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10 Wild Facts About Duran Duran

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Nearly 40 years into their recording career, New Romantic pioneers Duran Duran are still making waves. Their 14th and latest studio album, Paper Gods, reached the number 10 spot on the Billboard charts earlier this month, making it their first top 10 hit since their self-titled 1993 album (a.k.a. The Wedding Album). The band is also currently touring the world in support of the album—a catchy, dancey collection of tunes that proves the Fab Five still know how to bring their A-game. In celebration of their continued success, here are 10 things you might not know about the suave, stylish pop icons.

1. THEY HAVE AN ENTIRE ALBUM THAT YOU’VE NEVER HEARD.

Before original guitarist Andy Taylor left the group for the second time in 2006, Duran Duran recorded the shelved album Reportage with him, then regrouped to create 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre. Nick Rhodes later told Details that the initial album’s worth of songs was angrier and more political than the band’s usual fare, and that it was not well received by Sony, who did not hear any lead single contenders. At the suggestion of their label, they began working with producers/songwriters Danja and Timbaland, while Justin Timberlake sang on two tracks of the subsequent Red Carpet Massacre album. There have been rumors over the years that at least nine unreleased Reportage tracks will come out, with titles including “Transcendental Mental,” “48 Hours Later,” and “Criminals In The Capitol”.

2. THEY WERE CENSORED ON MTV IN THE ’80s AND ’90s AND BANNED BY THE BBC.

While they were the darlings of MTV back in the day, Duran Duran actually found themselves nearly banned from the network in 1997 because of their risqué video for “Electric Barbarella,” which had to be edited due to its racy content. The video, which features Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, and Warren Cuccurullo purchasing and programming a sexy female robot (a scenario reminiscent of the movie Cherry 2000), was banned from the BBC and pulled from MuchMusic in Canada. While not quite the hypersexual clip that “Girls On Film” had been back in 1981 (which was banned on MTV and the BBC at the time), it still generated some controversy for the band at a quieter point in their career. Incidentally, their name comes from the moniker of the villain in the Jane Fonda movie Barbarella, to which the 1997 video is a nod. The song, in turn, inspired the name of the ill-fated MTV reality show girl band, the Electric Barbarellas.

3. NICK RHODES ORATED A SONG INSPIRED BY SIMON LE BON’S DENTAL SURGERY.

The 1997 album Medazzaland is the only one to feature vocals from keyboardist Nick Rhodes. In this case, it is a spoken word performance on the trippy title track, which was inspired by a visit Le Bon made to the dentist. He returned to his bandmates after taking the intravenous drug Midazolam, which allegedly removed all traces of the surgery experience from his memory. His sluggish state prompted at least one of them to say, “You’re still in Medazzaland, buddy.” And a quirky song was born.

4. THEY HAD THEIR OWN BOARD GAME.

At the height of their 1980s fame, Milton Bradley released the Duran Duran board game Arena, the title drawn directly from their hit live album from 1984 and released in conjunction with the 1985 video version. Designed for two to four players, the objective was to collect video cards and band member cards and accumulate as many points as possible. The person who finished with all the required cards and the highest score won. You can find it selling on eBay for around $45.

5. ROGER TAYLOR IS THE ONLY BAND MEMBER WITH HIS OWN DOCUMENTARY.

Duran Duran aficionado Aaron Barnett premiered his documentary, Searching For Roger Taylor, in 2000. The pet project, which does not seem to be available commercially but can be streamed on the director’s website, is both a quest to find the group’s drummer—who quit the band and the music industry in 1985 but returned full-time to Duran Duran in 2001—and a look back at the New Wave movement of the early 1980s.

In related work, an hour-long documentary about Simon Le Bon’s former yacht, Drum—The Journey Of A Lifetime, was narrated by the singer, featured a solo song from him, and is the companion piece to the book he co-authored. It came out in 1988.

6. NICK RHODES HAD TO FILL IN FOR HIS CHEMISTRY TEACHER.

When he was in school, Rhodes’ chemistry teacher used to go put bets on horses for his students, and would leave the classroom to do so. “It was not a good room to be in because people lit up paper darts on Bunsen burners and threw them around the room,” Rhodes told American Way in 2007. “I’m amazed that the school never burned down. And I used to get left in charge.”

7. SIMON LE BON STARTED HIS CAREER IN THEATER AND TV.

Before he made it big with Duran Duran, frontman Simon Le Bon embarked on an acting career when he was young. He appeared in a Persil soap commercial (among others) and made his West End theatrical debut in Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Those acting chops certainly paid off with all of the group’s flashy music videos as well as a “Rio”-inspired Sasson commercial in 1986.

8. JOHN TAYLOR IS MORE PROLIFIC THAN YOU THINK.

Bassist John Taylor has been involved in nine studio albums outside of Duran Duran. When the Fab Five briefly splintered off into two side projects in the mid-1980s, he joined the popular quartet The Power Station, which included Robert Palmer, Tony Thompson, and Duran Duran bandmate Andy Taylor. They scored a top 10 album and hit (their cover of T. Rex’s “Bang A Gong (Get It On)”). John Taylor did not rejoin the band for their 1996 reunion album, but he has nine co-songwriting credits on it. He recorded one self-titled album with Neurotic Outsiders in 1996; personnel included Taylor, Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, Duff McKagan of Guns ‘N Roses, and Matt Sorum of Guns ‘N Roses and The Cult.

Between 1996 and 2002, Taylor released six solo albums along with two live releases and numerous EPs and singles. In 2006, he and Rhodes curated a collection of ‘80s New Wave songs called Only After Dark that was meant to recreate the musical vibe of Birmingham, England’s famous Rum Runner club, where the band got their start.

9. NICK RHODES AND WARREN CUCCURULLO’S TV MANIA PROJECT TOOK 16 YEARS TO GET RELEASED.

During the Medazzaland recording sessions, while Rhodes and Cuccurullo were waiting for Le Bon to come up with vocal melodies and lyrics, they embarked on a project called TV Mania that was later called a “triptych opera” that foretold the coming of reality television. The dancey music ranged from atmospheric to almost industrial in nature, with samples of TV shows ranging from a fashion program to The Outer Limits being the only “vocal” approach. Ultimately a single disc set entitled Bored with Prozac and the Internet? was released in 2013 after the project, which had languished due to label non-interest in the late 1990s, was unearthed by Rhodes in an old drawer.

10. SIMON LE BON NEARLY DROWNED. TWICE.

An avid sailor, Le Bon’s yacht, Drum, capsized during the FastNet Race in 1985, and he and five crewmates were trapped underwater but survived thanks to an air pocket beneath the overturned vessel. The Royal Navy soon saved them. The year before, the singer was strapped to a rotating windmill for the video shoot of “Wild Boys” when it unexpectedly stopped turning while he was underwater. Divers had to go in to save him. Does Simon have a hotline to Poseidon?

Additional sources:
Special thanks to social media guru and Duran Duran aficionado Katy Krassner for her valuable input.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Steve Martin
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

Is there anything Steve Martin can't do? In addition to being one of the world's most beloved comedians and actors, he's also a writer, a musician, a magician, and an art enthusiast. And he's about to put a number of these talents on display with Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, a new comedy special that just arrived on Netflix. To commemorate the occasion, here are 10 things you might not have known about Steve Martin.

1. HE WAS A CHEERLEADER.

As a yellleader (as he refers to it in a yearbook signature) at his high school in Garden Grove, California, Martin tried to make up his own cheers, but “Die, you gravy-sucking pigs,” he later told Newsweek, did not go over so well.

2. HIS FIRST JOB WAS AT DISNEYLAND.

Martin’s first-ever job was at Disneyland, which was located just two miles away from his house. He started out selling guidebooks, keeping $.02 for every book he sold. He graduated to the Magic Shop on Main Street, where he got his first taste of the gags that would later make his career. He also learned the rope tricks you see in ¡Three Amigos! from a rope wrangler over in Frontierland.

3. HE OWES HIS WRITING JOB WITH THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS TO AN EX-GIRLFRIEND.

Thanks to a girlfriend who got a job dancing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Martin landed a gig writing for the show. He had absolutely no experience as a writer at the time. He shared an office with Bob Einstein—better known to some as Super Dave Osborne or Marty Funkhauser—and won an Emmy for writing in 1969.

4. HE WAS A CONTESTANT ON THE DATING GAME.

While he was writing for the Smothers Brothers, but before he was famous in his own right, Martin was on an episode of The Dating Game. (Spoiler alert: He wins. But did you have any doubt?)

5. MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT HE WAS A SERIES REGULAR ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

Martin hosted and did guest spots on Saturday Night Live so often in the 1970s and '80s that many people thought he was a series regular. He wasn't. 

6. HIS FATHER WROTE A REVIEW OF HIS FIRST SNL APPEARANCE.

After his first appearance on SNL, Martin’s father, the president of the Newport Beach Association of Realtors, wrote a review of his son’s performance in the company newsletter. “His performance did nothing to further his career,” the elder Martin wrote. He also once told a newspaper, “I think Saturday Night Live is the most horrible thing on television.”

7. HE POPULARIZED THE AIR QUOTE.

If you find yourself making air quotes with your fingers more than you’d really like, you have Martin to thank. He popularized the gesture during his guest spots on SNL and stand-up performances.

8. HE QUIT STAND-UP COMEDY IN THE EARLY 1980S.

Martin gave up stand-up comedy in 1981. “I still had a few obligations left but I knew that I could not continue,” he told NPR in 2009. “But I guess I could have continued if I had nothing to go to, but I did have something to go to, which was movies. And you know, the act had become so known that in order to go back, I would have had to create an entirely new show, and I wasn't up to it, especially when the opportunity for movies and writing movies came around.”

9. HE'S A MAJOR ART COLLECTOR.

As an avid art collector, Martin owns works by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, and Edward Hopper. He sold a Hopper for $26.9 million in 2006. Unfortunately, being rich and famous doesn’t mean Martin is immune to scams: In 2004, he spent about $850,000 on a piece believed to be by German-Dutch modernist painter Heinrich Campendonk. When Martin tried to sell the piece, “Landschaft mit Pferden” (or "Landscape With Horses") 15 months later, he was informed that it was a forgery. Though the painting still sold, it was at a huge loss.

10. HE'S AN ACCOMPLISHED BLUEGRASS PERFORMER.

Many people already know this, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that he’s an extremely accomplished bluegrass performer. With the help of high school friend John McEuen, who later became a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Martin taught himself to play the banjo when he was 17. He's been picking away ever since. If you see him on stage these days, he’s likely strumming a banjo with his band, the Steep Canyon Rangers. As seen above, they make delightful videos.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Wine
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by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Between the vine and the liquor store, plenty of secrets are submerged in your favorite bottle of vino. Here, the author of Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma spills some of the best.

1. DIGITAL EYES ARE EVERYWHERE IN VINEYARDS.

Certain premium estates in Bordeaux and Napa are beginning to look a little more like an army base—or an Amazon.com warehouse. They’re using drones, optical scanners, and heat-sensing satellites to keep a digital eye on things. Some airborne drones collect data that helps winemakers decide on the optimal time to harvest and evaluate where they can use less fertilizer. Others rove through the vineyard rows, where they may soon be able to take over pruning. Of course, these are major investments. At $68,000 a pop, the Scancopter 450 is about twice as costly as a 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon!

2. THERE ARE ALSO LOTS OF COW SKULLS.

They’re not everywhere, but biodynamic farming techniques are on the rise among vintners who don’t want to rely on chemicals, and this is one trick they’ve been known to use to combat plant diseases and improve soil PH. It’s called Preparation No. 505, and it involves taking a cow’s skull (or a sheep’s or a goat’s), stuffing it with finely ground oak chips, and burying it in a wet spot for a season or two before adding it to the vineyard compost.

3. FEROCIOUS FOLIAGE IS A VINTNER’S FRIEND.

The mustard flowers blooming between vineyard rows aren’t just for romance. Glucosinolates in plants like radishes and mustard give them their spicy bite, and through the wonders of organic chemistry, those glucosinolates also double as powerful pesticides. Winemakers use them to combat nematodes—tiny worms that can destroy grape crops.

4. WHAT A CANARY IS TO A COAL MINE, ROSES ARE TO A VINEYARD.

Vintners plant roses among their vines because they get sick before anything else in the field. If there’s mildew in the air, it will infect the roses first and give a winemaker a heads-up that it’s time to spray.

5. VINTNERS EXPLOIT THE FOOD CHAIN.

A trio of wines
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Small birds like blackbirds and starlings can clear out 20 percent of a crop in no time. But you know what eats little birds? Big birds. Falconry programs are on the rise in vineyards from California to New Zealand. Researchers have found that raptors eat a bird or two a day (along with a proportion of field mice and other critters) and cost only about as much to maintain as your average house cat.

6. THE BIG PROBLEMS IN TASTING ROOMS ARE VERY SMALL.

Winemakers are constantly seeking ways to manage the swarms of Drosophila melanogaster that routinely gather around the dump buckets in their swanky showrooms. You know these pests as fruit flies, and some vintners in California are exploring ways to use carnivorous plants to tackle the problem without pesticides. Butterworts, sundews, and pitcher plants all have sweet-sounding names, but the bugeating predators make for terrific fruit fly assassins, and you’ll see them decorating tasting rooms across wine country.

7. WINE NEEDS CLEANING.

Winemaking produces hard-to-remove sediments. Filters can catch most of the debris, but winemakers must add “fining agents” to remove any suspended solids that sneak by. Until it was banned in the 1990s, many European vintners used powdered ox blood to clean their wines. Today, they use diatomaceous earth (the fossilized remains of hard-shelled algae), Isinglass (a collagen made from fish swim bladders), and sometimes bentonite (volcanic clay). Irish moss and egg whites are also fine wine cleaners.

8. ATOMS HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS.

About 5 percent of the premium wine sold for cellaring doesn’t contain what the label promises. So how do top-shelf buyers avoid plunking down serious cash on a bottle of something bunk? Most elite wine brokerages, auction houses, and collectors use atomic dating to detect fraud. By measuring trace radioactive carbon in the wine, most bottles can be dated to within a year or two of the vintage.

9. FINE WINES GET MRIs.

Even with atomic dating, there are certain perils involved in buying a $20,000 bottle of wine. Leaving a case in the hot trunk of your car is enough to ruin it, so imagine what can happen over a couple of decades if a wine isn’t kept in the proper conditions. Back in 2002, a chemistry professor at University of California at Davis patented a technique that uses MRI technology to diagnose the condition of vintage wines. Not planning any $20,000 wine purchases? This is still good news for the consumer. This technique may soon be used at airport security, meaning you’ll be able to carry on your booze.

10. THERE’S A TRICK TO AGING YOUR WINE.

If you end up with a bottle of plonk, Chinese scientists have developed a handy solution. Zapping a young wine with electricity makes it taste like something you’ve cellar aged. Scientists aren’t quite sure how it happens yet, but it seems that running your wine for precisely three minutes through an electric field changes the esters, proteins, and aldehydes and can “age” a wine instantly.

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