Double Dare via Facebook
Double Dare via Facebook

The 10 Slimiest Stunts of Double Dare

Double Dare via Facebook
Double Dare via Facebook

Cats and babies. According to Byron Taylor, the art director who spent seven years involved in the creation of the slippery, weirdly ingenious obstacles that populated Nickelodeon’s Double Dare, those were virtually the only themes considered off limits.

“The lawyers had what they called an attractive nuisance,” he says. “That’s when a kid might see something on TV and then try to imitate it at home. We had a game where we tossed plush cats into these big clown pants, and another where we threw pudding at a doll. You couldn’t do either one. They were afraid kids would pick cats up by their tail and swing them around or throw food at real babies.”

Over the course of roughly 500 episodes of the 1986-93 original series and its many spin-offs, the crew got to do pretty much everything else involving replica mucus. “That period of time was sort of a transition," he says. "Now it’s commonplace to have all kinds of fart jokes. The level of taste has gone down in the last 30 years. I guess we were part of that.”

Affectionately known as the "Glopmaster" on set, Taylor was kind enough to take us through some of the show’s most innovative (and disgusting) courses.

1. THE ONE TON HUMAN HAMSTER WHEEL

After graduating from New York University in 1985, Taylor got a call from Jim Fenhagen, a friend he met at local print shop who had just designed the stage for a new game show and needed help. Shortly, Fenhagen was off to ABC News; Taylor was playing in baked beans at a PBS station in Philadelphia. Among the stunts already sketched out: the human hamster wheel. “I think they had hired a writer in Los Angles who had worked on Beat the Clock to come up with some of them,” Taylor says. “It was solid, but what we learned was, you couldn’t get any traction on the drum coming off a gooey obstacle—not if your feet were covered in eggs and flour. We eventually had to add grip tape inside so that kids had a chance of getting this thing going.”

The Wheel was among the obstacles that cost several thousand dollars to fabricate, forcing the production to sprinkle in more economical courses to stay within budget: “It’s cheap to have someone run through tires filled with cake mix.”

2. PICK IT

The giant, snot-filled nose is reviled in Double Dare fandom not for its questionable taste but for the way it slowed the game down. “Once you stuff pudding up the nose and shove a flag in there, you cannot tell the difference between the vinyl flag material and goop, Taylor says. It would stick to the nostril. People were scraping, pulling, and grabbing. We eventually had to add an air cannon to just blow it out.” The nose seemed to grow more obscene with each passing season, going from relatively clean to encrusted in green phlegm even before contestants got to it. “I think we once added a zit filled with vanilla pudding, Taylor says. That was bizarre.”    

3. KID FARM

Taylor says the idea for this kid-sized habitat came from David Letterman. “If you remember his old late night show, he had an ant farm for dogs. My thought was, ‘Let’s do one scaled big enough to put a kid through.’ We did it without any approval from the ant farm people, but I think we later gave some of those away as prizes.” According to Mathew Klickstein’s book, Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age, one adult employee tried it out and got stuck. Wouldn’t surprise me, Taylor says. It was meant for 80-pound kids.”

4. SODA JERK

Double Dare was fond of super-sizing mechanical objects, including a typewriter, personal computer, and a mailbox. “I’m not sure kids would even know what a soda fountain looks like today,” Taylor says. “And some kids then didn’t know what a foot-activated pedal was.” You had to step on the right one to release two gallons of soda and a flag. “The bucket was essentially toilet apparatus," Taylor says. "When the pedal was hit, the flap would open. Getting the right amount of liquid was a problem.” Is Taylor surprised the show never worked in a gigantic toilet? “I can’t remember being told, ‘No toilets.’ We probably stayed away because it fell in the category of an attractive nuisance.”

5. THE WRINGER

Built in homage to the clunky (and dangerous) clothes wringers of the early 20th century, Taylor says the device was a cautionary tale when it came to using absorbent, open-celled foam. “We were just improvising and got some cheap mattress-type foam, he says. We didn’t know how to upholster something so it was airtight, and this thing just became like a big, soppy, stinking sponge you’d carry around. No matter how powerful an industrial cleaner you used, it would rot and smell.”

6. THE SUNDAE SLIDE

If Double Dare’s appeal needs to be condensed into one idea, it’s that it's the one place kids are rewarded for playing with their food. A fixture of the show, the Slide deposited players right into a six-foot diameter sundae. The piece was actually made of playground equipment modified so it could sit on a weighted base instead of being bolted to the ground. (All of the courses needed to be mobile.) “It was a signature piece," Taylor says. "We had to use a non-dairy whipped topping called Baker’s Cream because the real stuff would just melt under the lights. Over time, we developed a kitchen where we’d whip up gallons of the stuff. We had to find an 80-quart mixer."

7. SANDWICHES, WAFFLES, AND OTHER OVERSIZED FOODSTUFFS 

Marinating latex foam props in condiments always made for an excellent visual, but the show learned early on to make them with colored pudding: Actual mustard and ketchup hurts. “On the first episode, we used the real stuff, and if you get it on your hands and feet and then touch your eye, it’s painful without eye protection," Taylor says. "We learned that very quickly.” Some “breads” would be too big to drag out and hose down. If they got a hole where food could enter, it could proceed to sit and stew until the following season. “It’s not a problem over three weeks," Taylor says, "but if you stick it in a hot warehouse for six months, it will smell. Yes.”

8. GUM DROP

Marc Summers’ favorite obstacle, and possibly the most visually interesting of the lot: Kids would leap into a vertical ball bit and come tumbling out of the bottom. “We’d come up with ideas just riding the train into the Philadelphia studio from New York,” Taylor says. “After so many years, it’s like, what else can we do?” The drawback was the door, which had to be opened by a stagehand with a switch. “Early on, we learned a kid could hit his head riding the balls down and smacking into the door, so we padded it,” Taylor says.

The balls came from a local outdoor amusement park that let the show scoop up their inventory during the winter months, and, says Taylor, “they would be covered in snow and ice. We’d have to thaw them out. Eventually, we realized the name and number of the company was printed on every one. So once someone looked at the ball, we called and ordered them directly.”

9. DOWN THE HATCH

Possibly the only obstacle designed after a celebrity, this slime-caked maw was inspired by an illustration of Diana Ross. “What happened was, I saw a caricature of her and just copied it as closely as I could,” Taylor says. Eventually, the teeth began to suffer from rot: “The bodies were rubbing all over the teeth and they just started to come apart. We did this, the nose, a foot. We went through as many body parts as we could put on air.”

10. FANCY FOOTWORK

A common image in clown-themed nightmares, the shoes tried to stomp contestants as they crawled across the platform. “That was incredibly complicated to do," Taylor says. "It was basically a blatant rip-off of old Rube Goldberg cartoons. The shoes were on pistons, so the rods could get bent by kids and then not retract.” Over time, toilet paper and gum began to appear on their bottoms. That level of repulsive detail was usually up to producers or stagehands—and occasionally Summers himself. "Obviously," one parent wrote in, "you cannot eat and watch Double Dare at the same time." 

All images courtesy of Nickelodeon.

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Shout! Factory
10 Surprising Facts About Mr. Mom
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

John Hughes penned the script for 1983's Mr. Mom, a comedy about a family man named Jack Butler (Micheal Keaton) who loses his job. To ensure their three kids are taken care of, his wife, Caroline (Teri Garr), goes back to work—leaving Jack to fight off a vacuum cleaner and learn why it's never a good idea to feed chili to a baby.

In 1982, Keaton turned in a star-making role in Ron Howard’s Night Shift, but Mr. Mom marked the first time he headlined a movie, and it launched his career. Hughes had written National Lampoon's Vacation, which—oddly enough—was released in theaters the weekend after Mr. Mom. But Hughes himself was still a relative unknown, as it would be another year before he entered the teen flick phase of his career, which would make him iconic.

In the meantime, Mr. Mom hit home for a lot of viewers, as the economy was on the downturn and more and more women were entering (or reentering) the workforce. But some people think that the movie's ending—which sees the couple revert to traditional gender roles—sidelined the movie's message. Still, on the 35th anniversary of its release, Mr. Mom remains an ahead-of-its-time comedy classic.

1. IT'S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

Mr. Mom producer Lauren Shuler Donner came across a funny article John Hughes had written for National Lampoon. Based on that, she contacted him and the two became friends. “One day, he was telling me that his wife had gone down to Arizona and he was in charge of the two boys and he didn’t know what he was doing,” Donner told IGN. “It was hilarious! I was on the floor laughing. He said, ‘Do you think this would make a good movie?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, this is really funny.’ So he said, ‘Well, I have about 80 pages in a drawer. Would you look at it?’ So I looked at it and I said, ‘This is great! Let’s do it!’ We kind of developed it ourselves.” In the book Movie Moguls Speak, Donner mentioned how Hughes “had never been to a grocery store, he had never operated a vacuum cleaner. John was so ignorant, that in his ignorance, he was hilarious.”

The players involved with the movie told Donner and Hughes they thought it should be a TV movie. Hughes had a TV deal with Aaron Spelling, who came aboard to executive produce. “Then the players involved were upset because John was writing out of Chicago instead of L.A.,” Donner said in Movie Moguls Speak. “They fired John and brought in a group of TV writers. In the end, John and I were muscled out. It was a good movie, but if you ever read John’s original script for Mr. Mom, it’s far better.”

2. JOHN HUGHES REJECTED THE IDEA OF DIRECTING MR. MOM.

Stan Dragoti ended up directing the film, but only after Hughes turned it down, because he preferred to make his movies in Chicago, not Hollywood. “I don’t like being around the people in the movie business,” Hughes told Roger Ebert. “In Hollywood, you spend all of your time having lunch and making deals. Everybody is trying to shoot you down. I like to get my actors out here where we can make our movies in privacy.” Hughes remained in Chicago and filmed his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, there.

3. MICHAEL KEATON GOT THE ROLE BECAUSE OF NIGHT SHIFT.

In 1982’s Night Shift, Keaton’s character works at a morgue and starts a prostitution ring with co-worker Henry Winkler. Donner had an agent friend, Laurie Perlman, who represented the not-yet-famous actor. She contacted Donner and pitched Keaton to her. “’Look, I represent this guy who is really funny. Would you meet with him?’" Donner recalled of the conversation. "So I met with him. Usually I don’t like to do this unless we’re casting, but I met with him because she was my friend. And then she said, ‘You have to see this movie Night Shift that he’s in.’ So I went to see Night Shift, and midway through I couldn’t wait to get out of that theater to give Mr. Mom to Michael Keaton. Fortunately, he liked it."

Keaton told Grantland that he turned down one of the main roles in Splash to play Jack Butler. “I just remember at the time thinking I wanted to get away from what I’d just done on Night Shift,” he said. “I thought if I do it again, I might get myself stuck. So then Mr. Mom came along. So I said no [to Splash] so I could set up this framework right away where I could do different things.”

4. THE FILM BROKE NEW GROUND.

Teri Garr, Michael Keaton, Taliesin Jaffe, Frederick Koehler, and Martin Mull in Mr. Mom (1983)
Shout! Factory

In 1983, more women stayed at home than worked, so it was a novelty for a man to be a stay-at-home dad. Today, an estimated 1.4 million men are stay-at-home dads, and 7 million men are their children's primary caregiver. “Mr. Mom became part of the vernacular,” Donner told Newsweek. “Mr. Mom represented a segment of men who were at home dealing with the kids who, up until then, really hadn’t been heard from. That’s what really told me about the power of film, because it spoke for a lot of men. It also helped women, because I think that women sometimes, if you’re a housewife, you’re not really appreciated for what you do. This sort of made women feel better about what they did because they knew that men were understanding it.”

5. TODAY, “MR. MOM” IS CONSIDERED A PEJORATIVE TERM.

More than 30 years after the film’s release, stay-at-home dads feel the term “Mr. Mom” should die. The National At-Home Dad Network launched a campaign to terminate the phrase and instead have people refer to men as “Dad.” In 2014 Lake Superior State University voted to banish “Mr. Mom” from the lexicon.

“At least, the pop-culture image of the inept dad who wouldn’t know a diaper genie from a garbage disposal has begun to fade,” wrote The Wall Street Journal, after declaring “Mr. Mom is dead.”

6. TERI GARR DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A MESSAGE MOVIE.

The movie redefined gender roles, but when the producers pitched the premise to Garr, they hid the plot reversal. “They just told me it was about a guy who does the work that a woman does, because it’s so easy,” she told The A.V. Club. “And I went, ‘Oh, yeah. Ha ha.’ It’s so easy. All the women I know who stay home and take care of their kids, they go, ‘Oh yeah, this is easy.’ Hmm.”

7. MARTIN MULL IMPROVISED THE “220, 221” LINE.

The quote everyone remembers from the movie comes from Jack, holding a chainsaw, standing next to Ron Richardson (Martin Mull) and discussing what kind of wiring Jack will use in renovating the house: “220, 221, whatever it takes,” Jack says.

“We’re doing the scene and it was okay,” Keaton told Esquire. “And I remember saying to the prop guy, ‘Go find me a chainsaw.’ When he comes back with it, he says, ‘You wanna wear these?’ And he holds up some goggles. I go, ‘Yeah.’ You know, they make me look crazy. And when Martin shows up, I know I should look under control, I’m not sweating it. I’m a dude. So we’re standing there, Martin pulls me aside and says, ‘You know what you ought to say? When I ask about the wiring, you oughta just deadpan: ‘220, 221.’ I died. It was perfect. I may have added ‘whatever it takes.’ But it was his.”

“That was a little ad-lib that we just threw in, but every carpenter or construction person I’ve ever worked with, they’re always quoting that line from Mr. Mom,” Mull told The A.V. Club.

8. MR. MOM OUTGROSSED HUGHES’S OTHER 1983 SUMMER MOVIE—VACATION.

Mr. Mom only opened on 126 screens on July 22, 1983, but managed to gross $947,197 during its opening weekend. Once the film went wide a month later to 1235 screens, it hit number one at the box office and spent five weeks at the top. By the end of its run, the film had grossed just shy of $65 million, making it the ninth highest-grossing film of 1983 (just between Staying Alive and Risky Business). National Lampoon’s Vacation, Hughes’s other film that summer, came out July 29 and ended its theatrical run with $61,399,552 (at its height, it showed on 1248 screens). Vacation finished the year in 11th place.

9. THE MOVIE LED TO HUGHES BEING CALLED “A PURVEYOR OF HORNY SEX COMEDIES.”

During a 1986 interview with Seventeen magazine, Molly Ringwald asked the writer-director why he never showed teen sex in Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club. “In Sixteen Candles, I figured it would only be gratuitous to show Samantha and Jake in anything more than a kiss,” he said. “The kiss is the most beautiful moment. I was really amused when someone once called me a ‘purveyor of horny sex comedies.’ He listed The Breakfast Club and Mr. Mom in parentheses. I thought, ‘What kind of sex?’ Yes, in Mr. Mom there’s a baby in a bathtub and you see its bare butt.”

10. MR. MOM WAS MADE INTO A TV MOVIE AFTER ALL.

In the beginning, producers wanted Mr. Mom to be a TV movie, not a feature film. But a year after the film came out in theaters, ABC produced a TV movie called Mr. Mom, with the same characters and premise. Barry Van Dyke played Jack and Rebecca York played Caroline. A People magazine review of the movie stated: “They and their three kids are immediately likable … But it goes downhill from there as the script lobotomizes all its characters. Here’s a textbook case in how TV takes a cute idea—and a script that does have some good lines—and leeches the wit out of it.”

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The Star Trek Theme Song Has Lyrics
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Star Trek theme song is familiar to pretty much anyone who lived in the free world (and probably elsewhere, too) in the late 20th century. The tune is played during the show's opening credits; a slightly longer version is played, accompanied by stills from various episodes, during the closing credits. The opening song is preceded by William Shatner (as Captain Kirk) doing his now-legendary monologue recitation, which begins: "Space, the final frontier ..."

The show's familiar melody was written by respected film and TV composer Alexander Courage, who said the Star Trek theme's main inspiration was the Richard Whiting song "Beyond the Blue Horizon." In Courage's contract it was stipulated that, as the composer, he would receive royalties every time the show was aired and the theme song played. If, somehow, Star Trek made it into syndication—which, of course, it ultimately did—Courage stood to make a lot of money. And so did the person who wrote the lyrics.

WAIT... THERE WERE LYRICS?

Gene Roddenberry, the show's creator, wrote lyrics to the theme song.

"Beyond the rim of the star-light,
my love is wand'ring in star-flight!"

Why would Roddenberry even bother?

The lyrics were never even meant to be heard on the show, but not because the network (NBC) nixed them. Roddenberry nixed them himself. Roddenberry wanted a piece of the composing profits, so he wrote the hokey lyrics solely to receive a "co-writer" credit.

"I know he'll find in star-clustered reaches
Love, strange love a star woman teaches."

As one of the composers, Roddenberry received 50 percent of the royalties ... cutting Alexander Courage's share in half. Not surprisingly, Courage was furious about the deal. Though it was legal, he admitted, it was unethical because Roddenberry had contributed nothing to why the music was successful.

Roddenberry was unapologetic. According to Snopes, he once declared, "I have to get some money somewhere. I'm sure not gonna get it out of the profits of Star Trek."

In 1969, after Star Trek officially got the ax, no one (Courage and Roddenberry included) could possibly have imagined the show's great popularity and staying power.

Courage, who only worked on two shows in Star Trek's opening season because he was busy working on the 1967 Dr. Doolittle movie, vowed he would never return to Star Trek.

He never did.

THE WORDS

If you're looking for an offbeat karaoke number, here are Roddenberry's lyrics, as provided by Snopes:

Beyond
The rim of the star-light
My love
Is wand'ring in star-flight
I know
He'll find in star-clustered reaches
Love,
Strange love a star woman teaches.
I know
His journey ends never
His star trek
Will go on forever.
But tell him
While he wanders his starry sea
Remember, remember me.

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