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Alan Light (via Flickr)

5 Things We Learned from Rick Moranis on Bullseye with Jesse Thorn

Alan Light (via Flickr)
Alan Light (via Flickr)

In this weekend's Bullseye with Jesse Thorn interview, we hear from Rick Moranis. He has a new album out, and we get to hear about his early days in show business—plus why he stepped away from a career as a movie star. Let's go!

Listen To the Interview

You can hear the full interview using the SoundCloud player above. You can also jump to the parts we've highlighted using the time codes shown at the beginning of each snippet.

1. His First Job Was Selling Programs at Hockey Games...Unsuccessfully

(02:35)

Rick Moranis:
I guess the very first job I had was selling programs at the hockey games at Maple Leaf Gardens when I was 12 or 13....

Jesse Thorn:
That sounds like the greatest job a 13-year-old could ever have!

Rick Moranis:
Yeah. It was pretty cool. The problem was is that I was so low in the hierarchy that I had to sell in the top seats which were called the “grays” and the book was 75 cents. I was really little. I could only carry 25 of them, and I had to climb a thousand stairs to get up to the grays. You look at the ticket price and the number of people that had tried to sell these people programs on their way up to the grays, and I wasn’t selling a lot of programs. The odds were that if you did sell one somebody would give you a dollar, and I would do anything that I could to try and coax that 25 cent tip out of the 75 cents, to be able to get somebody to say “Keep the change,” which is really hard in Canada, to get somebody to say, “Keep the change.”

So I started doing shtick. I started doing, “Souvenir hot dogs! Get your souvenir hot dogs, ice cold program, hot Coca Cola, who wants a hot Coca Cola?” Stuff like that. It wasn’t working. I didn’t make any money but we did get to stay for the games if there were empty seats....

2. His Early Radio Career Involved Some Dead Air

(8:57)

Jesse Thorn:
The first time I went on microphone I was reading a public service announcement on my college radio station and I messed it up and then I said a word you’re not allowed to say on the radio, but I was one the radio live. And it’s indelibly imprinted upon my brain. Do you remember the first time you went on mic live?

Rick Moranis:
I do and I don’t because I think I deliberately blocked it out because it was so bad, but I didn’t have that traumatic type of experience that you did. I had a terrible, you know they called them faults when you screw up on live radio and we had to keep a fault book. And there was this huge, huge crisis, serious news thing that happened and the newsman came in and gave me two sound carts. That’s in the days of tape. And I didn’t have a toggle flipped and the news came on. There were two reports. The news came on and said “Now we go live to Ottawa for this report.” Dead air. “And now we go live to Montreal for this report.” Dead air. And then they said, “The weather in a moment.” Dead air because I didn’t have the toggle. Then he gave the weather 30 seconds later. I mean, it was bad. I thought I was going to be fired. I wasn’t but I had to write a novel into the fault book explaining what had happened.

3. The "Bob and Doug" Skits Were Improvised After the Crew Went Home, to Satisfy Canadian Content Requirements

(19:28)

Jesse Thorn:
Were Bob and Doug really a response to CanCon—to Canadian content requirements?

Rick Moranis:
Yeah. Very much so. That’s exactly how they were created, why they were created. I had been doing a lot of satire before that on Canadian content regulations which my knee jerk reaction to this government mandate was to satirize it. I thought the government had no business legislating the arts.

Jesse Thorn:
We should explain for Americans who are listening that in Canadian broadcasting a certain amount of the content, depending on the outlet, has to be of Canadian origin and in some cases has to have Canadian-themed content, represent Canada.

Rick Moranis:
Right, right. And what it is, is it’s cultural protectionism and there’s protectionism in a lot of different industries. The industry lobbies the government and the government puts on import quotas and taxes and whatever, but for the government to do it to the arts, it didn’t make sense to me. In retrospect I have no idea whether I was right or wrong or who got the last laugh. I have no idea. But at the time I was doing a lot of satire of it and the third season of [SCTV], which was the season that I joined, was not on independent television. It was on the CBC. It was syndicated in the States to independent television which had six minutes of commercials so it was therefore a 24-minute half hour, and the one in Canada was a 26-minute half hour.

The producers came into the room and they said, “With the extra two minutes the CBC wants you to do something Canadian,” and I was appalled by this because it didn’t matter what we did. We were Canadian. We were in Canada. Everything that we were doing was therefore Canadian. And I said, “That’s crazy. What do you want us to do? Sit in front of a map of Canada, put on tuques and parkas and snow boots and fry back bacon and drink beer and talk like this, eh?” And he said “Sure, sure, do that,” so we did.

Ironically, of all the stuff that was done on that show and there was a lot of really interesting work done on that show that a lot of care was put into, a lot of writing and production and design and performance and editing and on and on and on—a lot of work, and this thing was a throwaway. It was one camera. There wasn’t even a crew. The crew went home and one guy stayed there with one camera on us and we improvised the thing, and that was the thing that came out of the show.

I felt bad about it. It wasn’t fair to the other cast members and to the other work that we were doing. On the other hand it was an incredible amount of success that Dave [Thomas] and I had.

Jesse Thorn:
The movie that the two of you made, Strange Brew, ended up being the year’s highest-grossing film in Canada.

Rick Moranis:
That’s right.

4. On Leaving Show Business and Becoming a Stay-at-Home Dad

(26:39)

Jesse Thorn:
I want to ask you a slightly personal question. If anything is too personal, just let me know. Your wife died when your kids were quite young and she was ill before she died. I wonder what it was like to try and recalibrate your life around a new set of facts? I think show business kind of assumes that show business is the most important thing and so it can be hard to change your priorities when you’re in show business.

Rick Moranis:
Well, stuff happens to people every day and they make adjustments in their lives for all kinds of reasons, and there was nothing unusual about what happened or what I did. I think the reason that people were intrigued by the decisions I was making and sometimes seemed to have, almost, admiration for it had less to do with the fact that I was doing what I was doing and more to do with what they thought I was walking away from—as if what I was walking away from had far greater value than anything else that one might.

The decision in my case to become a stay-at-home dad, which people do all the time, I guess wouldn’t have meant as much to people if I had had a very simple kind of “make a living” existence, and decided, “You know what, I need to spend more time at home. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to do this part time and then work out of my house to do this and this and this.” Nobody would pay any attention to it, but because I came from celebrity and fame and what was a peak of a career, that was intriguing to people and to me it wasn’t that. It wasn’t anything to do with that. It was just work and it was time to make an adjustment.

Jesse Thorn:
I think also your career was a creative career and so in part you were walking away not just from being famous and rich but also making stuff which you had previously dedicated a huge part of your life to.

Rick Moranis:
I didn’t walk away from that. I applied all my creativity to my home life, to my kids, to my family. I was the same person. I didn’t change. I just shifted my focus.

5. "The only reason I’m doing interviews is because I let this record company talk me into releasing this album."

(33:00)

Jesse Thorn:
Do you think that you might like to return to show business? I’m sure that if you wanted to go out and audition you could either be getting parts in movies, playing someone’s dad on a sitcom pilot if you wanted to and your kids are now grownups.

Rick Moranis:
I’ve never had a plan. I’ve never, ever had any forethought about anything I’ve ever done. I’ve just kind of looked at opportunities, said no to most things. Sometimes whatever was left standing was the thing that I went for. Sometimes something came along that was so appealing I just jumped at it. Usually it was driven by the people that were involved more than anything else.

There are other factors now. I’m comfortable where I live. There are certain locations I’m not interested in being and I’m not interested in doing anything I’ve done in the past, but in terms of being on camera, I have no idea. It’s not something I’ve given any thought to at all. The only reason I’m doing interviews is because I let this record company talk me into releasing this album, so now I’m doing interviews. That’s just part of the process. But the driver for that was writing a bunch of songs and being talked into recording them by friends of mine.

Where to Subscribe to Bullseye with Jesse Thorn

You can subscribe to Bullseye With Jesse Thorn via iTunes or any podcast player you like. It's also on various NPR stations across the country. You can also hear the complete interview above on SoundCloud.

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35 Fabulous Facts About Frank Sinatra
Keystone/Getty Images
Keystone/Getty Images

You know that Frank Sinatra was as talented a singer as he was an actor. That he had a collection of nicknames, from The Voice to Ol’ Blue Eyes. And that he liked to do things “My Way.” In honor of what would have been the legendary crooner’s 102nd birthday, here are 35 things you might not have known about Frank Sinatra.

1. HIS BIRTH WAS A TRAUMATIC ONE.

Born on December 12, 1915, in an apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey, Francis Albert Sinatra was blue and not breathing when he was yanked out of his mother with forceps. Thought to be dead, the infant was laid on the kitchen counter while the doctor attended to his mother. His grandmother picked up the newborn, stuck him under some cold water, and little Frank wailed out his first song.

2. THOSE FORCEPS CAUSED SOME DAMAGE.

Those forceps left their mark on the left side of Sinatra's face, in the shape of a scar that ran from the corner of his mouth to his jaw line and a cauliflower ear. As a teenager, he was nicknamed “Scarface.” He also suffered a bad case of adolescent acne, which left his cheeks pitted. Self-conscious about his looks as an adult, Sinatra often applied makeup to hide the scars. Even with that, he hated to be photographed on his left side. The physical insecurities didn't end there: Sinatra also wore elevator shoes to boost his five-foot-seven stature.

3. HE WAS A BIG BABY.


By Family photo. - Sinatra.com, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The future crooner weighed a whopping 13.5 pounds.

4. HE CARRIED HIS OWN P.A. SYSTEM.

When Sinatra was just starting out as a singer, he came prepared: he carried his own P.A. system to the dives in which he typically performed.

5. HIS BAD BOY IMAGE WAS REAL.

Sinatra's bad boy image began with his infamous 1938 mug shot. The charge? The most Frank reason possible: “seduction.” The charge was reduced to “adultery,” then later dropped.

6. HE WAS ONE OF AMERICA’S FIRST TEEN IDOLS.


Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In the 1940s, Frank—or Frankie, as he was then known—became one of America's first teen idols. “The sound that greeted me was absolutely deafening,” Sinatra later recalled of a series of shows he performed in 1942 at New York City’s Paramount Theater. “I was scared stiff. I couldn't move a muscle.”

7. SOME OF THOSE SCREAMING FANS WERE PAID TO BE SCREAMING FANS.

Not to take anything away from his amazing voice and his ability to excite the female throngs, but the bobbysoxer craze Sinatra incited (so called because the coed fans wore Catholic school-style bobby socks, rolled down to their ankles) had a little help. George Evans, Sinatra’s publicist, auditioned girls for how loud they could scream, then paid them five bucks and placed them strategically in the audience to help whip up excitement.

8. A SHORT FILM GOT HIM TAGGED AS A COMMUNIST SYMPATHIZER.

In 1945, Sinatra made a short film, The House I Live In, that spoke out against anti-Semitism and racial intolerance. Ironically, a decade later, its liberal slant got him tagged as a Communist sympathizer during the McCarthy trials. (Sinatra never testified.)

9. THE FBI HAD A FILE ON HIM.


Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Sinatra’s FBI file had been started by J. Edgar Hoover after a radio listener wrote to the Bureau, saying, "The other day I turned on a Frank Sinatra program and I thought how easy it would be for certain-minded manufacturers to create another Hitler here in America through the influence of mass hysteria." Sinatra had also been investigated by the FBI for reportedly paying doctors $40,000 to declare him unfit to serve in the armed services.

10. HE HELPED INTRODUCE THE CONCEPT ALBUM AND BOX SET.

In 1946, Sinatra's debut release, The Voice of Frank Sinatra, helped introduce both the concept album and the box set. At a time when long-playing records were still novel, Sinatra issued a set of 78 rpm records with eight songs, all with a theme of lost love. It sold for a hefty $2.50 (the equivalent of about $30 today). But the price didn't prevent it from topping the charts for seven weeks. Two years later, it became one of the first-ever pop music vinyl 10" LPs.

11. HE ATTEMPTED SUICIDE SEVERAL TIMES.

Sinatra's star fell hard in the early 1950s. He was so low that he even attempted suicide. Walking through Times Square, he saw mobs of girls waiting to get into a concert by new singing sensation Eddie Fisher. Feeling washed up, Sinatra went back to his apartment, put his head on the stove, and turned on the gas. Luckily, his manager found him in time, lying on the floor, sobbing. Sinatra made three other suicide attempts, all of them in the throes of his volatile relationship with actress Ava Gardner.

12. THE RAT PACK DIDN’T CALL THEMSELVES THAT.


Hulton Archive/Getty Images

With his pals Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford, Sinatra led the Vegas clique known as the Rat Pack. The name was coined by actress Lauren Bacall years earlier, to describe a Hollywood drinking circle that included her then-husband Humphrey Bogart and Sinatra. The guys in the Rat Pack actually referred to themselves by a different name—The Summit—playing on a 1960 summit meeting in Paris between top world leaders.

13. HE REUNITED JERRY LEWIS AND DEAN MARTIN.

In 1976, Sinatra appeared on Jerry Lewis’ annual Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon and surprised the host when he brought out Dean Martin, Lewis’s former comedy partner, from whom he’d been estranged for 20 years.

14. IN HOLLYWOOD, HE WAS KNOWN AS “ONE-TAKE CHARLIE.”

Sinatra’s preference for approaching film roles in a spontaneous, rather than over-rehearsed, way earned him the nickname of “One-Take Charlie” in Hollywood.

15. HE THREATENED TO HAVE WOODY ALLEN’S LEGS BROKEN.

Sinatra was married to Mia Farrow from 1966 to 1968, and the two remained close friends. In Farrow’s autobiography, What Falls Away, she shared that when Sinatra learned of Woody Allen’s affair with Soon-Yi Previn, he offered to have the filmmaker’s legs broken.

16. A MAGAZINE CLAIMED THAT HE GOT HIS STAMINA FROM WHEATIES.


Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1956, Confidential magazine disclosed how Sinatra managed to satisfy so many Hollywood starlets—Wheaties! The article stated, "Where other Casanovas wilt under the pressure of a torrid romance, Frankie boy just pours himself a big bowl of crispy, crackly Wheaties and comes back rarin' to go.” General Mills kept quiet as the tabloids talked up Wheaties' power to fuel Sinatra's exploits, and it wasn't long before teenage boys were stampeding the cereal aisles.

17. HE HAD TWO HITS CALLED “NEW YORK, NEW YORK.”

Sinatra actually had two hits called "New York, New York." The first was in 1949, from the film On the Town, and was written by Leonard Bernstein, Adolph Green, and Betty Comden. Thirty years later, Sinatra cut "(Theme From) New York, New York," by John Kander and Fred Ebb. Originally from Martin Scorsese's 1977 bomb New York, New York, Sinatra turned it into his signature song and onstage closer. He also angered the lyricist, Ebb, by customizing the words (Sinatra had done this to a few songwriters, most famously Cole Porter), adding the climactic phrase "A-number-one." In 1993, Sinatra recorded the song again, this time as a duet with Tony Bennett.

18. HE HATED BEING CALLED “CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD.”

It’s a nickname he acquired while president at Reprise Records. According to his fourth (and final) wife, Barbara, Sinatra hated it. 

19. HE WASN’T A FAN OF “MY WAY” OR “STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT.”

Barbara also maintains “My Way,” one of Frank’s most loved songs, did absolutely nothing for him. But that was a kind assessment compared to “Strangers in the Night,” which Frank called “a piece of sh*t” and “the worst f**king song I’ve ever heard.”

20. “MY WAY” HAS BEEN COVERED BY MORE THAN 60 PEOPLE.

Sinatra may not have loved it, but “My Way” has been covered by more than 60 artists, including Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, and Sid Vicious. It has also been recorded in various languages.

21. SEVERAL PEOPLE HAVE DIED AFTER PERFORMING “MY WAY.”

Since 2000, at least half a dozen people have been murdered after (or while) performing the Sinatra classic. Dubbed the “‘My Way’ Killings,” the strange phenomenon has gotten so bad that some bar owners have removed it from the selection list entirely.

22. HE INADVERTENTLY HELPED NAME SCOOBY-DOO.

At least according to former CBS exec Fred Silverman, who found inspiration in Frank’s signature “Scoo-Be-Do-Be-Do.”

23. HE DIRECTED THE FIRST JAPANESE/AMERICAN CO-PRODUCTION.


Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1965, Sinatra stepped behind the camera to make his directorial debut with None But the Brave, which was produced with Toho Studios. It was the first Japanese/American co-production filmed in the United States.

24. HE HAS A SPECIAL PLACE IN NEW YORK YANKEES HISTORY.

“New York, New York” has closed out every one of the Yankees’ home games since 1980.

25. HE HAD HIS OWN PASTA SAUCES.

The year 1990 was a post-Paul Newman, pre-Marky Ramone time in celebrity spaghetti sauce, and leave it to Frank to fill the zesty void. But despite being inspired by his mother’s very own recipe, the sauce flopped. Thankfully, you can now find Mama Sinatra’s recipe online.

26. HE GOT FIRST DIBS ON PLAYING JOHN MCCLANE IN DIE HARD.

Think some action-loving Hollywood scribe came up with the concept for Die Hard? Think again. The movie is based on Roderick Thorp’s 1979 crime novel Nothing Lasts Forever, which is a sequel to his 1966 novel, The Detective. Because Sinatra had starred in the big-screen adaptation of The Detective, he had to be offered the role in its sequel. At the age of 73, he smartly turned it down.

27. SINATRA DIDN’T LIKE MARLON BRANDO, AND BRANDO DIDN’T LIKE SINATRA.


MGM

Sinatra was always known as one of Hollywood’s most likeable stars, but Marlon Brando apparently didn’t agree. The two didn’t hit it off when they starred in 1955’s Guys and Dolls. Sinatra, who allegedly wanted Brando’s role in the film, referred to his co-star as “Mr. Mumbles,” while Brando nicknamed Sinatra “Mr. Baldy.”

28. HE BRIEFLY RETIRED.

In 1971. Thankfully for you “Send in the Clowns” fans, his self-imposed exile from the entertainment industry lasted less than two years, before he returned for good with his comeback “Ol’ Blue Eyes is Back.”

29. THERE'S AN ASTEROID NAMED AFTER HIM.

The rock, called 7934 Sinatra, was discovered on September 26, 1989 by E. W. Elst at the European Southern Observatory. 

30. HE SANG ONE HALF OF THE ONLY FATHER-DAUGHTER TUNE TO EVER TOP THE CHARTS.


By CBS Television, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Sinatra has a unique distinction in Billboard history: He’s the “father” half of the only father-daughter duet to ever hit number one—thanks to “Something Stupid,” which he sang with Nancy. 

31. HE WAS AN HONORARY TRIBAL CHIEF.

Specifically, the “Order of the Leopard,” the highest honor in Bophuthatswana, a quasi-nation state in apartheid-era South Africa. The honor was a show of gratitude from president Lucas Mangope for Sinatra’s performances at the maligned—and later boycotted—Sun City casino.

32.  THE BEATLES’S “SOMETHING” WAS ONE OF SINATRA’S FAVORITE SONGS.

Frank may not have loved (okay, he hated) rock and roll, but he was a big fan of the George Harrison-penned “Something.” The song became a sample in Sinatra’s live set toward the end of his career.

33. THE LAST SONG FRANK EVER PERFORMED LIVE IS “THE BEST IS YET TO COME.”

On February 25, 1995, Sinatra sang the song for a group of 1200 people on the last night of a golf tournament named for him. The words "The Best is Yet to Come" are also on his tombstone.

34. HE WAS A TOOTSIE ROLL FAN.

According to dead-celebrity expert Alan Petrucelli, Ol’ Blue Eyes was buried with some Tootsie Rolls, along with a few other choice effects, including cigarettes, a lighter, and a bottle of Jack Daniels.

35. A PROVISION IN HIS WILL HELPED TO ENSURE IT WOULDN’T BE CONTESTED.

In order to ensure that his passing wouldn’t lead to any legal battles, Sinatra’s will included a “no-contest” clause, which essentially says that anyone who contested it would be disinherited completely.

This article originally ran in 2015.

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Pop Culture
The Cult of Prince Philip
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images

For seven decades, Prince Philip has been one of the more colorful figures in Britain's Royal Family, prone to jarring remarks and quips about women, the deaf, and overweight children.

"You're too fat to be an astronaut," he once told a boy sharing his dream of space travel.

British media who delighted in quoting him are still lamenting the 96-year-old's recent retirement from public duties. But the people of the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu are likely to be optimistic he'll now have the time to join them: They worship him as a god and have based a religion on him.

Followers of the Prince Philip Movement, which started in the 1960s, believe that the prince was born to fulfill an ancient prophecy: that the son of an ancient mountain spirit would one day take the form of a pale-skinned man, travel abroad, marry a powerful lady, and eventually return to the island. When villagers saw the prince’s portrait, they felt the spirit in it, and when he visited Vanuatu in 1974, they were convinced.

Chief Jack Naiva, a respected warrior in the culture, greeted the royal yacht and caught sight of Philip on board. "I saw him standing on the deck in his white uniform," Naiva once said. "I knew then that he was the true messiah."

True believers assign large world movements to the machinations of Philip. They once claimed his powers had enabled a black man to become president of the United States and that his "magic" had assisted in helping locate Osama bin Laden. The community has corresponded with Buckingham Palace and even sent Philip a nal-nal, a traditional club for killing pigs, as a token of its appreciation. In return, he sent a portrait in which he’s holding the gift.

Sikor Natuan, the son of the local chief, holds two official portraits of Britain's Prince Philip in front of the chief's hut in the remote village of Yaohnanen on Tanna in Vanuatu.
TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images

The picture is now part of a shrine set up in Yaohnanen in Vanuatu that includes other photos and a Union flag. In May 2017, shortly after the Prince announced his retirement, a cyclone threatened the island—and its shrine. But according to Matthew Baylis, an author who has lived with the tribe, the natives didn't see this so much as a cause for concern as they did a harbinger of the prince's arrival so he can bask in their worship.

To date, Prince Philip has not announced any plans to relocate.

A version of this story ran in a 2012 issue of Mental Floss magazine.

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