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5 Things You Might Not Know About John DeLorean

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In a recent episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld and Patton Oswalt took a ride in a DeLorean. (They didn't get very far.) For anyone under 30, the name “DeLorean” conjures images of the time machine from Back to the Future. But let’s look at the man behind those gull-wing doors.

1. He Made Some Terrific Muscle Cars

Although DeLorean is best remembered for the later car that bore his name, in the early 1960s he was one of Detroit’s biggest stars. As chief engineer at Pontiac, he helped transform the division from a maker of practical, conservative cars into one of Detroit’s leading producers of muscle.

DeLorean received credit for a slew of practical innovations like concealed windshield wipers and vertically stacked headlights, but his major coup was dropping a giant 6.4-liter V8 engine into a Pontiac Tempest. The souped-up new model became known as the Pontiac GTO, one of Detroit’s most legendary muscle cars. Pontiac also introduced the Firebird under DeLorean’s watch before he eventually left the division to take the reins at Chevrolet.

2. The DeLorean DMC-12 Wasn’t So Great

Marty McFly’s ride may have been pretty sweet, but the DeLorean DMC-12 wasn’t much of a car unless you sprung for the flux capacitor option. Production of the stainless steel car began in Northern Ireland in 1981, and drivers began complaining almost immediately.

The DMC-12 looked fast, but anyone who got behind the wheel quickly learned that the car was dreadfully slow. For starters, the car’s small engine only produced 130 horsepower, and the stainless steel paneling that gave it such a distinct appearance was heavy. Thanks to its high weight and puny engine, the exotic car could only groan from 0 to 60 in a sluggish 10.5 seconds.

The DeLorean DMC-12 didn’t just earn poor grades for performance, either. The dye from the floor mats would rub off onto drivers’ shoes. The iconic gull-wing doors had a habit of becoming hopelessly stuck. The unpainted stainless steel body looked really cool, but it was nearly impossible to keep clean. In other words, the car wasn’t fun to drive, wasn’t pleasant to ride in, and was almost always dirty. What a combo!

When the market for slow, expensive, breakdown-prone cars never materialized, DeLorean ceased production after just three model years. Only around 8,900 DeLorean DMC-12s ever rolled off the assembly line.

3. He Had Some Big Time Investors, Though

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Although the car DeLorean eventually produced was a notorious flop, he parlayed his muscle-car experience as the man behind the GTO and other automotive legends into investments from some big names. Early investors in the DeLorean Motor Company included Johnny Carson, who chipped in $500,000, and Sammy Davis, Jr., who went in the bag for $150,000. The British government invested $140 million in the company in the hopes that a job-creating production facility in Belfast would tamp down sectarian violence and stimulate the local economy.

All of these investors probably rued their decision to break out their checkbooks for DeLorean, but Carson probably had the biggest regrets. His experience with the DeLorean DMC-12 started on a bad note; the first time he took one for a test drive around the block it broke down. Worse still, Carson was behind the wheel of his 1981 DMC-12 when he was arrested for driving under the influence in 1982. Carson eventually unloaded his DeLorean at auction in 1985 for $18,250.

4. He Had Bigger Problems than His Failing Business

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The rapidly sinking DeLorean Motor Company wasn’t even DeLorean’s biggest headache in the early 80s. His major concern was an October 1982 arrest in which he had been videotaped buying cocaine in Los Angeles. Drug agents alleged DeLorean was conspiring to smuggle $24 million worth of cocaine into the country, and he was even seen on the tape referring to the blow as “better than gold.”

Despite this apparently damning evidence, DeLorean and his lawyers argued that the car mogul had been entrapped by the Justice Department. The defense’s case rested on the assertion that yes, DeLorean had made a bad decision in his efforts to save his foundering company by smuggling drugs, but he only agreed to the scheme after government agents went out of their way to entice him into the crime. After 29 hours of deliberation, the jury agreed and acquitted DeLorean in August 1984.

5. He Cultivated His Image

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DeLorean made sure his cars looked cool, but even more importantly, he made sure John DeLorean looked cool. When DeLorean first rose to prominence in the 60s he became known as a swaggering bad boy with dyed-black hair, big sideburns, and unbuttoned shirts. As the head of Pontiac, DeLorean became a show-business fixture in Hollywood who dated starlets like Ursula Andress.

Some of DeLorean’s image obsession paid off, but it tended to veer into the realm of hilarious narcissism. His 2005 Washington Post obituary noted that one of his ex-girlfriends claimed her Christmas gift from the carmaker was “a leather-bound portfolio featuring photographs of himself.”

DeLorean literally took his rock-star image to his grave. The final sentence of his New York Times obituary read, “In his casket he wore a black motorcycle jacket, blue jeans and a denim shirt. A pair of shades was tucked into the zipper.”

This post originally appeared in 2011.

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8 of the Weirdest Gallup Polls
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Born in Jefferson, Iowa on November 18, 1901, George Gallup studied journalism and psychology, focusing on how to measure readers’ interest in newspaper and magazine content. In 1935, he founded the American Institute of Public Opinion to scientifically measure public opinions on topics such as government spending, criminal justice, and presidential candidates. Although he died in 1984, The Gallup Poll continues his legacy of trying to determine and report the will of the people in an unbiased, independent way. To celebrate his day of birth, we compiled a list of some of the weirdest, funniest Gallup polls over the years.

1. THREE IN FOUR AMERICANS BELIEVE IN THE PARANORMAL (2005)

According to this Gallup poll, 75 percent of Americans have at least one paranormal belief. Specifically, 41 percent believe in extrasensory perception (ESP), 37 percent believe in haunted houses, and 21 percent believe in witches. What about channeling spirits, you might ask? Only 9 percent of Americans believe that it’s possible to channel a spirit so that it takes temporary control of one's body. Interestingly, believing in paranormal phenomena was relatively similar across people of different genders, races, ages, and education levels.

2. ONE IN FIVE AMERICANS THINK THE SUN REVOLVES AROUND THE EARTH (1999)

In this poll, Gallup tried to determine the popularity of heliocentric versus geocentric views. While 79 percent of Americans correctly stated that the Earth revolves around the sun, 18 percent think the sun revolves around the Earth. Three percent chose to remain indifferent, saying they had no opinion either way.

3. 22 PERCENT OF AMERICANS ARE HESITANT TO SUPPORT A MORMON (2011)

Gallup first measured anti-Mormon sentiment back in 1967, and it was still an issue in 2011, a year before Mormon Mitt Romney ran for president. Approximately 22 percent of Americans said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate, even if that candidate belonged to their preferred political party. Strangely, Americans’ bias against Mormons has remained stable since the 1960s, despite decreasing bias against African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and women.

4. MISSISSIPPIANS GO TO CHURCH THE MOST; VERMONTERS THE LEAST (2010)

This 2010 poll amusingly confirms the stereotype that southerners are more religious than the rest of the country. Although 42 percent of all Americans attend church regularly (which Gallup defines as weekly or almost weekly), there are large variations based on geography. For example, 63 percent of people in Mississippi attend church regularly, followed by 58 percent in Alabama and 56 percent in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Utah. Rounding out the lowest levels of church attendance, on the other hand, were Vermont, where 23 percent of residents attend church regularly, New Hampshire, at 26 percent, and Maine at 27 percent.

5. ONE IN FOUR AMERICANS DON’T KNOW WHICH COUNTRY AMERICA GAINED INDEPENDENCE FROM (1999)

Although 76 percent of Americans knew that the United States gained independence from Great Britain as a result of the Revolutionary War, 24 percent weren’t so sure. Two percent thought the correct answer was France, 3 percent said a different country (such as Mexico, China, or Russia), and 19 percent had no opinion. Certain groups of people who consider themselves patriotic, including men, older people, and white people (according to Gallup polls), were more likely to know that America gained its independence from Great Britain.

6. ONE THIRD OF AMERICANS BELIEVE IN GHOSTS (2000)

This Halloween-themed Gallup poll asked Americans about their habits and behavior on the last day of October. Predictably, two-thirds of Americans reported that someone in their house planned to give candy to trick-or-treaters and more than three-quarters of parents with kids reported that their kids would wear a costume. More surprisingly, 31 percent of American adults claimed to believe in ghosts, an increase from 1978, when only 11 percent of American adults admitted to a belief in ghosts.

7. 5 PERCENT OF WORKING MILLENNIALS THRIVE IN ALL FIVE ELEMENTS OF WELL-BEING (2016)

This recent Gallup poll is funny in a sad way, as it sheds light on the tragicomic life of a millennial. In this poll, well-being is defined as having purpose, social support, manageable finances, a strong community, and good physical health. Sadly, only 5 percent of working millennials—defined as people born between 1980 and 1996—were thriving in these five indicators of well-being. To counter this lack of well-being, Gallup’s report recommends that managers promote work-life balance and improve their communication with millennial employees.

8. THE WORLD IS BECOMING SLIGHTLY MORE NEGATIVE (2014)

If you seem to feel more stress, sadness, anxiety, and pain than ever before, Gallup has the proof that it’s not all in your head. According to the company’s worldwide negative experience index, negative feelings such as stress, sadness, and anger have increased since 2007. Unsurprisingly, people living in war-torn, dangerous parts of the word—Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Sierra Leone—reported the highest levels of negative emotions.

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11 Times Mickey Mouse Was Banned
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Despite being one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved characters, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Mickey Mouse, who turns 89 years old today. A number of countries—and even U.S. states—have banned the cartoon rodent at one time or another for reasons both big and small.

1. In 1930, Ohio banned a cartoon called “The Shindig” because Clarabelle Cow was shown reading Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn, the premier romance novelist of the time. Check it out (1:05) and let us know if you’re scandalized:

2. With movies on 10-foot screen being a relatively new thing in Romania in 1935, the government decided to ban Mickey Mouse, concerned that children would be terrified of a monstrous rodent.

3. In 1929, a German censor banned a Mickey Mouse short called “The Barnyard Battle.” The reason? An army of cats wearing pickelhauben, the pointed helmets worn by German military in the 19th and 20th centuries: "The wearing of German military helmets by an army of cats which oppose a militia of mice is offensive to national dignity. Permission to exhibit this production in Germany is refused.”

4. The German dislike for Mickey Mouse continued into the mid-'30s, with one German newspaper wondering why such a small and dirty animal would be idolized by children across the world: "Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed ... Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal.” Mickey was originally banned from Nazi Germany, but eventually the mouse's popularity won out.

5. In 2014, Iran's Organization for Supporting Manufacturers and Consumers announced a ban on school supplies and stationery products featuring “demoralizing images,” including that of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, and characters from Toy Story.

6. In 1954, East Germany banned Mickey Mouse comics, claiming that Mickey was an “anti-Red rebel.”

7. In 1937, a Mickey Mouse adventure was so similar to real events in Yugoslavia that the comic strip was banned. State police say the comic strip depicted a “Puritan-like revolt” that was a danger to the “Boy King,” Peter II of Yugoslavia, who was just 14 at the time. A journalist who wrote about the ban was consequently escorted out of the country.

8. Though Mussolini banned many cartoons and American influences from Italy in 1938, Mickey Mouse flew under the radar. It’s been said that Mussolini’s children were such Mickey Mouse fans that they were able to convince him to keep the rodent around.

9. Mickey and his friends were banned from the 1988 Seoul Olympics in a roundabout way. As they do with many major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, Disney had contacted American favorites to win in each event to ask them to say the famous “I’m going to Disneyland!” line if they won. When American swimmer Matt Biondi won the 100-meter freestyle, he dutifully complied with the request. After a complaint from the East Germans, the tape was pulled and given to the International Olympic Committee.

10. In 1993, Mickey was banned from a place he shouldn't have been in the first place: Seattle liquor stores. As a wonderful opening sentence from the Associated Press explained, "Mickey Mouse, the Easter Bunny and teddy bears have no business selling booze, the Washington State Liquor Control Board has decided." A handful of stores had painted Mickey and other characters as part of a promotion. A Disney VP said Mickey was "a nondrinker."

11. Let's end with another strike against The Shindig (see #1) and Clarabelle’s bulging udder. Less than a year after the Shindig ban, the Motion Picture Producers and Directors of America announced that they had received a massive number of complaints about the engorged cow udders in various Mickey Mouse cartoons.

From then on, according to a 1931 article in Time magazine, “Cows in Mickey Mouse ... pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed others. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting with the cow stood still.”

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