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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.”

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Animals
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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