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"TheBeatles68LP" by Beat 768 - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
"TheBeatles68LP" by Beat 768 - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

17 Colorful Facts About The Beatles' White Album

"TheBeatles68LP" by Beat 768 - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
"TheBeatles68LP" by Beat 768 - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

“The White Album”—its official title is the decidedly simple The Beatles—was released on November 22, 1968 to an eager audience. Released almost 18 months after the seminal Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, the 30-song collection captured John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr indulging in a variety of musical styles. While the songwriting was evolving, and most of the songs were composed while attending a Transcendental Meditation course, the relationships between the four continued to dissolve during the recording; The Beatles officially broke up in April 1970. Here are some facts about one of the most polarizing, enigmatic records ever made.

1. A BEACH BOY HELPED WITH THE BEACH BOY PARODY "BACK IN THE USSR."

Mike Love was a fellow attendee of the Maharishi’s course in Rishikesh, India. He recalled McCartney and his acoustic guitar at breakfast one morning playing what would become the first song on the 'White Album." Love suggested putting something in the song about “all the girls around Russia.” McCartney listened.

2. RINGO STARR QUIT THE BAND FOR TWO WEEKS.

Starr never felt like more of an outsider within the band than during the recording of the album, and told his bandmates so. He borrowed actor Peter Sellers’ yacht and went to Sardinia. Because he wasn’t around, McCartney played the drums on "Back In The USSR” and “Dear Prudence.” Eventually the group sent him a telegram that said he was the best rock 'n' roll drummer in the world, that they all loved him, and asked if he would please return. When he came back, he was greeted with the words “Welcome Back, Ringo” spelled out in flowers on his drum kit.

3. THE PRUDENCE IN "DEAR PRUDENCE" WAS MIA FARROW’S SISTER.

Another student of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in early 1968 was then-20-year-old Prudence Farrow. She locked herself in her hut for three weeks because, as Lennon put it, she “was trying to find God quicker than anyone else.” The song is Lennon imploring her to come out of the hut.

4. THE MARTHA IN "MARTHA MY DEAR" WAS PAUL MCCARTNEY’S DOG.

The bass player’s pet was an Old English sheepdog. She passed away in 1981. When McCartney revealed the real subject of the song in 1997, he said his relationship with Martha was “platonic.”

5. THE "JULIA" WAS JOHN LENNON’S MOTHER.

Julia Lennon left five-year-old John behind and had him live with her sister, Mimi. Mother and son got to know each other better by the time he was 17, but soon after she was fatally hit by a car. The song is for both her and Yoko Ono—the “ocean child” in “Julia” is in reference to Ono’s name, Japanese for “child of the ocean.” “Julia” is the only Beatles song that featured just Lennon on guitar and vocals.

6. HARRISON’S MOTHER HELPED HIM WRITE "PIGGIES."

Harrison had trouble coming up with a lyric in the middle section of his song. Mrs. Harrison was the one who came up with, "What they need is a damn good whacking." After Charles Manson’s interpretation of the song, George claimed the line was not talking about the police, and the lyric was kept in because it rhymed with what he already had.

7. MCCARTNEY GOT THE PHRASE "OB-LA-DI, OB-LA-DA" FROM A NIGERIAN CONGA PLAYER.

Jimmy Scott moved to England in the 1950s and became a working musician; at one point in his career he backed Stevie Wonder on a tour of Great Britain. One of his expressions was “Ob la di ob la da, life goes on, bra,” which McCartney loved. The Beatle claimed he sent Scott a check as acknowledgement for using his expression as the basis of his song. Scott played congas on the track. According to a 2004 online poll conducted by the BBC, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” is the worst song in history.

8. THE INSPIRATION FOR "THE CONTINUING STORY OF BUNGALOW BILL" SAID HE WOULD NEVER KILL AN ANIMAL AGAIN.

Richard A. Cooke III was visiting his mother Nancy in Rishikesh, when he shot a tiger while hidden in a tree on a wooden platform. Richard told his mother he felt bad and didn’t think he would ever kill again. He became a photographer. Lennon got the name "Bungalow Bill" by combining "Buffalo Bill" with the bungalows in the camp.

9. ERIC CLAPTON PLAYS GUITAR ON "WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS."

George Harrison wrote the song, and found that Lennon and McCartney weren’t taking the recording of it seriously enough. The next day Harrison convinced his friend Eric Clapton to come in and play on the track. Clapton was hesitant because no outside musicians had played on a Beatles song before, but Harrison insisted. His presence made Lennon and McCartney give it the proper amount of thought and practice. Clapton’s work isn’t officially credited on the album.

10. "SAVOY TRUFFLE" WAS HARRISON MAKING FUN OF CLAPTON’S LOVE OF CHOCOLATE.

Clapton ate a lot of chocolates at the time, so much so that after he received the dental work needed from his many resulting cavities, his dentist told him to stop eating candy entirely. Harrison wrote the song to “tease” him.

11. "HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN" IS A PLAY ON A PEANUTS BOOK.

The 1962 Charles Schulz collection was titled Happiness Is a Warm Puppy. A headline in a gun magazine was a variation of that. When producer George Martin showed the headline “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” to Lennon, Lennon’s wheels started turning.

12. "BLACKBIRD" WAS ABOUT CIVIL RIGHTS.

“I had in mind a black woman, rather than a bird,” McCartney said. “Those were the days of the civil rights movement, which all of us cared passionately about, so this was really a song from me to a black woman, experiencing these problems in the States: 'Let me encourage you to keep trying, to keep your faith, there is hope.'” The music was inspired by “Bourrée in E Minor” from Bach's Suite in E Minor for Lute.

13. "SEXY SADIE" WAS ABOUT LENNON’S FRUSTRATIONS WITH THE MAHARISHI.

According to John Lennon, he and George—the last two Beatles that were in India—left the TM course in disgust after Mia Farrow claimed the Maharishi made sexual advances toward her. According to Deepak Chopra, the Maharishi told him that he kicked the band out for using drugs. Either way, Lennon rechristened the Maharishi "Sexy Sadie," admonishing him for making a fool of everyone.

14. "HELTER SKELTER" WAS MEANT TO OUTROCK THE WHO.

McCartney read that The Who had made a song that was loud, raucous, and dirty (“I Can See For Miles”), and then decided he wanted to top them. A "Helter Skelter" is a British amusement park slide, and the song was about the rise and fall of the Roman empire.

15. "REVOLUTION 9" FEATURED THE ORCHESTRAL MUSIC FROM "A DAY IN THE LIFE."

Among the various audio snippets heard on the penultimate track was the final chord from Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony, and Lennon and Harrison whispering “There ain’t no rule for the company freaks” six times. The voice saying "Number nine" came from an examination tape made for the Royal Academy of Music.

16. THERE WAS A 24-HOUR RUSH TO GET THE ALBUM FINISHED.

With Harrison set to fly out to Los Angeles with the master tapes, which he planned to hand over to Capitol Records, the group suddenly found themselves needing to work 24 hours straight to put the final mixes on songs and figure out a track listing. At 4 a.m., McCartney fell asleep on the mixing board while trying to get “Helter Skelter” just right.

17. THE COVER WAS DESIGNED BY POP ARTIST RICHARD HAMILTON.

McCartney instructed him to make a design that was as different as the busy, bright Sgt. Pepper cover as possible. Hamilton came up with the stark white cover with the band’s name embossed in small, black lettering. Originally he wanted the white record sleeve to include a coffee cup stain, and a light green smudge of an apple (the Beatles had just created their own company, Apple Corps).

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7 Spine-Tingling Tales of Christmas Ghosts
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Traditionally, Christmas in England was a time for scaring the bejesus out of little children by telling ghost stories around the fire. Charles Dickens led the way with his famous ghost story A Christmas Carol, but what of the "real" ghosts said to haunt the land at Christmas time? Below are seven spine-tingling and seasonal stories of Christmas ghosts.

1. THE HAUNTED CHRISTMAS FEAST AT ALCATRAZ

Dinner hall at Alcatraz
Alex Light, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The island of Alcatraz, off the coast of San Francisco, has a long and spooky history. In its earlier days, Native Americans allegedly used to banish miscreants to the island as punishment, where they were reportedly plagued by the local spirits. Alcatraz, of course, became a notorious federal prison in 1934, housing criminals such as Al Capone before it was shut down in 1963. Today, visitors to the island report hearing screams, the clanging of metal doors, and the sound of voices within the walls. One of the more famous tales associated with the island supposedly occurred in the 1940s, when warden James Johnston held a Christmas Day party at his residence for the staff at the prison. The good cheer is said to have been brought to a swift halt when an apparition sporting mutton-chop whiskers and a gray suit appeared. The temperature in the room plummeted and the fire blew out, before returning to normal when the spirit disappeared about a minute later. The rattled guards were too scared to stay in the residence, and the rest of the Christmas celebration ended abruptly.

2. THE GHOSTLY QUEEN RETURNING HOME AT HEVER CASTLE

Hever Castle
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Anne Boleyn is notorious as the second of King Henry VIII’s ill-fated wives. To marry Anne, Henry spent years seeking a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and went on to sever England’s relationship with the Catholic Church in Rome, forever changing the course of British history. Despite the lengths he went to ensnare her, Henry soon grew tired of Anne and, choosing to believe the idle gossip surrounding her, had her beheaded in 1536. A number of reports exist of the ghost of Anne Boleyn, but perhaps the most affecting is the version said to haunt her childhood home, Hever Castle in Kent. Some say that every Christmas Eve, the spectral figure of Anne Boleyn can be seen slowly gliding across the bridge over the river Eden toward her family home, where she was at her happiest.

3. THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN AT ROOS HALL


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Roos Hall in Suffolk lays claim to being one of the most haunted houses in England. The 16th century hall has a number of sinister connections, including a gruesome “hanging tree”—an oak tree planted at the site of the old gibbet where numerous criminals were hung. To make things even spookier, inside one of the building's cupboards, the mark of a devil’s cloven hoof is said to be imprinted. But perhaps the most dramatic haunting is supposed to happen every Christmas Eve: Legend has it that a headless horseman clatters down the driveway with his four black horses pulling a phantom coach, terrifying anyone who witnesses him.

4. THE HAUNTED DINING ROOM AT THE CRESCENT HOTEL

The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, was built in 1886 and is rumoured to harbor numerous ghosts, who seem to be especially playful during the holidays. One Christmas, the staff came down to set up the dining room only to find the Christmas tree had been moved from one side of the room to the other. Another year, all the menus in the dining room had been scattered around the room. Other visitors have reported seeing groups of ghostly dancers clad in Victorian-era clothing, whirling around the deserted dance floor.

5. THE GHOSTLY GATHERING OF KINGS AT WAWEL CASTLE

View of the Wawel Cathedral from the Wawel Castle entrance
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Poland's Wawel Royal Castle was built on Wawel Hill in the 1500s. Within the hill lies a deep cave known as Smocza Jama (Dragon’s Den); legend has it that a great dragon once lived there, terrorizing the locals, before Prince Krak bravely vanquished the dragon and brought peace to Poland. To memorialize this event, a statue of the dead dragon now stands in the cave. Go deeper into the cave and you come to yet another chamber, and it is here that on December 24 every year, all the long-gone kings of Poland are said to meet and hold a spectral special council.

6. THE MISTLETOE BRIDE AT BRAMSHILL HOUSE

The Long Gallery, Bramshill House
Tsukiko YAMAMURA, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In the early 17th century, a young woman named Anne was to be married on Christmas Day at Bramshill House in Hampshire, England. After the ceremony and feast, as was tradition at the time, the guests were all set to carry the bride to the bedchamber. Anne suggested a game be played, and asked for a five-minute head start before the guests came to find her. Everyone searched long and hard for Anne, but no sign of her could be found. At first they thought she had played a merry trick, but soon a sense of unease fell over the guests. The bridegroom, Lord Lovell, was distraught, and guests began to whisper that she must have fled. Days, weeks, months, and years passed, and Lord Lovell never stopped looking for his bride. One day, some 50 years after her disappearance, Lord Lovell was up in the huge attic of the sprawling mansion, where he began tapping on the oak panelling. As he knocked, a long-hidden secret door sprung open, and inside he found an ornate wooden chest. He pried open the heavy wooden lid, and there, still in her wedding dress and clutching her mistletoe bouquet, were the skeletal remains of his beloved. The scratch marks on the inside of the lid of the chest attested to her desperate, but futile, effort to free herself from her hiding space. (While the story appears in many variations, Bramshill House is thought to be the most likely site.)

7. THE APPARITION OF A MURDERED HIGHWAYMAN IN KENT

A burial in the forest
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One Christmas Eve near the close of the 18th century, a notorious highwayman named Gilbert is said to have stopped a coach and horses on the Hawkhurst Road in Marden, Kent. The coach contained a young lady and her father, and Gilbert ordered them out onto the road. Just as the girl stepped out, the horses bolted, taking the coach and her father with them. The young lady was left alone on the dark road with the highwayman, and as she looked into his face, she recognized him as the very same highwayman who had murdered her brother some years earlier. Horrified, she drew a hidden knife from her bag and stabbed Gilbert in the side, fleeing into the bushes. When the horses were calmed and the coach returned a little while later, the men discovered the bloodied body of the highwayman, and buried him at the side of the road. When villagers found the woman in the forest the next day, she had gone completely mad. They avoided that spot in the road for many years, and it's said that every Christmas Eve, the bloody scene is silently replayed to all that pass through.

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15 Surprising Facts About Steve Buscemi
Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival
Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival

With his meme-worthy eyes, tireless work schedule, and penchant for playing lovable losers, Steve Buscemi is arguably the king of character actors. Moving seamlessly between big-budget films and shoestring independent projects, he’s appeared in well over 100 movies in the past 30 years. But if you think he’s anything like the oddballs and villains he regularly plays—well, you don’t know Buscemi. In celebration of the Brooklyn native's 60th birthday, here are 15 things you might not have known about the Golden Globe-winning actor.

1. HE WAS BORN ON A FRIDAY THE 13TH.

It only seems appropriate that Buscemi, who dies on screen so frequently, would be born on such a foreboding date. Growing up in Brooklyn and Valley Stream, New York, Buscemi also experienced plenty of real-life misfortune. As a kid, he was hit by a bus and by a car (in separate incidents). On the plus side, he used the money from the legal settlement following the bus accident to attend the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York City.

2. HE WAS A NEW YORK CITY FIREFIGHTER.

As a teenager, Buscemi worked a series of odd jobs: ice cream truck driver, mover, gas station attendant. He even sold newspapers in the toll lane of the Triborough Bridge. When Buscemi turned 18, his father, a sanitation worker, encouraged his son to take the civil service exam and become a New York City firefighter. Four years later, in 1980, the future star became a member of Engine Co. 55, located in New York City's Little Italy district. While he answered emergency calls during the day, at night Buscemi played improv clubs and auditioned for acting roles.

After four years working for the FDNY, Buscemi landed one of the lead roles in Bill Sherwood’s Parting Glances (1986), a drama set during the early days of AIDS in New York. Buscemi took a three-month leave of absence during filming, and afterwards decided not to return.

3. HE FORMED A COMEDY DUO WITH SONS OF ANARCHY’S MARK BOONE, JR.

For a brief while, Buscemi tried his hand at stand-up comedy (he bombed). In 1984, he met fellow aspiring actor Mark Boone, Jr., and the two began performing together. Part improv, part scripted comedy, the two would often carry out power struggles that pitted thin-man Buscemi against the larger Boone. The New York Times called their act “theater in the absurdist vein.”

4. HE DID NOT AUDITION FOR THE ROLE OF GEORGE COSTANZA.

Like any hard-working actor, Buscemi has had his share of failed auditions. His tryout for Alan Parker’s Fame lasted less than 30 seconds. In the late ‘80s, Martin Scorsese brought him in four different times to read for The Last Temptation of Christ. (Buscemi ended up reading every apostle’s part before being turned away.) He also auditioned for the part of Seinfeld’s George Costanza—at least according to numerous sources, including Jason Alexander himself. But it turns out this tidbit—fueled, no doubt, by the thought of a very twitchy, bug-eyed Costanza—isn’t true. On a recent episode of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Buscemi addressed the rumor in his typical good-natured way: “I never did [the audition] and I don’t know how to correct it because I don’t know how the Internet works.”

5. TREES LOUNGE WAS BASICALLY HIS LIFE AT 19.

After gaining momentum with roles in Mystery Train, Reservoir Dogs, Barton Fink, and other films, Buscemi took a turn behind the camera with 1996’s Trees Lounge. The movie, which he also wrote, follows a bumbling layabout named Tommy who spends most of his time at the title bar in the town where he grew up. It’s a classic flick for Buscemi fans and, according to the actor, it was pretty much his life as a teenager living on Long Island. “I was truly directionless, living with my parents,” Buscemi said in an interview. “I was driving an ice-cream truck and working at a gas station… The drinking age was 18 then, so I spent every night hanging out with my friends in bars, drinking.”

6. HE IS FULLY AWARE THAT HIS CHARACTERS OFTEN DIE.

Steve Buscemi in 'Fargo' (1996)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

He’s been shot numerous times, stabbed with an ice pick, riddled with throwing knives, tossed off a balcony, and fed to a wood chipper. Yes, Buscemi’s characters have died a variety of deaths, and the actor isn’t without a sense of humor about the whole matter. He’ll often joke in interviews that he’s living longer and longer as the years go by. Before the 2005 release of The Island, in which the aforementioned balcony-tossing occurs (and into a glass bar no less), Buscemi said he was happy his character lived almost a third of the way through the movie. Buscemi admitted that he will actually read ahead in any script he receives to see when and how he dies.

7. HE HAS A FAVORITE DEATH—AND IT ISN’T FARGO.

For connoisseurs of Buscemi's movie deaths, the demise of Fargo’s Carl Showalter by way of axe then wood chipper is the crème de la crème. But when asked about his own favorite onscreen death, Buscemi references another Coen brothers film: The Big Lebowski. In that movie his character, Donny Kerabatsos, succumbs to a heart attack. It’s a surprise for viewers, and so out-of-the-blue that Buscemi can’t help but be tickled at the randomness of it. “They thought, ‘Well, Buscemi’s in it, so we’ve gotta kill him,'" the actor said in an appearance on The Daily Show.

8. HIS CHARACTER IN CON AIR WAS WRITTEN SPECIFICALLY FOR HIM.

In Con Air, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced action movie filled with muscled-up prisoners, Buscemi played the most dangerous con of them all. His Garland Greene—a serial killer whose exploits “make the Manson family look like the Partridge family,” according to one character—enters the film strapped to a chair, Hannibal Lecter mask affixed to his face. Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg, a friend of Buscemi’s, wrote the part with him in mind, and was tickled when Buscemi accepted the role. To this day, fans will still serenade the actor with “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”

9. HIS CHARACTER IN DESPERADO IS NAMED AFTER HIM.

Steve Buscemi in Desperado
Columbia Pictures

Although he inevitably dies (courtesy of Danny Trejo’s throwing knives), Buscemi commands the opening of Desperado, Robert Rodriguez’s stylish revenge movie, regaling bar patrons with the story of the title gunslinger, played by Antonio Banderas. Because his character’s name is never mentioned, Rodriguez decided to have some fun and name him "Buscemi" in the credits.

10. HE WON’T FIX HIS TEETH.

Buscemi’s crooked smile has helped him portray lowlifes and losers throughout his career. Dentists have offered to fix the actor’s teeth, but he always turns them down, knowing how valuable those chompers are to the Buscemi brand. In a guest starring role on The Simpsons, Buscemi poked fun at the matter after a dentist offers to straighten his character’s teeth: “You’re going to kill my livelihood if you do that!”

11. THERE’S SOME CONFUSION OVER HOW TO PRONOUNCE HIS LAST NAME.

Many people pronounce his last name “Boo-shemmy,” but it turns out Buscemi himself pronounces it “Boo-semmy.” In interviews, Buscemi says he’s following his father’s pronunciation, and says he doesn’t begrudge anyone who says it differently. It turns out, though, that his fans have it right—or at least mostly right. On a trip to Sicily to visit family, Buscemi recounted recently on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he noticed everyone saying “Boo-SHAY-me.”

12. HE GOT STABBED IN A BAR FIGHT.

Steve Buscemi in 'Trees Lounge' (1996)
Live Entertainment

On April 12th, 2001, while filming Domestic Disturbance in Wilmington, North Carolina, Buscemi, co-star Vince Vaughn, and screenwriter Scott Rosenberg went out for late night drinks at the Firebelly Lounge. After Vaughn traded insults with another patron (whose girlfriend had apparently been flirting with Vaughn), the two stepped outside, and a brief scuffle ensued before the two were separated. Buscemi, who was among the crowd that had gathered, was then confronted by a man who, after a brief exchange, attacked the actor with a pocketknife. Buscemi suffered stab wounds to his face, throat, and hands, and had to return to New York to recuperate. His attacker, Timothy Fogerty, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon. In typical good-guy fashion, Buscemi declined to press additional charges and instead insisted Fogerty enter a substance abuse program.

13. HE REJOINED HIS FIRE ENGINE IN THE WAKE OF 9/11.

After the horrific attack on New York City’s Twin Towers on September 11, Buscemi—like many Americans—was desperate to help. Although it had been nearly 20 years since he had strapped on his fireman’s gear, the actor reunited with his Engine 55 brethren and for days scoured the towers’ debris for survivors. Buscemi didn’t want his actions publicized; when people asked to take his picture, he declined. It took more than 10 years, in fact, before word got out, thanks to a Facebook post from Engine 55. “Brother Steve worked 12-hour shifts alongside other firefighters digging and sifting through the rubble,” the post read. “This guy is a badass!”

14. HE NARRATES THE AUDIO TOUR AT EASTERN STATE PENITENTIARY.

People who take a tour of the historic Philadelphia prison may notice a familiar voice coming through their listening device. So how did Buscemi end up lending his talents to such a seemingly obscure place? It turns out Eastern State is a popular location for film and photo shoots. Scenes from Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys were filmed there, as were album covers for artists like Tina Turner. In 2000, Buscemi scouted the penitentiary for a film project. The location didn’t work out, but the actor fell in love with the history and grand architecture of the 190-year-old prison. When officials asked for his help to celebrate the prison’s tenth year running tours, he agreed.

15. HE DIDN’T BELIEVE TERENCE WINTER WHEN HE OFFERED HIM THE LEAD IN BOARDWALK EMPIRE.


HBO

After years of playing disposable villains and losers on the periphery, Buscemi had grown accustomed to being passed over for leading roles. So when Boardwalk Empire creator Terence Winter offered him the part of corrupt politician Enoch “Nucky” Thompson in the award-winning HBO series, Buscemi offered his usual reply. “When Terry did call me and he said that he and Marty [Scorsese] wanted me to play this role, my response was, ‘Terry, I know you’re looking at other actors, and I just appreciate that my name is being thrown in,’" Buscemi recalled. "He said, ‘No, Steve, I just said we want you.’ It still didn’t sink in.” Eventually, of course, reality did sink in, and Buscemi went on to win a Golden Globe and Emmy Award across the show’s five seasons.

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