12 Things You Might Not Know About Grace Jones

Larry Ellis/Getty Images
Larry Ellis/Getty Images

Grace Jones has been many things during her years in the spotlight: dancehall queen, artistic muse, style icon, rebel, villainous Bond girl/henchwoman. She got her start on the runways in the 1970s, but soon Jones was on the cover of magazines, topping the U.S. dance charts with disco and R&B hits like "Pull Up to the Bumper" and "Slave to the Rhythm," and befriending and influencing major players in the art and fashion worlds. And though she once made headlines for her onstage antics and drug-fueled partying, her enduring legacy has been her commitment to individuality, her fierce personality, and her defiance of social mores.

Before she headlines Pride Island at New York City's Pride festival in June 2019, here are 12 facts you might not know about the woman The New York Times once called "a high priestess of the outré."

1. Grace Jones's age is a bit of a mystery.

Grace Jones attends a signing of her memoir in 2015.
Grace Jones attends a signing of her memoir in 2015.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Grace Beverly Jones was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica, on May 19. As for the year, 1948 is very popular on several websites, but Jones disagrees. "They say I'm a lot older than I actually am," Jones wrote in her 2015 autobiography, I'll Never Write My Memoirs. "In the press, on the internet, they add about four years to my actual age … I don't care at all. I like to keep the mystery."

2. Grace Jones grew up in a strict, religious household.

Grace's parents were both young and strict Pentecostals (her mother was the niece of a high-ranking bishop in the church). Before she turned 6, her parents immigrated to America to build a new home. According to Jones, they left their children in Jamaica because they "believed it was for the best," since children growing up in America weren't disciplined sternly enough. Instead, Grace and her four siblings were raised by her mother's mother "and her petty, brutal husband." Known as Mas P—short for Master P; his first name was Peart—her step-grandfather was a strict disciplinarian who regularly beat Jones and three of her siblings (a fourth sibling, her sister Pam, spent these years living with their great-grandmother).

Eventually, her parents sent for their children, and a 12-year-old Grace and her siblings joined them in New York (where her youngest brother was born). Although she was a shy and scared child, Jones became a rebellious and outspoken teenager whose behavior often clashed with her religious upbringing.

3. Grace Jones was once roommates with Jessica Lange and Jerry Hall.

As a teenager, Jones began her career as a model and eventually got picked up by Wilhelmina Models. Eventually, she became frustrated by the lack of bookings and moved to Paris in 1970 to work with a brand new agency called Euro Planning. The first three models to join were Jones, Jerry Hall, and Jessica Lange. The three were roommates and fast friends, and Jones wrote that they continue to "help each other and inspire each other."

4. Grace Jones defied gender norms.

The cover of Grace Jones's 1981 album, Nightclubbing.

The cover of Grace Jones's 1981 album, Nightclubbing.

Jones is well known for embracing androgyny. Some of her most striking iconography has her hair in a flattop, her strong cheekbones and jawline sharply contoured, and her clothing tailored in the most angular way possible. "I like dressing like a guy. I love it," she told Interview magazine in 1984. "The future is no sex. You can be a boy, a girl, whatever you want."

5. Grace Jones turned down a role in Blade Runner—and immediately regretted it.

Grace Jones attends a movie premiere in 1984.

Grace Jones attends a movie premiere in 1984.

Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Jones caught the acting bug while attending Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York, where she was majoring in Spanish. After playing the role of "Stinkweed" in a 1968 avant-garde play written by a theater teacher she has called her first crush, Jones dropped out and bounced between Philadelphia and New York City while auditioning and piecing together work as a go-go dancer.

It was the beginning of an interesting career in film. She did a number of independent action and horror films, as well as starring in 1984's Conan the Destroyer alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. Her most famous role was likely that of May Day in A View to a Kill (1985); Jones played a villainous assassin who seduced (then died saving) Roger Moore's James Bond.

Surprisingly, before those two blockbuster films, Jones turned down the role of the replicant Zhora in Blade Runner without reading the script. At the time, she was working with the photographer and art director Jean-Paul Goude, who, Jones recalled, thought the film would be "too commercial, and I would become too Hollywood. I would become a sellout." The night after she turned down the role, she was flying to Paris and read the script on the plane. She loved the concept and changed her mind. Unfortunately, by the time her flight landed and she could call the studio, actress Joanna Cassidy had already been cast.

6. Grace Jones's first album included a Sondheim number, Édith Piaf's signature song, and "Tomorrow" from the musical Annie.

Jones began dabbling in music while she was still modeling in Paris in the mid-'70s. She released a single called "I Need A Man" on a French label in 1975; it, and the following year's "Sorry," didn't make much of a splash. But in 1977 she signed with Island Records, and producer Tom Moultan (known as the father of disco) began working on the first of three albums they did together.

Her first album, 1977's Portfolio, had a fairly unusual selection of songs. The first three tracks were disco-fied Broadway show tunes—Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns," A Chorus Line's "What I Did for Love," and "Tomorrow" from Annie. New remixes of her earlier two singles were included, as well as a new song she co-wrote called "That's the Trouble." But the pièce de résistance, as it were, was her seven-and-a-half minute interpretation of "La Vie en Rose." It became her first big international hit, and it's one she still performs live.

7. Grace Jones was a Studio 54 mainstay.

Covers of various Grace Jones albums and singles.

Jones relocated to New York City and quickly became a notorious regular at Studio 54 when it opened in 1977. In I'll Never Write My Memoirs, which she named after the opening line from her 1981 song "Art Groupie," she called herself "the wildest party animal ever" and Studio 54 was a "palace of dreams" where the beautiful people danced and partied and the fashion was as important as the music. "This was where disco became more full-on, and ballooned into the outrageous and, ultimately, the camp," Jones wrote.

Jones also discussed her extensive drug use. An advocate for trying everything at least once, she tried LSD, heroin, and "had my very first ecstasy pill in the company of Timothy Leary, which is a bit like flying to the moon with Neil Armstrong."

8. Grace Jones has a son with French designer Jean-Paul Goude, who was a constant creative partner.

Cover of Grace Jones's Island Life album

Jones met French graphic designer Jean-Paul Goude in New York, and the two began a creative and romantic partnership that resulted in some of the best work of either of their careers. "In 1977 or '78, I met Grace and it was a period of decadence," Goude told WWD in 2009. "People were still doing lots of drugs and I had been working so hard for so long and she made me part of her lifestyle, made me go out dancing at Studio 54. She became an obsession and we did everything together."

Although Goude is an often controversial figure for his portrayal of black women, Grace Jones was his most famous muse. Together, their post-modern, avant-garde imagery made Jones a visual icon—some of the most striking photographs including the image of her naked in a cage (a similar image was later used for his 1982 book Jungle Fever), her Nightclubbing album cover and her Island Life cover photo. Jones and Goude dated until 1984 and had a child, Paulo, together.

9. Grace Jones has a lifetime ban from Disney World.

Grace Jones performs in Los Angeles in 2016.
Grace Jones performs in Los Angeles in 2016.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for FYF

Jones frequently flashes audiences or goes topless during performances, but apparently "the Most Magical Place on Earth" didn't appreciate the showmanship. During a live show at Florida's then-Downtown Disney House of Blues in 1998, Jones "pulled her top off, then proceeded to light up and smoke a doobie—on stage," according to The Orlando Sentinel. She was slapped with a lifetime ban from Disney properties.

10. Grace Jones and Andy Warhol made a scene at Arnold Schwarzenegger's wedding.

Grace Jones and Andy Warhol met during their Studio 54 days, and by the mid-'80s, they were old friends. So when they were both invited to Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1986 wedding to Maria Shriver, they decided to go together. Predictably, they were late. They flew into Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, on her private plane;Jones did her makeup during the flight and when they landed, she dressed in the airport bathroom. And then, "at the exact moment when Arnold and Maria are on their knees finishing off their special, intimate ceremony, we arrive," she wrote. "The doors noisily crack open and they turn around to see what the commotion is, and it is, guess who, Grace and Andy. Late. They didn't say anything, but you could see from the looks on their faces that they were not at all impressed." In Schwarzenegger's autobiography, he said he and Shriver "were delighted" Warhol and Jones showed up, but that "they were like gunslingers coming in through the swinging doors of a saloon in a Western movie."

11. Grace Jones hasn't seen her husband since the early 2000s.

Grace Jones performs in Sydney, Australia in 2009.
Grace Jones performs in Sydney, Australia in 2009.
Gaye Gerard/Getty Images

Grace Jones has had a number of high-profile relationships through the years—Goude, her former bodyguard-turned-actor Dolph Lundgren, stuntman and bodybuilder Sven-Ole Thorsen—but the only time she married was to a Turkish man she met in Belgium, Atila Altaunbay. In 1996, the two essentially eloped in Brazil while she was traveling for work, and then her father performed another marriage ceremony at their family home in Syracuse. Jones knew Altaunbay was a bit younger than her (at the time, she was in her mid- to late-forties), but as she wrote in her memoir, "when we did the paperwork, I found out that he was a few years younger than I thought he was … It turned out my husband was 24."

Eventually they split, but not legally. "We're not divorced," she wrote, stating that after their breakup he went back to his family, who had never approved of her. "I can't find him to get the divorce sorted."

12. You can watch her in action on her documentary, Bloodlight and Bami.

Grace Jones met director Sophie Fiennes when she profiled Jones's brother, Bishop Noel Jones, in a 2002 documentary called Hoover Street Revival about his L.A. church. They hit it off and Jones suggested they do a project together. Fifteen years and at least a dozen years worth of footage later, the two presented the documentary Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. The film—which takes its name from the Jamaican slang for the red light that glows when an artist is recording (bloodlight) and a traditional Jamaican fried cassava flatbread (bami)—got praise for showing the multiple sides of Jones, from electrifying concert footage to intimate meals with her family in Jamaica.

Bloodlight and Bami is available on Amazon Prime and Hulu.

10 Sweet Facts About Napoleon Dynamite

© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox
© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

ChapStick, llamas, and tater tots are just a few things that appear in Napoleon Dynamite, a cult film shot for a mere $400,000 that went on to gross $44.5 million. In 2002, Brigham Young University film student Jared Hess filmed a black-and-white short, Peluca, with his classmate Jon Heder. The film got accepted into the Slamdance Film Festival, which gave Hess the courage to adapt it into a feature. Hess used his real-life upbringing in Preston, Idaho—he had six brothers and his mom owned llamas—to form the basis of the movie, about a nerdy teenager named Napoleon (Heder) who encourages his friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) to run for class president.

In 2004, the indie film screened at Sundance, and was quickly purchased by Fox Searchlight and Paramount, then released less than six months later. Today, the film remains so popular that in 2016 Pedro and Napoleon reunited for a cheesy tots Burger King commercial. To celebrated the film's 15th anniversary, here are some facts about the ever-quotable comedy.

1. Deb is based on Jerusha Hess.

Jared Hess’s wife Jerusha co-wrote the film and based Deb on her own life. “Her mom made her a dress when she was going to a middle school dance and she said, ‘I hadn’t really developed yet, so my mom overcompensated and made some very large, fluffy shoulders,’” Jared told Rolling Stone. “Some guy dancing with her patted the sleeves and actually said, ‘I like your sleeves … they’re real big.'"

Tina Majorino, who played the fictional Deb, hadn’t done a comedy before, because people thought of her as a dramatic actress. "The fact that Jared would even let me come in and read really appealed to me," she told Rolling Stone. "Even if I didn’t get the role, I just wanted to see what it was like to audition for a comedy, as I’d never done it before."

2. Napoleon's famous dance scene was the result of having extra film stock.

At the end of shooting Peluca, Hess had a minute of film stock left and knew Heder liked to dance. Heder had on moon boots—something Hess used to wear—so they traveled to the end of a dirt road. They turned on the car radio and Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” was playing. “I just told him to start dancing and realized: This is how we’ve got to end the film,” Hess told Rolling Stone. “You don’t anticipate those kinds of things. They’re just part of the creative process.”

Heder told HuffPost he found inspiration in Michael Jackson and dancing in front of a mirror, for the end-of-the-movie skit. But when it came time to film the dance for the feature, Heder felt "pressure" to deliver. “I was like, ‘Oh, crap!’ This isn’t just a silly little scene,” he told PDX Monthly. “This is the moment where everything comes, and he’s making the sacrifice for his friend. That’s the whole theme of the movie. Everything leads up to this. Napoleon’s been this loser. This has to be the moment where he lands a victory.” Instead of hiring a choreographer, the filmmakers told him to “just figure it out.” They filmed the scene three times with three different songs, including Jamiroquai’s “Little L” and “Canned Heat.”

3. Napoleon Dynamitefans still flock to Preston, Idaho to tour the movie's locations.

In a 2016 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, The Preston Citizen’s circulation manager, Rhonda Gregerson, said “every summer at least 50 groups of fans walk into the office wanting to know more about the film.” She said people come from all over the world to see Preston High School, Pedro’s house, and other filming locations as a layover before heading to Yellowstone National Park. “If you talk to a lot of people in Preston, you’ll find a lot of people who have become a bit sick of it,” Gregerson said. “I still think it’s great that there’s still so much interest in the town this long after the movie.”

Besides the filming locations, the town used to host a Napoleon Dynamite festival. In 2005, the fest drew about 6000 people and featured a tater tot eating contest, a moon boot dancing contest, boondoggle keychains for sale, and a tetherball tournament. The fest was last held in 2008.

4. Idaho adopted a resolution commending the filmmakers.

'Napoleon Dynamite' filmmakers Jerusha and Jared Hess
Jerusha and Jared Hess
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

In 2005, the Idaho legislature wrote a resolution praising Jared and Jerusha Hess and the city of Preston. HCR029 appreciates the use of tater tots for “promoting Idaho’s most famous export.” It extols bicycling and skateboarding to promote “better air quality,” and it says Kip and LaFawnduh’s relationship “is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho’s technology-driven industry.” The resolution goes on to say those who “vote Nay on this concurrent resolution are Freakin’ Idiots.” Napoleon would be proud.

5. Napoleon was a different kind of nerd.

Sure, he was awkward, but Napoleon wasn’t as intelligent as other film nerds. “He’s not a genius,” Heder told HuffPost. “Maybe he’s getting good grades, but he’s not excelling; he’s just socially awkward. He doesn’t know how much of an outcast he is, and that’s what gives him that confidence. He’s trying to be cool sometimes, but mostly he just goes for it and does it.”

6. The title sequence featured several different sets of hands..

Eight months before the theatrical release, Fox Searchlight had Hess film a title sequence that made it clear that the film took place in 2004, not in the ’80s or ’90s. Napoleon’s student ID reveals the events occur during the 2004-2005 school year. Heder’s hands move the objects in and out of the frame, but Fox didn’t like his hangnails. “They flew out a hand model a couple weeks later, who had great hands, but was five or six shades darker than Jon Heder,” Hess told Art of the Title. “If you look, there are like three different dudes’ hands—our producer’s are in there, too.”

7. Napoleon Dynamite messed up Netflix's algorithms.

Beginning in 2006, Cinematch—Netflix’s recommendation algorithm software—held a contest called The Netflix Prize. Anyone who could make Cinematch’s predictions at least 10 percent more accurate would win $1 million. Computer scientist Len Bertoni had trouble predicting whether people would like Napoleon Dynamite. Bertoni told The New York Times the film is “polarizing,” and the Netflix ratings are either one or five stars. If he could accurately predict whether people liked the movie, Bertoni said, then he’d come much closer to winning the prize. That didn’t happen for him.

The contest finally ended in 2009 when Netflix awarded the grand prize to BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos, who developed a 10.06 percent improvement over Cinematch’s score.

8. Napoleon accidentally got a bad perm.


© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

Heder got his hair permed the night before shooting began—but something went wrong. Heder called Jared and said, “‘Yeah, I got the perm but it’s a little bit different than it was before,’” Hess told Rolling Stone. “He showed up the night before shooting and he looked like Shirley Temple! The curls were huge!” They didn’t have much time to fix the goof, so Hess enlisted Jerusha and her cousin to re-perm it. It worked, but Jon wasn’t allowed to wash his hair for the next three weeks. “So he had this stinky ‘do in the Idaho heat for three weeks,” Jared said. “We were shooting near dairy farms and there were tons of flies; they were all flying in and out of his hair.”

9. LaFawnduh's real-life family starred in the film.

Shondrella Avery played LaFawnduh, the African American girlfriend of Kip, Napoleon’s older brother (played by Aaron Ruell). Before filming, Hess phoned Avery and said, “‘You remember that there were no black people in Preston, Idaho, right? Do you think your family might want to be in the movie?’ And that’s how it happened,” Avery told Los Angeles Weekly. Her actual family shows up at the end when LaFawnduh and Kip get married.

10. A short-lived animated series acted as a sequel.

In 2012, Fox aired six episodes of Napoleon Dynamite the animated series before they canceled it. All of the original actors returned to supply voices to their characters. The only difference between the film and the series is Kip is not married. Heder told Rolling Stone the episodes are as close to a sequel as fans will get. “If you sit down and watch those back to back, you’ve got yourself a sequel,” he said. “Because you’ve got all the same characters and all the same actors.”

This story has been updated for 2019.

14 Things You Might Not Have Known About James K. Polk

Matthew Brady/Getty Images
Matthew Brady/Getty Images

James K. Polk may have served just one term, but he was one of history’s most consequential U.S. presidents. Polish up on Young Hickory, America's 11th Commander in Chief.

1. James K. Polk had surgery to remove urinary bladder stones when he was 16.

Born on November 2, 1795, James Knox Polk was the oldest of 10 children born to Samuel Polk, a farmer and surveyor, and his wife, Jane. When James was 10, the family moved to Tennessee and settled on a farm in Maury County. As a child, James was too ill to attend formal school; just before he turned 17, he had urinary bladder stones surgically removed by Ephraim McDowell, a prominent Kentucky surgeon. Anesthesia wasn’t available at that time, so the future president reportedly dulled the pain with brandy. The surgery allowed the formerly ill Polk to attend formal schooling for the first time. He entered the University of North Carolina as a sophomore after just 2.5 years of formal schooling. According to Britannica, "as a graduating senior in 1818 he was the Latin salutatorian of his class—a preeminent scholar in both the classics and mathematics." After graduation, he returned to Tennessee to study law and eventually opened up his own practice.

2. James K. Polk won a seat on the Tennessee Legislature at 27, and the U.S. House of Representatives at 29.

During his time in the state legislature, he met—and befriended—future president Andrew Jackson. He also began courting his future wife, Sarah Childress. The daughter of a prominent planter, she had been educated at the prestigious Moravian Female Academy in Salem, North Carolina, and was an eager and active participant in his political campaigns. Polk and Sarah married in 1824. In 1825, Polk was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; he was speaker of the House from 1835 until he left in 1839 to become governor of Tennessee.

3. James K. Polk's nomination for president surprised everyone—including himself.

Months before the democratic national convention of 1844, Polk was at a low point. He had just lost his bid to be re-elected governor of Tennessee (he had been voted out of office in 1841 and tried—and failed—to be elected again in 1843). But when the delegates at the convention couldn’t agree on a nominee—the party was deadlocked between Martin Van Buren and Lewis Cass—they eventually decided to compromise by picking a “dark horse” candidate: Polk.

4. Everyone thought James K. Polk would lose his bid for the presidency.

Despite being a seven-time congressman, a former Speaker of the House, and an ex-governor, Polk was a relative nobody. His opponent Henry Clay lamented that Democrats had failed to choose someone “more worthy of a contest.” Despite the doubts, Polk won the popular vote by nearly 40,000 and the Electoral College 170-105.

5. During James K. Polk's White House "office hours," any American could stop by.

During Polk’s day, anybody was permitted to visit the White House for “office hours.” For two days every week, concerned citizens and lobbyists could drop by to vouch for a cause or ask for political favors. “Job seekers were the worst, in Polk’s view, and he found their incessant interruptions far more annoying than his Whig opponents in Congress,” writes Walter R. Borneman in his book Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America.

6. James K. Polk was remarkably boring.

Polk had as much charisma as a puddle of mud. He was straight-laced, somber, and humorless. As Speaker, an editor in Washington called him the "most unpretending man, for his talents, this, or perhaps any country, has ever seen." Some attributed Polk’s boringness to his refusal to drink socially. The politician Sam Houston supposedly called him “a victim of the use of water as a beverage.” (Sarah banned hard liquor—and dancing—from the White House.)

7. James K. Polk worked 12 hour days and didn't take much time off from the presidency.

Polk regularly spent 12 hours a day at the office. He rarely left Washington, took advice, or delegated. When he wanted to lobby for policy, he’d visit Congress and do it himself. Over the course of his single term, Polk took a total of just 27 days off. “No President who performs his duty faithfully and conscientiously can have any leisure,” Polk wrote.

8. James K. Polk acquired America's first patch of Pacific coastline.

In the early 19th century, the Pacific Northwest was jointly occupied by British and American settlers. But as the century progressed, Americans began to outnumber the British, and they increasingly felt like the rightful owners of the “Oregon Country.” Thankfully, neither country was interested in battling over the land. In 1846, Polk and the British drew a border at the 49th parallel (with some adjustment for Vancouver Island)—what is now Washington State’s boundary with Canada. With that, the United States obtained its first uncontested patch of Pacific coastline.

9. James K. Polk waged a controversial—and consequential—war with Mexico.

In the 1840s, Mexico’s border encompassed California, the American southwest, and even parts of Colorado and Wyoming. Polk wanted this land. In 1845, he offered to buy some disputed territory near the Texas-Mexico border, as well as land in California; when Mexico refused, Polk sent troops into the disputed territory. Mexico retaliated. Polk then requested Congress to declare war. His critics (including a young Abraham Lincoln) complained that Polk had deliberately provoked Mexico. Whatever Polk’s motivations, the United States lost 13,000 men and approximately $100 million in the ensuing war—but succeeded in taking one-third of Mexico’s land.

10. James K. Polk is the reason the United States stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

In the course of just one term, Polk oversaw one of the greatest territorial expansions of any president—an increase of 1.2 million square miles. His administration extended the United States boundary to the Pacific Ocean and laid the groundwork for states such as California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana.

11. James K. Polk's ambivalence toward the issue of slavery may have sparked the Civil War.

When Polk’s administration began pushing westward, debate raged over how these new territories could alter the power balance between free and slave states. Polk, who considered slavery a side issue, refused to give the rancor much time or attention. (No doubt because of his own relationship with slavery. He owned more than 20 enslaved people and brought them to the White House.) Polk’s ambivalence helped sow so much discord that historians now consider his rapid expansion westward as the first steps toward the Civil War.

12. James K. Polk signed bills that reshaped Washington, D.C.

Polk accomplished a lot in just four years. During his tenure, he signed the Smithsonian Institution into law. He was instrumental to the construction of the Washington Monument and helped establish the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He also re-established an independent U.S. Treasury, which was partly intended to reduce the role of speculation in the economy.

13. James K. Polk's administration introduced Americans to the postage stamp.

One of Polk’s unofficial campaign managers was a Nosferatu-lookalike named Cave Johnson, who Polk rewarded with a job as Postmaster General. It was a tough gig. The post office’s budget was swimming in red ink. (At the time, mail recipients paid postage: If a mail carrier failed to find a recipient, no money was made. This happened a lot.) Johnson fixed the financial problem by introducing the prepaid postage stamp, which flipped the responsibility of paying to senders. According to historian C. L. Grant, in 1845, Johnson estimated that the department would have a deficit of over a million dollars. By the time he left that was down to $30,000.

14. The location of James K. Polk's grave is causing a stir in Tennessee.

Polk died, likely of cholera, in 1849, just months after leaving office. Because he died of an infectious disease, the president was hastily buried in a city cemetery near the outskirts of Nashville. Months later, he was re-interred near his Nashville mansion, Polk Place. In 1893, his tomb was moved again to the state Capitol grounds. Today, Tennessee legislators are actively debating whether to move Polk’s bones a fourth time, this time to his old family home in Columbia, Tennessee.

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