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14 Empowering Facts About 9 to 5

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Whether you think of it as a statement on female empowerment or simply a fun workplace comedy, the 1980 hit 9 to 5—which featured Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton as a trio of secretaries who turn the tables on their "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" boss (Dabney Coleman)—is a bona fide comedy classic. In honor of its 35th anniversary, here are 14 things you might not know about the Oscar-nominated film.

1. THE CONCEPT BEGAN WITH JANE FONDA.

9 to 5 was produced by Jane Fonda’s company, IPC Films, and the idea originated from a real-life organization. “My ideas for films always come from things that I hear and perceive in my daily life,” Fonda told The Canberra Times in 1981. “In that case, a very old friend of mine had started an organization in Boston called 'Nine To Five,’ which was an association of women office workers. I heard them talking about their work and they had some great stories. And I've always been attracted to those 1940s films with three female stars.”

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY INTENDED TO BE A DRAMA.

Though it’s ranked number 74 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Funniest American Movies of All Time, 9 to 5 didn’t start out as a comedy. "At first we were going to make a drama,” Fonda explained. “But any way we did it, it seemed too preachy, too much of a feminist line. I'd wanted to work with Lily [Tomlin] for some time, and it suddenly occurred to [producer] Bruce [Gilbert] and me that we should make it a comedy. It remains a ‘labor film,’ but I hope of a new kind, different from The Grapes of Wrath or Salt of the Earth. We took out a lot of stuff that was filmed, even stuff the director, Colin Higgins, thought worked but which I asked to have taken out. I'm just super-sensitive to anything that smacks of the soapbox or lecturing the audience.”

3. IT WAS A BLACK COMEDY BEFORE IT WAS A BROAD COMEDY.

“I had written a very dark comedy in which the secretaries actually tried to kill the boss, although they tried to kill him in sort of funny ways,” screenwriter Patricia Resnick told Rolling Stone. “Originally, Jane had been concerned that would be too dark. I screened an old Charlie Chaplin film called Monsieur Verdoux for her. In it, Chaplin's wife is blind and he has a child. He's kind of a Blackbeard, he romances a series of woman through the course of the movie and murders them in order to get money and support his family. It is a comedy, but at the end they hang him. I turned to Jane at the end of the movie and tears were rolling down her cheeks—but she was concerned the women wouldn't be sympathetic enough. I said, ‘He really killed all these women and you're crying. I just want them to try! They won't be successful.’ And she said OK. But then when Colin came in, he was very influenced by Warner Bros. cartoons and things like that, and so their attempts to kill him became the fantasy scenes, and he made it a much broader comedy.”

4. THE LEAD ROLES WERE WRITTEN FOR JANE FONDA, LILY TOMLIN, AND DOLLY PARTON.

Just because a writer has a particular actor in mind when writing a script doesn’t mean he or she will end up playing the part. In fact, it’s a rarity. But Resnick lucked out with 9 to 5. “We had Jane for sure, because it was her idea to do the film and it was her production company,” Resnick told Rolling Stone. “It was written for Dolly and Lily, but we did not have them under contract. We really wanted them, but we did have some backup ideas in case they turned us down. For Lily, it was Carol Burnett, and for Dolly, it was Ann-Margret. But I had Dolly, Lily and Jane in my head the whole time, and we were really hoping that's who it was going to be.”

5. LILY TOMLIN INITIALLY TURNED DOWN THE ROLE.

Though the role of Violet Newstead was written specifically for Tomlin, the legendary actress and comedian turned down the part when it was first offered to her. “I was shooting The Incredible Shrinking Woman and I was so overworked,” Tomlin explained to the Evening Times. “I'd worked for seven months on that movie, so I was ready to just shut my eyes to anything else.” It was Tomlin’s wife, Jane Wagner, who changed her mind. “My partner Jane said to me, ‘This is the biggest mistake of your life.’ She said, ‘You've got to get on the phone and tell Jane Fonda you want to take back the resignation … And I am grateful that I did it. They became two of my good friends, you know.”

6. IT WAS DOLLY PARTON’S MOVIE DEBUT.

When 9 to 5 premiered on December 19, 1980, Dolly Parton was already a major country music star, but she was a Hollywood newcomer. In a 1980 interview with Today, Fonda shared that when the film’s tone shifted from drama to comedy, the idea of casting Parton arose. And part of what made her perfect for the role was “her music. But particularly the songs that she writes—she’s a great songwriter—and the songs have a kind of depth and humanity that made me feel that she could act.”

7. PARTON MEMORIZED THE ENTIRE SCRIPT.

In the same interview with Today, Parton admitted that the closest she had come to a movie set before shooting 9 to 5 was taking the Universal Studios tour. So when she got the script for the film, she assumed that she had to memorize every word of every character’s part. “I memorized it,” said Parton. “I just assumed that you had to. My part and [Lily’s] part and [Jane’s] part and Dabney’s part. But I just knew the script back and forth and every week I would read it … I would practice.”

8. PARTON WOULD ONLY STAR IN THE FILM IF SHE COULD WRITE THE THEME SONG.

Parton may have been a Hollywood newcomer, but she was savvy. She agreed to take the part in 9 to 5, but only if she could write the theme song as well. Fonda agreed, and Parton wrote the song while the movie was filming. In 1981, she earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song for “9 to 5.”

9. PARTON’S FINGERNAILS MADE A CAMEO IN THE SONG.

During a 2009 appearance on The View, Parton shared that she composed the song using her fingernails, which to the singer-songwriter sounded like a typewriter. In the final version of the song, you can hear her acrylic fingernails as part of the percussion section.

Parton’s fingernails also became part of her defense when she was sued by Neil and Janice Goldberg in 1983, who claimed that the singer copied their 1976 song, “Money World.” “I worked on the song at my hotel,” Parton testified in 1985. “On the set, I'd rub my fingernails together like this,” she continued, demonstrating her composing technique.

10. SHEENA EASTON HAD A SONG CALLED “9 TO 5” COME OUT AT THE SAME TIME.

In the spring of 1980, seven months before the debut of 9 to 5, Sheena Easton released a song titled “9 to 5” in the U.K. By the time the song made its way to American radio listeners in February of 1981, its title had been changed to “Morning Train (Nine to Five)” in order to avoid any confusion with Parton’s song. The song was Easton’s biggest hit.

11. IT WAS THE SECOND HIGHEST GROSSING MOVIE OF 1980.

The workplace comedy was a hit with audiences, earning more than $100 million at the box office—a grand total that made it the second biggest hit of 1980 (only The Empire Strikes Back made more).

12. THE STUDIO WANTED A SEQUEL.

Considering its popularity with audiences, it’s hardly surprising that studio heads were interested in prepping a sequel. For years, the proposed follow-up was on the table. “We tried for a long time for a sequel," Tomlin told Buzz Worthy in 2012. "There were two or three scripts but they weren't what we wanted."

“People would love to see the three of them together again,” Resnick told Rolling Stone. “For years there was talk of a sequel or a remake, but as Dolly always says, ‘It's 9 to 5, not 95!’ Doing a remake with them, that ship has probably sailed.”

13. IT BEGAT A SITCOM.

Though it wasn’t nearly as popular as the film, 9 to 5 was adapted for the small screen with a sitcom that ran from 1982 to 1988. It didn’t feature any of the original actresses, but Dolly Parton’s younger sister, Rachel Dennison, played Doralee (Parton’s character in the film).

14. IT WAS ALSO TURNED INTO A BROADWAY MUSICAL.

On April 7, 2009—nearly 30 years after the film’s release—9 to 5 made its debut as a Broadway musical. Allison Janney played Tomlin’s part, Stephanie J. Block took over for Fonda, and Megan Hilty filled Parton’s shoes. The show closed five months later

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12 Things You Might Not Know About MAD Magazine
Mad Magazine
Mad Magazine

As fast as popular culture could erect wholesome depictions of American life in comics, television, or movies, MAD Magazine was there to tear them all down. A near-instant success for EC Comics upon its debut in 1952, the magazine has inspired generations of comedians for its pioneering satirical attitude and tasteful booger jokes. This month, DC Entertainment is relaunching an "all new" MAD, skewering pop culture on a bimonthly basis and in full color. To fill the gaps in your knowledge, take a look at these facts about the Usual Gang of Idiots.

1. NO ONE KNOWS WHO CAME UP WITH ALFRED E. NEUMAN.


Jamie, Flickr (L) // Boston Public Library, Flickr (R) // CC BY 2.0

MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman was in the offices of a Ballantine Books editor discussing reprints for the fledging publication when he noticed a grinning, gap-toothed imbecile staring back at him from a bulletin board. The unnamed figure was ubiquitous in the early 20th century, appearing in everything from dentistry ads to depictions of diseases. A charmed Kurtzman adopted him as MAD’s mascot beginning in 1954. Neuman later become so recognizable that a letter was delivered from New Zealand to MAD’s New York offices without an address: the envelope simply had a drawing of Alfred.  

2. THEY HAD TO APOLOGIZE ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.

MAD was conceived during a particularly sensitive time for the comics industry, with parents and watchdog groups concerned over content. (It didn't switch to a magazine format until issue #24.) Kurtzman usually knew where the line was, but when he was laid up with acute hepatitis in 1952, publisher William Gaines and others had to step in for him. Gaines thought it would be funny to offer a fictional biography of himself that detailed his father’s Communist leanings, his past as a dope dealer “near nursery schools,” and bouts of pyromania. When wholesalers were shocked at the content and threatened to boycott all of his titles, Gaines was forced to write a letter of apology.  

3. THEY PREDICTED JOHN F. KENNEDY'S ELECTION IN 1960.

But it was a cheat. In the run-up to the 1960 Presidential election, MAD printed a cover that featured Neuman congratulating Kennedy on his victory with a caption that read, “We were with you all the way, Jack!” But the issue was shipped long before votes had been tabulated. The secret? It was a dual cover. Flip it over and Neuman is celebrating Richard Nixon’s appointment to office. Stores were told to display the “right” side of the magazine depending on the outcome.

4. ALFRED BRIEFLY HAD A GIRLFRIEND.


MAD Magazine

A character named Moxie Cowznofski was introduced in the late 1950s as a female companion for Alfred. She made only a handful of cover appearances, possibly due to the fact she looked alarmingly like her significant other.

5. THEY DIDN'T RUN ANY (REAL) ADS FOR 44 YEARS.

From the beginning, Gaines felt that printing actual advertisements next to the products they were lampooning would not only dilute their edge but seem more than a little hypocritical. After some back-and-forth, MAD cut ads starting in 1957. The decision was a costly one—most print publications survive on such revenue—but led to the magazine’s keeping a sharp knife against the throat of seductive advertising, including cigarettes. Faced with dwindling circulation in 2001, Mad finally relented and began taking ads to help pay for a switch to color printing.

6. "SPY VS. SPY" WAS CREATED BY A SUSPECTED SPY.

Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias was disenchanted with the regime under Fidel Castro when he began working on what would become “Spy vs. Spy.” Because Prohias’ other newspaper illustrations were critical of Castro, the Cuban government suspected him of working for the CIA. He wasn’t, but the perception had him worried harm might come to his co-workers. To get out of the situation, Prohias came to America in 1960. With his daughter helping translate, he stopped by Mad’s New York offices and submitted his work: his sneaky, triangle-headed spies became regulars.

7. THERE WAS ONE FOLD-IN THEY WOULDN'T RUN.

Artist Al Jaffee, now 94, has been with Mad almost from the beginning. He created the famous Fold-In—the back cover that reveals a new picture when doubled over—in 1964 after seeing the fold-outs in magazines like National Geographic, Playboy, and Life. Jaffee has rarely missed an issue since—but editors backtracked on one of Jaffee’s works that referenced a mass shooting in 2013. Citing poor taste, they destroyed over 600,000 copies.  

8. THEIR MOVIE WAS A DISASTER.

With the exception of Fox’s successful sketch series, 1994’s MAD TV, attempts to translate the MAD brand into other media have been underwhelming: a 1974 animated special didn’t even make it on air. But a 1980 film venture, a military school spoof directed by Robert Downey, Sr. titled Mad Presents Up the Academy, was so awful William Gaines demanded to have their name taken off of it. (Renamed Up the Academy, the DVD release of the movie still features someone sporting an Alfred E. Neuman mask; Mad parodied it in a spoof titled “Throw Up the Academy.”)

9. THE APRIL 1974 COVER HAD PEOPLE FLIPPING.


MAD Magazine

MAD has never made a habit of good taste, but a depiction of a raised middle finger for one issue in the mid-’70s caused a huge stir. Many stores wouldn’t stock it for fear of offending customers, and the company ended up accepting an irregular number of returns. Gaines took to his typewriter to write a letter of apology. Again. The relaunched #1, out in April 2018, pays homage to this cover, though it's slightly more tasteful: Neuman is picking his nose with his middle finger.

10. THEY INVENTED A SPORT.

MAD writer Tom Koch was amused by the convoluted rules of sports and attempted to one-up them in 43-Man Squamish, a game he invented for the April 1965 issue. Koch and artist George Woodbridge (“MAD’s Athletic Council”) prepared a guide that was utterly incomprehensible—the field was to have five sides, positions included Deep Brooders and Dummies, “interfering with the Wicket Men” constituted a penalty—but it amused high school and college readers enough to try and mount their own games. (Short on players? Try 2-Man Squamish: “The rules are identical,” Koch wrote, “except the object of the game is to lose.”) For the less physically inclined, Mad also issued a board game in which the goal is to lose all of your money.  

11. WEIRD AL WAS A GUEST EDITOR.

In what must be some kind of fulfilled prophecy, lyrical satirist “Weird” Al Yankovic was named as a guest editor—their first—for the magazine’s May 2015 issue. Yankovic told Entertainment Weekly that MAD had put him on “the dark, twisted path to becoming who I am today … I needed to pollute my mind with that kind of stuff.” In addition to his collaborations with the staff, Yankovic enlisted Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, and Chris Hardwick to contribute.

12. FRED ASTAIRE ONCE DANCED AS ALFRED E. NEUMAN.

In a scene so surreal even MAD’s irreverent editors would have had trouble dreaming it up, Fred Astaire decided to sport an Alfred E. Neuman mask for a dance number in his 1959 television special, Another Evening with Fred Astaire. No one seems to recall why exactly Astaire would do this—he may have just wanted to include a popular cultural reference—but it was no off-the-cuff decision. Astaire hired movie make-up veteran John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) to craft a credible mask of Neuman. The result is … well, kind of disturbing. But it’s a fitting addition to a long tradition of people going completely MAD.

Additional Sources:
Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America.

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10 Tantalizing Tidbits About Star Trek: The Next Generation
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

by Kirsten Howard

When Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in September 1987, no one was quite sure what to expect. After all, this was a new Enterprise with a new crew trying to revitalize a franchise that had only lasted three seasons the last time it was on television. And while the movie series was still bringing in solid box office returns, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy would play no part in this new Trek.

The Next Generation was a gamble for Paramount, and for the first few seasons, it looked like one the studio was going to lose. But once the series got over some initial behind-the-scenes chaos, it blossomed into one of the most popular sci-fi TV shows of all time. Even as bigger and shinier installments in the franchise continue to come out, this is the definitive Star Trek for countless fans. So lean back in your captain's chair and enjoy 10 facts about Star Trek: The Next Generation.

1. THE SHOW GOT OFF TO A ROCKY START.

Things were tumultuous at best behind the scenes during the first season of the show, as writers and producers clashed with creator Gene Roddenberry over themes, characters, and ideas on a weekly basis. The in-fighting and drama became such a part of the show's legacy that William Shatner himself chronicled all of it in a 2014 documentary called Chaos on the Bridge (which is currently streaming on Netflix). In it, producers, writers, and actors recounted anecdotes about the difficulties they had dealing with Roddenberry's somewhat overbearing mandates, including his infamous rule that there never be any direct conflict between the Enterprise crew members (unless one was possessed by an alien, of course) and his habit of throwing out scripts at the last minute. This led to 30 writers leaving the show within the first season, according to story editor and program consultant David Gerrold.

As Roddenberry’s health began to deteriorate after the first season, his influence over the writers waned, freeing up ideas that were departures from the creator's original vision. He would pass away in 1991, but his presence would never completely leave the series. For years, a small bust of Roddenberry sat on executive producer Rick Berman's desk with a blindfold wrapped over its eyes. "Whenever they come up with a story I don't think Gene would like," Berman said, "I blindfold him when we discuss the story."

2. GENE RODDENBERRY REALLY DIDN’T WANT A BALD CAPTAIN.

'Star Trek' creator Gene Roddenberry
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

For years, William Shatner had cast the mold by which all future Star Trek captains would be judged. And it was that image of the confident, swashbuckling James T. Kirk that Roddenberry wanted to preserve when bringing a new captain in for The Next Generation. So when Berman wanted to cast Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the issue was clear: he was no Shatner.

Roddenberry was completely unconvinced that Stewart was right for the role, with Berman saying the Trek creator didn’t like the idea of “a bald English guy taking over.” But after countless auditions with other actors, Berman continued to bring Stewart up to Roddenberry, who eventually caved and agreed to bring him in for a final audition under one condition: he wear a wig. So Stewart had a wig Fed-Exed from London and auditioned for Roddenberry and Paramount Television head John Pike one final time. 

That audition was enough to win Roddenberry over, and Stewart was finally brought aboard as Picard with the wig cast aside. Roddenberry would eventually go on to fully embrace Picard’s follicular shortcomings, and according to Stewart, when a reporter at a press conference once asked him why there wouldn’t be a cure for baldness in the 24th century, Roddenberry responded by saying, “No, by the 24th century, no one will care."

3. ONLY ONE PERSON HAS EVER PLAYED HIMSELF IN STAR TREK HISTORY.

Stephen Hawking was visiting the Paramount lot during the video release of the film A Brief History of Time when he requested a tour of the Next Generation set. After making his way onto the iconic Enterprise bridge, he stopped and began typing into his computer. Suddenly, his voice synthesizer spoke: “Would you lift me out of my chair and put me into the captain's seat?"

Hawking asking to be removed from his chair was basically unheard of, so his wishes were granted immediately. Later, with writers having become aware that he was such a huge Trekkie, Hawking himself was written into the sixth season finale episode “Descent – Part I” by Ronald D. Moore, who would later go on to reimagine the Battlestar Galactica universe.

4. A WHOLE EPISODE WAS WRITTEN FOR ROBIN WILLIAMS.

Late actor and comedian Robin Williams was also a huge fan of the show and was desperate to appear in it, so an episode of the fifth season—"A Matter of Time"—was drawn up by Berman to allow Williams to shine at the center of a mystery about Professor Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a time-traveling historian from the future visiting the past to observe the Enterprise crew completing an historic mission.

Unfortunately, when it came time to shoot the episode, Williams found himself unavailable to appear in the episode. So Max Headroom star Matt Frewer was cast as Professor Rasmussen instead.

5. PATRICK STEWART APPROACHED BEING TORTURED ON SCREEN VERY SERIOUSLY.

In the episode “Chain of Command, Part II,” Picard has been captured by Cardassians and is subjected to a variety of torture methods by his interrogators. As a member of the human rights organization Amnesty International, Stewart did not want to shy away from the realities of torture, so he watched tapes sent to him that included statements from people who had been tortured and a long interview with a torturer explaining what it was like to be the one inflicting pain on others. Stewart also insisted on being completely nude during the first torture scene, so as not to betray the experiences of those who had undergone similar horrors.

6. THEY USED SOME PRACTICAL EFFECTS.

The transporter effect on the show may look completely computer generated, but in fact it’s all done quite organically. First, a canister is filled with water and glitter and then a light is shone through it. After stirring the liquid briskly, the resulting few seconds of swirling glitter are filmed and then superimposed over footage of the actor standing in the transporter area, with an added “streak down” effect to blur the glitter further.

7. LORE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A WOMAN.

Android Lieutenant Commander Data had many adventures during the series, on and off the Enterprise, but his evil twin brother, Lore, stands out for many fans as one of the show’s greatest antagonists. Surprisingly, Lore was originally created as a female android character for the show, but the actor who plays Data, Brent Spiner, came up with a different idea: an evil twin nemesis in the shape of a long-lost brother.

8. THERE WAS AN OPEN SUBMISSION POLICY ON SCRIPTS.

When Michael Piller took over as head writer on the show in 1989, an open submission policy was launched where absolutely anyone could submit up to two unsolicited scripts for consideration. Opening up the possibility of writing for TV to people outside of the Writers Guild of America and talent agency pool was unheard of at the time, and over 5000 spec scripts were received a year at one point. "Yesterday’s Enterprise," one of the show’s most popular episodes, was based off a spec script from the open submission policy.

9. SOME SCRIPTS WERE RECYCLED FROM THE SCRAPPED PHASE II.

A still from 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'
Paramount Pictures

A decade before The Next Generation debuted, there was a failed attempt at a revival called Star Trek: Phase II. Though a first season was mapped out, it never saw the light of day, and the movie series was produced in its place. However, the scrapped scripts and concepts lived on in various Trek projects over the years. For the second season premiere of The Next Generation, producers reclaimed the script for "The Child" as a way to get a story quickly into production during the 1988 writer's strike. The season four episode "Devil's Due" was also taken from the backlog of Phase II scripts. 

More elements from Phase II would influence Trek for years, such as the pilot being reworked into Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the now-familiar elements of the Japanese-inspired Klingon culture being introduced in the shelved episode “Kitumba.”

10. THE TRANSPORTER IS THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS.

In what was either a cost-cutting move or a sly Easter egg (or both), the ceiling of the Enterprise's transporter room in The Next Generation is actually the floor of the transporter room from the original series. That's far from the only recycling that went on between the Trek series. The orbital office complex from Star Trek: The Motion Picture was reused as the Regula I station in The Wrath of Khan, which was then itself reused as a number of different space stations on The Next Generation (plus Deep Space Nine and Voyager).

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