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10 Future Stars Who Appeared on '80s Crime Shows

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Long before these stars were even a twinkle in a tabloid editor's eye, they built their resumes—and their acting chops—by guest starring in '80s crime shows.

1. Bryan Cranston — Matlock, "The Gift"

In a pre-Walter White world, Bryan Cranston plays an innocent man defended by the show’s titular hero, Ben Matlock.  This 1987 holiday-themed episode, part of the show's second season, even gets Cranston dressed in a Santa suit (he is charged with murdering his ex-wife during her Christmas party). To make things even sappier, the poor innocent man goes on trial because he was trying to visit his daughter. Prepare to get gooey over this episode full of holiday cheer. (Fun fact: Cranston would guest star on Matlock again, this time as a marriage counselor, in the 1991 episode "The Marriage Counselor.")

2. George Clooney — Murder She Wrote, "No Laughing Murder"

George Clooney has appeared in so many small roles that we could dedicate an entire “Before He Was Famous” post just to him. In fact, in 1987, he made appearances in two of the year’s top 10 shows (Golden Girls and Murder She Wrote). In Murder She Wrote, Clooney’s character gets engaged to the daughter of his father’s sworn enemy. Their weekend celebration at his future father-in-law’s retreat sets the scene for murder. Clooney has very little screen time, as Angela Lansbury was the main attraction. Oh, how the times have changed.

3. Liam Neeson — Miami Vice, "When Irish Eyes Are Crying"

Most people know Liam Neeson as a serious actor (Schindler’s List) who reinvented himself into an action hero (Taken). But we’re willing to bet most people can’t recall him on the '80s TV phenomenon, Miami Vice. Playing an IRA terrorist who romances Gina, a Miami detective, Neeson’s character meets a dramatic end by the episode’s conclusion.  What’s the funniest part of his appearance?  Neeson got the role by flirting with a casting director while he was in New York visiting Robert DeNiro.

4. Ed O'Neill — Hunter, "The Garbage Man"

A few years before Modern Family patriarch Ed O’Neill landed his breakthrough role on Married…with Children, he played a parole officer-turned-vigilante on a 1985 episode of Hunter. O’Neill had previously auditioned for the role of Sam Malone on Cheers, as had Hunter star Fred Dryer. And since Dryer played professional football for 13 years and Ed got cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers while in training camp, there might be some sort of “Six Degrees of Ed O’Neill” game in there somewhere…

5. Cuba Gooding Jr. — MacGyver, "The Challenge"

Forget about the Jerry Maguire catchphrases and his Oscar speech—nothing compares to Cuba Gooding Jr.'s MacGyver appearances in the late '80s/early '90s. In a multi-episode arc, Gooding Jr. portrayed Billy Colton, member of the Colton bounty hunting family; "The Challenge" was the episode that caught our attention, mostly because of jokes on the Internet about MacGyver’s dramatic confrontation of a racist (see video above). Try as he may somehow Cuba Gooding Jr. will never escape being part of pop culture’s punch lines—even when he’s not acting crazy.

6. Kathy Bates — Cagney and Lacey, "Revenge"

Kathy Bates has done it all: She won an Oscar for Misery, directed episodes of HBO's Six Feet Under, had a few flops (North and American Outlaws) ... and had a guest-starring role in a 1986 episode of Cagney and Lacey. Bates appears as a domestic abuse victim that refuses to press charges against her husband. When he ends up dead, Bates becomes one of many possible suspects. Though she has very little screen time, you can see the makings of a star.

7. Don Cheadle — Hill Street Blues, "Days of Swine and Roses"

When Don Cheadle was first starting out as an actor, he appeared in one episode of Hill Street Blues, playing a mentally ill man trying to reunite with his mother and sister. Though the episode feels dated—down to the police team trying out a computer in their car—Cheadle’s work is absolutely fresh. Special Bonus: Cuba Gooding Jr. has a “blink-and-you-miss-it" spot as a kid letting a pig loose in the police station.

8. Sean Bean — The Bill, "Long Odds"

Photo courtesy of Ship of Dreams

One of Game of Thrones star Sean Bean's earliest acting roles was that of an armed robber on a 1984 episode of the long-running British TV series set in London’s Sun Hill police station, The Bill. His character, Horace Clark, merrily escaped and left his partner to take the fall when the cops showed up during a post office robbery.

9. Sharon Stone — Remington Steele, "Steele Crazy After All These Years"

Remington Steele is well known as the show that shot Pierce Brosnan into fame. It also happens to be a series that featured Sharon Stone pre-Basic Instinct crotch shot. Since we all know Stone’s reputation now, it’s no surprise she was featured in an episode titled “Steele Crazy After All These Years.” Annie Potts is clearly the main guest star here, but Stone’s turn as a university homecoming queen—though it was only two scenes—was crucial, bizarre, and glamorous, just like Stone herself.

10. Brad Pitt — 21 Jump Street, "Best Years of Your Life"

We all know Johnny Depp rose to fame as an undercover police officer busting high school students on 21 Jump Street. How else could he have landed inside the pages of Tiger Beat? Unfortunately, though, Tiger Beat missed documenting Brad Pitt’s guest starring spot on the show. In the episode "Best Years of Your Life," Pitt plays exactly who you would expect—a letter jacket-wearing high school jock with a handsome face and terrible '80s hair. Don’t expect good times, though; the episode centered around teen suicide. Though seeing Pitt sit across the lunchroom table from Depp, pre-major stardom, definitely has its appeal.

BONUS: Matthew McConaughey — Unsolved Mysteries, "Texas' Most Wanted"

Photo courtesy of Total Film

Technically, we can't include this on the list because the episode in question aired in 1992. But we had to include it!

Before the world ever thought about Matthew McConaughey getting older and high school girls staying the same age (see Dazed and Confused) or the phrase “McConaissance,” they were watching the southern charmer play a Texan murder victim. As Unsolved Mysteries spent each week reenacting crimes and the unexplainable, they also unwittingly unleashed this oft-shirtless talent onto the world. In good news, the killer portrayed in McConaughey’s reenactment was eventually caught. Acting can save lives!

Additional Source: TV by the Numbers

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5 Quick Facts About the Hashtag
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The use of the hashtag as a Twitter tool to denote a specific topic in order for the masses to follow along turns 10 years old today, having first been suggested (in a Tweet, naturally) by Silicon Valley regular and early adopter Chris Messina back in 2007. Here’s a little history on its evolution from the humble numerical sign to the social media giant it is today.

1. IT COMES FROM THE LATIN TERM FOR “POUND WEIGHT.”

There’s no definitive origin story for the hash (or pound) symbol, but one belief is that when 14th-century Latin began to abbreviate the term for pound weight—libra pondo—to “lb,” a horizontal slash was added to denote the letters were connected. (The bar was called a tittle.) As people began to write more quickly, the letters and the tittle became amalgamated, eventually morphing into the symbol we see today.

2. IT SHOULD ACTUALLY BE CALLED AN OCTOTHORPETAG.

The symbol portion of the hashtag eventually made its way to dial-button telephones, the result of AT&T looking forward to phones interacting with computers. In order to complete a square keypad with 10 digits (including 0), they added the numerical sign and an asterisk. AT&T employee Don MacPherson thought they sign needed a more official name, so he chose Octothorpe—“octo” because it has eight points, and “thorpe” because he was a fan of football hero Jim Thorpe.

3. TWITTER WASN’T BIG ON THE IDEA AT FIRST.

When web marketer Messina had the notion to add hashtags to keep track of conversations, he stopped by Twitter’s offices to make an informal pitch. He came at a bad time: co-founder Biz Stone was trying to get the software back online after a crash and dismissed the idea with a “Sure, we’ll get right on that” burn. Undeterred, Messina started using them and the habit caught on.

4. IT’S IN THE OXFORD DICTIONARY.

By 2014, respect for the hashtag had grown to the point where the venerable Oxford English Dictionary gave the word its stamp of approval. Their entry: "hashtag n. (on social media web sites and applications) a word or phrase preceded by a hash and used to identify messages relating to a specific topic; (also) the hash symbol itself, when used in this way."

5. THERE ARE SOME HASHTAG ALL-TIMERS.

Hashtags can highlight interest in everything from political movements to breaking news stories, but the frequency of their use is often tied into popular culture. The most popular TV-related tag has been #TheWalkingDead; #StarWars sees a lot of action; and #NFL dominates sports-related Tweets.  

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12 Sharp Facts About Hellraiser
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In 1987, the New World Pictures released Hellraiser, a horror film about a family who opens a puzzle box and invites hell in their lives in the form of pleasure-pain creatures known as Cenobites, who are lead by Pinhead (played by Doug Bradley). Unlike many other horror films at the time, Hellraiser wasn’t a slasher film, and Pinhead wasn’t a boogeyman.

British novelist, playwright, and screenwriter Clive Barker wanted to direct a feature film, so he adapted his 1986 horror novella, The Hellbound Heart, into Hellraiser. Despite the graphic nature of the film, it’s really a love story between Julia Cotton and her demented—and skinless—lover Frank  ... whose relationship just so happens to revolve around sadistic torture.

Hellraiser was produced for around a $1 million and grossed $14 million, making it lucrative enough to spawn nine sequels, including this year’s Hellraiser: Judgment. (Bradley hasn’t starred in a Hellraiser film since 2011’s Hellraiser: Revelations, and Barker didn’t direct or write any of the sequels, most of which were direct-to-DVD releases.) As we near the 30th anniversary of its release, let's take a look back at this horror classic.

1. THE ORIGINS OF PINHEAD CAME FROM A 1973 PLAY.

Before Doug Bradley uttered the catchphrase “We’ll tear your soul apart,” Clive Barker directed him in a 1973 play called Hunters in the Snow, in which Bradley played the Dutchman, a torturer who would become the basis for Pinhead.

“The character I played in Hunters, the Dutchman, I can see echoes of later... Pinhead in Hellraiser," Bradley said. "This strange, strange character whose head was kind of empty but who conveyed all kinds of things.”

Barker’s mid-1980s short story “The Forbidden”—which was adapted into Candyman—from his "Books of Blood" series, featured the first incarnation of Pinhead’s nails. “One image I remember very strongly from 'The Forbidden' was that Clive had built what he called his nail-board, which was basically a block of wood which he’d squared off and then he’d banged six-inch nails in at the intersections of the squares,” Bradley said. “Of course, when I saw the first illustrations for [Pinhead], it rang a bell with me that here was Clive putting the ideas that he’d been playing around with the nail-board in 'The Forbidden,' now 10, 15 years later. He’d now put the image all over a human being’s face.”

2. CLIVE BARKER CAST “REAL ACTORS.”

Unlike many other horror movies of the time, which were more concerned with gore than great acting, Barker insisted that they look for real talent in the casting. “I’m not just taking the 12 most beautiful youths in California and murdering them,” Barker told The Washington Post in 1987. “I’ve got real actors, real performers—and then I’m murdering them.” The “real” refers to British theater actors like Bradley, Clare Higgins, and Andrew Robinson.

3. PINHEAD WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE ON THE POSTER.

New World Pictures

Bradley said the filmmakers wanted skinned Frank to be on the poster, but the studio said no to the grotesque imagery, so Pinhead was used on the poster instead. “Maybe that came from Clive, because what we get in that image of Pinhead with the box is the heart of the Hellraiser mythology,” Bradley said. “If you put The Engineer or the skinned man on the poster, it’s an amazing image but it’s just an image, and it could come from any movie.” Bradley thought using Pinhead’s face made more sense. “The big success of Pinhead is because the image is so original, so startling. It is just an incredible image to look at, and that made a big difference in terms of the public's perception of the movie.”

4. NO ONE KNEW THAT DOUG BRADLEY WAS PINHEAD.

Bradley’s Pinhead mug was everywhere—on the cover of magazines and on the movie’s poster—but no one mentioned his name. “It was great to be so heavily featured, but there was no way to prove to anyone that it was actually me,” Bradley said. “Those who were following Hellraiser at the time were wondering where the guy with the pins was! Well I can tell you where I was—I was sitting at home in England, watching it all happen from the sidelines.”

5. THE CENOBITES' DESIGN WAS INSPIRED BY S&M CLUBS.

In the box set’s liner notes, Barker wrote that the Cenobites's “design was influenced amongst other things by punk, by Catholicism, and by the visits I would take to S&M clubs in New York and Amsterdam.” Costume designer Jane Wildgoose created the costumes, based on Barker’s instruction of “repulsive glamour.”

“The other notes that I made about what he wanted was that they should be ‘magnificent super-butchers,’” Wildgoose said.

As for Pinhead, Barker said he “had seen a book containing photographs of African fetishes: sculptures of human heads crudely carved from wood and then pierced with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of nails and spikes. They were images of rage, the text instructed.”

6. IT'S REALLY A LOVE STORY.

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Julia is forced to bring men back to her house and murder them for Frank so that he can replenish his flesh. Barker looked at Hellraiser as more of a love story, with Julia committing these heinous acts in the name of love, not just to be brutal for no reason.

“She’s not committing murder in the way that Jason in the Friday the 13th films commits murder—just for the sake of blood-letting —she’s doing it for love,” Barker told Samhain. “So there is a sympathetic quality about her, enhanced hugely in my estimation by the fact that Clare Higgins does it so well.”

7. BARKER’S GRANDFATHER INSPIRED THE PUZZLE BOX.

When a person twists the box, known as the Lament Configuration, it summons the Cenobites from the gates of hell into the individual's world. “I wanted to have access to hell in the book and in the first movie, explored by something rather different than drawing a circle on the floor with magical symbols around it,” Barker told WIRED. “That seemed rather stale and rather old.”

Barker explained his grandfather was a cook on ship and brought back a puzzle box from the Far East. “So when I went back to the problem of how to open the doors of hell, the idea of [using] a puzzle box seemed interesting to me. You know, the image of a cube is everywhere in world culture, whether it’s the Rubik’s Cube or the idea of the [Tesseract] in The Avengers movies. There’s a lot of places where the image of a cube as a thing of power is pertinent. I don’t know why that is, I don’t have any mythic explanation for it, but it seems to work for people.”

8. ROGER EBERT WASN'T A FAN OF THE FILM.

Roger Ebert gave Hellraiser just a half star when he reviewed it in 1987. “Who goes to see movies like this? This is a movie without wit, style, or reason,” he wrote, adding that, “I have seen the future of implausible plotting, and his name is Clive Barker.”

9. SOMEONE HAD THE JOB OF MAGGOT AND COCKROACH WRANGLER.

In England, there was a law in which cockroaches of both sexes weren’t allowed on set, because they could have mated and caused an infestation. So Barker had to hire someone to oversee the situation. “The wrangler, this is the honest truth, had to sex the roaches,” Barker told an audience at a Hellraiser screening. “They were all male. And we had a fridge. They move very fast, so the only way to slow them down was to chill them. We chilled the maggots and the roaches. We'd open it up and it was all reassuring. It was fun.”

10. BARKER PREFERS "HELL PRIEST" TO "PINHEAD."

In The Hellbound Heart, the Cenobite with pins sticking out of his head is called The Hell Priest. One of the special effects guys who worked on the movie gave the character his nickname. “I thought it was a rather undignified thing to call the monster, but once it stuck, it stuck,” Barker told Grantland.

In 2015, Barker published a sequel to The Hellbound Heart, The Scarlet Gospels, which features Pinhead getting annoyed when people call him that—as well as Pinhead’s demise. “He will not be coming back, by the way," Barker said. "That I promise you."

11. A HELLRAISER VS. HALLOWEEN MOVIE ALMOST HAPPENED.

In an interview with Game Radar, Bradley said the success of Freddy vs. Jason led Hellraiser distributor Dimension Films to flirt with a Hellraiser vs. Halloween film. “I was actually getting excited by the prospect of this because Clive said he would write it and John Carpenter said he would direct it,” Bradley said. “I actually spoke to Clive about it a couple of times and he was interested in finding the places where the Halloween and Hellraiser worlds intermeshed.” But Moustapha Akkad, who owned the rights to Halloween, extinguished the idea.

12. THE BRITISH BOARD OF FILM CLASSIFICATION HAD TO CHECK THAT NO RATS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THE MOVIE.

While the MPAA requested that a spanking scene be cut for its American release, England's BBFC agreed to release the movie as it was, if they were assured that the rats used in the film weren’t hurt. “I had to bring three remote-control rats into the censor’s office and make them wriggle about on the floor,” producer Christopher Figg told The Telegraph. “They wanted to be sure we hadn’t been cruel to them.”

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