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15 Fun Facts About Midnight Madness

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If you were alive during the first half of the 1980s and lucky enough to have access to HBO, you’ll need no convincing that “fagabeefe” is indeed a word and will have no problem completing the following jock chant: "M-E-A-T…"

For those of you who are stumped, it’s "M-A-C-H-I-N-E," the battle cry of the muscle-headed green team. They're one of five teams competing against four other color-coded player groups (each one its own stereotype) in an all-night scavenger hunt known as Midnight Madness. Alan Solomon portrayed Leon, the character who coordinated the contest as the "Game Master" and slowly garnered the interest of everyone else in his apartment building, who cheered on the five teams. Here are 15 fun facts about the 1980 cult comedy film classic.

1. IT WAS MICHAEL J. FOX’S FEATURE FILM DEBUT.

Though he'd portrayed roles on scattered TV shows and made-for-TV movies since an episode of The Beachcombers back in 1973, Midnight Madness marked the soon-to-be-teen-heartthrob’s first appearance on the big screen. It was so early in Fox’s career, in fact, that he wasn’t even using the “J.” yet. He’s simply Michael Fox (just a couple years before the film’s release, he was Mike Fox).

2. IT WAS BASED ON A REAL THING.

The film is based on a real all-night scavenger hunt, which graphic designer Don Luskin staged in Los Angeles for the first time in 1973.

3. IT INSPIRED A NUMBER OF ALTERNATE REALITY GAMES.

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The most famous among them is probably Microsoft VP Joe Belfiore’s The Game. He started it as a high school student in Clearwater, Florida before moving it to Stanford University and then to Seattle when he began working for Microsoft. During a TED Talk about The Game in 2004, Belfiore made all of the audience members’ cell phones ring. (Top that, Leon!)

4. DAVID NAUGHTON WAS PIMPING DR PEPPER AT THE TIME.

Photo courtesy Movie Easter Eggs

Product placement in movies is nothing new, so David Naughton gulping down a bottle of Dr Pepper shouldn’t seem suspicious. What is curious—or, perhaps, coincidental—is that Naughton just so happened to be the soft drink’s pitchman. He spent four years singing, dancing, and making us believe that “I’m a Pepper, You’re a Pepper.” He lost the job a year later after delving into R-rated fare, notably the 1981 John Landis classic An American Werewolf in London. 

5. PAUL REUBENS HAD A SMALL (BUT MEMORABLE) ROLE.

Photo courtesy Forgotten Films

He played the proprietor of Pinball City who has a very distinct way of making change (there’s gunplay involved). It was one of four big-screen appearances for Reubens that year, including Pee-Wee Herman’s first on-screen gig in Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie. It was a busy year for Reubens; he launched The Pee-Wee Herman Show as a live stage show in 1980, too.

6. IT WAS A DISNEY MOVIE, BUT NOBODY REALLY KNEW THAT.

Because Disney was only known for its kiddie fare, the studio opted to keep its association with the film rather quiet. Their trepidation being that the teenage audience for which the movie was intended might be turned off by the fact that it came from Mickey Mouse’s house. Midnight Madness was only the second PG-rated film released by the studio (the first was The Black Hole).

7. WINNIE THE POOH’S BUDDY PIGLET IS LEON’S NEIGHBOR.

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At least the man who voiced Piglet—John Fiedler—is. Fiedler portrayed Wally Thorpe, one of Leon's apartment neighbors who gets caught up in the action of the treasure hunt. Other faces you might recognize in the film include Dirk Blocker (son of Dan "Hoss Cartwright" Blocker) and J. Brennan Smith, who portrayed Englebert in the TV version of The Bad News Bears..

8. ITS WORKING TITLE WAS THE ALL NIGHT TREASURE HUNT.

The title was changed to Midnight Madness so that the film wouldn’t be confused with 1979’s Scavenger Hunt. But it didn’t seem to concern the producers that actor Stephen Furst starred in both films.

9. THE YELLOW TEAM’S JEEP ISN’T A JEEP AT ALL.

The yellow team can call their ride a Jeep all they want. It’s not. It’s a Toyota Land Cruiser.

10. MAUDE FLANDERS IS THE LEADER OF THE RED TEAM.

Maggie Roswell—who has voiced a number of characters on The Simpsons, including Maude Flanders and Helen Lovejoy—plays the mouthy leader of the all-girl red team. The movie marked her feature film debut.

11. A BOOK FOLLOWED THE MOVIE.

In 1980, the movie got novelized, courtesy of author T.M. Wright.

12. DIABLO CODY IS A FAN.

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The Oscar-winning screenwriter included Midnight Madness in her lineup of favorite films when she took over programming at Los Angeles’ New Beverly Cinema (which Quentin Tarantino owns) for two weeks in 2008, an event dubbed “Mondo Diablo.” She even managed to persuade a few cast and crewmembers to take part in a Q&A.

13. HELTAH SKELTAH DIGS IT, TOO.

The Brooklyn-based rap duo sampled the film’s catchier-than-it-should-be theme in their song, “Midnight Madness.”

14. THE BONAVENTURE HOTEL ONLY HAS 35 FLOORS.

Elevators are deployed as the teams race to be the first ones to cross the finish line, which they only know is “somewhere… in the Bonaventure Hotel.” The only problem is that while the elevator panel in the movie offers guests 51 floors from which to choose, the real Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites (which totally touts being featured in the film on its Website, by the way) is only 35 stories tall.

15. YOU REALLY CAN LOOK BETWEEN THE TWO GIANT MELONS.

Wikimedia Commons

It’s just not going to happen at Johnie’s Fat Boy, because the restaurant never existed. The historic restaurant that was used as one of the scavenger hunt’s more memorable locations (especially if you were into double entendre and busty waitresses) was Johnie’s Broiler in Downey, California, part of which was illegally demolished in 2007. Fortunately, the fine folks at Bob’s Big Boy Broiler stepped in and saved the landmark eatery.

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6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars
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Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards' near-90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. BEST ACTOR // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (female writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), and Beery won for The Champ, which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.

2. BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT // 1950

By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. BEST ACTRESS // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.

4. BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE // 1987

The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.

5. BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) // 1995

More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars Richard E. Grant (Girls, Withnail & I) as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.

6. BEST SOUND EDITING // 2013

The latest Oscar tie happened only three years ago, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg said to the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

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11 Haunting Facts About Beloved

Toni Morrison—who was born on February 18, 1931—made a name for herself with The Bluest Eye, Sula and Song of Solomon, but it wasn’t until 1987’s Beloved, about a runaway slave haunted by the death of her infant daughter, that her legacy was secured. The book won the Pulitzer Prize and was a key factor in the decision to award Morrison the Nobel Prize in 1993. All the awards aside, Beloved is a testament to the horrors of slavery, with its narrative of suffering and repressed memory and its dedication to the more than 60 million who died in bondage. Here are some notable facts about Morrison’s process and the novel’s legacy.

1. IT’S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

While compiling research for 1974's The Black Book, Morrison came across the story of Margaret Garner, a runaway slave from Kentucky who escaped with her husband and four children to Ohio in 1856. A posse caught up with Garner, who killed her youngest daughter and attempted to do the same to her other children rather than let them return to bondage. Once apprehended, her trial transfixed the nation. "She was very calm; she said, 'I’d do it again,'" Morrison told The Paris Review. "That was more than enough to fire my imagination."

2. MORRISON CAME UP WITH THE CHARACTER BELOVED AFTER SHE STARTED WRITING.

The book was originally going to be about the haunting of Sethe by her infant daughter, who she killed (just as Garner did) rather than allow her to return to slavery. A third of the way through writing, though, Morrison realized she needed a flesh-and-blood character who could judge Sethe’s decision. She needed the daughter to come back to life in another form (some interpret it as a grief-driven case of mistaken identity). As she told the National Endowment for the Arts’ NEA Magazine: "I thought the only person who was legitimate, who could decide whether [the killing] was a good thing or not, was the dead girl."

3. SHE WROTE THE ENDING EARLY IN THE WRITING PROCESS.

Morrison has said she likes to know the ending of her books early on, and to write them down once she does. With Beloved, she wrote the ending about a quarter of the way in. "You are forced into having a certain kind of language that will keep the reader asking questions," she told author Carolyn Denard in Toni Morrison: Conversations.

4. MORRISON BECAME FASCINATED WITH SMALL HISTORICAL DETAILS.

To help readers understand the particulars of slavery, Morrison carefully researched historical documents and artifacts. One particular item she became fascinated with: the "bit" that masters would put in slaves' mouths as punishment. She couldn’t find much in the way of pictures or descriptions, but she found enough to imagine the shame slaves would feel. In Beloved, Paul D. tells Sethe that a rooster smiled at him while he wore the bit, indicating that he felt lower than a barnyard animal.

5. SHE ONLY RECENTLY READ THE BOOK HERSELF.

In an appearance on The Colbert Report last year, Morrison said she finally got around to reading Beloved after almost 30 years. Her verdict: "It’s really good!"

6. THE BOOK INSPIRED READERS TO BUILD BENCHES.

When accepting an award from the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1988, Morrison observed that there is no suitable memorial to slavery, "no small bench by the road." Inspired by this line, the Toni Morrison Society started the Bench by the Road Project to remedy the issue. Since 2006, the project has placed 15 benches in locations significant to the history of slavery and the Civil Rights movement, including Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, which served as the point of entry for 40% of slaves brought to America.

7. WHEN BELOVED DIDN’T WIN THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN 1987, FELLOW WRITERS PROTESTED.

After the snub, 48 African-American writers, including Maya Angelou, John Edgar Wideman and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., signed a letter that appeared in the New York Times Book Review. "For all of America, for all of American letters," the letter addressing Morrison read, "you have advanced the moral and artistic standards by which we must measure the daring and the love of our national imagination and our collective intelligence as a people."

8. IT’S ONE OF THE MOST FREQUENTLY CHALLENGED BOOKS.

Between 2000 and 2009, Beloved ranked 26th on the American Library Association’s list of most banned/challenged books. A recent challenge in Fairfax County, Virginia, cited the novel as too intense for teenage readers, while another challenge in Michigan said the book was, incredibly, overly simplistic and pornographic. Thankfully, both challenges were denied.

9. MORRISON ALSO WROTE AN OPERA BASED ON GARNER’S LIFE.

Ten years ago, Morrison collaborated with Grammy-winning composer Richard Danielpour on Margaret Garner, an opera about the real-life inspiration behind Beloved. It opened in Detroit in 2005, and played in Charlotte, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York before closing in 2008.

10. MORRISON DID NOT WANT IT MADE INTO A MOVIE.

Although she publicly claims otherwise, according to a New York magazine story, Morrison told friends she didn’t want Beloved made into a movie. And she didn’t want Oprah Winfrey (who bought the film rights in 1988) to be in it. Nevertheless, the film came out in 1998 and was a total flop.

11. THERE'S AN ILLUSTRATED VERSION.

The Folio Society, a London-based company that creates fancy special editions of classic books, released the first-ever illustrated Beloved in 2015. Artist Joe Morse had to be personally approved by Morrison for the project. Check out a few of his hauntingly beautiful illustrations here.

This article originally appeared in 2015.

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