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15 Golden Facts About Almost Famous

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Fifteen years ago, Almost Famous—Cameron Crowe’s poignant, semi-autobiographical film about going on tour with rock stars in the 1970s and writing about it for Rolling Stone—was released in theaters. The film launched Kate Hudson’s career and won Crowe his (so far) only Oscar. Here are some rockin’ facts about the classic rock-driven movie.

1. THE ORIGINAL ENDING INVOLVED NEIL YOUNG.

In 2015, Cameron Crowe told Vanity Fair that he intended for the film to end on Elaine Miller (Frances McDormand) playing the family Neil Young’s “On the Way Home.” “In the end, we decided not to hear that song or her dialogue, and to let the sequence live in a montage as the Stillwater tour bus drives away to the sound of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Tangerine.’ That song was more eloquent in its summary of the movie than any spoken words,” Crowe said.

2. KATE HUDSON RESEARCHED GROUPIES AND ROCK STARS’ WIVES FOR HER ROLE AS PENNY LANE.

In a 2000 interview with The Morning Call, Kate Hudson said she prepared for the role of Penny Lane by listening to a lot of classic rock music, reading former groupie Pamela Des Barres’ book I’m With the Band, and interviewing the wives of rock stars. “You look in their eyes and you see a sadness,” Hudson said. “You can tell how much they lived, and how jaded it gets in that world. But, at the same time, they knew what they were getting themselves into.”

3. CAMERON CROWE’S MOM LIKES THE FILM, EXCEPT FOR THE BAREFOOT PART.

Frances McDormand’s character, Elaine Miller, is based on Crowe’s own mother, Alice, who has appeared in most of his movies (including Almost Famous). Before production began, Alice read the script and liked that the mother wasn’t too “shrill.” But it bothered her that Elaine walked around the house without shoes and socks. “She’s troubled by the fact that people will think she went barefoot,” Crowe told Amazon UK. “Which is kind of like saying, ‘Well, the murder is fine, but you had me commit the murder in a red dress, and I never wear red.’”

4. CROWE AND NANCY WILSON WROTE A LOT OF THE FILM’S SONGS ON THEIR HONEYMOON.

Crowe told Film Comment that while honeymooning in 1986 with his then-wife, Nancy Wilson of the band Heart, they holed up in a cabin in Oregon and created a fake band and wrote songs, “knowing sort of one day we might do a movie where we could use the stuff,” he said. “Almost 15 years later, those songs became a reality.

5. DESPITE BEING NOMINATED FOR FOUR OSCARS (AND WINNING ONE FOR BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY), THE MOVIE FAILED TO BREAK EVEN AT THE BOX OFFICE.

DreamWorks decided on a slow rollout, so the film debuted in a paltry 131 theaters the weekend of September 15, 2000, but grossed a robust $2.3 million. One week later, when it was released on an additional 1000 screens, it grossed less than $7 million. The overall U.S. tally was $32.5 million. Add that in with the foreign take of $14.8 million, and it didn’t match its budget of a $60 million, nor did it come close to Jerry Maguire’s $273.5 million worldwide haul.

In 2001, Crowe told Entertainment Weekly why Almost Famous failed to capture a bigger box office: “Our movie about 1973 got its ass kicked by a movie from 1973,” he said, referring to the re-release of The Exorcist. With the release of two different DVDs in 2001, including Untitled: The Bootleg Cut, Almost Famous managed to find an audience.

6. GLENN FREY TAUGHT CROWE HOW TO CRAFT A PROPER BUZZ.

Russell Hammond, Billy Crudup’s character, was loosely based on Glenn Frey of the Eagles, and in real life Frey actually uttered the “Look, just make us look cool” line to Crowe. Frey also contributed a lesson on how to hold a drinking buzz, which Crowe scribbled down. “If you want to craft a buzz correctly, you walk into a party, you drink two beers quickly,” Crowe shared with Rolling Stone. “Then you drink a beer every hour and 15 minutes after that. You’ll always have a buzz and you’ll never get too embarrassing.” After their 1970s encounters, Crowe and Frey worked together again in 1996, when Crowe cast Frey as Dennis Wilburn in Jerry Maguire

7. CROWE WROTE A PART FOR DAVID BOWIE, BUT IT DIDN’T MAKE IT INTO THE FINAL SCRIPT.

A publicist named Russell DeMay, who was based on The Beatles’s publicist Derek Taylor, showed up in earlier drafts of the script. “I wanted David Bowie to play that part,” Crowe told Film Comment. “I just thought it would be the greatest thing, rumpled white suit, and that was an important character that I'm sorry is not in there, because the publicist used to not be the buffer, the publicist used to be one of the band.”

8. PATRICK FUGIT HAD TO BE SCHOOLED IN CLASSIC ROCK.

Crowe and the production team received hundreds of audition tapes for the part of William Miller, but Fugit’s tape surprised Crowe. “Patrick was funny and kind of awkward and not jaded in the slightest. He was just a raw talent,” Crowe told The Washington Post. Crowe flew the Salt Lake City-based Fugit—who was born nine years after the movie takes place—to Los Angeles. Fugit thought Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull were solo artists, not bands, and at the time the only music he owned was a Chumbawamba CD. To educate Fugit, Crowe made him listen to classic rock. “He gave me all these albums from Led Zeppelin, The Who, Neil Young, David Bowie, Peter Frampton … He told me, ‘I want this stuff coming out of your pores,’” Fugit said.

9. CROWE THINKS THE MOVIE IS A LOVE LETTER TO MUSIC, NOT TO ROCK STAR DECADENCE.

Critics berated the film for its lack of sex and drugs, but in 2005 Crowe told Paste magazine that his rock star friends understood the film. “And it was those guys that were the biggest fans of Almost Famous that said, ‘Yeah, sex and drugs and stuff are a part of rock ’n’ roll, but a true musician never picks up the guitar at first because they just want sex and drugs.’ It’s usually because a record blew their head off, and they never could go back to whatever they wanted to be before. And that’s what I think Almost Famous is about—it’s about getting your head blown off by a piece of music, and everything else is secondary.”

10. THE FILM’S TITLE DERIVES FROM BEING ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF CELEBRITY.

Before Crowe produced the movie, the original title was Untitled and then The Uncool, but the studio told him he had to rename it. “I used to go to concerts and I would see Mick Jagger, then off to the side are these people standing by the amplifiers,” Crowe explained. “You look at them, and you think, who are they? Are they groupies? Are they friends of the promoter? Are they married to the bass player? Because they’re almost famous.”

11. THE CHARACTER OF PENNY LANE IS PARTLY BASED ON LIV TYLER’S MOM.

Bebe Buell dated a lot of rock stars back in the day, including Todd Rundgren and Steven Tyler (Liv’s dad). During an interview between Buell and Crowe in Talk magazine, Buell told Crowe about how in real life she twirled in concert debris just like Penny Lane does in movie. “I once did that in Madison Square Garden,” Buell recalled. “I couldn’t believe how small it looked without anybody in it. It looked like a basketball court. These rooms just come to life and look so huge and vibrant when they’re filled with people!”

“In the screenplay version, there’s a longer speech that Kate Hudson gave that I must say is a tribute to Bebe,” Crowe said. “It’s about how she first went to a concert and almost got crushed but was saved and pulled up on stage. The idea was Kate was saved and pulled backstage. They gave her a Coke and a lemon, and she never went home.” Crowe also revealed Jason Lee’s character, Jeff Bebe—who is based on Paul Rodgers of Bad Company and Free—was named after Buell.

12. ALMOST FAMOUS PURPOSELY CAPTURES A MORE INNOCENT TIME IN ROCK MUSIC.

When Crowe set out to make the film, he thought movies set in the early 1970s were missing a certain quaintness that existed at the time. “Mick Ronson, David Bowie's guitarist, died before we made the movie, and somebody got a deathbed interview with him and asked, ‘How did it feel to be at the ground zero of decadence in rock?’ And he said, ‘It was a very loving time and a very naive time, or at least it was to me.’ And I just thought that was profound,” Crowe told Film Comment. “But the whole global change in rock, cool being a mass concept, was still around the corner, so it was still a little more personal, and all I can say is passionately naive. And I really wanted to catch that.”

13. THE MOVIE REUNITED CROWE’S MOM AND SISTER.

In 2000 Crowe revealed to Rolling Stone that he and his sister, Cindy (Zooey Deschanel’s Anita in the movie), had a falling out after their dad died in 1989 and that his sister and mom had been estranged since then. “After my dad died, the chemistry of my family got f***ed up, and in my wildest dreams, I hope the movie helps my mom and sister communicate. They talk through me now, but three and a half weeks ago our family got together. The one fake scene in the movie—the reconciliation at the end—actually happened in its own weird way.”

14. PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN WORE CROWE’S VINTAGE GUESS WHO T-SHIRT.

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Crowe admitted to keeping many souvenirs from his days as a teenage rock journalist, including a T-shirt from the group The Guess Who. When William and Lester Bangs (Hoffman) meet at Sun Cafe, Bangs is wearing Crowe’s own T-shirt. “Lester dressed in promotional T-shirts, which was funny because his message was that corporate America is just around the corner ready to seize rock with merchandising and commerciality, but he had no problem wearing rock T-shirts,” Crowe told Entertainment Weekly. “They were free, and they fit.”

15. WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER: FIRST DAY OF CAMP PAYS HOMAGE TO THE FILM.

One of the most famous moments in Almost Famous is when Russell stands atop a roof, high on drugs, and screams “I am a Golden God” to the teenagers below, then jumps into a pool. Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer prequel series has Chris Pine playing a Russell Hammond-like character who stands on top of a roof and riles the campers to sing a song with him.

It’s also revealed that Lindsay (Elizabeth Banks) is not a camp counselor but an undercover reporter for Rock ‘n’ Roll World magazine. In Almost Famous fashion, her editor tells her not to make friends with the campers, but she does anyway.

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11 Ridiculously Overdue Library Books (That Were Finally Returned)
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Last week, Massachusetts's Attleboro Public Library received a big surprise when one of its regular patrons returned a copy of T.S. Arthur's The Young Lady at Home ... more than 78 years after it had been checked out. 

The man, whose name was not revealed, was reportedly helping a friend clean out his basement when he came across the tome. He recognized the library's stamp, then noticed its original due date: November 21, 1938. “We were amazed,” said Amy Rhilinger, the library’s assistant director. “I’ve worked here for 15 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Because the library charges $.10 per day for overdue books, the total bill for this dusty read would come to about $2800—but the library isn't planning to cash in. “We’re not the library police," Rhilinger said. "We’re not tracking everyone’s things. Everyone returns things a few [days] late, and it’s one thing we joke about here.”

Though it's rare, the decades-overdue book's return is not unprecedented. Here are 11 more tardy returns.

1. The Versatile Grain and the Elegant Bean: A Celebration of the World’s Most Healthful Foods by Sheryl and Mel London

LOANED FROM: The Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, Kansas
YEARS OVERDUE: 21

In 2014, someone anonymously returned this fitness-friendly cookbook, which had been missing since September 24, 1992. The volume, published that April, contains over 300 recipes—and it’s probably safe to assume that the culprit had plenty of time to try out every single one of them.

2. The Real Book About Snakes by Jane Sherman

LOANED FROM: The Champaign County Library in Urbana, Ohio 
YEARS OVERDUE: 41

Like the previous entry, whoever turned in this musty old field guide declined to reveal his name. But lest anyone question the man’s honesty, he also left the following note: “Sorry I’ve kept this book so long, but I’m a really slow reader! I’ve enclosed my fine of $299.30 (41 years, 2 cents a day). Once again, my apologies!”

3. Days and Deeds: A Book of Verse for Children’s Reading and Speaking compiled by Burton and Elizabeth Stevenson

LOANED FROM: The Kewanee Public Library in Kewanee, Illinois
YEARS OVERDUE: 47

According to Guinness World Records, the $345.14 fee paid by the borrower of this lyrical compilation stands as the highest library fine ever paid.

4. The Fire of Francis Xavier by Arthur R. McGratty

LOANED FROM: The New York Public Library, Fort Washington Branch, in New York, New York
YEARS OVERDUE: 55

In 2013, this one was discreetly mailed in and the perpetrator was never brought to justice (be on guard, Big Apple bibliophiles).

5. The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

LOANED FROM: The Rugby Library in Warwick, England 
YEARS OVERDUE: 63

The item found its way home during an eight-day “fines amnesty period,” which shielded the guilty patron from a £4000 penalty. “It’s amazing to think how much the library has changed since that book was taken out in 1950,” said librarian Joanna Girdle. 

6. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

LOANED FROM: The Chicago Public Library in Chicago, Illinois 
YEARS OVERDUE: 78

Harlean Hoffman Vision found a rare edition of this novel nestled amongst her late mother’s personal effects and vowed to set things right. “She kept saying, ‘You’re not going to arrest me?’” recalled marketing director Ruth Lednicer, “and we said, ‘No, we’re so happy you brought it back.’”

7. Master of Men by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Amazon, Public Domain

LOANED FROM: The Leicester County Library in Leicester, England
YEARS OVERDUE: 79

Oppenheim was born in the surrounding region and, hence, the Leicestershire County Council was thrilled to reclaim this piece of their literary heritage after it turned up in a nearby house—even though the library branch it originally belonged to had shut down decades earlier.

8. Facts I Ought to Know About the Government of My Country by William H. Bartlett

Amazon, Public Domain

LOANED FROM: The New Bedford Public Library in New Bedford, Massachusetts
YEARS OVERDUE: 99

Stanley Dudek of Mansfield, Massachusetts claims that his mother—a Polish immigrant—decided to brush up on American politics by borrowing this volume from the New Bedford Library in 1910. “For a person who was just becoming a citizen, it was the perfect book for her,” says Dudek.

9. Insectivorous Plants by Charles Darwin

LOANED FROM: The Camden School of Arts Lending Library in Sydney, Australia
YEARS OVERDUE: 122

An Australian copy of Darwin’s treatise on bug-eating flora was borrowed in 1889. After two World Wars, Neil Armstrong’s moon landing, and the birth of the internet, it was finally returned on July 22, 2011.

10. The Ancient History of the Egyptians, Carthaginians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Macedonians, and Grecians (volume II) by Charles Rollin

LOANED FROM: The Grace Doherty Library in Danville, Kentucky
YEARS OVERDUE: 150 (approximately)

In 2013, this tome was discovered at a neighboring school for the deaf, where it had presumably been stored since 1854 (as evidenced by a note written inside dating to that year). The library owns no records from this period, so exactly how long it was gone is anybody’s guess, but, said librarian Stan Campbell, “It’s been out of the library for at least 150 years."

11. The Law of Nations by Emmerich de Vattel

LOANED FROM: The New York Society Library in New York City
YEARS OVERDUE: 221

Five months into his first presidential term, George Washington borrowed this legal manifesto from the historic New York Society Library. For the next 221 years, it remained stowed away at his Virginia home, and organization officials wondered if they’d ever see it again. “We’re not actively pursuing overdue fines,” joked head librarian Mark Bartlett. “But we would be very happy to see the book returned.” His wish was granted when Mount Vernon staff finally sent it back in 2010 (luckily, they dodged a whopping $300,000 late fee).

An earlier version of this post appeared in 2014.

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11 Popular Quotes Commonly Misattributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald
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F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a lot of famous lines, from musings on failure in Tender is the Night to “so we beat on, boats against the current” from The Great Gatsby. Yet even with a seemingly never-ending well of words and beautiful quotations, many popular idioms and phrases are wrongly attributed to the famous Jazz Age author, who was born on this day in 1896. Here are 11 popular phrases that are often misattributed to Fitzgerald. (You may need to update your Pinterest boards.)

1. “WRITE DRUNK, EDIT SOBER.”

This quote is often attributed to either Fitzgerald or his contemporary, Ernest Hemingway, who died in 1961. There is no evidence in the collected works of either writer to support that attribution; the idea was first associated with Fitzgerald in a 1996 Associated Press story, and later in Stephen Fry’s memoir More Fool Me. In actuality, humorist Peter De Vries coined an early version of the phrase in a 1964 novel titled Reuben, Reuben.

2. “FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE OR, IN MY CASE, TOO EARLY TO BE WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE.”

It’s easy to see where the mistake could be made regarding this quote: Fitzgerald wrote the short story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in 1922 for Collier's Magazine, and it was adapted into a movie of the same name, directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, in 2008. Eric Roth wrote the screenplay, in which that quotation appears.

3. “OUR LIVES ARE DEFINED BY OPPORTUNITIES, EVEN THE ONES WE MISS.”

This is a similar case to the previous quotation; this quote is attributed to Benjamin Button’s character in the film adaptation. It’s found in the script, but not in the original short story.

4. “YOU’LL UNDERSTAND WHY STORMS ARE NAMED AFTER PEOPLE.”

There is no evidence that Fitzgerald penned this line in any of his known works. In this Pinterest pin, it is attributed to his novel The Beautiful and Damned. However, nothing like that appears in the book; additionally, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Association, although there were a few storms named after saints, and an Australian meteorologist was giving storms names in the 19th century, the practice didn’t become widespread until after 1941. Fitzgerald died in 1940.

5. “A SENTIMENTAL PERSON THINKS THINGS WILL LAST. A ROMANTIC PERSON HAS A DESPERATE CONFIDENCE THAT THEY WON’T.”

This exact quote does not appear in Fitzgerald’s work—though a version of it does, in his 1920 novel This Side of Paradise:

“No, I’m romantic—a sentimental person thinks things will last—a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t. Sentiment is emotional.” The incorrect version is widely circulated and requoted.

6. “IT’S A FUNNY THING ABOUT COMING HOME. NOTHING CHANGES. EVERYTHING LOOKS THE SAME, FEELS THE SAME, EVEN SMELLS THE SAME. YOU REALIZE WHAT’S CHANGED IS YOU.”

This quote also appears in the 2008 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button script, but not in the original short story.

7. “GREAT BOOKS WRITE THEMSELVES; ONLY BAD BOOKS HAVE TO BE WRITTEN.”

There is no evidence of this quote in any of Fitzgerald’s writings; it mostly seems to circulate on websites like qotd.org, quotefancy.com and azquotes.com with no clarification as to where it originated.

8. “SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL, BUT NOT LIKE THOSE GIRLS IN THE MAGAZINES. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR THE WAY SHE THOUGHT. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR THE SPARKLE IN HER EYES WHEN SHE TALKED ABOUT SOMETHING SHE LOVED. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR HER ABILITY TO MAKE OTHER PEOPLE SMILE, EVEN IF SHE WAS SAD. NO, SHE WASN’T BEAUTIFUL FOR SOMETHING AS TEMPORARY AS HER LOOKS. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL, DEEP DOWN TO HER SOUL.”

This quote may have originated in a memoir/advice book published in 2011 by Natalie Newman titled Butterflies and Bullshit, where it appears in its entirety. It was attributed to Fitzgerald in a January 2015 Thought Catalog article, and was quoted as written by an unknown source in Hello, Beauty Full: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You by Elisa Morgan, published in September 2015. However, there’s no evidence that Fitzgerald said or wrote anything like it.

9. “AND IN THE END, WE WERE ALL JUST HUMANS, DRUNK ON THE IDEA THAT LOVE, ONLY LOVE, COULD HEAL OUR BROKENNESS.”

Christopher Poindexter, the successful Instagram poet, wrote this as part of a cycle of poems called “the blooming of madness” in 2013. After a Twitter account called @SirJayGatsby tweeted the phrase with no attribution, it went viral as being attributed to Fitzgerald. Poindexter has addressed its origin on several occasions.

10. “YOU NEED CHAOS IN YOUR SOUL TO GIVE BIRTH TO A DANCING STAR.”

This poetic phrase is actually derived from the work of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who died in 1900, just four years after Fitzgerald was born in 1896. In his book Thus Spake ZarathustraNietzsche wrote the phrase, “One must have chaos within to enable one to give birth to a dancing star.” Over time, it’s been truncated and modernized into the currently popular version, which was included in the 2009 book You Majored in What?: Designing Your Path from College to Career by Katharine Brooks.

11. “FOR THE GIRLS WITH MESSY HAIR AND THIRSTY HEARTS.”

This quote is the dedication in Jodi Lynn Anderson’s book Tiger Lily, a reimagining of the classic story of Peter Pan. While it is often attributed to Anderson, many Tumblr pages and online posts cite Fitzgerald as its author.

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