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25 Things You Should Know About Nirvana

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Though he died tragically at the age of 27, today marks what would have been Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain's 50th birthday. To celebrate the occasion, here are 25 things you should know about the alternative rock icon and his legendary band.

1. KURT COBAIN DROPPED OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL, THEN WORKED THERE AS A JANITOR.

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Even though he was by all accounts a slob, Kurt Cobain worked as a janitor at Weatherwax High School, not long after dropping out of that very school. The dancing janitor in the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music video was an inside joke for those who knew of Cobain's old job.

2. THE TITLE FOR "ABOUT A GIRL" CAME ABOUT VERY QUICKLY.

Chad Channing, one of Nirvana's drummers before Dave Grohl, claimed that one day he asked Cobain what the song was about. "About a girl," was Cobain's reply. "Why don't you just call it that?"

The girl in question was Cobain's girlfriend, Tracy Marander, who asked why he wrote about everything—including Floyd the Barber from The Andy Griffith Show—but her. Marander didn't even realize that she was the "girl" until she read the official biography of the band, Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana, four years later.

3. THERE WERE AT LEAST FIVE DIFFERENT DRUMMERS IN THE BAND BEFORE DAVE GROHL.

Cobain and Novoselic were always members of Nirvana—formerly known as Skid Row, Pen Cap Chew, Bliss, and Ted Ed Fred—but finding a permanent drummer proved to be even harder than coming up with a decent band name. In the beginning, there was trivia answer Aaron Burckhard, who pissed off Cobain by getting Kurt's car impounded after being arrested for fighting with a police officer. Then there was Melvins drummer Dale Crover, who pounded the skins for Cobain and Novoselic on their first demo tape before moving to San Francisco. Next came Dave Foster, who got arrested for assaulting the son of the mayor of Cosmopolis, Washington. Burckhard briefly returned before announcing he was too hungover to practice one day. Then a mutual friend introduced Cobain and Novoselic to Chad Channing, who hung around for two years before the group's co-founders decided he wasn't cutting it anymore. Mudhoney drummer Dan Peters played on the "Sliver" single.

Back in Washington, Crover performed with Cobain and Novoselic on a seven date tour with Sonic Youth in August 1990, before Dave Grohl's band Scream broke up and Melvins frontman Buzz Osbourne introduced Grohl to Cobain and Novoselic, ending the vicious cycle of rotating drummers.

4. NIRVANA'S FIRST SINGLE WAS A COVER.

Nirvana's first official release was a cover of "Love Buzz" by the Dutch rock band Shocking Blue. You know Shocking Blue not by "Love Buzz" but by their classic song "Venus," which reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in February 1970 and sold 7.5 million copies. A 1986 Bananarama cover also topped the charts. "Love Buzz" however did neither of those things, for either Shocking Blue or Nirvana.

5. NIRVANA'S FIRST ALBUM COST $606.17 TO MAKE.

Guitarist Jason Everman didn't play on Bleach, Nirvana's first album, but was added to the band to add a second guitar to the mix soon after. He was a leading candidate to foot the bill—which came to $606.17—because he was the only person in the band to have an actual paying job. Unfortunately for Everman, his withdrawn attitude clashed with Cobain's similar disposition while on tour, resulting in a lot of long, silent driving and a severe lack of band chemistry

Everman failed upward, becoming the bass player for Soundgarden. He would be canned from that gig after one tour, before Soundgarden made it big. Everman's life after near-stardom was profiled in The New York Times Magazine in 2013, where it was reported that he joined the Army's 2nd Ranger Battalion and then the Special Forces, serving tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, and received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Columbia University. 

6. "SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT" WAS INSPIRED BY COBAIN'S GIRLFRIEND'S DEODORANT. AND ALCOHOL.

After a night of drinking, Kurt Cobain and then-roommate Dave Grohl were joined by Bikini Kill songwriter/vocalist Kathleen Hanna and drummer Tobi Vail at their humble pre-fame abode. The party continued, and eventually Hanna spray painted "Kurt smells like teen spirit" on Cobain's wall, a reference to the deodorant Vail—Cobain's girlfriend at the time—used to smell pleasant without any white residue. As the rest of the legend goes, Cobain loved the phrasing and wrote the song without knowing of the Teen Spirit deodorant's existence until after it was recorded.

7. THE SONG'S RIFF WAS A "RIP OFF" OF THE PIXIES. AND "MORE THAN A FEELING."

The Pixies are universally credited with inventing the loud-quiet dynamic in 1987 with their debut EP Come on Pilgrim. It wouldn't be until 1990—one year after Nirvana's debut album Bleach—that Cobain's affection for the band would heavily influence his songwriting, and through that lens, "Spirit" pretty much sounds like a Pixies parody. Cobain admitted to trying to rip off the group, and at a big 1992 concert in Reading, he also acknowledged the song's passing resemblance to Boston's "More Than A Feeling."

8. WHEN COBAIN SAW HIMSELF ON TV FOR THE FIRST TIME, HE CALLED HIS MOTHER.

The music video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" premiered on MTV's alternative music show 120 Minutes on Sunday, September 29, 1991. Cobain watched himself in a hotel room at The Roger Smith Hotel in New York City and called his mother to tell her, "There's me."

9. THE BAND WAS ACCUSED OF PLAGIARISM.

It all began in 1989, when Nirvana's "Negative Creep" featured the chorus "Daddy's little girl ain't a girl no more," which reminded a lot of the band's early listeners of Mudhoney's "Sweet Young Thing Ain't Sweet No More." Nothing came of it, but years later Cobain might have had that in mind when he warned Nirvana's co-manager Danny Goldberg about making "Come As You Are" the next single after "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

"Kurt was nervous about 'Come as You Are' because it was too similar to a Killing Joke song ['Eighties'], but we all thought it was still the better song to go with," Goldberg told Rolling Stone. "And, he was right, Killing Joke later did complain about it." But that's all they did—complain.

Killing Joke never actually took the band to court over the similarities to their 1984 song due to "personal and financial reasons," and possibly because "Eighties" itself sounds an awful lot like The Damned's 1982 song "Life Goes On." Shrugging and muttering to themselves that good artists borrow and great artists steal, Killing Joke welcomed Dave Grohl behind the drum kit to play on their 2003 album.

The only time that someone actually sued Nirvana was director Kevin Kerslake, who alleged that Cobain used some of his ideas for the "Heart Shaped Box" music video. The case was settled out of court.

10. THE ORIGINAL MUSIC VIDEO FOR "IN BLOOM" IS FROM 1990 AND SET IN NEW YORK CITY.

"In Bloom"—along with other Nevermind songs "Breed," "Lithium," and "Polly"—was a song intended for a 1990 album with Sub Pop, the band's initial record label. At first, Sub Pop seemed to be up to the task, paying for a recording session and releasing a music video showing the band performing the intended first single at a couple of different shows, traversing around David Dinkins-era lower Manhattan. Because nobody told Novoselic about continuity, he appears in parts of the video completely bald—the bassist thought his playing was so bad at one gig that he shaved his head to appease the bass gods. 

Sub Pop, however, would prove to be on the verge of bankruptcy, and would only be saved by the deal they made with Geffen Records to receive some royalties from Nevermind. Helping to keep the cash flowing was "In Bloom," the album's fourth single, promoted by a much more professional looking and thought out video with the band performing on an old Ed Sullivan Show type of program.

11. THE ORIGINAL "LITHIUM" VIDEO CONCEPT WAS A CARTOON.

Initially, Cobain and director Kevin Kerslake agreed on Cobain's idea for the "Lithium" video: an animated story about a girl named Prego who discovers some eggs that hatch. Unfortunately, the two discovered—a bit too late—that the animation would take four months to produce and decided to just use footage from a couple of live performances. Kerslake did his best to make things interesting by using video of the band at its most vibrant, manic moments during the quiet parts of the song, and vice versa.

12. NEVERMIND'S "CANDY-ASS" SOUND WAS THANKS IN PART TO JOHN LENNON.

Nevermind producer Butch Vig really wanted Cobain to double track his vocals to make the songs sound "fuller," "richer," and not have the record label spend a lot of money to purposely sound lo-fi. Cobain thought that would just be another indication of the band losing its indie, punk credibility (even though he was already recording a major label album). Vig knew that Cobain was a big John Lennon fan, so whenever Kurt would initially not agree to sing along with himself, Vig would tell him, "John Lennon did it." It worked, every time.

Cobain would later claim to resent the mainstream, radio-friendly production of the hugely successful album, poetically and timelessly describing it in 1993 as "candy-ass."

13. "DRAIN YOU," "LOUNGE ACT," AND SEVERAL SONGS ON NEVERMIND ARE REPORTEDLY ABOUT TOBI VAIL.

Author Charles R. Cross—backed with access to Cobain's private journals and pages of unrecorded lyrics—theorized in his 2001 Kurt Cobain biography Heavier Than Heaven that Nevermind is full of references to Tobi Vail, who broke up with Cobain months before the album's recording. The "Smells Like Teen Spirit" lyric that talks about a woman being over-bored and self-assured was likely to be about Cobain's ex. "Drain You" begins with the line, "One baby to another said 'I'm lucky to have met you,'" quoting what Vail had once told Cobain. "Lounge Act" in particular was unequivocally about the Bikini Kill drummer, confirmed by Novoselic and by Cobain himself in an unwritten letter to Vail that Cross read. Cobain wrote: "Every song on this record [In Utero] is not about you. No, I am not your boyfriend. No, I don't write songs about you, except for 'Lounge Act,' which I do not play, except when my wife is not around." 

14. "POLLY" WAS BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

Kurt Cobain wrote "Polly" in 1987 after reading an article about the torture and rape of a 14-year-old girl. Cobain chose to write the song from the perspective of the girl, inventing the name "Polly" to aid in a consistent, innocent-sounding bird metaphor. After hearing the song, Bob Dylan said of Cobain, "That kid has heart."

15. THE BAND WAS THROWN OUT OF THEIR OWN RECORD RELEASE PARTY.

On a Friday the 13th, Geffen threw the band a record release party with invitations that read, "Nevermind Triskaidekaphobia, Here's Nirvana." Cobain started a full-fledged food fight when he threw ranch dressing at Novoselic, and a bouncer responded by grabbing the two and Grohl and throwing them out. The band then stood in the alley behind the club and talked to their friends through the window, before moving the party to a friend's place, where Cobain shot a fire extinguisher and the place had to be evacuated. At the next venue, Cobain completed the destruction trifecta by tossing a gold record plaque by the group Nelson into a microwave after proclaiming it an "affront to humankind."

16. "WEIRD AL" YANKOVIC ASKED FOR NIRVANA'S PERMISSION TO WRITE "SMELLS LIKE NIRVANA" IN THEIR SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE DRESSING ROOM.

Three events on January 11, 1992 proved that Nirvana had completely made the unprecedented transition from underground punk band to universally beloved supergroup: Nevermind was #1 for the first time on that day's Billboard 200 albums chart; the band made their SNL debut performing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Territorial Pissings" on the Rob Morrow-hosted late night show. To the joy of Cobain, Novoselic, and Grohl, they got a phone call from "Weird Al" Yankovic.

"That was the craziest weekend because we get there, and the first time you see the SNL studio, it's tiny," Grohl recalled in 2011. "You imagine it being this big thing but honestly it's tiny, it's so small. The energy is crazy and people are running around and it goes so quickly, and one of the cast members comes up and says, 'Hey I'm friends with Weird Al Yankovic and he wants to talk to you about doing one of your songs.' And so I think we talked to him in the dressing room of SNL. He called the phone. You know you've arrived when Weird Al ... it was pretty huge. And he did a good job."

17. IN UTERO WAS INITIALLY GOING TO BE TITLED I HATE MYSELF AND I WANT TO DIE.

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Nirvana's album titles tended to evolve over time: Nirvana's first album was recorded under the operating title Too Many Humans, until Cobain saw a sign in San Francisco that said to "Bleach Your Works"; Nevermind started out as Sheep, married to artwork of rows and rows of identical houses. Even though it was intended as a joke, Novoselic pointed out to Cobain that he was opening himself up to tons of potential lawsuits, and the idea was dropped.

18. THE SONG "I HATE MYSELF AND I WANT TO DIE" FEATURES A JACK HANDEY "DEEP THOUGHT."

Even though the threat of lawsuits stopped the band from naming an album "I Hate Myself and I Want to Die," it didn't stop them from recording a song with the title "I Hate Myself and I Want to Die," although it might be the reason that it was left off of the In Utero album. Instead, the song with the misunderstood title (it was supposed to be a joke) found a home as the opening track on The Beavis and Butt-head Experience compilation album. But in the middle of the song, after helping to promote one television show, Cobain acknowledged a different, more mainstream show when he mumbled, "Most people don't realize that large pieces of coral, which have been painted brown and attached to the skull by common wood screws, can make a child look like a deer," an SNL "Deep Thought" from Jack Handey.

19. ELTON JOHN SUFFERED COLLATERAL DAMAGE DUE TO NIRVANA'S WAR WITH GUNS N' ROSES.

Kurt Cobain considered Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose to be a homophobe and a racist, an opinion that other people agreed with thanks to the lyrics of the GNR song "One in a Million." At the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, two pianos were set up on stage for an epic performance of "November Rain." Thinking Axl was going to play on it, Cobain spit on the keys of one of the pianos. To his horror, Kurt later found out that he had given a coat of saliva on the piano played by special guest Elton John.

20. MTV REALLY DID NOT WANT NIRVANA TO PLAY "RAPE ME" AT THE VMAS.

Nirvana was causing nothing but trouble at the '92 VMAs, and naturally their choice of song was one big issue. MTV told the band that they would like to hear "Smells Like Teen Spirit." The band responded by saying that they were respectfully going to remember the clout they had earned over the past year and premiere a brand new song called "Rape Me" instead (a song that actually made its premier at a Santa Cruz concert one year earlier).

The network was not only scared by the title, but somewhat correctly surmised that the song was somewhat about them. The network countered that if the band played "Rape Me" on the live telecast that they would fire Amy Finnerty, an employee Cobain was close friends with, and would stop playing the band's videos. Although both parties agreed on "Lithium," MTV didn't trust Cobain, and for the second consecutive time, their paranoia proved to be well founded: When the band launched into the first few chords of "Rape Me," the control room was ready to go directly to commercial. At the last possible moment, Nirvana stopped the sneak preview to play the memorable version of "Lithium" which ended with Novoselic hitting himself in the head with his bass and Cobain and Grohl sarcastically saying hello to Axl Rose.

21. NOVOSELIC PLAYED A NIRVANA GIG AT THE SEATTLE CENTER COLISEUM, EVEN THOUGH HE WAS BANNED FROM THE PREMISES.

Before performing at a Washington Music Industry Coalition Benefit on September 11, 1992 (two days after the VMAs), Nirvana couldn't help but notice that a photo of Novoselic was on the wall backstage, indicating that he was banned for life due to his behavior at a Sonic Youth concert one year before. They opened the show discussing it. Novoselic has yet to be punished for the crime.

22. "HEART SHAPED BOX" WAS ORIGINALLY TITLED "HEART SHAPED COFFIN."

Even though the song was inspired by an actual heart shaped box sent by Courtney Love to Kurt Cobain during the early days of their relationship, the initial lyrics read that the narrator was "buried" in the box (as opposed to "locked"), with the "Heart Shaped Coffin" title.

23. "ALL APOLOGIES" ORIGINALLY SOUNDED LIKE A BEATLES SONG.

The group wrote one third of 1993's In Utero in 1990. During an informal recording session on New Year's Day 1991, Cobain, Novoselic, and Grohl put down an early, jangly version of "All Apologies." Some of the verses didn't have words yet, but the refrain "Married/Buried" was more or less set, a little over one year before Cobain's wedding to Love.

24. DAVE GROHL WROTE THE RIFF TO "SCENTLESS APPRENTICE."

Grohl had been writing songs on his own since he joined Nirvana, even releasing a cassette album of his work in 1992 called Pocketwatch, under the pseudonym Late! It was understood that Cobain was the lone songwriter of Nirvana, but Grohl couldn't help himself and presented the group with the guitar riff and drum parts of what would turn out to be "Scentless Apprentice." Cobain said in an interview that he initially thought Grohl's riff wasn't very good but tried it out to not hurt his feelings (which of course was a nice thing to do until he revealed his thought to a reporter for Grohl to later read). Aside from "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Scentless Apprentice" was the only song from a Nirvana album that was given a "Cobain/Novoselic/Grohl" writing credit instead of Cobain receiving sole recognition.

Possibly as a reward, "Color Pictures of a Marigold," one of the songs from Pocketwatch, was recorded by Grohl and Novoselic toward the end of the In Utero sessions, and was released as "Marigold," a B-side to the "Heart Shaped Box" single. It would end up being the only Nirvana song that had no input from Cobain.

25. COBAIN EMBELLISHED THE LEADBELLY GUITAR STORY BY ABOUT $445,000.

Before his classic cover of Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" on MTV Unplugged, Cobain was provoked by Novoselic to talk about Leadbelly's guitar. "This guy representing the Leadbelly estate wants to sell me Leadbelly's guitar for $500,000," Cobain said. "I even asked David Geffen personally if he would buy it for me. Wouldn't do it."

It's possible that Cobain was trying to pull a fast one on the CEO of his label, because a few months earlier he wondered to a New York Times reporter if buying the guitar for $55,000 was a "punk move" or an "anti-punk move." Separating $445,000 from David Geffen would of course be both.

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12 Surprising Facts About Bela Lugosi
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On October 20, 1882—135 years ago today—one of the world's most gifted performers was born. In his heyday, Bela Lugosi was hailed as the undisputed king of horror. Eighty-five years after he first donned a vampire’s cape, Lugosi's take on Count Dracula is still widely hailed as the definitive portrayal of the legendary fiend. But who was the man behind the monster?

1. HE WORKED WITH THE NATIONAL THEATER OF HUNGARY.

To the chagrin of his biographers, the details concerning Bela Lugosi’s youth have been clouded in mystery. (In a 1929 interview, he straight-up admitted “for purposes of simplification, I have always thought it better to tell [lies] about the early years of my life.”) That said, we do know that he was born as Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó on October 20, 1882 in Lugoj, Hungary (now part of Romania). We also know that his professional stage debut came at some point in either 1901 or 1902. By 1903, Lugosi had begun to find steady work with traveling theater companies, through which he took part in operas, operettas, and stage plays. In 1913, Lugosi caught a major break when the most prestigious performing arts venue in his native country—the Budapest-based National Theater of Hungary—cast him in no less than 34 shows. Most of the characters that he played there were small Shakespearean roles such as Rosencrantz in Hamlet and Sir Walter Herbert in Richard III.

2. HE FOUGHT IN WORLD WAR I.

The so-called war to end all wars put Lugosi’s dramatic aspirations on hold. Although being a member of the National Theater exempted him from military service, he voluntarily enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1914. Over the next year and a half, he fought against Russian forces as a lieutenant with the 43rd Royal Hungarian Infantry. While serving in the Carpathian mountains, Lugosi was wounded on three separate occasions. Upon healing from his injuries, he left the armed forces in 1916 and gratefully resumed his work with the National Theater.

3. WHEN HE MADE HIS BROADWAY DEBUT, LUGOSI BARELY KNEW ANY ENGLISH.

In December 1920, Lugosi boarded a cargo boat and emigrated to the United States. Two years later, audiences on the Great White Way got their first look at this charismatic stage veteran. Lugosi was cast as Fernando—a suave, Latin lover—in the 1922 Broadway stage play The Red Poppy. At the time, his grasp of the English language was practically nonexistent. Undaunted, Lugosi went over all of his lines with a tutor. Although he couldn’t comprehend their meaning, the actor managed to memorize and phonetically reproduce every single syllable that he was supposed to deliver on stage.

4. UNIVERSAL DIDN’T WANT TO CAST HIM AS COUNT DRACULA.

The year 1927 saw Bela Lugosi sink his teeth into the role of a lifetime. A play based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker had opened in London in 1924. Sensing its potential, Horace Liveright, an American producer, decided to create an U.S. version of the show. Over the summer of 1927, Lugosi was cast as the blood-sucking Count Dracula. For him, the part represented a real challenge. In Lugosi’s own words, “It was a complete change from the usual romantic characters I was playing, but it was a success.” It certainly was. Enhanced by his presence, the American Dracula remained on Broadway for a full year, then spent two years touring the country.

Impressed by its box office prowess, Universal decided to adapt the show into a major motion picture in 1930. Horror fans might be surprised to learn that when the studio began the process of casting this movie’s vampiric villain, Lugosi was not their first choice. At the time, Lugosi was still a relative unknown, which made director Tod Browning more than a little hesitant to offer him the job. A number of established actors were all considered before the man who’d played Dracula on Broadway was tapped to immortalize his biting performance on film.

5. MOST OF HIS DRACULA-RELATED FAN MAIL CAME FROM WOMEN.

The recent Twilight phenomenon is not without historical precedent. Lugosi estimated that, while he was playing the Count on Broadway, more than 97 percent of the fan letters he received were penned by female admirers. A 1932 Universal press book quotes him as saying, “When I was on the stage in Dracula, my audiences were composed mostly of women.” Moreover, Lugosi contended that most of the men who’d attended his show had merely been dragged there by female companions.   

6. HE TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER.

Released in 1931, Dracula quickly became one of the year's biggest hits for Universal (some film historians even argue that the movie single-handedly rescued the ailing studio from bankruptcy). Furthermore, its astronomical success transformed Lugosi into a household name for the first time in his career. Regrettably for him, though, he’d soon miss the chance to star in another smash. Pleased by Dracula’s box office showing, Universal green-lit a new cinematic adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Lugosi seemed like the natural choice to play the monster, but because the poor brute had few lines and would be caked in layers of thick makeup, the actor rejected the job offer. As far as Lugosi was concerned, the character was better suited for some “half-wit extra” than a serious actor. Once the superstar tossed Frankenstein aside, the part was given to a little-known actor named Boris Karloff.

Moviegoers eventually did get to see Lugosi play the bolt-necked corpse in the 1943 cult classic Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. According to some sources, he strongly detested the guttural scream that the script forced him to emit at regular intervals. “That yell is the worst thing about the part. You feel like a big jerk every time you do it!” Lugosi allegedly complained.

7. LUGOSI’S RELATIONSHIP WITH BORIS KARLOFF WAS MORE CORDIAL THAN IT’S USUALLY MADE OUT TO BE.

It’s often reported that the two horror icons were embittered rivals. In reality, however, Karloff and Lugosi seemed to have harbored some mutual respect—and perhaps even affection for one another. The dynamic duo co-starred in five films together, the first of which was 1934’s The Black Cat; Karloff claimed that, on set, Lugosi was “Suspicious of tricks, fearful of what he regarded as scene stealing. Later on, when he realized I didn’t go in for such nonsense, we became friends.” During one of their later collaborations, Lugosi told the press “we laughed over my sad mistake and his good fortune as Frankenstein is concerned.”

That being said, Lugosi probably didn’t appreciate the fact that in every single film which featured both actors, Karloff got top billing. Also, he once privately remarked, “If it hadn’t been for Boris Karloff, I could have had a corner on the horror market.”

8. HE LOVED SOCCER.

In 1935, Lugosi was named Honorary President of the Los Angeles Soccer League. An avid fan, he was regularly seen at Loyola Stadium, where he’d occasionally kick off the first ball during games held there. Also, on top of donating funds to certain Hungarian teams, Lugosi helped finance the Los Angeles Magyar soccer club. When the team won a state championship in 1935, one newspaper wrote that the players were “headed back to Dracula’s castle with the state cup.” [PDF]

9. HE WAS A HARDCORE STAMP COLLECTOR.

Lugosi's fourth wife, Lillian Arch, claimed that Lugosi maintained a collection of more than 150,000 stamps. Once, on a 1944 trip to Boston, he told the press that he intended to visit all 18 of the city's resident philately dealers. “Stamp collecting,” Lugosi declared, “is a hobby which may cost you as much as 10 percent of your investment. You can always sell your stamps with not more than a 10 percent loss. Sometimes, you can even make money.” Fittingly enough, the image of Lugosi’s iconic Dracula appeared on a commemorative stamp issued by the post office in 1997.

10. LUGOSI ALMOST DIDN’T APPEAR IN ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN—BECAUSE THE STUDIO THOUGHT HE WAS DEAD.

The role of Count Dracula in this 1948 blockbuster was nearly given to Ian Keith—who was considered for the same role in the 1931 Dracula movie. Being a good sport, Lugosi helped promote the horror-comedy by making a special guest appearance on The Abbott and Costello Show. While playing himself in one memorable sketch, the famed actor claimed to eat rattlesnake burgers for dinner and “shrouded wheat” for breakfast.

11. A CHIROPRACTOR FILLED IN FOR HIM IN PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.

Toward the end of his life, Lugosi worked on three ultra-low-budget science fiction pictures with Ed Wood, a man who’s been posthumously embraced as the worst director of all time. In the 1953 transvestite picture Glen or Glenda?, Lugosi plays a cryptic narrator who offers such random and unsolicited bits of advice as “Beware of the big, green dragon who sits on your doorstep.” Then came 1955’s Bride of the Monster, in which Lugosi played a mad scientist who ends up doing battle with a (suspiciously limp) giant octopus.

Before long, Wood had cooked up around half a dozen concepts for new films, all starring Lugosi. At some point in the spring of 1956, the director shot some quick footage of the actor wandering around a suburban neighborhood, clad in a baggy cloak. This proved to be the last time that the star would ever appear on film. Lugosi died of a heart attack on August 16, 1956;  he was 73 years old.

Three years after Lugosi's passing, this footage was spliced into a cult classic that Wood came to regard as his “pride and joy.” Plan 9 From Outer Space tells the twisted tale of extraterrestrial environmentalists who turn newly-deceased human beings into murderous zombies. Since Lugosi could obviously no longer play his character, Wood hired a stand-in for some additional scenes. Unfortunately, the man who was given this job—California chiropractor Tom Mason—was several inches taller than Lugosi. In an attempt to hide the height difference, Wood instructed Mason to constantly hunch over. Also, Mason always kept his face hidden behind a cloak.

12. HE WAS BURIED IN HIS DRACULA CAPE.

Although Lugosi resented the years of typecasting that followed his breakout performance in Dracula, he asked to be laid to rest wearing the Count’s signature garment. Lugosi was buried under a simple tombstone at California's Holy Cross Cemetery.

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The First Known Uses of 6 Common Typographic Symbols
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Many of the most common symbols on our keyboards have fascinating origin stories. Some, such as the zero, we now take for granted—yet the idea of denoting an absence of value was not present in Western mathematics until introduced from the East. Other symbols, such as the hashtag or at-sign, had a variety of uses until the internet ushered in a new way of communicating and fixed them with the meanings we know today. Below are six examples of the first known usage and subsequent history of some of the most common typographic symbols.

1. AT SIGN // @

The @ (or at-sign) is usually dated to 1536 in a letter from a Florentine merchant, Francesco Lapi, who used it to mean a unit of wine called “amphorae.” But a Spanish researcher claims to have found an even earlier usage in a 1448 document, where the symbol also referred to a unit of measurement (even today, Spaniards call the @ symbol arroba, which is also a unit of weight, and some other Romance languages have similar dual meanings). Either way, the researchers think that the symbol then moved to Northern Europe, where it eventually gained the meaning of “at the price.” Other explanations have also been offered, but whatever the exact root of the symbol, its meaning eventually became known as shorthand for at, and it was generally used in written financial transactions—for example, in noting “Bob sells James 4 apples @ $1.”

The sign had largely fallen out of use by the early 1970s, when computer scientist Ray Tomlinson was working at what is now BBN Technologies, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Tomlinson, who was working for the government on a forerunner of the internet, was trying to figure out how to address messages sent from one computer to another when he noticed the little-used @ on his computer keyboard, and used it to send a prototype email. This precedent was soon adopted as the internet developed, and the at-sign is now, of course, central to our lives.

2. ZERO // 0

The absence of a value is a complex concept, one that many ancient civilizations struggled with. The idea of a zero ultimately came to the West from the mathematicians of India, where, as in a few other cultures, zero was initially used as a placeholder, for example to indicate a lack of units, as in the number 101.

The earliest surviving usage of a zero in India has been traced to an ancient mathematical text known as the Bakhshali manuscript, which is held at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. In September 2017, radiocarbon dating indicated that the manuscript was produced as early as the 3rd or 4th century—providing us with the first known usage of zero some 500 years earlier than previously thought. As Oxford’s Bodleian Library says, “the symbol in the Bakhshali manuscript is particularly significant for two reasons. Firstly, it is this dot that evolved to have a hollow centre and became the symbol that we use as zero today. Secondly, it was only in India that this zero developed into a number in its own right, hence creating the concept and the number zero that we understand today."

The manuscript itself was discovered buried in a field in 1881 in what is today Pakistan. Written on 70 delicate leaves of birch bark, historians think it represents a training manual for Silk Road traders, teaching them concepts of arithmetic.

3. HASHTAG // #

Hashtag on an old typewriter key
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The origin of the hashtag (or pound sign as it's traditionally known in the U.S.) comes from scribes writing shorthand for the Latin libra pondo, which translates as "pound by weight." The abbreviation they used was lb, which was sometimes misread as 16. So, scribes took to drawing a line through the top of the two letters, which over time developed into the now familiar #. In the 1960s, the pound sign was chosen by Bell Laboratories to be a function key on their newly designed telephone keypad. (The Bell Labs team fondly nicknamed the symbol the “octothorpe,” possibly in honor of athlete Jim Thorpe.) Fast-forward to 2007, when early Twitter users wanted to be able to group and filter their feeds, so developer Chris Messina suggested they appropriate the method used in IRC (Internet Relay Chat) whereby users employed the pound sign or "hashtag" to signpost what they were chatting about. (Programmers knew the symbol as the hash, which was now being used to "tag" content.) This simple method soon caught on, and today the hashtag has become indelibly linked to the rise of social media.

4. ELLIPSIS // …

Originally, periods of silence were marked textually with a series of hyphens, but today the symbol of choice is the , a.k.a. the ellipsis. Dr. Anne Toner of Cambridge University spent years researching the ellipsis and finally discovered what she thinks is its first use—an English translation of Roman dramatist Terence’s play Andria printed in 1588. Although the play used hyphens instead of dots, the general idea caught on rapidly. (Toner notes that although there are only four “ellipses” in the 1588 translation, there are 29 in the 1627 version.) By the 18th century, dots started to replace the dashes, which an assistant professor from Southeastern University suggests may be connected to a medieval piece of punctuation called subpuncting or underdotting, which generally indicated something was incorrectly copied.

5. AMPERSAND // &

Ampersand symbol on an old metal block
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The ampersand originated in Latin when the word et (meaning and) was written in cursive script as a ligature (in which one or more letters are written together as a single glyph). One of the earliest examples was found daubed in graffiti on the walls of a house in Pompeii, where it was preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. By the 8th century the ampersand became a recognizably distinct character, but the word ampersand did not come into use until the late 18th/19th century, when English school children would recite "and per se and" meaning “and by itself means and” to help remember the symbol (per se being Latin for "by itself"). One of the most thorough investigations into the typographic history of the ampersand comes courtesy of German graphic designer Jan Tschichold, who in 1953 published The am­persand: its ori­gin and de­vel­op­ment, in which he collected numerous examples of the ampersand from the 1st century onwards, visually charting its developing form.

6. PLUS SIGN // +

A variety of ceramic plus signs
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The plus sign used for addition in mathematics likely derives from a shorthand ligature for the Latin et meaning “and” and was probably in use for a long time before a surviving example appeared in print. One candidate for the earliest surviving usage is in French philosopher and polymath Nicole Oresme's Algorismus proportionum, a manuscript handwritten between 1356 and 1361, although scholars debate whether it's a true plus symbol. The first use of a plus sign in a printed book is more definitive, and can be found in a 1489 edition of Johannes Widmann’s Mercantile Arithmetic. Widmann also uses the minus sign for the first time in print in this volume—although both plus and minus signs relate not to addition and subtraction but to surpluses and deficits in business accounting. After this usage, the plus sign began to appear more frequently in German mathematical texts, and first appeared in an English text in 1557 in Robert Recorde’s The Whetstone of Witte—which also introduced the equals sign.

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