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15 of Barbara Walters' Most Fascinating People You May Have Forgotten

ABC News
ABC News

A lot of people make news over the span of one year, but only ten of them are deemed worthy to appear on Barbara Walters' 10 Most Fascinating People. For one night almost every December since 1993, Walters profiles and interviews ten individuals who have made an impact over the past 12 months. As the years go by and our brains need room for new names and faces, some of these fascinating people have slipped from all our minds. Here are a select few.

1. JAMES FREED

Along with the likes of Maya Angelou and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Freed was featured in the inaugural edition of the special (when, for the only time, 12 people were featured on the special instead of 10). An award-winning architect who formed the architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners with I.M. Pei, Freed designed many buildings, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which opened on April 22, 1993.

2. STAN WINSTON

Winston was known for his special effects magic. After winning Oscars for his work on James Cameron and Tim Burton movies, he was fascinating enough for Walters in 1993 thanks to his visual effects work on Jurassic Park, the highest grossing film of all-time until Titanic four years later.

3. LESLIE ABRAMSON

Abramson is a defense attorney who gained nationwide notoriety for exuberantly defending Erik Menendez, the younger of the two Mendendez Brothers who would ultimately both be found guilty of murdering their parents. She appeared in the 1994 edition of the special.

4. OKSANA BAIUL

The Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan story is what most Americans remember about the 1994 Winter Olympics, but a 16-year-old Ukrainian named Oksana Baiul came away with the figure skating gold medal for ladies singles. Baiul overcame meager living conditions, a deceased mother and grandparents, her father's abandonment, and an injury suffered during her final practice to win it all.

5. DR. RICK NELSON

A Muskogee, Oklahoma thoracic surgeon, Nelson was the unlikely hero in the rescue of Brandy Ligons, a 15-year-old trapped under concrete rubble after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

6. OSEOLA MCCARTY

87-year-old Oseola McCarty managed to save $250,000 throughout her life working as a washerwoman in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, but it's what she did with it that caught Walters' attention. McCarty pledged most of her savings to provide scholarships for financially strapped students at the University of Southern Mississippi.

7. SHANNON LUCID

Lucid spent 188 days in space in 1996, breaking the record for most hours in space by a non-Russian and by a woman. She was the only American woman to ever board the Russian space station Mir, which is where she spent 179 of those days. Lucid was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame earlier this year.

8. SIR IAN WILMUT

The embryologist was the head of the research group responsible for Dolly, the world's first cloned sheep, in 1997. Wilmut received an OBE in 1999 for his efforts and was knighted in 2007.

9. JOHNATHAN LEE IVERSON

In 1999, Iverson became the first African-American ringmaster in the 92-year history of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He was 22 at the time, also making him the youngest master of circus ceremonies ever.

10. SARAH HUGHES

Hughes was another unlikely figure skating champion, winning the 2002 gold for ladies singles in the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Hughes became the only American woman to win a gold medal without winning a World or U.S. senior national title first.

11. CHIEF MOOSE

Charles Moose was chief of the Montgomery County police department in Maryland and the main law enforcement officer in charge of apprehending the Beltway Snipers. The two men who carried out the attacks were caught after almost three tense weeks in October 2002.

12. SHERRON WATKINS

Watkins appeared in 2002 as the former Vice President of Corporate Development at Enron. Earlier that year, she testified to Congress about Enron's accounting irregularities, and was acknowledged as an important whistle-blower.

13. TED ALLEN, KYAN DOUGLAS, THOM FILICIA, CARSON KRESSLEY, AND JAI RODRIGUEZ

These five men were the hosts of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a reality show where they would perform makeovers for style-averse Average Joes. It premiered in 2003 and quickly became the most watched show in Bravo Network history.

14. TOM ANDERSON AND CHRIS DEWOLFE

Three years after Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page made Barbara Walters' fascination cut, Anderson and DeWolfe, creators of MySpace, appeared on the 2007 installment. "MySpace Tom" and DeWolfe had sold their website to News Corp. two years earlier and left the company two years after the broadcast.

15. THOMAS BEATIE

Beatie became famous for giving birth to three children through artificial insemination, years after undergoing sex reassignment surgery. Before being featured on Fascinating People, Beatie talked to Walters in an ABC News special devoted exclusively to him, titled Journey of a Pregnant Man.

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15 Surprising Facts About Hill Street Blues
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NBC

Until the impressive record was surpassed by The West Wing in 2000, Hill Street Blues held the title of most Emmy-awarded freshman series, with eight trophies for its debut season alone (despite its basement-level ratings). The drama that chronicled the lives of the men and women working the Hill Street police station beat has been credited with changing television ever since its debut in 1981.

Among Hill Street Blues's innovations are the use of handheld cameras, a large ensemble cast, multi-episode story arcs, and a mix of high drama and comedy—elements which still permeate the small screen today. Here are 15 facts about the groundbreaking series.

1. STEVEN BOCHCO AND MICHAEL KOZOLL CREATED IT, DESPITE NOT WANTING TO DO ANOTHER COP SHOW.

MTM Enterprises was specifically hired by NBC to create a cop show, so Steven Bochco (who later co-created L.A. Law and NYPD Blue) and Michael Kozoll (co-writer of First Blood) agreed to do it—as long as the network left them “completely alone to do whatever we want,” according to Bochco. NBC agreed, and the two wrote the pilot script in 10 days.

2. IT WAS INFLUENCED BY A 1977 DOCUMENTARY.

The show's creators looked to The Police Tapes, a 1977 documentary that chronicled a South Bronx police precinct during a particularly hostile time in New York City's history, for inspiration. NBC's then-president Fred Silverman was inspired to create a cop show in the first place after seeing Fort Apache, the Bronx (1981), which stars Paul Newman as a veteran cop in a South Bronx police district.

3. BRUCE WEITZ HAD AN AGGRESSIVE AUDITION.

Bruce Weitz landed the role of undercover officer Mick Belker by playing the part. "I went to the audition dressed as how I thought the character should dress—and loud and pushy," Weitz recalled. "When I got into the room, I jumped up on [MTM co-founder] Grant Tinker's desk and went after his nose. I heard he said afterwards, 'There's no way I can't offer him the job.'"

4. JOE SPANO THOUGHT HE WAS MISCAST.

Joe Spano in 'Hill Street Blues'
NBC

Joe Spano auditioned for the role of Officer Andrew Renko, but ended up playing Lieutenant Henry Goldblume. “I was always disappointed that I didn’t end up playing Renko,” Spano told Playboy in 1983. Spano also wasn't a fan of his character's penchant for bow ties, which he claimed was Michael Kozoll's idea. "I fought it all the way," he said. "I thought it was a stereotypical thing to do. But it actually turned out to be right. You don’t play into the bow tie—you fight against it."

5. BARBARA BOSSON WAS BOCHCO’S WIFE, BUT WASN’T PLANNING ON BEING A SERIES REGULAR.

Barbara Bosson played Fay, Captain Frank Furillo’s ex-wife, who was only supposed to appear in the first episode in order to “contextualize” the captain, according to Bochco. But when Silverman watched the episode, he asked, “She’s going to be a regular, right?”

6. IT TOOK MIKE POST TWO HOURS TO WRITE THE ICONIC THEME SONG.

The composer—who also wrote the themes for The Greatest American Hero, Magnum, P.I., The A-Team, NYPD Blue, and Law & Order—was instructed by Bochco to write something “antithetical” to the visuals. Post wanted to add more orchestration to the piano piece; Bochco disagreed.

Post also spent four to five hours writing five minutes of new music for each episode of Hill Street Blues.

7. THE PILOT TESTED POORLY.

According to a network memo, among the many problems test audiences noted were that "the main characters were perceived as being not capable and having flawed personalities ... Audiences found the ending unsatisfying. There are too many loose ends ... 'Hill Street' did not come off as a real police station ... There was too much chaos in the station house, again reflecting that the police were incapable of maintaining control even on their home ground." NBC picked it up anyway.

8. RENKO WAS SUPPOSED TO DIE IN THE FIRST EPISODE, AND COFFEY WAS SUPPOSED TO DIE AT THE END OF THE FIRST SEASON.

Charles Haid had other projects lined up, so he agreed to take the part of Renko, a man destined to die almost immediately. But another series Haid was relying on didn’t get picked up, and NBC claimed Renko tested too well for him to meet an early end. Ed Marinaro's Coffey was meant to be shot and killed in “Jungle Madness,” the final episode of the first season. The ending was changed to make it a cliffhanger, and Marinaro’s character survived.

9. THEY HAD HISTORICALLY BAD SEASON ONE RATINGS.

A 'Hill Street Blues' cast photo
NBC Television/Getty Images

In its first season, Hill Street Blues show finished 87th out of 96 shows, making it the lowest-rated drama in television history to get a second season. Bochco credited the show’s renewal to two things: NBC being a last place network at the time, and the NBC sales department noticing that high-end advertisers were buying commercial time during the show.

10. THEY NEVER SPECIFIED WHERE THE SHOW WAS LOCATED, BUT IT’S PROBABLY CHICAGO.

The exterior of the Maxwell Street police station in Chicago filled in for the fictitious Hill Street precinct for the opening credits and background footage. It was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1996 and is currently the University of Illinois at Chicago police department headquarters.

11. PLENTY OF FUTURE STARS MADE EARLY APPEARANCES.

Don Cheadle, James Cromwell, Laurence Fishburne, Tim Robbins, Andy Garcia, Cuba Gooding Jr., Danny Glover, Frances McDormand, and Michael Richards all found early work on the series.

12. SAMMY DAVIS JR. WANTED ON THE SHOW.

Sammy Davis Jr.
Michael Fresco, Evening Standard, Getty Images

Unfortunately, it never happened. Sometime after Bochco wrote in a reference to the singer, Davis Jr.and Bochco ran into each other. Davis Jr. said he loved it and started jumping up and down.

13. BOCHCO HAD A WAR WITH THE CENSORS.

Loving to use puns for titles, Bochco wanted to title an episode “Moon Over Uranus,” after Cape Canaveral was just in the news. Standards and Practices said no. Bochco eventually got his way, and proceeded to name the next two season three episodes “Moon Over Uranus: The Sequel” and “Moon Over Uranus: The Final Legacy.”

14. DAVID MILCH AND DICK WOLF’S CAREERS WERE LAUNCHED FROM IT.

David Milch (co-creator of NYPD Blue and creator of Deadwood) went from Yale writing teacher to a TV script writer through his former Yale roommate, Jeff Lewis. His first script for the show was season three's “Trial by Fury” episode, which won an Emmy, a WGA Award, and a Humanitas Prize. He later became an executive producer on the show. The first TV script credited to Dick Wolf (creator of the Law & Order franchise) was the season six episode, "Somewhere Over the Rambow." His first sole credit, for “What Are Friends For?,” earned Wolf an Emmy nomination in 1986.

It’s also worth noting that journalist and author Bob Woodward received a writing credit for season seven's “Der Roachenkavalier” and David Mamet penned the same season's “A Wasted Weekend” for his first television credit.

15. DENNIS FRANZ’S CHARACTER HAD A BRIEF, COMEDIC SPIN-OFF.

Dennis Franz (later Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue) first played corrupt cop Sal Benedetto in five episodes, before reappearing for the final two seasons as Lt. Norman Buntz. After Hill Street Blues ended its seven-season run, Franz reprised the latter character in Beverly Hills Buntz, which ran for one season beginning in 1987. In the 30-minute dramedy, Buntz was a private investigator after quitting the police force. Only nine episodes were broadcast by NBC.

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Watch 18 Minutes of Julia Louis-Dreyfus Seinfeld Bloopers
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Sometimes you just need to settle in and watch professional actors cracking up, over and over. That's what we have for you today.

In the two videos below, we get a total of 18 minutes of Seinfeld bloopers, specifically focused on Julia Louis-Dreyfus. When Louis-Dreyfus cracks up, Seinfeld can't help but make it worse, goading her. It's delightful.

Sample quote (during an extended break):

Seinfeld: "We won an Emmy, you know."

Louis-Dreyfus: "Yeah, but I didn't."

Her individual Seinfeld Emmy arrived in 1996; the show started winning in 1992. But in September 2017, Louis-Dreyfus—who turns 57 years old today—set a couple of Emmy records when she won her sixth award for playing Selina Meyer on Veep.

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