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25 More Holiday Movie Facts

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You'll probably be spending a lot of time with family over the next couple of weeks. When conversation turns to the treatment Great Aunt Ethel is trying for that nagging cyst that's been bothering her, here are a few bits of holiday movie trivia you can throw in to steer conversation back to the safe zone. (See our first installment of holiday movie facts here.)

The Santa Clause

Photo courtesy of movies.disney.com

1. There’s a scene in The Santa Clause where Tim Allen makes a little joke about a number his ex-wife should call: 1-800-SPANK-ME. It should come as a surprise to no one that bored kids actually called this number. Parents were scandalized when they discovered they were paying for “hot, wild phone fun” at $2.50 to $4.99 a minute. Apparently one man’s 10-year-old daughter racked up more than $250 in phone bills. Disney removed the scene from post-1997 VHS copies; it has also been removed for television broadcast.

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Photo courtesy of Popmatters

2. Fake hair on the Grinch? Never. Every single hair on the suit Jim Carrey donned in Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas was real yak hair, individually dyed and sewn onto a lycra spandex suit. It took four months to make.

3. More than 250 pieces of knitwear were hand-knitted for the movie by three L.A.-based knitters in just four months.

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas Cartoon

Photo courtesy of Fanpop

4. Although Boris Karloff is credited as the singing voice behind “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” in the animated version of Dr. Seuss's story, that’s not the case. The memorable tune was actually sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, perhaps better known as the voice behind Tony the Tiger (and, my favorite, one of the singing busts in the Haunted Mansion at Disney parks). Ravenscroft was erroneously left off of the credits, however, and Dr. Seuss felt so bad about it that he personally called TV and entertainment columnists across the country to make sure they mentioned it, and also partnered with animator Chuck Jones to take out an ad in Variety thanking Thurl for his now-iconic work.

5. Neither movie was really faithful to Dr. Seuss' original representation of the Grinch, who was actually black and pink—not green.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol

Photo courtesy of Holiday Film Reviews

6. Mickey's Christmas Carol was the last time the voice of Donald Duck was provided by Clarence Nash, the original voice of Donald Duck.

7. The film also marked was the first time that Scrooge McDuck was voiced by Alan Young, who then went on to voice Scrooge for other Disney projects, including DuckTales. The 94-year-old Young actually still provides the voice for the billionaire duck, most recently for video games like DuckTales: Remastered and Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. You might also know Young as Wilbur from everybody's favorite talking horse sitcom, Mr. Ed.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Photo courtesy of Fanpop

8. Tim Burton originally pitched the Nightmare Before Christmas concept to Disney in 1983, with the idea that it would be a short, low-budget, stop-motion TV special like the Rankin/Bass classics. Disney passed.

9. Jack Skellington had more than 400 heads that animators could switch out to provide a convincing spectrum of emotions.

10. Vincent Price was slated to do the voice of Santa Claus, but when recording started, his wife had recently passed away. Price’s despondency came through in his voiceover, and a local actor was used instead.

11. There was an alternate “Scooby Doo” ending that was storyboarded but never shot where it was revealed that Oogie Boogie was really Dr. Finkelstein in disguise.

12. The reference “tender lumplings everywhere” in the song “This is Halloween” is a reference to composer Danny Elfman’s years with the band Oingo Boingo. They had a song called “Tender Lumplings.”

Home Alone

Photo courtesy of The Week

13. My 8-year-old self was surely not alone in thinking that Kevin McCallister’s burglar booby traps were nothing short of genius. But were they really? Last year, Dr. Ryan St. Clair analyzed the actual physical harm that Kev’s creative weapons would have inflicted. The ones that could actually impair a dimwitted criminal: the iron to the face, the heated doorknob, the blowtorch to the scalp, and the paint can to the head. Check out his diagnoses here

14. Remember, if you will, the part in the movie where Kevin discovers a picture of his older brother’s girlfriend in his hidden stash of treasures and blurts, “Buzz, your girlfriend. Woof!” You don’t have to worry that this poor girl grew up to have all kinds of psychological problems based on the fact that millions of movie-goers laughed at her ugly mug. Director Chris Columbus was worried about this exact repercussion in the future, and dressed up a boy instead.

By the way, Woofmaker allows you to substitute any picture you want for Buzz’s girlfriend, then allows you to share it with your friends. Though they may not be your friends for very long if you’re using an unflattering photo of them. Not that I would do that.

Holiday Inn

Photo courtesy of In the Pastlane

15. “White Christmas” was written especially for this movie—not, funnily enough, for White Christmas, which came 12 years later.

16. Although the song has become one of the most popular holiday songs ever, Bing himself was unimpressed with his performance. “A jackdaw with a cleft palate could have sung it successfully,” he once said.

17. Named by founder Kemmons Wilson, the name of the Holiday Inn hotel chain was, in fact, inspired by this movie.

18. Though it’s often cut when aired on TV, Holiday Inn includes a song and dance number with Bing Crosby in blackface

White Christmas

Photo courtesy of Fanpop

19. You know the part in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where Clark references Bing Crosby tap dancing with Danny Kaye? This is the movie he’s talking about...

20. ...But it should have actually been Bing Crosby tap dancing with Fred Astaire. Astaire was slated to star with Der Bingle but dropped out after he read the script.

Babes in Toyland

21. The toy soldiers from 1961's Babes in Toyland also have a cameo in Mary Poppins, which was released three years later. Hint: They’re near the end.

Santa Claus: The Movie

Photo courtesy of MoviePosterShop.com

22. Producer Ilya Salkind thought Dudley Moore would make a great elf after remembering a scene in Arthur where Liza Minelli asks Moore’s character if he’s Santa’s Little Helper.

23. It’s been deemed one of the worst Christmas movies of all time by Alonso Duralde, author of Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas.

Jingle All the Way

Photo courtesy of Screened

24. In 1998, a Detroit high school teacher named Brian Webster claimed that Jingle All the Way was a little too similar to a screenplay he had written called Could This Be Christmas? Though the court initially agreed with Mr. Webster, awarding $19 million, an appeal later overturned the decision.

25. Randy Kornfield wrote the screenplay for the movie after seeing his in-laws go to extreme lengths to obtain a Power Rangers toy for his son.

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5 Killer Pieces of Rock History Up for Auction Now (Including Prince’s Guitar)
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Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images

If you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of rock history, now is the time. A whole host of cool music memorabilia from the 20th century is going up for sale through Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles as part of its “Icons and Idols” sale. If you’ve got the dough, you can nab everything from leather chairs from Graceland to a shirt worn by Jimi Hendrix to never-before-available prints that Joni Mitchell signed and gave to her friends. Here are five highlights from the auction:

1. ELVIS’S NUNCHUCKS

Elvis’s nunchucks
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Elvis’s karate skills sometimes get a bad rap, but the King earned his first black belt in 1960, and went on to become a seventh-degree black belt before opening his own studio in 1974. You can cherish a piece of his martial arts legacy in the form of his nunchaku. One was broken during his training, but the other is still in ready-to-use shape. (But please don’t use it.) It seems Elvis wasn’t super convinced of his own karate skills, though, because he also supposedly carried a police baton (which you can also buy) for his personal protection.

2. PRINCE’S GUITAR

A blue guitar used by Prince
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Prince’s blue Cloud guitar, estimated to be worth between $60,000 and $80,000, appeared on stage with him in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The custom guitar was made just for Prince by Cloud’s luthier (as in, guitar maker) Andy Beech. The artist first sold it at a 1994 auction to benefit relief efforts for the L.A. area’s devastating Northridge earthquake.

3. KURT COBAIN’S CHEERLEADER OUTFIT

Kurt Cobain wearing a cheerleader outfit in the pages of Rolling Stone
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

The Nirvana frontman wore the bright-yellow cheerleader’s uniform from his alma mater, J.M. Weatherwax High School in Aberdeen, Washington, during a photo shoot for a January 1994 issue of Rolling Stone, released just a few months before his death.

4. MICHAEL JACKSON’S WHITE GLOVE

A white glove covered in rhinestones
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

A young Michael Jackson wore this bejeweled right-hand glove on his 1981 Triumph Tour, one of the first of many single gloves he would don over the course of his career. Unlike later incarnations, this one isn’t a custom-made glove with hand-sewn crystals, but a regular glove topped with a layer of rhinestones cut into the shape of the glove and sewn on top.

The auction house is also selling a pair of jeans the star wore to his 2003 birthday party, as well as other clothes he wore for music videos and performances.

5. WOOD FROM ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS

A piece of wood in a frame under a picture of The Beatles
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

You can’t walk the halls of Abbey Road Studios, but you can pretend. First sold in 1986, the piece of wood in this frame reportedly came from Studio Two, a recording space that hosted not only The Beatles (pictured), but Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, and others.

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5 Dubious Historical Antidotes for Poison (and What Actually Works)
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An artificial bezoar stone from Goa, India
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

When it comes to their health, humans will believe just about anything. In this extract from the new book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, authors Lydia Kang, MD, and Nate Pedersen discuss some of the more questionable ways people once tried to protect themselves from poison—whether or not the methods actually worked.

Poison is everywhere. Naturally or unnaturally, it can be in the soil (arsenic), in the air (carbon monoxide), in your drinks (lead), and in your food (cyanide). With so much danger around, it’s no wonder humans have obsessed over finding a universal antidote—the one thing that could save us from all toxins. Imagine you’re a medieval prince about to inherit the throne. Chances are, there are a lot of power-hungry wannabes waiting in the wings. A little arsenic or hemlock might be your best friend or your worst nightmare. Just in case, best have an antidote on standby.

For millennia, a certain amount of magical thinking was employed when arming oneself against poison because science was inconveniently slow to catch up. So grab your handy unicorn horn and a bezoar, and let’s take a look.

1. BEZOARS

Bezoars have been used for centuries as antidotes to poisons. A bezoar is solid mass of undigested food, plant fibers, or hair found in the digestive tracts of animals, including deer, porcupines, fish, and, yes, humans. Anyone with a cat is familiar with the less-cool feline version: hairballs.

Bezoars and other stone-like items created by animals often had a good story behind them. Legends told of deer that would eat poisonous snakes and become immune or cry tears that solidified into poison-curing stones. First-century Arabic author al-Birumi claimed bezoars could protect against one poison called “the snot of Satan,” which we hope never ever to encounter. By the 12th century, when Europe became plagued with, uh, plagues, the bezoar crept into pharmacopeias as panaceas and alexipharmics (poison antidotes).

Bezoars were a seductive notion for the rich and royal, who were at risk of assassination. The stones were often enclosed in bejeweled gold for display or worn as amulets. Indian bezoars, in particular, were sought for life-threatening fevers, poisonous bites, bleeding, jaundice, and melancholy. Consumers were also known to scrape off a bit of bezoar and add it to their drinks for heart health and kidney stones. These tonics were sometimes adulterated with toxic mercury or antimony, which caused vomiting and diarrhea, making buyers think they were effective.

But were they? One team of researchers soaked bezoars in an arsenic-laced solution and found that the stones absorbed the arsenic or that the poison was neutralized. Hard to say if it worked well enough to cure a fatal dose. Ambroise Paré, one of the preeminent French physicians of the 16th century, was also a doubter. The king’s cook, who’d been stealing silver, was given the choice between hanging or being Paré’s lab rat. He chose the latter. After the cook consumed poison, Paré looked on as a bezoar was stuffed down his throat. Six hours later, he died wracked with pain. Perhaps he chose ... poorly?

2. MITHRIDATES

This antidote was named after Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus and Armenia Minor. Born in 134 BCE, he pretty much invented the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” by consuming poisons daily to prevent his own assassination. His royal home was stocked with stingray spines, toxic mushrooms, scorpions, mineral poisons, and a poisonous plant–filled garden. He was so unpoisonable that after his son took over his kingdom and he faced execution, he couldn’t even commit suicide by poison! He begged a guard to stab him to death. (It worked.)

Though the king’s actual recipe for the antidote is nowhere to be found, versions began to circulate after his death, and they became synonymous with the king himself. Compounds with lengthy and expensive ingredient lists prevailed, including iris, cardamom, anise, frankincense, myrrh, ginger, and saffron. In the first century, Pliny the Elder snarkily remarked, “The Mithridatic antidote is composed of fifty-four ingredients ... Which of the gods, in the name of Truth, fixed these absurd proportions? ... It is plainly a showy parade of the art, and a colossal boast of science.”

Showy or not, people would take the extensive mix of herbs, pound them together with honey, and eat a nut-sized portion to cure themselves. At least it endowed them with expensive-smelling breath.

3. HORNS

An apothecary shop sign in the shape of a unicorn
An ivory pharmacy sign in the shape of a unicorn's head
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Unicorn horns have been considered a part of antidote legend since the mythical beast galloped into literature around 300 BCE. For centuries afterward, real earthly beasts would sacrifice their lives and their horns to slake our thirst for the miraculous, nonexistent animal, including rhinoceroses, narwhals, and oryx. Even fossilized ammonites were used. It was believed that drinking vessels made of such horns might neutralize poisons, and wounds could be cured by holding them close by. In the 16th century, Mary, Queen of Scots reportedly used a unicorn horn to protect her from poisoning. Too bad it didn’t prevent her beheading.

4. PEARLS

Pearls have long been thought to be powerful antidotes. A beautiful, rare gem created by the homely oyster, a pearl is born out of annoyance (the mollusk secretes iridescent nacre to cover an irritant, like a parasite or grain of sand). Pretty as they are, they’re about as useful as the chalky antacid tablets on your bedside table; both are chiefly made of calcium carbonate. Good for a stomachache after some spicy food, but not exactly miraculous.

Pearl powder has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of diseases, and Ayurvedic physicians used it as an antidote in the Middle Ages. It was also reported to make people immortal. An old Taoist recipe recommended taking a long pearl and soaking it in malt, “serpent’s gall,” honeycomb, and pumice stone. When softened, it would be pulled like taffy and cut into bite-sized pieces to eat, and voilà! You would suddenly no longer need food to stay alive. Cleopatra famously drank down a large and costly pearl dissolved in wine vinegar, though in that case she wasn’t avoiding poison. She didn’t want to lose a bet with Antony—which might have fatally injured her pride.

5. THERIAC

Albarello vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
A vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Theriac was an herbal concoction created in the first century by Emperor Nero’s physician, Andromachus, who was reported to have Mithridates’s secret notes. It was a mashed formula of about 70 ingredients, including cinnamon, opium, rose, iris, lavender, and acacia in a honey base. In the 12th century, theriac made in Venice was branded as particularly special, and Venetian treacle (derived from a Middle English translation of theriac) became a hot commodity. Its public, dramatic production often attracted curious crowds.

By the 18th century, cheaper golden syrup was substituted for honey. As treacle began to lose its luster as a treatment, its definition as an herbal remedy disappeared from common vernacular. But the sweet syrup remained. Which is why when we think of treacle, we think of treacle tarts, not a fancy means of saving ourselves from a deathly poisoning.

BONUS: WHAT ACTUALLY WORKS

Thankfully, science has brought us a wide range of antidotes for many items we shouldn’t be exposed to in dangerous quantities, if at all. N-acetylcysteine, fondly referred to as NAC by doctors, saves us from acetaminophen overdoses. Ethanol can treat antifreeze poisoning. Atropine, ironically one of the main components of plants in the toxic nightshade family (such as mandrake), can treat poisoning from some dangerous fertilizers and chemical nerve agents used as weapons. For years, poisonings were treated with emetics, though it turns out that plain old carbon—in the form of activated charcoal—can adsorb poisons (the poisons stick to the surface of the charcoal) in the digestive system before they’re dissolved and digested by the body.

As long as the natural world and its humans keep making things to kill us off, we’ll keep developing methods to not die untimely deaths.

We’ll just leave the fancy hairballs off the list.

The cover of the book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything
Workman Publishing

Excerpt from Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang, MD and Nate Pedersen/Workman Publishing. Used with permission.

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