAMING SUCCESS STORIES.

Years before House of Cards changed the way we watch, and even define, “television,” Gossip Girl served as a sort of precursor to the streaming generation. While the show’s Nielsen ratings were mediocre, New York Magazine reported that, “New episodes routinely arrived at the No. 1 most-downloaded spot on iTunes, and then there were the hundreds of thousands who were downloading free week-old episodes on the CW's site. Even executives at Nielsen threw up their hands and admitted that Gossip Girl appeared to be speaking to an audience so young and tech-savvy they hadn't really figured it out just yet.” (Lost and The Office had followed similar tracks.)

12. THE SHOW WAS BANNED BY SOME NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS.

Giovanni Rufino - © 2012 THE CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

According to Vanity Fair, some of the elite New York City private schools that might have shared some similarities with the show’s fictional Constance Billard and St. Jude's banned their students from watching it. (Which, the outlet noted, “only served, in all likelihood, to make the students want to watch it more.”)

13. THE SERIES TURNED ITS CRITICISMS INTO A MARKETING CAMPAIGN.

Even by 2007’s standards, Gossip Girl—for a show about high schoolers on what was mainly known as a teen-friendly television network—seemed to relish in pushing the boundaries of what might be acceptable. It didn’t take long for parental advocacy groups like the Parent Television Council to take very public, and vocal, issue with the show's in-your-face sexuality. When it was criticized as being “mind-blowingly inappropriate” and “every parent’s nightmare,” the show turned those critiques into a marketing campaign to help promote viewership.

14. A WRITERS STRIKE HELPED THE SERIES GROW ITS VIEWERSHIP.

While the show struck a chord with certain audiences immediately upon its release, the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America Strike proved to be a boon to the series. “The CW, because they couldn’t just run repeats or game shows, [Gossip Girl is] all they had,” Schwartz told Vanity Fair. “They kept re-running the show during the strike so more and more people were watching.” Which led to even higher ratings when the show returned for a second season.

15. DESIGNERS WERE BEGGING TO SEE THEIR FASHIONS WORN ON THE SHOW.

Giovanni Rufino - © 2012 THE CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Just like New York City itself, the fashions in Gossip Girl essentially served as another character. According to a 2008 article in The New York Times, “Merchants, designers, and trend consultants say that Gossip Girl … is one of the biggest influences on how young women spend."

“When we came back with Season 2, so many designers were lining up and wanting to be a part of it,” the show’s costume designer Eric Daman told Vanity Fair. “They wanted their stuff on either Blake or Leighton.”

16. IT SPAWNED ITS OWN CLOTHING LINE.

To capitalize on the show’s influence in the fashion world, Daman and designer Christine Cybelle (a.k.a. Charlotte Russe) created a Gossip Girl-inspired clothing line.

17. KRISTEN BELL PLAYED AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE SERIES, BUT WAS NEVER CREDITED.

Though viewers had to watch all 121 episodes of Gossip Girl to learn the identity of the titular tattler, Kristen Bell provided the voice for “Gossip Girl” for all six seasons, without credit. And while she sort of hoped that the finale would have revealed that she was indeed “Gossip Girl” all along, that ending was not meant to be. “I’m sure that it would’ve been really cool had I got to play some vicious part and actually come out as Gossip Girl, but I think it was appropriate for one of the main cast members to have surfaced as Gossip Girl,” she told Perez Hilton.

Though she was a key part of the series, she didn’t learn GG’s true identity until the very end of the show—and she was surprised. “I don’t know that I ever forethought it being Dan,” she admitted. “That was a bit of a shocker!" (If it makes her feel any better, Badgley reportedly didn’t learn Gossip Girl’s identity until that scene was actually shot.)

18. JANUARY 26 IS "GOSSIP GIRL DAY" IN NEW YORK CITY.

© 2008 Warner Bros. Television

At least it was in 2012, when then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaimed January 26 “Gossip Girl Day” in celebration of the show’s 100th episode. “I don’t have a whole lot of time to follow what New York magazine has called ‘The Greatest Teen Drama of our time,’” Bloomberg said. “But I am interested in finding out who the real Gossip Girl is—Serena’s cousin, maybe? And I don’t see how Blair could marry Prince Lewis while she is clearly in love with Chuck, although she and Dan became pretty close when they interned at that fashion magazine. And I just wish that Nate and Vanessa had been able to work things out, I guess Nate was preoccupied with everything that was going on with his father and Jenny and, I mean, it was a tangled web, I guess Dan would have ended up making their relationship impossible anyway, but I’m just a casual fan.” 

Super-fans of the show can still take a Gossip Girl tour of New York City.

19. IVANKA TRUMP AND JARED KUSHNER MADE A CAMEO.

Over the full course of the series, plenty of familiar faces popped up, but two in particular seem kind of funny in retrospect: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner played themselves in a club scene. (Ivanka was apparently a huge fan of the series.) “They did it for the money,” a chuckling Schwartz told Vanity Fair.

20. IN AN ALTERNATIVE UNIVERSE, SERENA IS A SERIAL KILLER.

In 2002, von Ziegesar published a bloody take on her famed book series with Gossip Girl: Psycho Killer, which she said she’d love to see adapted. "I took the original text of the first book and whenever I saw an opportunity, I layered in this story of Serena coming back from boarding school as this coldblooded psychopath, which, to me makes total sense,” von Ziegesar told Entertainment Weekly. “She’s sort of like the Ryan Gosling of Gossip Girl world. She has that deadpan style, doesn’t seem to have much personality, and she’s really gorgeous, but then underneath she has this kind of scary ability to kill people. So she’s murdered people up at boarding school. She’s always had this dark side and everyone is a little bit scared of her.”

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8 Big Moving Mistakes—And How to Avoid Them
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Your wine glasses are smashed to pieces, and your toiletries are nowhere to be found. No wonder moving day is the most stressful life event for 62 percent of adults, beating out divorce or a new job for 43 percent of people, according to a recent study by the energy company E.ON. Many times, however, the moving day stressors can be avoided. We’ve got the dirty moving deets straight from the pros so you can move in one piece.

1. THE MISTAKE: LABELING JUST THE SIDE OF THE BOX

Ben Soreff, a professional organizer with House to Home Organizing in Connecticut, says that when the boxes get stacked, you can’t see their labels—so you may spend hours at the new house searching for your toiletries or bed linens after a really long day of moving. Instead, label every side of the box, and you’ll be able to spot your belongings quickly.

2. THE MISTAKE: THROWING AWAY RANDOM CORDS AND ELECTRONICS

It can be tempting to throw away what appears to be a spare cord, but Annie Draddy, organizer and co-founder of Henry & Higby, a professional organizing company in New York, thinks you should fight the urge. Instead, put all the random chargers, cords and electronics in one box. Then, as you go through your home prepping for the move, you can look for the mates, and be sure that you’re only tossing random cords that don’t have a purpose anymore.

3. THE MISTAKE: PACKING THINGS YOU MIGHT NEED TO HAVE HANDY ON MOVING DAY

Everyone wants to be fully packed when their movers arrive, but everyone will also find that they need last-minute items on moving day. Michelle Hale, organizer and co-founder of Henry & Higby in New York, recommends creating and properly labeling a moving day box. “Ideally, this box should include a hammer, screwdrivers, scissors, box cutters, tape, duct tape, dust cloths, basic cleaning products, paper towels, glue, sticky notes and pens, snacks and trash bags,” she says. You might need a bunch of those items even right up to when the last box has been moved (we’re looking at you, snacks and tools), and you’ll also want easy access to them the second you get into your new pad. You should also pack a separate box for your overnight essentials for that first night, which should contain sheets, towels, and toiletries. “Basically, anything to make the nighttime and morning rituals as normal as possible,” Hale says. “And remember to label it appropriately, and flag it to the movers as important.”

4. THE MISTAKE: PACKING LAMPS WITH THE LIGHTBULBS STILL IN THEM

Lightbulbs break easily—you don't want to be unpacking and stab yourself with a piece of bulb shattered during the move. Lamps and other large items can be bubble-wrapped and placed into boxes, but you should remove all lightbulbs before packing the lamps, said Nicholas Boorom, logistics director at Everything But the House, an online estate sale marketplace. If you have lightbulb boxes handy—or even have room in your Christmas ornament box—pack them up and bring them along. Otherwise, toss them and start fresh in your new place.

5. THE MISTAKE: LOSING PARTS OF DISASSEMBLED FURNITURE

There's nothing worse than getting to your new home and attempting to reassemble your furniture, only to find that you're missing a piece. Mike Glanz, co-founder and CEO of HireAHelper, a company that offers hourly movers throughout the United States, suggests having a Ziplock bag nearby when you're disassembling furniture in anticipation of your move. Toss all of the nuts, bolts, washers, and flanges for that item into the bag, then duct tape the bag and its contents to the item for an easy and quick find when you’re ready to reassemble.

6. THE MISTAKE: PACKING HEAVY ITEMS INCORRECTLY

Dense, heavy items like books should be backed in small boxes so that carrying them is manageable, says Nimrod Sheinberg, vice president of sales at Oz Moving and Storage in New York. “Movers can’t handle the box if you can’t lift it,” he says. On that note, a dresser full of clothes is a dresser that's too heavy to move. Movers aren’t superheroes, and some will refuse to move a packed dresser, Sheinberg says. Empty everything before moving day.

7. THE MISTAKE: LEAVING EMPTY SPACES IN BOXES

Leave space in your box, and whatever you've packed in there will move in transit to your new place. Sheinberg recommends filling the spaces with packing material or newspaper.

8. THE MISTAKE: FORGETTING TO PREP YOUR PLANTS

Your plants can survive a move ... if you get them ready about three weeks before moving day, according to Atlas Van Lines Inc., a moving company based in Evansville, Indiana. About three weeks prior to the big day, move your plants into unbreakable pots. Two weeks before, prune your larger plants to make them easier to handle (but skip this step if you’ve got jade plants, aloe, cactus, or other ferns and succulents). Two days before, water your plants normally, but don’t overwater because your plant could freeze or get moldy (depending on the weather). Finally, wrap your large plants with a bed sheet or tissue paper on moving day. Put them in a snug box, and put paper around them in the box so they’re snug. Put air holes around the box so it can breathe, then label the boxes and mark them so they aren’t turned upside down.

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