In 1964, Bell created the Picturephone in the hopes of augmenting telephone services with long-distance video chat. The technology was awesome (for the time), but also insanely expensive. It flopped, costing Bell roughly half a billion dollars and attracting few actual customers. But how did it work, and why did it fail? Behold:
And here's an amazing five-minute demo of the system from 1970, courtesy of the AT&T Archives:
To his coworkers at the Combined Insurance Company of America in Chicago, he was just Bob. A few months shy of his 24th birthday and newly married, Bob was ambitious, charming, and sincere—all qualities company president W. Clement Stone valued in his salesmen. To push high-volume, short-term disability insurance, customers needed to trust their words. Bob Knievel could look a man in the eyes and tell him that $3 worth of insurance was money well spent, and they'd believe him.
Years later, when Bob adopted the Evel Knievel persona and made breaking his bones a spectator sport, his former colleagues would stare at their televisions in amazement. There went Bob, clearing 10 or 14 or 20 cars on a motorcycle. There lies Bob, a heap of fractured limbs that needed to be scraped off the pavement like chewing gum.
In the span of just a few short years, the best insurance salesman in his assigned district had become the most famous daredevil in the world.
Born in Butte, Montana, in 1938, Robert Knievel stole his first motorcycle at the age of 13. Prone to delinquency and petty crime, he failed to get a high school diploma and instead entered the U.S. Army Reserves. By the time he was 19 years old, he was out of uniform and starting up a semi-pro hockey team, drawing crowds at local arenas and even playing Olympic hopefuls from the Czech Republic. (Knievel’s team lost 22-3.)
By 1960, any discernible skills beyond mediocre athleticism and amoral behavior weren’t quite ready to reveal themselves. Knievel struck upon the idea of becoming a merchant policeman in Butte, which was a fancy term for being a private security specialist. Knievel would approach businesses and promise he’d act as a kind of sentry, checking their locations for suspicious activity and thwarting any robbery or vandalism attempts.
What Knievel wouldn’t admit until much later was that he was frequently the perpetrator of that activity, breaking windows and robbing the registers of businesses that didn’t sign up for his services. It was his version of property insurance.
A few things conspired to redirect Knievel’s ambitions. He married Linda Bork in 1959, and the couple started a family. He also grew concerned that Butte authorities were close to catching up with his security monitoring scam. In the summer of 1962, Knievel decided to go straight and become a salesman for Combined Insurance.
The company’s district manager in Montana dispatched Knievel to Chicago, where he underwent a two-week training course in sales tactics endorsed by president W. Clement Stone. Stone had co-authored a book, Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, and considered it his business gospel. The lessons were at the level of fortune cookies and free of cynicism (“Big doors swing on little hinges,” “Thinking will not overcome fear, but action will”) but Knievel never once rolled his eyes. He absorbed the strategies and hit the road back in his home state, prepared to sell the $3 policies and collect his 60 cents per signature.
Earning an honest living at that rate would require volume. So Knievel traveled to working-class towns and paid bars to allow him to set up an “office” in a booth, where he could catch the steady stream of farmers coming in for a drink. He stopped workers at a train repair station during lunch breaks, and preached the virtues of the payments Combined would offer in the event the insured had an accident. Sometimes he’d pass up the $3 and do barter trades, like when a rancher once offered to give him a lame horse.
If Knievel had a crowning moment in his gone-straight, suit-and-tie life, it was when he set a district record for the most policies sold in a single week. He had talked his way into a state mental hospital in Warm Springs, Montana, and sold coverage to the staff—and if company legend is to be believed, to many of the hospital's patients as well. Knievel logged 271 sign-ups that week.
For this, Knievel got an award and recognition; he was feted by company executives as an example of the can-do spirit their president endorsed. While he enjoyed the attention, what Bob really wanted was to occupy the office of the vice president. When Combined refused to promote him, he quit. Without advancement in sight, making a living out of a suitcase ceased to be appealing. Knievel wanted to do something else.
After leaving Combined, Knievel returned to his rudderless lifestyle. He found work at a motorcycle shop in Wyoming and thought a good way to drum up business would be to hop on a bike and try to jump over a pit infested with rattlesnakes.
That then gave him the idea to jump greater distances, which eventually led to him convincing the operators of Caesars Palace that he could make the 150-foot jump over the fountains near the front entrance of their Las Vegas resort and casino. He didn’t make it, but footage of the 1967 wipeout was absolutely mesmerizing: Airborne one minute and tumbling on the ground the next, Knievel looked like a crash test dummy. Convalescing in the hospital with multiple broken bones, Knievel’s popularity soared. He became one of the most famous men in America in the 1970s, rivaled only by Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali.
Matt Tonning, one of Knievel’s former coworkers at Combined, was one of the millions of people who saw the footage. He was alarmed, but not because of the gruesome outcome. Over the years, Knievel had phoned Tonning to catch up and buy policies—10 in all, which was nine more than a salesperson was technically allowed to sell to any one person. Tonning liked Knievel so much that he usually just entered another salesman’s name to complete the transaction. The policies could not be canceled and covered any accident.
At no point did Knievel ever list his current occupation: daredevil.
Tonning was fired. When Knievel heard of his friend’s dismissal, he agreed to drop claims on nine of the policies.
If there were any hard feelings, Knievel never voiced them. He would later credit the unflinching optimism of Stone and his book as one of the key reasons he became a professional cheater of death. Staring up at the ramps that would launch him into the air, those sales lessons led him to believe he could make it—even when past experience proved otherwise.
For nearly 10 years, TV viewers got to experience a journey aboard a cruise ship nearly every Saturday night as The Love Boat brought the misadventures and romantic escapades of the luxury liner life right into their living rooms. With a roster of memorable characters like Captain Stubing (Gavin MacLeod), "Doc" Bricker (Bernie Kopell), Burl "Gopher" Smith (Fred Grandy), Julie McCoy (Lauren Tewes), and the finger-gun flailing Isaac (Ted Lange), the series was an immediate hit, lasting from 1977 until the spring of 1986. Here are 10 facts you need to know about TV's The Love Boat.
1. THE LOVE BOAT FOLLOWS THE LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE ANTHOLOGY FORMULA.
The Love Boat was unique for television at the time in that it was centered around multiple vignettes every week, chronicling the comedic (and romantic) misadventures of an ever-changing group of passengers and the stalwart crew of the ship.
The separate storylines would all have different writers and weave in and out throughout the episode. It wasn’t a typical sitcom, nor was it sketch comedy; it was a style that executive producer Aaron Spelling directly modeled after ABC’s earlier comic hitLove, American Style.
Aimed at an older audience—with an eye on comic hijinks dripping with sexual tension—The Love Boatfound an audience instantly, debuting at number 14 on the Nielsen charts and staying strong until the finale.
2. THE SHOW WAS BASED ON A TELL-ALL BOOK BY A REAL CRUISE DIRECTOR.
There’s more reality to The Love Boat than most people would assume. The show was actually based on a book titled Love Boats by Jeraldine Saunders, the first female to become cruise director for Princess Cruises. The 1974 book is a tell-all, revealing anecdotes from Saunders’s decade-long career (at that point) as a cruise director and the various run-ins she had with colorful passengers, crew members, and exotic destinations.
3. IT WAS TURNED INTO THREE TV MOVIES FIRST.
Before The Love Boat became a weekly television show, ABC tested the waters with three made-for-TV movies acting as pilots: The Love Boat (1976), The Love Boat II (1977), and The New Love Boat (1977). The Love Boat II saw the eventual TV cast appear in early versions of their famous roles, including Bernie Kopell, Ted Lange, and Fred Grandy. And The New Love Boat was basically a pilot for what the finalized series was going to be.
After three TV movies and an overhaul of the cast, The Love Boat was ready to officially set sail on September 24, 1977.
4. ROBERT REED AND FLORENCE HENDERSON GUEST STARRED (BUT NOT AS MIKE AND CAROL BRADY).
The Love Boat was a destination for countless celebrity guest stars over the years. Each week, stars from both the big and small screens would make appearances, including Betty White, Joan Collins, Alan Thicke, Gene Kelly, Hulk Hogan, Jeffery Tambor, and Janet Leigh.
The Iron Woman of Love Boat guest stars was none other than Florence Henderson, who boarded the Pacific Princess a staggering nine times, playing various characters. During one of her guest-stints, the boat was also boarded by Robert Reed, who obviously played Mr. Brady on The Brady Bunch. Though the two were in separate vignettes and weren’t playing their former married selves, the show did acknowledge their sitcom past as Henderson briefly sees Reed’s character and the two share a knowing glance.
5. CHARLIE’S ANGELS WERE ONCE ONBOARD FOR A CROSSOVER.
In addition to The Love Boat, Spelling had another project on ABC, Charlie’s Angels, which preceded Love Boat by one year in 1976. So it was only natural to meld the two series—which have as little in common as humanly possible—for a 1979 crossover.
In the two-part episode “Love Boat Angels,” the Angels board the Pacific Princess in order to retrieve stolen pieces of art on a voyage to the Virgin Islands. Though the episode was about the Angels doing their Angel-y thing, The Love Boat favorites like Captain Stubing, Isaac, "Doc" Bricker, and Julie McCoy all made appearances.
6. ONLY THREE ACTORS APPEARED IN EVERY EPISODE OF THE SHOW.
During The Love Boat’s nine years on the air, plenty of the ship’s crew came and went, but three actors were onboard for the series’ entire 250-episode run: Gavin MacLeod, Bernie Kopell, and Ted Lange. Fred Grandy came close, starring in 246 episodes across the entire length of the show. Lange, Kopell, and MacLeod also starred in the 1990 TV movieThe Love Boat: A Valentine Voyage and made appearances on Love Boat: The Next Wave.
7. THE SHOW WAS FILMED ON REAL BOATS WITH ACTUAL PASSENGERS.
To shoot The Love Boat you need a boat, right? To make the boat come alive, the production shot on two real cruise ships: The Pacific Princess and Island Princess. Real cruises were booked and actual passengers played extras during certain scenes that required a more authentic look. For the actual people on vacation, filming was just an added bonus, as extras would get a raffle ticket at the end of each day they filmed. The cruises known to double as shooting locales would always sell out.
Filming aboard an actual ship wasn’t the norm, though. Like any sitcom, The Love Boat was mostly shot on soundstages that could create the look of a cabin, dining area, or a ship’s hallways.
8. DIONNE WARWICK SANG THE THEME FOR THE FINAL SEASON.
The Love Boat’s iconic theme was written by Paul Williams—who had written for The Carpenters, David Bowie, and The Muppets—and Charles Fox, the man behind the music for the Wide World of Sports and the first theme for ABC’s Monday Night Football. And for the show’s first eight seasons, The Love Boat theme was performed by Jack Jones until season nine when hit singer Dionne Warwick took over.
Her version closed out the final season of the show, and a completely overhauled version would grace Love Boat: The Next Wave from the late ‘90s.
9. THE REAL LOVE BOAT BECAME A NOTORIOUS VESSEL FOR DRUG SMUGGLERS.
The life of an out-of-work Hollywood icon can be rough, and after The Love Boat went off the air, the Pacific Princess found itself mixed up in the seedy world of narcotics. In 1998, BBC reported that the liner had become “a major tool for smugglers bent on trafficking drugs around the Mediterranean,” and more than 50 pounds of heroin were found aboard in November of that year.
The ship was impounded in Greece during a cruise, stranding the 600 passengers there as the whole ordeal got sorted out.
10. THE PACIFIC PRINCESS WAS BROUGHT TO A SCRAP YARD IN 2013.
When The Love Boat ended, the Pacific Princess—eventually renamed the MS Princess—was still in operation as a functioning luxury liner. In addition to its previously known drug issues, the ship’s final years were spent in a state of constant repairs and unpaid debt. After going through numerous owners and financial maladies, the MS Princess was eventually sent to a Turkish scrap yard in 2013.
Before it went to scrap, the ship was already decommissioned, and getting it back into proper shape would have been senseless from a financial standpoint, according to Ersin Ceviker of the Ship Recyclers' Association of Turkey. During its trip to the Aliaga port in Turkey, the ship began taking on water and required additional tugboats to bring it to its final destination.