CLOSE

14 Naked Facts About Flashdance

In 1983, the welder-cum-exotic dancer film Flashdance came out of nowhere and not only made a huge dent at the box office ($200 million worldwide on an $8 million budget), but also became a touchstone film, despite bad reviews. Here are some facts about the film that inspired a generation to “take your passion, and make it happen.”

1. TWO TORONTO STRIPPERS MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE INSPIRED THE ALEX CHARACTER.

In a lengthy and detailed 2014 BuzzFeed article, Toronto-based Gimlets strippers Maureen Marder and Gina Healey discussed how Flashdance co-writer Tom Hedley (scribe Joe Eszterhas was hired to punch up Hedley’s script, which was originally called Depot Bar and Grill) invaded their club, hired a photographer to take pictures of them in order to sell his idea, and based the Alex role on one of them (Marder supposedly worked a day job as a construction worker). But Hedley disagrees, telling BuzzFeed: “There’s no part of their stories that’s in the film."

What is certain is that the studio paid Healey and Marder $2,300 each to sign over their life stories, which relinquished their claim to the film. This didn’t stop Marder from suing Jennifer Lopez for the way Lopez copped Flashdance images in her “I’m Glad” music video. “She sued Jennifer Lopez for violating her copyright as part owner of the copyright of the motion picture,” Marder’s lawyer said. Marder, of course, lost the case.

2. THE SONG “MANIAC” WAS ORIGINALLY COMPOSED FOR THE 1980 HORROR FILM MANIAC.

Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky’s original lyrics for “Maniac” were as follows: “He’s a maniac, maniac that’s for sure / He will kill your cat and nail him to the door.”

“That direction obviously wasn’t going to work," Sembello told Song Facts. "Phil Ramone, producer of the soundtrack, [had] the vision to see the potential of the song, [and] asked us to change it to the present concept of a girl possessed with the passion of a gift for dance." Which is how the far less gruesome lines “She’s a maniac, maniac on the floor / And she’s dancing like she’s never danced before” came about. “Without Phil it would not have happened,” says Sembello.

The revamped song was nominated for an Oscar but was disqualified because “the song was changed from the original … which pisses me off to this day,” admits Sembello. Still, the soundtrack was a huge hit, selling more than six million copies.

3. THERE’S AN ALEX OWENS BARBIE DOLL.


Mattel waited until 2010 to jump on the Flashdance bandwagon when they turned Alex into a Barbie doll, replete with leg warmers and a torn grey sweatshirt. Because it was a Barbie Fan Club and San Diego Comic-Con exclusive release, it’s rare and expensive, so plan on forking over a lot of singles for it. Amazon sells it for $179, but eBay sold a few for cheaper.

4. THE SLEAZY ZANZIBAR OWNER, PLAYED BY LEE VING, WAS ALREADY A FAMOUS MUSICIAN.

Ving played strip club owner Johnny C. in Flashdance and went on play Mr. Boddy in Clue, but before those roles he had been immersed in a controversial music career. He’s the lead singer of the still active L.A. hardcore group Fear, which was profiled in Penelope Spheeris’ 1981 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization. Besides the doc, the band’s infamously known for trashing the SNL set during a 1981 Halloween appearance on the show.

5. DIRECTOR ADRIAN LYNE THOUGHT THE SCRIPT WAS “DUMB.”

“I just didn’t like the story,” Lyne admitted in an interview. “I thought it was kind of dumb. I wasn’t crazy about it, and I turned it down, a couple of times. Maybe three. Which was sort of difficult for me to do because I could tell that they were going to spend the $8 million on the movie, and so finally I said yes. I suppose it shows that you should have an open mind, really. I think it’s very dangerous waiting and waiting for the perfect movie to appear.”

6. HAPPENSTANCE IS THE REASON FOR BEALS’S OFF-THE-SHOULDER SWEATSHIRT.

The sweatshirt, which caused a fashion sensation in the ‘80s, was the result of unexpected shrinkage. “When I was in high school, I had a favorite sweatshirt that had remained in the dryer for too long,” Beals told the Toronto Star in 2011. “So the hole for my head was too small—I couldn’t get my head through. So I cut around the hole. I wore it to one of the auditions and they liked it.” But costume designer Michael Kaplan says it was he who came up with the idea after seeing Pennsylvania Ballet Company dancers wearing them.

In another act of wardrobe savvy, Alex takes off her bra without removing her shirt. Lyne had watched Beals do a similar thing during a wardrobe fitting and decided to put it in the film. On the way to horseback riding as a kid, she had to perform quick changes in the car, which is how she honed that particular skill.

7. THE SONG “GLORIA” WAS ACTUALLY A COVER OF AN ITALIAN SONG.

Laura Branigan’s song “Gloria” first appeared on her 1982 album Branigan, but its use in Flashdance resulted in the song selling over two million copies. The truth is, it’s a cover of a hit 1979 song by Italian singer Umberto Tozzi. “I really thought [the original ‘Gloria’] was too soft, so we rewrote it and gave it a really good American shove,” Branigan said in an interview. The Italian version, not Branigan’s, plays over a scene in The Wolf of Wall Street.

8. KEVIN COSTNER AUDITIONED TO PLAY NICK HURLEY.

Costner, who didn’t become famous until the mid-1980s, auditioned for the role of Nick Hurley, Alex’s boss and love interest in the film. Lyne paid Costner $200 to lie in bed with Beals, but it apparently didn’t work for him as the part went to Michael Nouri. In a strange twist of fate, prior to auditioning for Flashdance, Costner starred in an Apple commercial directed by Lyne. The commercial aired a few months after the film was released and has an uncanny resemblance to Flashdance: Costner on a bike, with a brown pit bull running beside him.

9. SUNNY JOHNSON DIED A YEAR AFTER THE FILM’S RELEASE.

Johnson, who played Alex’s best friend Jeanie Szabo, died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 30 in 1984, one year after the film’s release.

10. JENNIFER BEALS TURNED DOWN DANCING WITH THE STARS.

Beals and three other people—including a guy—performed in the Pittsburgh Repertory Dance Company audition dénouement. So it’s hardly surprising that she said no when Dancing With the Stars came calling. “I am not a dancer,” Beals told People in 2011. “They asked me and I said ‘no.’ You could back up a truck to my door filled with cash and I wouldn’t do it … I’m not that kind of a performer.”

11. MICHAEL NOURI HELPED MAKE THE LOBSTER SCENE MEMORABLE.

The fancy restaurant scene where Alex dresses up in a scant tuxedo, seductively eats lobster, and massages Nick’s, um, nether regions, was done more for shock value than sex appeal. “Adrian kept asking me to be sexy. I was like, um, I don’t know really what that means,” Beals said during a Flashdance 30th anniversary screening Q&A. “And Michael [Nouri] said to me, ‘Just shock him. Just do whatever you can to shock him.’ I was like, oh, shocking. I get that. I can do that.” Eating shellfish was never the same again.

12. THE STUDIO WASN’T BANKING ON A HIT.

Lyne told Entertainment Weekly how Paramount thought the movie would be a flop. “In the two weeks before Flashdance came out, I literally couldn’t get anybody on the phone,” he said. “It was like everybody had run for the hills because they thought it was gonna be a total disaster. I didn’t know either. Paramount sold at least a quarter of their interest in the film in those two weeks. In other words, they saw the film, and thought, ‘Well, this is gonna go down the toilet.’” Luckily for Paramount and Lyne, the film opened to a healthy $4 million gross, which would be almost $10 million today. The film remained in the top 10 weekend box office for 15 weeks straight.

13. KYRA SEDGWICK WAS AMONG THE 4,000 WOMEN WHO AUDITIONED FOR FLASHDANCE.

For her audition, Sedgwick didn’t follow protocol. “My agent told me I was supposed to wear a leotard, heels, and no tights,” she recalled to The Hollywood Reporter in 2012. “I had such bigger balls back in those days. I thought, ‘I’m not wearing a leotard. Instead, I’ll wear a little miniskirt and high heels.’” Her fashion sense was not the only factor that prevented her from getting the part; Sedgwick went on to explain how Lyne picked up his ringing phone while she auditioned for him. “I turned to him and said, ‘You’re not going to answer that phone call. I’m auditioning for you.’ Today, I don’t think I would ever do that.”

14. BEALS’S BODY DOUBLE, MARINE JAHAN, NEVER RECEIVED A CREDIT FOR HER ROLE.

Jahan auditioned for the role of Alex but got tapped to play her dance double instead. It wasn’t until after Jahan signed a contract that she realized she needed to ask the producers for billing. After watching a preview of the film, Jahan was crestfallen to discover her name excluded from the end credits, realizing the producers ignored her submission. Producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson explained her name was absent because they had to cut the length of the credits, which didn’t stop Jahan from being angry. “The film credited the dog and not Marine,” noted Flashdance choreographer Jeffrey Hornaday, who was seated near Jahan at the screening and said, “I’m sorry, kid. But you were great. They were applauding for you.” Jahan’s reply? “Yes, but they don’t know it.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
arrow
entertainment
15 Must-See Holiday Horror Movies
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

Families often use the holidays as an excuse to indulge in repeat viewings of Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Elf. But for a certain section of the population, the yuletide is all about horror. Although it didn’t truly emerge until the mid-1970s, “holiday horror” is a thriving subgenre that often combines comedy to tell stories of demented Saint Nicks and lethal gingerbread men. If you’ve never seen Santa slash someone, here are 15 movies to get you started.

1. THANKSKILLING (2009)

Most holiday horror movies concern Christmas, so ThanksKilling is a bit of an anomaly. Another reason it’s an anomaly? It opens in 1621, with an axe-wielding turkey murdering a topless pilgrim woman. The movie continues on to the present-day, where a group of college friends are terrorized by that same demon bird during Thanksgiving break. It’s pretty schlocky, but if Turkey Day-themed terror is your bag, make sure to check out the sequel: ThanksKilling 3. (No one really knows what happened to ThanksKilling 2.)

2. BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

Fittingly, the same man who brought us A Christmas Story also brought us its twisted cousin. Before Bob Clark co-wrote and directed the 1983 saga of Ralphie Parker, he helmed Black Christmas. It concerns a group of sorority sisters who are systematically picked off by a man who keeps making threatening phone calls to their house. Oh, and it all happens during the holidays. Black Christmas is often considered the godfather of holiday horror, but it was also pretty early on the slasher scene, too. It opened the same year as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and beat Halloween by a full four years.

3. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

This movie isn’t about Santa Claus himself going berserk and slaughtering a bunch of people. But it is about a troubled teen who does just that in a Santa suit. Billy Chapman starts Silent Night, Deadly Night as a happy little kid, only to witness a man dressed as St. Nick murder his parents in cold blood. Years later, after he has grown up and gotten a job at a toy store, he conducts a killing spree in his own red-and-white suit. The PTA and plenty of critics condemned the film for demonizing a kiddie icon, but it turned into a bona fide franchise with four sequels and a 2012 remake.

4. RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE (2010)

This Finnish flick dismantles Santa lore in truly bizarre fashion, and it’s not easy to explain in a quick plot summary. But Rare Exports involves a small community living at the base of Korvatunturi mountain, a major excavation project, a bunch of dead reindeer, and a creepy old naked dude who may or may not be Santa Claus. Thanks to its snowy backdrop, the movie scored some comparisons to The Thing, but the hero here isn’t some Kurt Russell clone with equally feathered hair. It’s a bunch of earnest kids and their skeptical dads, who all want to survive the holidays in one piece.

5. TO ALL A GOODNIGHT (1980)

To All a Goodnight follows a by-now familiar recipe: Add a bunch of young women to one psycho dressed as Santa Claus and you get a healthy dose of murder and this 1980 slasher flick. Only this one takes place at a finishing school. So it’s fancier.

6. KRAMPUS (2015)

Although many Americans are blissfully unaware of him, Krampus has terrorized German-speaking kids for centuries. According to folklore, he’s a yuletide demon who punishes naughty children. (He’s also part-goat.) That’s some solid horror movie material, so naturally Krampus earned his own feature film. In the movie, he’s summoned because a large suburban family loses its Christmas cheer. That family has an Austrian grandma who had encounters with Krampus as a kid, so he returns to punish her descendants. He also animates one truly awful Jack-in-the-Box.

7. THE GINGERDEAD MAN (2005)

“Eat me, you punk b*tch!” That’s one of the many corny catchphrases spouted by the Gingerdead Man, an evil cookie possessed by the spirit of a convicted killer (played by Gary Busey). The lesson here, obviously, is to never bake.

8. JACK FROST (1997)

No, this isn’t the Michael Keaton snowman movie. It’s actually a holiday horror movie that beat that family film by a year. In this version, Jack Frost is a serial killer on death row who escapes prison and then, through a freak accident, becomes a snowman. He embarks on a murder spree that’s often played for laughs—for instance, the cops threaten him with hairdryers. But the comedy is pretty questionable in the infamous, and quite controversial, Shannon Elizabeth shower scene.

9. ELVES (1989)

Based on the tagline—“They’re not working for Santa anymore”—you’d assume this is your standard evil elves movie. But Elves weaves Nazis, bathtub electrocutions, and a solitary, super grotesque elf into its utterly absurd plot. Watch at your own risk.

10. SINT (2010)

The Dutch have their own take on Santa, and his name is Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas travels to the Netherlands via steamship each year with his racist sidekick Zwarte Piet. But otherwise, he’s pretty similar to Santa. And if Santa can be evil, so can Sinterklaas. According to the backstory in Sint (or Saint), the townspeople burned their malevolent bishop alive on December 5, 1492. But Sinterklaas returns from the grave on that date whenever there’s a full moon to continue dropping bodies. In keeping with his olden origins, he rides around on a white horse wielding a golden staff … that he can use to murder you.

11. SANTA’S SLAY (2005)

Ever wonder where Santa came from? This horror-comedy claims he comes from the worst possible person: Satan. The devil’s kid lost a bet many years ago and had to pretend to be a jolly gift-giver. But now the terms of the bet are up and he’s out to act like a true demon. That includes killing Fran Drescher and James Caan, obviously.

12. ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE (2015)

Another Santa slasher is on the loose in All Through the House, but the big mystery here is who it is. This villain dons a mask during his/her streak through suburbia—and, as the genre dictates, offs a bunch of promiscuous young couples along the way. The riddle is all tied up in the disappearance of a little girl, who vanished several years earlier.

13. CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)

Several years before Silent Night, Deadly Night garnered protests for its anti-Kringle stance, Christmas Evil put a radicalized Santa at the center of its story. The movie’s protagonist, Harry Stadling, first starts to get weird thoughts in his head as a kid when he sees “Santa” (really his dad in the costume) groping his mom. Then, he becomes unhealthily obsessed with the holiday season, deludes himself into thinking he’s Santa, and goes on a rampage. The movie is mostly notable for its superfan John Waters, who lent commentary to the DVD and gave Christmas Evil some serious cult cred.

14. SANTA CLAWS (1996)

If you thought this was the holiday version of Pet Sematary, guess again. The culprit here isn’t a demon cat in a Santa hat, but a creepy next-door neighbor. Santa Claws stars B-movie icon Debbie Rochon as Raven Quinn, an actress going through a divorce right in the middle of the holidays. She needs some help caring for her two girls, so she seeks out Wayne, her neighbor who has an obsessive crush on her. He eventually snaps and dresses up as Santa Claus in a ski mask. Mayhem ensues.

15. NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980)

Because the holidays aren’t over until everyone’s sung “Auld Lang Syne,” we can’t count out New Year’s Eve horror. In New Year’s Evil, lady rocker Blaze is hosting a live NYE show. Everything is going well, until a man calls in promising to kill at midnight. The cops write it off as a prank call, but soon, Blaze’s friends start dropping like flies. Just to tie it all together, the mysterious murderer refers to himself as … “EVIL.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
The American Museum of Natural History
arrow
Lists
10 Surprising Ways Senses Shape Perception
The American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History

Every bit of information we know about the world we gathered with one of our five senses. But even with perfect pitch or 20/20 vision, our perceptions don’t always reflect an accurate picture of our surroundings. Our brain is constantly filling in gaps and taking shortcuts, which can result in some pretty wild illusions.

That’s the subject of “Our Senses: An Immersive Experience,” a new exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Mental Floss recently took a tour of the sensory funhouse to learn more about how the brain and the senses interact.

1. LIGHTING REVEALS HIDDEN IMAGES.

Woman and child looking at pictures on a wall

Under normal lighting, the walls of the first room of “Our Senses” look like abstract art. But when the lights change color, hidden illustrations are revealed. The three lights—blue, red, and green—used in the room activate the three cone cells in our eyes, and each color highlights a different set of animal illustrations, giving the viewers the impression of switching between three separate rooms while standing still.

2. CERTAIN SOUNDS TAKE PRIORITY ...

We can “hear” many different sounds at once, but we can only listen to a couple at a time. The AMNH exhibit demonstrates this with an audio collage of competing recordings. Our ears automatically pick out noises we’re conditioned to react to, like an ambulance siren or a baby’s cry. Other sounds, like individual voices and musical instruments, require more effort to detect.

3. ... AS DO CERTAIN IMAGES.

When looking at a painting, most people’s eyes are drawn to the same spots. The first things we look for in an image are human faces. So after staring at an artwork for five seconds, you may be able to say how many people are in it and what they look like, but would likely come up short when asked to list the inanimate object in the scene.

4. PAST IMAGES AFFECT PRESENT PERCEPTION.

Our senses often are more suggestible than we would like. Check out the video above. After seeing the first sequence of animal drawings, do you see a rat or a man’s face in the last image? The answer is likely a rat. Now watch the next round—after being shown pictures of faces, you might see a man’s face instead even though the final image hasn’t changed.

5. COLOR INFLUENCES TASTE ...

Every cooking show you’ve watched is right—presentation really is important. One look at something can dictate your expectations for how it should taste. Researchers have found that we perceive red food and drinks to taste sweeter and green food and drinks to taste less sweet regardless of chemical composition. Even the color of the cup we drink from can influence our perception of taste.

6. ... AND SO DOES SOUND

Sight isn’t the only sense that plays a part in how we taste. According to one study, listening to crunching noises while snacking on chips makes them taste fresher. Remember that trick before tossing out a bag of stale junk food.

7. BEING HYPER-FOCUSED HAS DRAWBACKS.

Have you ever been so focused on something that the world around you seemed to disappear? If you can’t recall the feeling, watch the video above. The instructions say to keep track of every time a ball is passed. If you’re totally absorbed, you may not notice anything peculiar, but watch it a second time without paying attention to anything in particular and you’ll see a person in a gorilla suit walk into the middle of the screen. The phenomenon that allows us to tune out big details like this is called selective attention. If you devote all your mental energy to one task, your brain puts up blinders that block out irrelevant information without you realizing it.

8. THINGS GET WEIRD WHEN SENSES CONTRADICT EACH OTHER.

Girl standing in optical illusion room.

The most mind-bending room in the "Our Senses" exhibit is practically empty. The illusion comes from the black grid pattern painted onto the white wall in such a way that straight planes appear to curve. The shapes tell our eyes we’re walking on uneven ground while our inner ear tells us the floor is stable. It’s like getting seasick in reverse: This conflicting sensory information can make us feel dizzy and even nauseous.

9. WE SEE SHADOWS THAT AREN’T THERE.

If our brains didn’t know how to adjust for lighting, we’d see every shadow as part of the object it falls on. But we can recognize that the half of a street that’s covered in shade isn’t actually darker in color than the half that sits in the sun. It’s a pretty useful adaptation—except when it’s hijacked for optical illusions. Look at the image above: The squares marked A and B are actually the same shade of gray. Because the pillar appears to cast a shadow over square B, our brain assumes it’s really lighter in color than what we’re shown.

10. WE SEE FACES EVERYWHERE.

The human brain is really good at recognizing human faces—so good it can make us see things that aren’t there. This is apparent in the Einstein hollow head illusion. When looking at the mold of Albert Einstein’s face straight on, the features appear to pop out rather than sink in. Our brain knows we’re looking at something similar to a human face, and it knows what human faces are shaped like, so it automatically corrects the image that it’s given.

All images courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History unless otherwise noted.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios