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Alan Light (via Flickr)
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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11 Secrets of Bodyguards
Tullio M. Puglia, Getty Images
Tullio M. Puglia, Getty Images

When CEOs, celebrities, and the extremely wealthy need personal protection, they call in men and women with a particular set of skills. Bodyguards provide a physical barrier against anyone wishing their clients harm, but there’s a lot more to the job—and a lot that people misunderstand about the profession. To get a better idea of what it takes to protect others, Mental Floss spoke with several veteran security experts. Here’s what they told us about being in the business of guaranteeing safety.

1. BIGGER ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER.

When working crowd control or trying to corral legions of screaming teenagers, having a massive physical presence comes in handy. But not all "close protection specialists" need to be the size of a professional wrestler. “It really depends on the client,” says Anton Kalaydjian, the founder of Guardian Professional Security in Florida and former head of security for 50 Cent. “It’s kind of like shopping for a car. Sometimes they want a big SUV and sometimes they want something that doesn’t stick out at all. There’s a need for a regular-looking guy in clothes without an earpiece, not a monster.”

2. GUNS (AND FISTS) ARE PRETTY MUCH USELESS.

An armed bodyguard pulls a gun out of a holster
iStock

Depending on the environment—protecting a musician at a concert is different from transporting the reviled CEO of a pharmaceutical company—bodyguards may or may not come armed. According to Kent Moyer, president and CEO of World Protection Group and a former bodyguard for Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, resorting to gunplay means the security expert has pretty much already failed. “People don’t understand this is not a business where we fight or draw guns,” Moyer says. “We’re trained to cover and evacuate and get out of harm’s way. The goal is no use of force.” If a guard needs to draw a gun to respond to a gun, Moyer says he’s already behind. “If I fight, I failed. If I draw a gun, I failed.”

3. SOMETIMES THEY’RE HIRED TO PROTECT EMPLOYERS FROM EMPLOYEES.

A security guard stands by a door
iStock

Workplace violence has raised red flags for companies who fear retribution during layoffs. Alan Schissel, a former New York City police sergeant and founder of Integrated Security, says he dispatches guards for what he calls “hostile work termination” appointments. “We get a lot of requests to provide armed security in a discreet manner while somebody is being fired,” he says. “They want to be sure the individual doesn’t come back and retaliate.”

4. SOME OF THEM LOVE TMZ.

For protection specialists who take on celebrity clients, news and gossip site TMZ.com can prove to be a valuable resource. “I love TMZ,” Moyer says. “It’s a treasure trove for me to see who has problems with bodyguards or who got arrested.” Such news is great for client leads. Moyer also thinks the site’s highly organized squad of photographers can be a good training scenario for protection drills. “You can look at paparazzi as a threat, even though they’re not, and think about how you’d navigate it.” Plus, having cameras at a location before a celebrity shows up can sometimes highlight information leaks in their operation: If photographers have advance notice, Moyer says, then security needs to be tightened up.

5. THEY DON’T LIVE THE LIFE YOU THINK THEY DO.

A bodyguard stands next to a client
iStock

Because guards are often seen within arm’s reach of a celebrity, some think they must be having the same experiences. Not so. “A big misconception is that we’re living the same life as celebrities do,” Kalaydjian says. “Yes, we’re on a private jet sometimes, but we’re not enjoying the amenities. We might live in their house, but we’re not enjoying their pool. You stay to yourself, make your rounds.” Guards that get wrapped up in a fast-paced lifestyle don’t tend to last long, he says.

6. SOMETIMES THEY’RE JUST THERE FOR SHOW.

For some, being surrounded by a squad of serious-looking people isn’t a matter of necessity. It’s a measure of status on the level of an expensive watch or a fast car. Firms will sometimes get calls from people looking for a way to get noticed by hiring a fleet of guards when there's no threat involved. “It’s a luxury amenity,” Schissel says. “It’s more of a ‘Look at me, look at them’ thing,” agrees Moyer. “There’s no actual threat. It’s about the show. I turn those down. We do real protection.”

7. THEY CAN MAKE THEIR CLIENT'S DAY MORE EFFICIENT.

A bodyguard escorts a client through a group of photographers
iStock

Because guards will scope out destinations in advance, they often know exactly how to enter and exit locations without fumbling for directions or dealing with site security. That’s why, according to Moyer, CEOs and celebrities can actually get more done during a work day. “If I’m taking you to Warner Bros., I know which gate to go in, I’ve got credentials ahead of time, and I know where the bathrooms are.” Doing more in a day means more money—which means a return on the security investment.

8. “BUDDYGUARDS” ARE A PROBLEM.

When evaluating whether or not to take on a new employee, Kalaydjian weeds out anyone looking to share in a client’s fame. “I’ve seen guys doing things they shouldn’t,” he says. “They’re doing it to be seen.” Bodyguards posting pictures of themselves with clients on social media is a career-killer: No one in the industry will take a “buddyguard” seriously. Kalaydjian recalls the one time he smirked during a 12-year-stint guarding the same client, something so rare his employer commented on it. “It’s just not the side you portray on duty.”

9. SOCIAL MEDIA MAKES THEIR JOB HARDER.

A bodyguard stands next to a client
iStock

High-profile celebrities maintain their visibility by engaging their social media users, which often means posting about their travels and events. For fans, it can provide an interesting perspective into their routine. For someone wishing them harm, it’s a road map. “Sometimes they won’t even tell me, and I’ll see on Snapchat they’ll be at a mall at 2 p.m.,” Kalaydjian says. “I wouldn’t have known otherwise.”

10. NOT EVERY CELEBRITY IS PAYING FOR THEIR OWN PROTECTION.

The next time you see a performer surrounded by looming personal protection staff, don’t assume he or she is footing the bill. “A lot of celebrities can’t afford full-time protection,” Moyer says, referring to the around-the-clock supervision his agency and others provide. “Sometimes, it’s the movie or TV show they’re doing that’s paying for it. Once the show is over, they no longer have it, or start getting the minimum.”

11. THEY DON’T LIKE BEING CALLED “BODYGUARDS.”

A bodyguard puts his hand up to the camera
iStock

Few bodyguards will actually refer to themselves as bodyguards. Moyer prefers executive protection agents, because, he says, bodyguard tends to carry a negative connotation of big, unskilled men. “There is a big group of dysfunctional people with no formal training who should not be in the industry,” he says. Sometimes, a former childhood friend can become “security,” a role they’re not likely to be qualified for. Moyer and other firms have specialized training courses, with Moyer's taking cues from Secret Service protocols. But Moyer also cautions that agencies enlisting hyper-driven combat specialists like Navy SEALs or SWAT team members aren't the answer, either. “SEALs like to engage and fight, destroying the bad guy. Our goal is, we don’t want to be in the same room as the bad guy.”

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13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


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There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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