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Columbia Pictures

17 Solid Facts About Stripes

Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

Stripes was originally pitched by director Ivan Reitman as a Cheech and Chong Army movie. But it turned into a modern comedy classic featuring an embarrassment of acting riches with a cast that included Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, John Candy, and P.J. Soles. It was also the first shot in the spotlight for Sean Young, John Larroquette, Judge Reinhold, Timothy Busfield, and “Hey! It’s that guy!” actor John Diehl. Here are 17 things you might not have known about the 1981 hit.

1. HAROLD RAMIS AND COLUMBIA PICTURES DID NOT WANT HAROLD RAMIS IN THE MOVIE.

With the knowledge that the studio didn’t want him, and more comfortable with writing at that point than with acting, Ramis was reluctant to play Russell. He even had Dennis Quaid (P.J. Soles’s husband at the time) read for his part. Bill Murray stepped in and insisted that he only wanted to work with Ramis.

2. BILL MURRAY AND P.J. SOLES DID BOOT CAMP FOR THREE DAYS.

Both John Winger and Stella initially planned to wake up at 0500 and jog with real soldiers for two weeks.

3. THEY FILMED THE SPATULA SCENE AT 3 A.M.

It was improvised by Murray.

4. THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT LIKED THE SCRIPT.

So they gave the crew a ton of access, including allowing Ivan Reitman and company to shoot in Fort Knox and letting real troops play extras.

5. MURRAY WAS UNEASY ABOUT MAKING A MOVIE WHERE HE CARRIED A MACHINE GUN.

He reasoned with himself that if guns were used to save your friends, it was okay.

6. ARMY RECRUITMENT NUMBERS WENT UP AFTER THE MOVIE WAS RELEASED.

By about 10 percent.

7. MOST OF THE CAST WAS DRUNK FOR TWO WEEKS FOLLOWING JOHN LENNON’S DEATH.

John Larroquette (Capt. Stillman) later admitted that he was drunk in the scene when he dressed down the company after they watched and participated in mud wrestling. Even after filming moved to Los Angeles, Murray and Warren Oates (Sgt. Hulka) had a drunken evening beside the grave of late actor Strother Martin.

8. JOHN LARROQUETTE BROKE HIS NOSE.

Larroquette permanently scarred his nose running into a door in the scene where he discovers that the EM-50 has been stolen.

9. WARREN OATES CHIPPED HIS TOOTH.

Unbeknownst to Warren Oates, Reitman told the actors to grab Hulka and drag him into the mud in one of the obstacle course scenes. After his tooth got chipped and he screamed at Reitman, he insisted that they could just shoot from the other side of his face and filming could continue before he was talked into seeing a dentist.

10. HULKA WAS SUPPOSED TO DIE.

The fall from the high platform was meant to be fatal. The character and actor were too well liked for that part of the script to not change.

11. KENTUCKY DOUBLED FOR CZECHOSLOVAKIA.

The Czechoslovakia scenes were filmed at the Jim Beam-owned Chapeze Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. Ramis said that the third act was set in that country because Reitman’s family were Czech refugees.

12. LARROQUETTE AD LIBBED “I WISH I WAS A LOOFAH.”

Reitman told Larroquette to improvise stuff to say while looking at naked women in the shower. He came up with “I wish I was a loofah.” After Reitman yelled “Cut!” he asked the actor what a loofah was.

13. A NINE-MINUTE ACID TRIP SCENE WAS SHOT BUT CUT.

John and Russell took LSD and went on a mission to fight rebels in the Colombian jungle. Reitman didn’t think it fit with the tone of the rest of the movie.

14. A SCENE WITH CRUISER AND HULKA WAS CUT, TOO.

Cruiser pulled a grenade pin and counted too slowly before losing count entirely. Hulka then grabbed it out of his hand and threw it to save their lives.

15. DIEHL WAS PAID $1500 A WEEK TO PLAY CRUISER.

The young actor was very happy with the salary.

16. MURRAY AND JOHN CANDY HAD DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO BOND WITH THE PLATOON.

Murray arranged a screening of the 1968 film The Bofors Gun, a dark military drama set in West Germany following World War II. Candy invited the company to his house to watch the famous Roberto Duran/Sugar Ray Leonard fight and enjoy a spaghetti dinner made by his wife.

17. ONLY CANDY AND PSYCHO KNEW THE LYRICS TO “DO WAH DIDDY DIDDY”

Conrad Dunn (Psycho) recalled that he and Candy had to teach it to the rest of the outfit.

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How to Make Miles Davis’s Famous Chili Recipe
STF/AFP/Getty Images
STF/AFP/Getty Images

Miles Davis, who was born on May 26, 1926, was one of the most important and influential musicians of the 20th century, and changed the course of jazz music more times in his life than some people change their sheets. He was also pretty handy in the kitchen.

In his autobiography, Miles, Davis wrote that in the early 1960s, “I had gotten into cooking. I just loved food and hated going out to restaurants all the time, so I taught myself how to cook by reading books and practicing, just like you do on an instrument. I could cook most of the great French dishes—because I really liked French cooking—and all the black American dishes. But my favorite was a chili dish I called Miles's South Side Chicago Chili Mack. I served it with spaghetti, grated cheese, and oyster crackers."

Davis didn’t divulge what was in the dish or how to make it, but in 2007, Best Life magazine got the recipe from his first wife, Frances, who Davis said made it better than he did.

MILES'S SOUTH SIDE CHICAGO CHILIK MACK (SERVES 6)

1/4 lb. suet (beef fat)
1 large onion
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground veal
1/2 lb. ground pork
salt and pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin seed
2 cans kidney beans, drained
1 can beef consommé
1 drop red wine vinegar
3 lb. spaghetti
parmesan cheese
oyster crackers
Heineken beer

1. Melt suet in large heavy pot until liquid fat is about an inch high. Remove solid pieces of suet from pot and discard.
2. In same pot, sauté onion.
3. Combine meats in bowl; season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin.
4. In another bowl, season kidney beans with salt and pepper.
5. Add meat to onions; sauté until brown.
6. Add kidney beans, consommé, and vinegar; simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
7. Add more seasonings to taste, if desired.
8. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, and then divide among six plates.
9. Spoon meat mixture over each plate of spaghetti.
10. Top with Parmesan and serve oyster crackers on the side.
11. Open a Heineken.

John Szwed’s biography of Davis, So What, mentions another chili that the trumpeter’s father taught him how to make. The book includes the ingredients, but no instructions, save for serving it over pasta. Like a jazz musician, you’ll have to improvise. 

bacon grease
3 large cloves of garlic
1 green, 1 red pepper
2 pounds ground lean chuck
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 jar of mustard
1/2 shot glass of vinegar
2 teaspoons of chili powder
dashes of salt and pepper
pinto or kidney beans
1 can of tomatoes
1 can of beef broth

serve over linguine

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4 Fascinating Facts About John Wayne
Fox Photos, Getty Images
Fox Photos, Getty Images

Most people know John Wayne, who would have been 111 years old today, for his cowboy persona. But there was much more to the Duke than that famous swagger. Here are a few facts about Duke that might surprise you.

1. A BODY SURFING ACCIDENT CHANGED HIS CAREER. 

John Wayne, surfer? Yep—and if he hadn’t spent a lot of time doing it, he may never have become the legend he did. Like many USC students, Wayne (then known as Marion Morrison) spent a good deal of his extracurricular time in the ocean. After he sustained a serious shoulder injury while bodysurfing, Morrison lost his place on the football team. He also lost the football scholarship that had landed him a spot at USC in the first place. Unable to pay his fraternity for room and board, Morrison quit school and, with the help of his former football coach, found a job as the prop guy at Fox Studios in 1927. It didn’t take long for someone to realize that Morrison belonged in front of a camera; he had his first leading role in The Big Trail in 1930.

2. HE TOOK HIS NICKNAME FROM HIS BELOVED FAMILY POOCH. 

Marion Morrison had never been fond of his feminine-sounding name. He was often given a hard time about it growing up, so to combat that, he gave himself a nickname: Duke. It was his dog’s name. Morrison was so fond of his family’s Airedale Terrier when he was younger that the family took to calling the dog “Big Duke” and Marion “Little Duke,” which he quite liked. But when he was starting his Hollywood career, movie execs decided that “Duke Morrison” sounded like a stuntman, not a leading man. The head of Fox Studios was a fan of Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne, so Morrison’s new surname was quickly settled. After testing out various first names for compatibility, the group decided that “John” had a nice symmetry to it, and so John Wayne was born. Still, the man himself always preferred his original nickname. “The guy you see on the screen isn’t really me,” he once said. “I’m Duke Morrison, and I never was and never will be a film personality like John Wayne.”

3. HE WAS A CHESS FANATIC. 

Anyone who knew John Wayne personally knew what an avid chess player he was. He often brought a miniature board with him so he could play between scenes on set.

When Wayne accompanied his third wife, Pilar Pallete, while she played in amateur tennis tournaments, officials would stock a trailer with booze and a chess set for him. The star would hang a sign outside of the trailer that said, “Do you want to play chess with John Wayne?” and then happily spend the day drinking and trouncing his fans—for Wayne wasn’t just a fan of chess, he was good at chess. It’s said that Jimmy Grant, Wayne’s favorite screenwriter, played chess with the Duke for more than 20 years without ever winning a single match.

Other famous chess partners included Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson, and Robert Mitchum. During their match, Mitchum reportedly caught him cheating. Wayne's reply: "I was wondering when you were going to say something. Set 'em up, we'll play again."

4. HE COINED THE TERM "THE BIG C."

If you say you know someone battling “The Big C” these days, everyone immediately knows what you’re referring to. But no one called it that before Wayne came up with the term, evidently trying to make it less scary. Worried that Hollywood would stop hiring him if they knew how sick he was with lung cancer in the early 1960s, Wayne called a press conference in his living room shortly after an operation that removed a rib and half of one lung. “They told me to withhold my cancer operation from the public because it would hurt my image,” he told reporters. “Isn’t there a good image in John Wayne beating cancer? Sure, I licked the Big C.”

Wayne's daughter, Aissa Wayne, later said that the 1964 press conference was the one and only time she heard her father call it “cancer,” even when he developed cancer again, this time in his stomach, 15 years later. Sadly, Wayne lost his second battle with the Big C and died on June 11, 1979 at the age of 72.

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