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17 Windproof Facts About Zippo Lighters

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This iconic American brand has been around since 1933, but you might not know its rich history.

1. The original lighter was inspired by a clunkier Austrian version.

The idea for the windproof lighter emerged in Bradford, Penn. in 1932. George Blaisdell was smoking a cigarette on the porch of the Bradford Country Club when he noticed a local businessman using a strange lighter from Austria that had a protective top. Blaisdell asked the man why he used such a cumbersome lighter, and he replied, “Well, it works.”

Blaisdell decided to make his own version of the lighter. He called it a Zippo because he liked the sound of the word “zipper.” The first models were sold in 1933 for $1.95 (a little over $35 in today's money).

2. Getting off the ground took a while.

Even a special lighter needed help building momentum during the Depression. In 1936, Zippo ran its first ad in Esquire. The advertisement was a total flop—the company didn’t see any evidence of additional sales.

3. “The Fan Test” helped Zippo win converts.

The handy design of the Zippo lighter’s chimney helped it stay lit even in a strong breeze, and the company touted this feature in its early advertising. Ads challenged readers to use the “Fan Test”—holding a lit Zippo in front of a fan—to show just how windproof the lighter was.

4. World War II improved the company’s fortunes.

The company struggled for much of its first decade, but this changed when Zippo started selling to the military during the war. American troops could buy the lighters in Army Exchanges or Ship Stores, while soldiers in Zippo’s home of McKean County, Penn. got theirs for free. The men brought the lighters to the front lines and found the rugged design to be a great match for combat situations. As war correspondent Ernie Pyle famously put it, “The Zippo lighter is the most coveted thing on the battlefield.”

5. A fish chipped in on later marketing efforts.

The Zippo lighter’s tough design made it a favorite among soldiers, and the company cleverly played up this durability in its postwar advertising. A 1960 print ad recounted a story from a retired fish and game officer about a local fisherman who caught an 18-pound pike in a New York lake, only to discover a Zippo in its stomach. To the fisherman’s amazement, the lighter lit on his first try.

6. Every lighter is made in a single factory in Bradford, Penn.

Zippo sells 10 to 12 million lighters annually, and they all come from one place: The factory in Bradford, Penn., where the lighter was first invented. The company has less than 1000 employees.

7. Each Zippo lighter is backed with a lifetime warranty.

If you ever break your Zippo, you can get it repaired, regardless of when you purchased it. Buyers have definitely taken the company up on its offer; Zippo has made about eight million repairs to date.

8. A Zippo lighter can save your life.

One veteran told Zippo that his wife gave him the windproof lighter before he went to fight in the Vietnam War, and the pocketed Zippo stopped a bullet. Even in civilian life, the handy gadgets can be lifesavers. In 2010, a man was shot by a burglar but survived thanks to the Zippo in his pocket.

9. It has stood the test of time.

In 2010, the handy lighter was included on TIME’s list of the 100 greatest gadgets of all time.

10. The Zippo Car is missing ...

When Blaisdell was a kid, he saw a Lifesavers Pep-O-Mint car. The marketing vehicle stuck with him, and in 1947, he transformed a Chrysler Saratoga into the first Zippo Car. The company’s district managers drove the Zippo-equipped ride around the county until 1950. Unfortunately, the giant lighter was too heavy, and the Zippo Car’s tires kept blowing out.

The company eventually took the troubled car to Pittsburgh’s Toohey Motors to have the lighter get-up transferred to a sturdier Ford. The quoted price for this unusual request was so staggering that the company asked the shop to hold on to the car while execs weighed the cost. Then things apparently got a little busy for Zippo’s leadership team, and they forgot to give Toohey Motors a call.

It wasn’t until nearly 10 years later that Zippo finally called to check up on the car. They discovered that the auto shop had closed, and there was no sign of the vehicle anywhere.

11. But its spirit lives on ...

The original Zippo Car never reappeared, but in 1996, Blaisdell’s grandson George B. Duke decided to recreate it using another 1947 Chrysler Saratoga. However, this version is lighter than the original and boasts a sturdier suspension to keep the tires from blowing out.

12. Blaisdell donated two awesomely named bloodhounds to his town.

Zippo’s founder was generous with more than just lighters. In 1952, he donated two bloodhounds to Bradford’s emergency services team. For a marketing punch, the pups’ names were Zippo and Zipette.

13. You can visit the Zippo museum.

At the Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford, visitors learn about Zippo’s history, visit the Zippo Repair Clinic, and check out an American flag made from 3000 Zippo lighters. You can also see both the first lighter and the 500 millionth lighter Zippo made. They look fairly similar, although the older one is a little bigger. The first lighter has a business card tied to the side. On it, Blaisdell wrote: “First Zippo lighter—do not touch.” According to Zippo's Corporate Media and Communications Manager Patrick Grandy, it's the most visited museum in northern Pennsylvania.

14. One Zippo isn’t enough for some fans.

There are 14 lighter-collecting clubs around the world. One community is called OTLS, or “On the Lighter Side.” Another American club is called Pocket Lighter and Pyro Gadgets. Zippo fandom spreads far and wide; there are even clubs in China and Japan.

15. China loves Zippo.

China is the largest international market for Zippo, so the company operates 14 stores scattered around the country.

16. Frank Sinatra was buried with one.

Also found in Ol’ Blue Eyes’ coffin: Camel cigarettes, a bottle of Jack Daniels, and dimes (in case he needs to make a payphone call).

17. You can smell like the Zippo lighter lifestyle.

“In Italy, Zippo is known as a premium lifestyle brand, so it made a lot of sense to launch a line of fragrances there,” Grandy says. The options are Zippo Original, On the Road, In the Blue, and Zippo—The Woman. Apparently, they smell quite good, and nothing like lighter fluid.

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30 Memorable Quotes from Carrie Fisher
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Just days after suffering a heart attack aboard a flight en route to Los Angeles, beloved actress, author, and screenwriter Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60 on December 27, 2016. Though she’ll always be most closely associated with her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Fisher’s life was like something out of its own Hollywood movie. Born in Beverly Hills on this day in 1956, Fisher was born into show business royalty as the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds.

In addition to her work in front of the camera, Fisher built up an impressive resume behind the scenes, too, most notably as a writer; in addition to several memoirs and semi-autobiographical novels, including Wishful Drinking, Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful, Postcards from the Edge, and The Princess Diarist (which was released last month), she was also an in-demand script doctor who counted Sister Act, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Wedding Singer among her credits.

Though she struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness, Fisher always maintained a sense of humor—as evidenced by the 30 memorable quotes below.

ON GROWING UP IN HOLLYWOOD

“I am truly a product of Hollywood in-breeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.”

“I was born into big celebrity. It could only diminish.”

“At a certain point in my early twenties, my mother started to become worried about my obviously ever-increasing drug ingestion. So she ended up doing what any concerned parent would do. She called Cary Grant.”

“I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo Drive.”

“If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That's my word for it.”

ON AGING

“As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don't.”

ON INSTANT GRATIFICATION

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

ON THE LEGACY OF STAR WARS

“People are still asking me if I knew Star Wars was going to be that big of a hit. Yes, we all knew. The only one who didn't know was George.”

“Leia follows me like a vague smell.”

“I signed my likeness away. Every time I look in the mirror, I have to send Lucas a couple of bucks.”

“People see me and they squeal like tropical birds or seals stranded on the beach.”

“You're not really famous until you’re a Pez dispenser.”

ON THE FLEETING NATURE OF SUCCESS

“There is no point at which you can say, 'Well, I'm successful now. I might as well take a nap.'”

ON DEALING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

“I'm very sane about how crazy I am.”

ON RESENTMENT

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

ON LOVE

“Someone has to stand still for you to love them. My choices are always on the run.”

“I've got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience, and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.”

“I don’t hate hardly ever, and when I love, I love for miles and miles. A love so big it should either be outlawed or it should have a capital and its own currency.”

ON EMOTIONS

“The only thing worse than being hurt is everyone knowing that you're hurt.”

ON RELATIONSHIPS

“I envy people who have the capacity to sit with another human being and find them endlessly interesting, I would rather watch TV. Of course this becomes eventually known to the other person.”

ON HOLLYWOOD

“Acting engenders and harbors qualities that are best left way behind in adolescence.”

“You can't find any true closeness in Hollywood, because everybody does the fake closeness so well.”

“It's a man's world and show business is a man's meal, with women generously sprinkled through it like overqualified spice.”

ON FEAR

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

ON LIFE

“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.”

“No motive is pure. No one is good or bad-but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.”

“If my life wasn't funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”

“I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere.”

“My life is like a lone, forgotten Q-Tip in the second-to-last drawer.”

ON DEATH

“You know what's funny about death? I mean other than absolutely nothing at all? You'd think we could remember finding out we weren't immortal. Sometimes I see children sobbing at airports and I think, 'Aww. They've just been told.'”

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12 Admissible Facts About Judge Judy
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Judge Judith Sheindlin was 54 years old when her namesake TV show premiered on September 16, 1996. Two years later the diminutive (5’1”) adjudicator was trouncing the powerhouse Oprah Winfrey Show in the Nielsen ratings. Today, she is one of the highest paid TV celebrities, earning $47 million per year—which she will continue to do through 2020, thanks to a new extended contract.

Fervent fans are familiar with Judge Judy’s more outrageous cases, like The Tupperware Lady and the eBay Cell Phone Scammer, but they might not know some of these fun facts about both the show and the woman behind it, who turns 75 years old today.

1. THAT GRUFF, NO-NONSENSE STYLE OF JURISPRUDENCE IS NOT AN ACT.

Judge Judy spent a little over 20 years in New York City’s family court system, where she earned a reputation early in her career for being blunt, impatient, and tough-talking. “I can’t stand stupid, and I can’t stand slow,” was one of her oft-repeated “Judyisms” at that time. She also frequently warned attorneys appearing before her: "I want first-time offenders to think of their appearance in my courtroom as the second-worst experience of their lives ... circumcision being the first." 60 Minutes filmed her in action as part of a 1993 profile, and while her hair color and eyebrows have softened since then, her impatient rants and verbal smackdowns haven’t changed a bit.

2. SHE BEGAN WEARING HER TRADEMARK LACE COLLAR AS SOON AS SHE WAS APPOINTED AS A JUDGE.

New York City Mayor Ed Koch appointed Judith Sheindlin to the bench in 1982, and to celebrate she and her husband Jerry—both civil servants at the time—took a $399 package trip to Greece for two weeks. While passing by a row of street kiosks with various locally made crafts for sale, she impulsively purchased a white lace collar from a vendor. She explained to her husband that male judges wore stiff-collared white dress shirts and colorful neckties that peeped out of the top of their robes, so that they had a nice colorful “buffer” between the austere black gown and their face. Female judges, however, had nothing but neck peeping out of their robes and the unforgiving black color revealed every minute of sleep deprivation as well as any skin tone irregularities. The white lace collar, she decided, would not only perk up her face but would also be a bit disarming for litigants—she could picture them thinking “That nice little lady with the lace collar sitting behind the bench couldn’t hurt a fly!”

3. DESPITE THOSE NEW YORK CITY SCENES ON THE COMMERCIAL BUMPERS, JUDGE JUDY IS TAPED IN CALIFORNIA.

Sheindlin spends 52 days per year taping her show. She flies to California via private jet every other Monday and hears cases on Tuesday and Wednesday (occasionally Thursday if there are production delays). One full week’s worth of shows are filmed each day. Many viewers, however, are fooled into thinking Judy is holding court in her native New York, thanks to the scenic Manhattan footage in between station breaks and the New York state flag behind her chair. That is, until something oh-so-unique to the west coast—like an earthquake—occurs on-camera. (Note that in the clip below, Judge Judy quickly ducks beneath her bench once the room begins to tremble.)

4. SHE IS BRIEFED ON THE CASES BEFORE SHE ARRIVES ON THE SET.

Judge Sheindlin does not go to the studio unprepared; producers FedEx the sworn statements and relevant information on each upcoming case to her home (Naples, Florida in the winter; Greenwich, Connecticut in the spring and summer) and she familiarizes herself with enough details to have some background, but not enough so that the case doesn’t appear “fresh” when she questions the litigants during filming.

5. THE CASES REALLY ARE REAL.

The production company has a staff of 60-plus researchers across the country who spend their days poring over lawsuits filed in local small claims courts. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, they are able to photocopy cases that they think might make for interesting television and those copies are forwarded to the show’s producers. Any cases that make it to the next stage (about three percent) involve contacting the litigants involved and asking them if they’d like to forego their civil court hearing in exchange for a free trip to Los Angeles, an $850 appearance fee, and a per diem of $40 (as of 2012). An added incentive is that any judgments awarded are paid by the show, not by the plaintiff or defendant. The best cases, according to the executive producer, are those that involve litigants with a prior relationship—mother/daughter, father/son, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. Such cases engage the audience because it’s an emotional tie that’s been broken (the recurring plot on many soap operas).

6. THE AUDIENCE, HOWEVER, IS NOT SO REAL.

Regular viewers will note that the same faces seem to pop up in the audience regularly. Those folks in the spectator seats are paid extras (often aspiring actors) who earn $8 per hour to sit and look attentive. Prospective audience members apply for the limited amount of seats by emailing their contact information along with a clear headshot to one of Judge Judy’s production coordinators (sorry, we cannot provide that info). If chosen, the spectator must dress appropriately (business casual or better) and arrive promptly for the 8:30 a.m. call time. Audience members must pass through metal detectors on their way in and are not allowed to bring cell phones or any electronic devices with them, and food, drinks and chewing gum are also verboten. Spectators are rearranged after each case so it’s not as obvious that it’s the same group of people, and the most attractive folks are always seated in the front row (it’s Hollywood, after all). The audience is instructed to talk animatedly amongst themselves in between each case so that Officer Byrd’s “Order in the court!” admonition has more impact. Bad behavior is grounds for immediate expulsion (in front of 10 million viewers, as Judge Judy likes to remind us).

7. JUDGE JUDY DRESSES CASUALLY FOR THE JOB.

Sheindlin has been known to publicly chastise litigants who come to her courtroom in skimpy clothing or “beach attire,” but behind that bench and under that robe she is usually sporting jeans and a tank top or T-shirt.

8. OFFICER BYRD IS A REAL BAILIFF.

Brooklyn native Petri Hawkins Byrd earned his B.Sc. degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1989 and started working in the Brooklyn Family Court system. He first worked with Judge Sheindlin when he transferred to the Manhattan Family Court. “We [the court officers] used to call her the Joan Rivers of the judicial system,” he recalled in a 2004 interview. “She was just hilarious.” Byrd relocated to San Mateo, California in 1990 to work as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal and a few years later he read an item in Liz Smith’s gossip column about Sheindlin’s upcoming TV show. He sent his old colleague a congratulatory letter and added, “If you need a bailiff, I still look good in uniform.”

9. DESPITE HIS SOMETIMES IMPOSING COURTROOM DEMEANOR, OFFICER BYRD IS ALSO A VERY FUNNY GUY.

He is a talented impressionist, but his sense of humor almost cost him his job—or so he thought at the time. Once, back when he was working with the feisty Judge Sheindlin in New York, he donned her robe and reading glasses to entertain his co-workers with a barrage of Judyisms. Of course, as always seems to happen when one mocks the boss in the workplace, he was caught in the act.

10. THE OCCASIONAL CELEBRITY RELIES ON JUDGE JUDY’S BRAND OF JUSTICE.

Depending upon your own definition of “celebrity”, of course. Actress Roz Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero on Happy Days) appeared on the show in 1996 as the plaintiff, suing her plastic surgeon for a leaky breast implant that was impeding her acting career. One year later, former Sex Pistol John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) appeared as a defendant when drummer Robert Williams, who was hired to support Lydon on a solo tour, sued the singer for lost wages and an assault. Despite Lydon’s occasional bad courtroom behavior, the decision was made in his favor.

11. THE STAR ORIGINALLY DIDN’T WANT THE SHOW NAMED AFTER HER.

Sheindlin first envisioned calling her show Hot Bench, a term used frequently in the appellate court, but the producers wisely advised her that the term was meaningless to TV viewers who didn’t work in the legal system. Her next thought was Judy Justice, since she’d overheard her court officers warning deadbeat parents who were delinquent in child support payments that they were in for a load of "Judy Justice" if they weren’t prepared to cough up some money. In retrospect, Sheindlin realized the wisdom in calling the show Judge Judy: She couldn’t be easily replaced, as the various judges had been on The People’s Court. However, after 19 years on the air, she still does not refer to herself by that sobriquet; whether introducing herself to someone or advertising her show in a promotional clip, she is always either “Judge Sheindlin” or “Judge Judy Sheindlin.”

12. JUDGE SHEINDLIN INHERITED HER SENSE OF HUMOR FROM HER FATHER.

Murray Blum, Judy’s beloved father, was a dentist whose office was in the family home. In those days—before sedation dentistry was an option—a dentist’s best tool to distract nervous patients was the gift of gab, and Murray became a master storyteller out of necessity. Years of listening to her father at the dinner table and at family gatherings taught Judy how to deliver a punchline. One evening outside of a hotel in Hollywood, Sheindlin was approached by a woman who introduced herself as Lorna Berle. She told the judge that her husband Milton was a huge fan and asked if she would mind talking to him for a moment. The elderly comic slowly emerged from a limo and Judy greeted him by singing the theme song to Texaco Star Theater, her favorite TV show as a child. Milton Berle complimented her in return, saying “Kid, you’ve got great comic timing.”

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