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10 Wild Facts About Duran Duran

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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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6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars
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getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)

Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards' near-90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. BEST ACTOR // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (female writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), and Beery won for The Champ, which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.

2. BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT // 1950

By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. BEST ACTRESS // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.

4. BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE // 1987

The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.

5. BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) // 1995

More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars Richard E. Grant (Girls, Withnail & I) as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.

6. BEST SOUND EDITING // 2013

The latest Oscar tie happened only three years ago, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg said to the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

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11 Haunting Facts About Beloved

Toni Morrison—who was born on February 18, 1931—made a name for herself with The Bluest Eye, Sula and Song of Solomon, but it wasn’t until 1987’s Beloved, about a runaway slave haunted by the death of her infant daughter, that her legacy was secured. The book won the Pulitzer Prize and was a key factor in the decision to award Morrison the Nobel Prize in 1993. All the awards aside, Beloved is a testament to the horrors of slavery, with its narrative of suffering and repressed memory and its dedication to the more than 60 million who died in bondage. Here are some notable facts about Morrison’s process and the novel’s legacy.

1. IT’S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

While compiling research for 1974's The Black Book, Morrison came across the story of Margaret Garner, a runaway slave from Kentucky who escaped with her husband and four children to Ohio in 1856. A posse caught up with Garner, who killed her youngest daughter and attempted to do the same to her other children rather than let them return to bondage. Once apprehended, her trial transfixed the nation. "She was very calm; she said, 'I’d do it again,'" Morrison told The Paris Review. "That was more than enough to fire my imagination."

2. MORRISON CAME UP WITH THE CHARACTER BELOVED AFTER SHE STARTED WRITING.

The book was originally going to be about the haunting of Sethe by her infant daughter, who she killed (just as Garner did) rather than allow her to return to slavery. A third of the way through writing, though, Morrison realized she needed a flesh-and-blood character who could judge Sethe’s decision. She needed the daughter to come back to life in another form (some interpret it as a grief-driven case of mistaken identity). As she told the National Endowment for the Arts’ NEA Magazine: "I thought the only person who was legitimate, who could decide whether [the killing] was a good thing or not, was the dead girl."

3. SHE WROTE THE ENDING EARLY IN THE WRITING PROCESS.

Morrison has said she likes to know the ending of her books early on, and to write them down once she does. With Beloved, she wrote the ending about a quarter of the way in. "You are forced into having a certain kind of language that will keep the reader asking questions," she told author Carolyn Denard in Toni Morrison: Conversations.

4. MORRISON BECAME FASCINATED WITH SMALL HISTORICAL DETAILS.

To help readers understand the particulars of slavery, Morrison carefully researched historical documents and artifacts. One particular item she became fascinated with: the "bit" that masters would put in slaves' mouths as punishment. She couldn’t find much in the way of pictures or descriptions, but she found enough to imagine the shame slaves would feel. In Beloved, Paul D. tells Sethe that a rooster smiled at him while he wore the bit, indicating that he felt lower than a barnyard animal.

5. SHE ONLY RECENTLY READ THE BOOK HERSELF.

In an appearance on The Colbert Report last year, Morrison said she finally got around to reading Beloved after almost 30 years. Her verdict: "It’s really good!"

6. THE BOOK INSPIRED READERS TO BUILD BENCHES.

When accepting an award from the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1988, Morrison observed that there is no suitable memorial to slavery, "no small bench by the road." Inspired by this line, the Toni Morrison Society started the Bench by the Road Project to remedy the issue. Since 2006, the project has placed 15 benches in locations significant to the history of slavery and the Civil Rights movement, including Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, which served as the point of entry for 40% of slaves brought to America.

7. WHEN BELOVED DIDN’T WIN THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN 1987, FELLOW WRITERS PROTESTED.

After the snub, 48 African-American writers, including Maya Angelou, John Edgar Wideman and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., signed a letter that appeared in the New York Times Book Review. "For all of America, for all of American letters," the letter addressing Morrison read, "you have advanced the moral and artistic standards by which we must measure the daring and the love of our national imagination and our collective intelligence as a people."

8. IT’S ONE OF THE MOST FREQUENTLY CHALLENGED BOOKS.

Between 2000 and 2009, Beloved ranked 26th on the American Library Association’s list of most banned/challenged books. A recent challenge in Fairfax County, Virginia, cited the novel as too intense for teenage readers, while another challenge in Michigan said the book was, incredibly, overly simplistic and pornographic. Thankfully, both challenges were denied.

9. MORRISON ALSO WROTE AN OPERA BASED ON GARNER’S LIFE.

Ten years ago, Morrison collaborated with Grammy-winning composer Richard Danielpour on Margaret Garner, an opera about the real-life inspiration behind Beloved. It opened in Detroit in 2005, and played in Charlotte, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York before closing in 2008.

10. MORRISON DID NOT WANT IT MADE INTO A MOVIE.

Although she publicly claims otherwise, according to a New York magazine story, Morrison told friends she didn’t want Beloved made into a movie. And she didn’t want Oprah Winfrey (who bought the film rights in 1988) to be in it. Nevertheless, the film came out in 1998 and was a total flop.

11. THERE'S AN ILLUSTRATED VERSION.

The Folio Society, a London-based company that creates fancy special editions of classic books, released the first-ever illustrated Beloved in 2015. Artist Joe Morse had to be personally approved by Morrison for the project. Check out a few of his hauntingly beautiful illustrations here.

This article originally appeared in 2015.

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