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18 Fun Facts About The Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers just won't quit. It's been more than 35 years since John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd brought their Saturday Night Live characters Jake and Elwood Blues to the big screen with The Blues Brothers, a loud, money-making, car-smashing love letter to both Chicago and rhythm and blues. It made more than $115 million in theaters worldwide in 1980, even though director John Landis and its crew couldn’t identify whether the movie was a comedy, a musical, a classic, or an expensive disaster. With today's announcement that an animated primetime series is in the works, we're taking a look back at some fascinating facts about the original movie.

1. DAN AYKROYD WROTE THE FIRST DRAFT AND IT WAS 324 PAGES LONG.

In his first attempt at writing a screenplay, Aykroyd penned a script that was nearly three times the length of the average screenplay (given that one page usually equals one minute of screen time). It didn’t help matters that he had never read a screenplay before either. John Landis put together a shorter, filmable version in just three weeks.

2. JOHN BELUSHI WAS PAID TWICE AS MUCH AS AYKROYD.

Belushi earned $500,000 for his work in the movie; Aykroyd received $250,000.

3. CHICAGO CREATED ITS OWN FILM OFFICE FOR THE MOVIE.

Most of The Blues Brothers was shot throughout Chicago, which wasn't a major film production hotspot at the time. While it pumped about $12 million into the local economy, all of the car stunts scared residents enough that many of them called the local newspapers to report what they were seeing.

4. THE SHOPPING MALL CAR CHASE WAS SHOT IN A REAL SHOPPING MALL.

The scene was filmed at the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois, which had been shuttered in 1979—before filming commenced. Though the mall never reopened, it was only (finally) torn down in 2013.

5. 13 DIFFERENT BLUESMOBILES WERE USED.

All of the car chases and stunts were real and not created with CGI. Forty stunt drivers were flown in every weekend to do the work. Sixty old police cars were purchased for $400 apiece. The filmmakers got permission to drive down Lake Street at speeds of over 100 miles per hour. After one take, Landis realized it just looked like he was speeding up the film, so he got stunt pedestrians to walk down the sidewalks to show just how fast the cars were really going. A ditch was dug so the cars in the big pile-up scene would flip when they hit it. One stunt driver drove off a 150-foot-long ramp. Amazing, only a few minor injuries were ever reported.

6. ONE OF THE STUNT DRIVERS WAS JOHN WAYNE’S SON.

The Duke's youngest son, Ethan Wayne, began acting in 1970. But he supplemented his work in front of the camera with a handful of stunting stints.

7. DAN AYKROYD AND CARRIE FISHER BECAME ENGAGED DURING FILMING.

The two were a couple, set up by Belushi, who became engaged after Aykroyd successfully administered the Heimlich maneuver on her. "I almost choked on some kind of vegetable that I shouldn't have been eating: Brussels sprouts," Fisher told CNN. "He saved my life, and then he asked me to marry him. And I thought ... wow, what if that happens again? I should probably marry him." (The wedding never happened.)

8. FISHER WASN’T THE ONLY STAR WARS CONNECTION.

Frank Oz, known mostly for his work as a puppeteer, plays the corrections officer who returns Jake’s belongings in the very beginning of the movie. He was of course the man behind Yoda, who made his debut in The Empire Strikes Back, which debuted one month earlier, and was still number one at the box office when The Blues Brothers premiered (and had to settle for second place).

9. PART OF THE BUDGET WAS FOR COCAINE.

Aykroyd admitted as much. At the nadir, a frustrated Landis flushed a large amount of Belushi's cocaine down the toilet. "It’s like Tony Montana,” Landis told Vanity Fair. “It’s like a joke. I scoop it all up and flush it down the toilet. Probably a lot of money’s worth. So I’m on my way out of the trailer, and John comes in and says, ‘What’d you do?’ Then he pushes me, mostly to get to the table. It’s pathetic. He’s trying to get to the table to save the cocaine.” After a brief scuffle, Landis says “John hugged me and started sobbing and apologized. He and I are sitting there, both crying, and I’m going, ‘John, this is insane.’"

10. THE STUDIO WANTED THE BAND WHO SANG "CAR WASH" INSTEAD OF ARETHA FRANKLIN.

Universal Pictures wanted new acts like Rose Royce, the band behind hits like "Car Wash" and "I Wanna Get Next to You." But Aykroyd and company said no. Universal later generated a PR effort to get Franklin an Oscar nomination for her performance. The movie helped revitalize her career.

11. CHARLES NAPIER BLAMES THE SINGERS FOR THE MOVIE FALLING WAY BEHIND SCHEDULE.

The actor who portrayed Tucker McElroy claimed to not remember his time on set thanks to his friendship with Belushi. All he seemed to recall is that the singers never showed up on time for their 8 a.m. calls.

12. PAUL REUBENS HAS A SMALL BUT VISIBLE ROLE.

The actor best known as Pee-wee Herman played a waiter at Chez Paul, before the band is fully back together.

13. PAUL SHAFFER WAS KICKED OUT OF THE BAND BEFORE THE MOVIE.

Despite putting the group of musical all-stars together, the future David Letterman bandleader’s choice to help co-produce a Gilda Radner album over helping the Blues Brothers project upset Belushi.

14. BELUSHI CRASHED AT A STRANGER’S HOUSE ONE NIGHT.

Aykroyd followed a grassy path to a house with a light on one late night during production, looking for his co-star. He discovered that a man had allowed Belushi into his home to take advantage of a full fridge and sleep on his couch.

15. BELUSHI HURT HIMSELF ON A KID’S SKATEBOARD BEFORE FILMING THE BIG FINISH.

The filmmakers had to convince the “top orthopedist in town” to attend to Belushi over Thanksgiving weekend so that he'd be able to perform the cartwheels and dance steps required for the big finale.

16. SOME MOVIE THEATER OWNERS DIDN’T WANT TO SHOW THE MOVIE.

The movie was only booked into about 600 theaters, as opposed to the 1400 theaters that would be typical for a movie with The Blues Brothers' budget. This was because owners screened a too long, two-and-a-half-hour cut of the film, and some told Landis that they didn’t want to show a “black movie” in their theaters.

17. IT GOT SOME BAD REVIEWS.

Newsweek said it was “desperately unfunny.” The Los Angeles Times called it a “$30 million wreck.”

18. IT WAS REALLY POPULAR IN AUSTRALIA AND OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD.

Similar to The Rocky Horror Picture Show in New York, The Blues Brothers was shown regularly in Melbourne’s Valhalla Cinema on Friday nights throughout the 1980s and '90s, where as many as 400 costumed fans would watch as 30 actors re-created the scenes as the movie played, with everybody singing along to the musical performances. Due partially to the domestic movie chain boycotts, but saying something about its international appeal, Landis said the film was the first to ever gross more money overseas than in the U.S.

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10 Biting Facts About Snapping Turtles
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Here in the Americas, lake monster legends are a dime a dozen. More than a few of them were probably inspired by these ancient-looking creatures. In honor of World Turtle Day, here are 10 things you might not have known about snapping turtles.

1. THE COMMON SNAPPING TURTLE IS NEW YORK'S OFFICIAL STATE REPTILE.

Elementary school students voted to appoint Chelydra serpentina in a 2006 statewide election. Weighing as much as 75 pounds in the wild (and 86 in captivity), this hefty omnivore’s natural range stretches from Saskatchewan to Florida.

2. ALLIGATOR SNAPPING TURTLES CAN BE LARGE. (VERY LARGE.)

An alligator snapping turtle
NorbertNagel, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Utterly dwarfing their more abundant cousin, alligator snappers (genus: Macrochelys) are the western hemisphere’s biggest freshwater turtles. The largest one on record, a longtime occupant of Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, weighed 249 pounds.  

A monstrous 403-pounder was reported in Kansas during the Great Depression, though this claim was never confirmed.  

3. COMMON SNAPPERS HAVE LONGER NECKS AND SPIKIER TAILS.

Alligator snappers also display proportionately bigger heads and noses plus a trio of tall ridges atop their shells. Geographically, alligator snapping turtles are somewhat restricted compared to their common relatives, and are limited mainly to the southeast and Great Plains.

4. BOTH VARIETIES AVOID CONTACT WITH PEOPLE.

If given the choice between fight and flight, snapping turtles almost always distance themselves from humans. The animals spend the bulk of their lives underwater, steering clear of nearby Homo sapiens. However, problems can arise on dry land, where the reptiles are especially vulnerable. Females haul themselves ashore during nesting season (late spring to early summer). In these delicate months, people tend to prod and handle them, making bites inevitable.

5. YOU REALLY DON'T WANT TO GET BITTEN BY ONE. 

Snapping turtle jaw strength—while nothing to sneeze at—is somewhat overrated. Common snapping turtles can clamp down with up to 656.81 newtons (N) of force, though typical bites register an average of 209 N. Their alligator-like cousins usually exert 158 N. You, on the other hand, can apply 1300 N between your second molars.

Still, power isn’t everything, and neither type of snapper could latch onto something with the crushing force of a crocodile’s mighty jaws. Yet their sharp beaks are well-designed for major-league shearing. An alligator snapping turtle’s beak is capable of slicing fingers clean off and (as the above video proves) obliterating pineapples.

Not impressed yet? Consider the following. It’s often said that an adult Macrochelys can bite a wooden broom handle in half. Intrigued by this claim, biologist Peter Pritchard decided to play MythBuster. In 1989, he prodded a 165-pound individual with a brand new broomstick. Chomp number one went deep, but didn’t quite break through the wood. The second bite, though, finished the job.

6. SCIENTISTS RECENTLY DISCOVERED THAT THERE ARE THREE SPECIES OF ALLIGATOR SNAPPING TURTLES.

A 2014 study trisected the Macrochelys genus. For over a century, naturalists thought that there was just a single species, Macrochelys temminckii. Closer analysis proved otherwise, as strong physical and genetic differences exist between various populations. The newly-christened M. suwanniensis and M. apalachicolae are named after their respective homes—namely, the Suwannee and Apalachicola rivers. Further west, good old M. temminckii swims through the Mobile and the Mississippi.

7. THANKS TO A 19TH CENTURY POLITICAL CARTOON, COMMON SNAPPING TURTLES ARE ALSO KNOWN AS "OGRABMES." 

Snapping turtle cartoon
Urban~commonswiki via Wiki Commons // CC BY PD-US

Drawn by Alexander Anderson, this piece skewers Thomas Jefferson’s signing of the unpopular Embargo Act. At the president’s command, we see a snapping turtle bite some poor merchant’s hind end. Agitated, the victim calls his attacker “ograbme”—“embargo” spelled backwards.

8. ALLIGATOR SNAPPERS ATTRACT FISH WITH AN ORAL LURE …

You can’t beat live bait. Anchored to the Macrochelys tongue is a pinkish, worm-like appendage that fish find irresistible. Preferring to let food come to them, alligator snappers open their mouths and lie in wait at the bottoms of rivers and lakes. Cue the lure. When this protrusion wriggles, hungry fish swim right into the gaping maw and themselves become meals.

9.  … AND THEY FREQUENTLY EAT OTHER TURTLES. 


Complex01, WikimediaCommons

Alligator snappers are anything but picky. Between fishy meals, aquatic plants also factor into their diet, as do frogs, snakes, snails, crayfish, and even relatively large mammals like raccoons and armadillos. Other shelled reptiles are fair game, too: In one Louisiana study, 79.82% of surveyed alligator snappers had turtle remains in their stomachs.

10. YOU SHOULD NEVER PICK A SNAPPER UP BY THE TAIL.

Ideally, you should leave the handling of these guys to trained professionals. But what if you see a big one crossing a busy road and feel like helping it out? Before doing anything else, take a few moments to identify the turtle. If it’s an alligator snapper, you’ll want to grasp the lip of the upper shell (or “carapace”) in two places: right behind the head and right above the tail.

Common snappers demand a bit more finesse (we wouldn’t want one to reach back and nip you with that long, serpentine neck). Slide both hands under the hind end of the shell, letting your turtle’s tail dangle between them. Afterwards, clamp down on the carapace with both thumbs.

Please note that lifting any turtle by the tail can permanently dislocate its vertebrae. Additionally, remember to move the reptile in the same direction that it’s already facing. Otherwise, your rescue will probably turn right back around and try to cross the road again later. 

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Tina Fey
Jenny Anderson, Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions
Jenny Anderson, Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Tina Fey has transformed modern comedy more than just about anyone else. From the main stage of Second City to the writer’s room of SNL to extremely fetch comedy blockbusters, Elizabeth Stamatina Fey has built a national stage with a dry, eye-popping sarcasm and political satire where no one is safe. She has a slew of Emmys, Golden Globes, SAG, PGA, and WGA awards to prove it—plus a recent Tony nomination (her first). But, more importantly, she’s the closest thing we have to a national comic laureate.

Here are 10 facts about a fantastically blorft American icon.

1. SHE DID A BOOK REPORT ON COMEDY WHEN SHE WAS 11.

Fey got a very early start in comedy, watching a lot of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bob Newhart, and Norman Lear shows as a kid. Her father and mother sneaked her in to see Young Frankenstein and would let her stay up late to watch The Honeymooners. So it’s no surprise that she chose comedy as the subject of a middle school project. The only book she could get her hands on was Joe Franklin’s Encyclopedia of Comedians, but at least she made a friend. "I remember me and one other girl in my 8th grade class got to do an independent study because we finished the regular material early, and she chose to do hers on communism, and I chose to do mine on comedy," Fey told The A.V. Club. "We kept bumping into each other at the card catalog."

2. THE SCAR ON HER FACE CAME FROM A BIZARRE ATTACK THAT OCCURRED WHEN SHE WAS A CHILD.

Fey’s facial scar had been recognizable but unexplained for years until a profile in Vanity Fair revealed that the mark on her left cheek came from being slashed by a strange man when she was five years old. “She just thought somebody marked her with a pen,” her husband Jeff Richmond said. Fey wrote in Bossypants that it happened in an alleyway behind her Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, home when she was in kindergarten.

3. HER FIRST TV APPEARANCE WAS IN A BANK COMMERCIAL.

Saturday Night Live hired Fey as a writer in 1997. In 1995 she had the slightly more glamorous job of pitching Mutual Savings Bank with a radical floral applique vest and a handful of puns on the word “Hi.” In a bit of life imitating art, just as Liz Lemon’s 1-900-OKFACE commercial was unearthed and mocked on 30 Rock, the internet discovered Fey’s stint awkwardly cheering on high interest rates a few years ago and had a lot to say about her '90s hair.

4. SHE WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO BE NAMED HEAD WRITER OF SNL.

Four years after that commercial and two after she joined Saturday Night Live’s writing staff, Fey earned a promotion to head writer. Up until that point, the head writers were named Michael, Herb, Bob, Jim, Steve. You get the picture. She acted as head writer for six seasons until moving on to write and executive produce 30 Rock. Since her departure, two more women (Paula Pell and Sara Schneider) have been head writers for the iconic show.

5. SHE’S THE YOUNGEST MARK TWAIN PRIZE WINNER.

Established in 1998, the Kennedy Center’s hilarious honor has mostly been awarded to funny people in the twilight of their careers. Richard Pryor was the first recipient, and comedians who made their marks decades prior like Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg, and George Carlin followed. Fey earned the award in 2010 when she was 40 years old, and the age of her successors (Carol Burnett, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, David Letterman ...) signals that she may hold the title of youngest recipient for some time.

6. SHE WROTE SATIRE FOR HER HIGH SCHOOL NEWSPAPER.

Fey was an outstanding student who was involved in choir, drama, and tennis, and co-edited the school’s newspaper, The Acorn. She also wrote a satirical column addressing “school policy and teachers” under the pun-tastic pseudonym “The Colonel.” Fey also recalled getting in trouble because she tried to make a pun on the phrase “annals of history.” Cheeky.

7. SHE MADE HER RAP DEBUT WITH CHILDISH GAMBINO ON "REAL ESTATE."

Donald Glover (a.k.a. Childish Gambino) first gained notice as a member of Derrick Comedy in college, and Fey hired him at the age of 23 to write for 30 Rock. Before jumping from that show to Community, Glover put out his first mixtape under his stage name. After releasing his debut album, Camp, in 2011, Gambino dropped a sixth mixtape called Royalty that featured Fey rapping on a song called “Real Estate.” “My president is black, and my Prius is blue!"

8. SHE VOICED PRINCESSES IN A BELOVED PINBALL GAME.

Between the bank commercial and Saturday Night Live, Fey has an intriguing credit on her resume: the arcade pinball machine “Medieval Madness.” Most of the game’s Arthurian dialogue was written by Second City members Scott Adsit (Pete Hornberger on 30 Rock) and Kevin Dorff, who pulled in fellow Second City castmate Fey to voice for an “Opera Singer” princess, Cockney-speaking princesses, and a character with a southern drawl. (You can hear some of the outtakes here.)

9. SHE USED MEAN GIRLS TO PUSH BACK AGAINST STEREOTYPES OF WOMEN IN MATH.

Tina Fey and Lindsay Lohan in 'Mean Girls' (2004)
Paramount Home Entertainment

There’s a ton of interesting trivia about Mean Girls, Fey’s first foray into feature film screenwriting. She bid on the rights to Rosalind Wiseman’s book that inspired the movie without realizing it didn’t have a plot. She initially wrote a large part for herself but kept whittling it down to focus on the teenagers, and her first draft was “for sure R-rated.” Fey also chose to play a math teacher to fight prejudice. “It was an attempt on my part to counteract the stereotype that girls can’t do math. Even though I did not understand a word I was saying.” Fey used a friend’s calculus teacher boyfriend’s lesson plans in the script.

10. SHE SET UP A SCHOLARSHIP IN HER FATHER’S NAME TO HELP VETERANS.

Fey’s father Donald was a Korean War veteran who also studied journalism at Temple University. When he died in 2015, Fey and her brother Peter founded a memorial scholarship in his name that seeks to aid veterans who want to study journalism at Temple.

"He was really inspiring," Fey said. "A lot of kids grow up with dreams of doing those things and their parents are fearful and want them to get a law degree and have things to fall back on, but he and our mom always encouraged us to pursue whatever truly interested us." Fey also supports Autism Speaks, Mercy Corps, Love Our Children USA, and other charities.

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