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The Terminator: 30 Years Later

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Orion Pictures

This Sunday will be the 30th anniversary of the release of the movie The Terminator. Outside of Sarah Connor’s hair and clothing, there’s not a lot in the film that indicates how old it is. Oh, there have been some advances in special effects, but anyone who is old enough to have seen The Terminator in a first-run theater probably doesn’t see any problem with that. Those effects were astounding at the time. But in 1984, the star-studded cast and crew weren’t as star-studded as they seem now. The success of the film changed their lives, some of them exponentially.

Linda Hamilton

Orion Pictures

At its heart, The Terminator was basically about three people: a good guy and a bad guy fighting over a girl. She was your average girl-next-door who became caught up in circumstances she didn’t understand. When you think about it, the terminator and Kyle Reese could have gone back to the past and found any girl, but that idea may lead to a headache. Bridget Fonda and Rosanna Arquette were considered for the role of Sarah Connor, but Linda Hamilton landed the role. Before The Terminator, Hamilton found fairly steady work in short-lived TV shows, little-seen feature films, and made-for-TV movies. As the passive member of the triangle, the role of Sarah Connor in 1984 didn’t do much for Hamilton’s career. She returned to off-and-on movie and TV work, with the most memorable role of the period being one of the title characters in the TV series Beauty and the Beast, which ran from 1987 to 1990, although Hamilton quit at the beginning of the third season to have a baby.

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The biggest benefit from playing Sarah Connor in The Terminator for Hamilton was the opportunity to reprise the role in the 1991 sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. In Terminator 2, Sarah Connor had transformed herself into a buff action hero, which surprised and delighted the audience. Hamilton worked out for months preparing for the role, dieted to lose weight, and took martial arts and weapons training from an Israeli commando. After Terminator 2, we expected Hamilton to leverage her performance to promote herself as an action hero, but instead, she returned to ensemble roles on TV movies and guest appearances on TV shows. What changed Hamilton’s life during Terminator 2 was that she started a romantic relationship with James Cameron.

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The actress and the director moved in together following his divorce from director Kathryn Bigelow. They had a daughter together in 1993. Cameron and Hamilton got married in 1997, despite his affair with Suzy Amis, who appeared in Cameron’s movie Titanic (and later became his fifth wife). Hamilton’s marriage to Cameron came to an end in 1999, and she was awarded a settlement of $50 million. Hamilton doesn’t need stardom.

James Cameron

Photograph by Towpilot.

When he came up with the idea for The Terminator, James Cameron had directed only one feature film, the forgettable Piranha Part Two: The Spawning (1981)—and he was fired from that project. He was 26 years old and the majority of what he knew about filmmaking, he learned from Roger Corman. Cameron said the idea of The Terminator came to him in a dream, which he took to another Corman employee, Gale Ann Hurd. The two hashed out a storyline and agreed to do the movie together, with Hurd producing and Cameron directing. Both got the writing credit, although Cameron disputes that Hurd had any significant input. When you type “Who wrote The Terminator?” into Google’s search engine, the answer is Harlan Ellison, which is a whole other story. Ellison sued, saying The Terminator was taken from several of his TV scripts, and a settlement included adding him to the credits over Cameron’s objections. The Terminator cost $6.4 million to make, and made over $78 million in box office receipts. While a modest success, the movie was only the beginning of the Terminator franchise, which spawned four sequels (the next due in 2015), a TV show (The Sarah Connor Chronicles), video games, comic books, novels, and action figures and other merchandise.

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After The Terminator, James Cameron was able to pick and choose his projects, which became bigger with each blockbuster film he directed. They include Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, True Lies, Titanic, and Avatar. He also got a wife: Cameron married The Terminator’s producer Gale Ann Hurd. That marriage lasted until 1989, after which he married director Kathryn Bigelow, then Terminator star Linda Hamilton in 1997, and Suzy Amis in 2000. The money that Cameron’s ever-bigger blockbusters brought in allowed him to indulge in his other passion: deep sea diving. He built and learned to operate submersible vehicles while filming Titanic. He then founded the company Earthship Productions to make deep-sea documentaries. In 2012, Cameron became the first person to reach the deepest part of the Mariana Trench, called the Challenger Deep, on a solo expedition (and only the third person to ever reach the bottom).

Michael Biehn

Orion Pictures

Michael Biehn, who played Kyle Reese in The Terminator, actually had quite a few acting credits going into the production. He was in several TV shows, then played a bit part in the 1978 musical Grease. A few movies followed, but he was mostly on TV, and played a recurring character on Hill Street Blues while The Terminator was in production. There were quite a few different actors considered for the role of Kyle Reese, but Cameron thought they were all too tough. Biehn had the humanity to pull off a love interest and the versatility to keep the audience in suspense as to his character’s intentions through the first half of the film. If you can think back to the first time you saw the movie, no one knew Reese was the hero for the first hour.

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After The Terminator, Cameron called upon Biehn again, for Aliens in 1986 and The Abyss in 1989. Strangely, Biehn’s hand was bitten in all three Cameron films. He was shot by Val Kilmer’s character Doc Holiday in the 1993 movie Tombstone. You might be forgiven for thinking that Biehn dropped off the face of the earth after those, but he has been working steadily in film ever since. You have to look for him; he doesn’t quite look like the teen idol he once was.

Gale Ann Hurd

Photograph by Towpilot.

The producer of The Terminator has less name recognition than the others on this list, but Gale Ann Hurd has plenty of accomplishments under her belt. She worked her way up the ladder at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, then formed Pacific Western Productions. The company’s first production was The Terminator, after she bought the rights from James Cameron for $1. The Terminator was a money maker, mainly because the budget was relatively low. Hurd said, “Success for us meant being able to make another movie. It didn’t mean box-office success or critical success—our goal was to be able to do it again. Anyone who doesn’t feel that way should not be in the business.”

Photograph by Angela George.

The success of The Terminator did exactly that: it allowed her to produce movies such as Aliens, Alien Nation, The Abyss, Tremors, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Armageddon, The Hulk, and a slew of other films. Hurd also married James Cameron in 1985, although they divorced in 1989. She was then married to Brian DePalma from 1991-93, and to screenwriter and director Jonathan Hensleigh since 1995. In 2010, Hurd landed a gig as executive producer of a new TV series called The Walking Dead. She’s been there for all 53 episodes so far. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Orion Pictures

Orion wanted the production to have a star, even though The Terminator was a relatively small-budget film. Orion chief Mike Medavoy suggested O.J. Simpson as the terminator. Cameron didn’t think it was a good idea to have a black man chasing a white woman down to kill her, and nobody would believe that O.J. could do that. This was in 1982, remember. Austrian bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger auditioned for the role of Kyle Reese, but Cameron came to see him as the terminator. Not the terminator he had originally envisioned, but a better one. Schwarzenegger had made a few movies already, although the only film of note was Conan the Barbarian (its sequel, Conan the Destroyer was filmed during a break in The Terminator schedule). Schwarzenegger didn’t like being assigned the role of the terminator because he would only have 18 lines in the entire movie—around 100 words in all. However, Schwarzenegger’s command of the English language was insufficient for the role of Reese.

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The success of The Terminator sent Schwarzenegger’s Hollywood career into high gear. In the next ten years, he starred in ten action films and several comedies. The biggest of them all was Terminator 2: Judgment Day, in which he again played a terminator, but this time he was the good guy. Schwarzenegger played a similar cyborg in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and is set to reprise the role in Terminator: Genisys. Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger married NBC journalist Maria Shriver, a member of the Kennedy family, in 1986. They were married for 25 years and had four children together. In 2003, Schwarzenegger entered the special recall election to replace California governor Gray Davis. He defeated over 100 other candidates on the ballot to became the governor of California. He was reelected in 2006. Schwarzenegger’s stint in politics earned him the title of “The Governator.”

The 1984 film The Terminator wasn’t the blockbuster we think of when we look back at it now, because it takes time and hindsight for a movie to become a classic. But it performed better than Orion expected: It made money and it established a franchise that now seems so familiar to us all.

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10 Famous Birthdays in May
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Some of our favorite historical figures were born in May. We couldn't possibly name them all, so here are just a few of the notable people we'll be celebrating.

1. SIGMUND FREUD: MAY 6, 1856

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Sigmund Freud is known as the Father of Psychoanalysis. The Vienna psychiatrist developed a theory of the unconscious mind, where the id, ego, and superego struggle to balance each other out in the human psyche. Freud attributed his patients' neuroses to childhood trauma, often cloaked in a sexual conflict. His work was at first deemed perverted, but his ideas started to spread after a series of lectures in the U.S. in 1909. After Freud's death in 1939, Freudian theory was hailed as genius in mainstream culture. But beginning in the 1960s, Freud's theories started to fall out of favor in academia and are largely discredited today. However, his attempts to map the psyche gave us the language we still use to discuss personality and mental health.

2. FRED ASTAIRE: MAY 10, 1899

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Fred Astaire began dancing when he was just four years old. Soon he and his sister Adele were in a performing arts school and started dancing professionally. First came vaudeville, then Broadway, and when Adele married, Fred headed to Hollywood. Producers were at first reluctant to cast Astaire as a leading man because of his looks, but his dancing soon won them over. Astaire appeared in dozens of films between 1933 and 1981, 10 of them with with dance partner Ginger Rogers. Although his later films did not revolve around dance numbers, Astaire was seen dancing in an episode of Battlestar Galactica as late as 1979, when he was 80 years old.

3. MARTHA GRAHAM: MAY 11, 1894

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Martha Graham wanted to dance from an early age, but her parents disapproved, so she didn't study dance until college. Her wildly emotional dancing led her to performances in New York, and in 1926 she established the Martha Graham Dance Company. Through the company, Graham promoted modern dance as a spiritual and emotional outlet. Over time, she came to be seen as a genius of the genre. Graham danced until she was in her '70s, and continued to choreograph dances until her death at age 91.

4. KATHARINE HEPBURN: MAY 12, 1907

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Katharine Hepburn caught the acting bug in college and headed to the stages of New York upon graduation. She was spotted in a Broadway production and was offered the lead in RKO's 1932 film A Bill of Divorcement. That kicked off a movie career of more than 60 years, in which she was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won four. Hepburn was a certified box office draw, but off screen she refused to behave like a Hollywood star. She spoke her mind, wore pants, and even appeared in public without makeup occasionally. Hepburn was also known for her devotion to the love of her life, actor Spencer Tracy, who was separated from his wife but refused to divorce her. The last of nine films they made together was Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in 1967, just before Tracy died. Hepburn continued making movies through 1994, when she was 87 years old.

5. PIERRE CURIE: MAY 15, 1859

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French physicist Pierre Curie is often overlooked in favor of Marie Curie, his brilliant student and later wife. Together they discovered radium and polonium, and did extensive research into radioactivity. Pierre, Marie, and Henri Becquerel jointly won the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics for their research. Curie might have gone onto many further discoveries, but he was killed in 1906 when a horse-drawn cart ran over him in Paris. If he had lived longer, Curie might have also succumbed to illness caused by radiation, as did his wife, daughter, and son-in-law—all Nobel Prize winners.

6. MARY CASSATT: MAY 22, 1844

Mary Cassatt via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Renowned American painter Mary Cassatt wanted to become an artist, but her parents objected and her Philadelphia art school didn't take women students seriously. So she went to Paris and studied privately under teachers from Ecole des Beaux-Arts, as the school did not admit women. Gradually, Cassatt's works sold and her reputation grew. She drew the attention of Impressionist Edgar Degas, and worked with him for years. By 1886, she left the Impressionist movement behind, and afterward refused to be defined by any art genre. Cassatt's body of work often featured women and children in their everyday lives. Her most memorable painting, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, broke with tradition by portraying a child in a naturalistic, casual pose instead of a formal portrait.

7. SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE: MAY 22, 1859

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Arthur Conan Doyle is best remembered for his many short stories and novels featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. But Conan Doyle worked full time as a medical doctor until an illness convinced him he had to choose between writing and medicine. Years later, Conan Doyle volunteered with the British army to fight in the Second Boer War, but because of his age (40), he was only allowed to serve as a medical doctor. Upon his return from South Africa, he entered politics in Scotland, but he lost his only race. In 1907, Conan Doyle became involved in a real criminal case in which he helped George Edalji, a solicitor of Indian heritage, beat an animal cruelty conviction by employing the observational technique that Sherlock Holmes used. The fallout from that case led to the establishment of the appeals system in Britain. Conan Doyle also wrote a science fiction novel The Lost World, published in 1912. It was so successful that he wrote four sequels.

8. MARGARET FULLER: MAY 23, 1810

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Born in Massachusetts in 1810, Margaret Fuller was a precocious child who learned several languages but was not welcome at college because of her sex. She became friends with both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, who admired her philosophical thinking. Fuller became a literary critic for the New-York Tribune and a well-known intellectual.

In 1845, Fuller made history with Woman in the Nineteenth Century, often considered the first major feminist work published in the United States. This groundbreaking book began as an essay in Emerson's transcendentalist journal The Dial called "The Great Lawsuit. Man versus Men. Woman versus Women," in which Fuller argued that men and women must see each other as equals before they can transcend to divine love. Fuller reasoned that ignoring our commonality was the base of much of America's sins, from the slaughter of Native Americans to the slavery of African Americans.

Fuller went on to become a foreign correspondent and the first American female war correspondent, covering the Italian revolution. She also fell in love with an Italian man and had a child with him. On their return trip to the U.S. in 1850 aboard a merchant ship, a hurricane struck the ship near Fire Island, killing all three. Only Fuller's 20-month-old son was found.

9. SALLY RIDE: MAY 26, 1951

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In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to travel into space, aboard the space shuttle Challenger. Ride was a nationally ranked tennis player when she was a teenager. Billie Jean King urged her to turn pro, but Ride went to Stanford University instead. She earned both a bachelor of arts in English and a bachelor of science in physics in 1973, and a PhD in physics in 1978. Ride then immediately applied for NASA's astronaut program. She flew two shuttle missions, in 1983 and '84, and was scheduled for a third, but that mission was canceled after the Challenger explosion in 1986. After leaving NASA in 1987, Ride devoted her life to encouraging students to study science—especially girls. She founded the organization Sally Ride Science for just that purpose, and wrote five children's books encouraging interest in science. Ride died of cancer at age 61 in 2012.

10. "WILD BILL" HICKOK: MAY 27, 1837

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James Butler Hickok was a farmer, soldier, stagecoach driver, spy, lawman, scout, sharpshooter, gambler, and Wild West showman. Many of those occupations came after "Wild Bill" Hickok gained publicity for killing three men in an 1861 shootout. The newspapers followed his exploits from that time on, often embellishing the details until Hickok was more of a legend than the adventurer he was. His various occupations took him to different parts of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Hickok was playing poker in Deadwood, South Dakota, when Jack McCall shot him in the back of the head and killed him in 1876. The hand Hickok was holding at the time—a pair of black aces and a pair of black eights—became known as the "dead man's hand."

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9 Bizarre Food Museums
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Idaho Potato Museum via Facebook

What’s your favorite food? Chances are, there’s a museum dedicated to it somewhere. You might want to include one or more of these museums in your next vacation road trip.  

1. JELL-O GALLERY // LEROY, NEW YORK

Pearle Wait of LeRoy, New York, invented a fruit-flavored gelatin dessert in 1897 that he wife named Jell-O. Appropriately, the town is home to the Jell-O Gallery, a museum dedicated to the gelatin that took America by storm. Visitors will learn the history of Jell-O, see memorabilia and advertising from Jell-O history, and learn about cooking in the past century. The museums operated by the non-profit LeRoy Historical Society, and is not supported by Kraft/General Foods, which owns Jell-O. The museum is open seven days a week through December, and weekdays January through March.    

2. THE SPAM MUSEUM // AUSTIN, MINNESOTA

The Hormel company has its headquarters in Austin, Minnesota, a few miles south of Minneapolis. That’s also the home of the Spam Museum. Hormel opened a small company museum in the local mall in 1991, but quickly found that all their visitors cared about was Spam, so now that classic canned meat has its own building downtown. Exhibits include the history of Spam, cooking demonstrations, Spam memorabilia, and a soundtrack from Monty Python.

3. INTERNATIONAL BANANA MUSEUM // NORTH SHORE, CALIFORNIA

In 2005, the International Banana Club Museum was named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most items devoted to any one fruit in the world.” The IBC Museum was established by Ken Bannister and the club in 1975, and amassed its collection of 17,000 banana items from club members who gained “banana merits.” The collection was sold in 2010 and is now the International Banana Museum. It is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.   

4. WYANDOT POPCORN MUSEUM // MARION, OHIO

Wyandot Popcorn Museum via Facebook

Marion, Ohio, is the self-proclaimed Popcorn Capital of the World, due to the existence of the Wyandot Popcorn Company, which was based in the area since the 1930s. The company now focuses on chips, but its legacy is enshrined in the Wyandot Popcorn Museum, which boasts an extensive collection of restored antique popcorn poppers. These commercial poppers range from movie theater models to snack wagons to factory poppers, some over 100 years old. The museum shares space with the Wyandot Historical Society in the town’s historic former post office building. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. through October, and weekends only the rest of the year.  

5. NATIONAL DAIRY SHRINE MUSEUM // FORT ATKINSON, WISCONSIN

The National Dairy Shrine is a professional group formed in 1949 promote the milk industry. The National Dairy Shrine Museum is a place to learn about all facets of the dairy industry, from the history of midwest dairy farmers to the production of butter, ice cream, cheese, and other products. The Shrine also has educational programs, a Hall of Fame honoring leaders in the industry, scholarships and internships, and more. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

6. NATIONAL MUSTARD MUSEUM // MIDDLETON, WISCONSIN

Barry Levenson was once Wisconsin’s Assistant Attorney General, but his real passion is mustard. He’s been collecting different mustards since 1986, and eventually left his law career completely to devote his time to the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum he founded in 1992. In 2000, the growing museum moved to its permanent location in Middleton and became the National Mustard Museum. There you can see 5,624 different mustards and a collection of mustard memorabilia. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Admission is free, as the museum is supported by donations and mustard sales.   

7. INTERNATIONAL VINEGAR MUSEUM // ROSLYN, SOUTH DAKOTA

International Vinegar Museum via Facebook

The world’s only vinegar museum was founded by Lawrence "Vinegarman" Diggs to showcase the many  varieties of vinegar and its many uses. The International Vinegar Museum has 350 different varieties of vinegar, a test kitchen, and vinegar tastings for visitors. The museum is open during the summer only. If you plan to visit Roslyn, the best time would be in June during the International Vinegar Festival.  

8. THE IDAHO POTATO MUSEUM // BLACKFOOT, IDAHO

Idaho Potato Museum via Facebook

Idaho produces more potatoes than any other state, so it only makes sense that they would have a museum dedicated to the state’s crop. The Idaho Potato Museum is housed in the historic Oregon Short Line Railroad Depot in Blackfoot. You’ll learn about potato history, growing potatoes, and the importance of potatoes to Idaho’s economy. The newest addition to the museum is the Potato Station Cafe, which specialized in French fries, of course. The Idaho Potato Museum is open six days a week from April through September, and weekdays from October through March.  

9. HARLAND SANDERS CAFÉ AND MUSEUM // CORBIN, KENTUCKY

Harland Sanders fed travelers at his gas station on Corbin, Kentucky, during the Great Depression, and then opened a restaurant, where he developed his method of pressure-frying chicken, which he breaded with 11 herbs and spices. Kentucky Fried Chicken grew out of that restaurant, which for a time had a motel attached. Sanders set up a sample hotel room inside the restaurant so that travelers could see what the rooms looked like before making the decision to stay. The motel is gone, but that restaurant was restored as the Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum, with many of the original artifacts, including the sample motel room. There is a modern KFC outlet attached. Some of the museum’s artifacts are displayed at the fast food unit, and you can sit down and eat your chicken in the museum.

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