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Senator George McGovern (right) and running mate Senator Thomas Eagleton // Getty
Senator George McGovern (right) and running mate Senator Thomas Eagleton // Getty

6 Crazy Things That Happened During the 1972 New Hampshire Primaries

Senator George McGovern (right) and running mate Senator Thomas Eagleton // Getty
Senator George McGovern (right) and running mate Senator Thomas Eagleton // Getty

The political world has once again invaded New Hampshire, the second state to hold primary elections and the frequent site of campaign endings and comebacks. As colorful as this cycle has been, it would take a lot of Donald Trump Twitter feuds or rediscovered Bernie Sanders spoken-word reggae records to make either party’s primary as bizarre and nasty as the one the Democrats endured in the Granite State in 1972.

Two candidates campaigned in the state, senators George McGovern of South Dakota and Edmund Muskie of Maine, who was the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate in the last election and the frontrunner. Using the then-novel tactic of dedicating most of his resources to early-voting states, McGovern had a surprisingly strong showing in the Iowa caucuses, gaining 22.6 percent of the vote to Muskie’s 35.5. In a common dynamic, one candidate, McGovern, was cheered by liberals and activists while another, Muskie, was favored to win blue-collar, timecard-punching Democrats. But not everything about the primary was common. Here are six crazy things that happened.

1. McGovern Intercepted Factory Workers before Their Shifts.

Known for his impassioned speeches against the Vietnam War, McGovern had a reputation as a “peace candidate.” To broaden his support to blue-collar voters, he campaigned outside New Hampshire’s shoe, textile, and electronics factories. Gary Hart, his campaign manager and a future senator (who would go on to his own presidential primary debacle), recalls that McGovern and his staff arrived as early as 5:30 in the frigid morning, greeting the first shift. According to Hart’s book, Right from the Start: A Chronicle of the McGovern Campaign, the senator shook hands and robotically reiterated two sentences to each incoming worker: “Hello, I’m George McGovern. I’m running for president and I’d like your help.” They would repeat the routine when shifts changed in the afternoon.

2. A (Likely) Fake Letter to a Newspaper Claimed Muskie’s Staff Used a Racial Slur.

New Hampshire’s largest newspaper, the Manchester Union Leader practiced “a style of knife-and-kill journalism that went out of fashion a century ago,” writes political reporter Theodore H. White in his book The Making of the President 1972. Publisher William Loeb was a staunch conservative who often put editorials on the front page and savaged Democrats and moderate Republicans. (John F. Kennedy was “the No. 1 liar in the U.S.A.” and Dwight Eisenhower a “stinking hypocrite.”)

The Union Leader received a handwritten letter, full of spelling errors and supposedly written by Paul Morrison of Deerfield Beach, Florida. “Morrison” said he approached Muskie at a campaign event and asked how the senator could understand the problems of African-Americans given the ethnic makeup of Maine. A staffer supposedly said, “[W]e don’t have blacks but we have Cannocks [sic],” meaning Canuck, a slur for people of Canadian (particularly French-Canadian) ancestry. Muskie, the letter claimed, laughed and said, “Come to New England and see.” On February 24, the newspaper published the letter with an introduction announcing, “We have always known that Senator Muskie was a hypocrite. But we never expected to have it so clearly revealed.” It torpedoed Muskie’s standing among New Hampshire’s large Canadian-American population.

The letter was actually written by Ken W. Clawson, President Richard Nixon’s deputy director of communications, as part of a stealth campaign against Nixon’s political adversaries. In All the President’s Men, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein claim that Clawson, though married, had badgered their coworker, Washington Post staff writer Marilyn Berger, for a date. Invited up to her apartment for a single drink, Clawson allegedly bragged that he’d written “the Canuck letter.” He would deny it to Woodward and Bernstein when they readied a bombshell report on Nixon’s “dirty tricks” in October of that year.

3. The Paper Then Went After Muskie’s Wife.

The following day, under the headline “Big Daddy’s Jane,” the Union Leader published accusations that Muskie’s wife, Jane, drank, smoked and used off-color language on the campaign bus. According to The Boys on the Bus: Riding With the Campaign Press Corps by Timothy Crouse, reports of Jane Muskie’s consumption habits and potty mouth were first mentioned in Women’s Wear Daily and then repeated in Newsweek and the Union Leader, becoming more vicious with every iteration.

4. Muskie Broke Down in Front of the Newspaper’s Offices.

In a now-infamous scene, Muskie appeared in front of the paper’s headquarters as snowflakes fell on February 26, speaking from the back of a rented flatbed truck. “By attacking me and by attacking my wife, [Loeb] has proved himself to be a gutless coward,” he declared. “Maybe I said all I should on that. It’s fortunate for him that he is not on this platform beside me. A good woman…”

Several newspapers reported that Muskie then began crying. He later said the facial dampness was due to melting snow. “Whether it was a choke, or a cry, or a sobbing — there was Edmund Muskie,” wrote White in The Making of the President, 1972, “a week before the primary, front page on the nation’s newspapers and carried on television, with snow falling on his curly hair … his voice breaking, emotion sweeping him.”

After the election, the senator blamed the hectic campaign schedule that had been peppered with flights to Washington for votes. “I’m tough physically but no one could do that,” he told White. “It changed people’s minds about me, what kind of guy I was. They were looking for a strong, steady man and here I was, weak.” His campaign never recovered.

5. Hunter S. Thompson Jokingly Accused Muskie of Being High on Psychedelics.

Hunter S. Thompson, covering the campaign for Rolling Stone, used the flatbed breakdown as a jumping-off point for a satirical article alleging that the senator was addicted to the psychedelic drug ibogaine. Thompson had a particular loathing for Muskie, likening him to a “vicious 200-pound water rat.” Thompson reported the “addiction” in April to see if his fellows in the press would run with it.

6. A Reporter Cussed Out Muskie and His Staff.

Even though he left with more of the state’s delegates than McGovern, the New Hampshire vote was seen as a setback for Muskie. As the frontrunner and senator from a neighboring state, he was expected to win heavily. The next day, Muskie held a press conference in “the dingy ballroom” of a Manchester hotel, recalls Crouse in The Boys on the Bus. Of course, reporters shelled him with questions about how the underwhelming results would affect his prospects.

“I can’t tell you that,” said the frustrated senator, who would bow out in April. “You’ll tell me and you’ll tell the rest of the country because you interpret this victory. The press conference today is my only chance to interpret it, but you’ll probably even misinterpret that.”

After the conference, Martin Nolan of the Boston Globe accosted Muskie and his aides in a profanity-laced tirade (for which he later apologized). “I’ve taken three and a half years of this kind of s--- from Nixon and those people,” he shouted, “and I’m not gonna take it from you pricks.”

Muskie, probably feeling like the Rodney Dangerfield of politics at that point, responded “Well, Marty, I guess you’re right.”

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16 Geeky Coasters to Keep Your Coffee Table Safe
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Avoid unsightly ring stains on your coffee table with this delightful selection of coasters:

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. FLOPPY DISKS; $22.79

Floppy disks are not obsolete—at least in your living room area.

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2. MARIO; $20

Mario Question Mark Block Coaster Set
Etsy

Unfortunately, no coins will be coming out of these coasters, but they will keep your table dry.

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3. GAME OF THRONES; $12.99

Game of Thrones coasters
HBO Shop

Avoid a royal mess with house sigils of houses Targaryen, Stark, Baratheon, and Lannister.

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4. PACMAN; $20.95

Use these on a black table to recreate the retro video game.

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5. AGATE; $35

Rock on: These fancy agate coasters will look solid resting under your glass.

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These glowing coasters are perfect for chemists, Breaking Bad fans, and anyone who forgot to pay their electric bill.

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7. BUILDING BLOCKS; $19.99

Build your own coaster with this LEGO-esque design.

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8. STAR TREK; $16.63

Star Trek ship coasters
Amazon

This ceramic set celebrates all the best ships from Star Trek.

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9. DR. WHO; $22.99

Just make sure you don’t accidentally send your glass into a different time period when you set it down.

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10. RILAKKUMA; $1.95

Rilakkuma coaster
Bonanza

Cover your counter space with the cute face of Rilakkuma.

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11. HARRY POTTER; $50

Set of wood burned coasters featuring the crest of each Harry Potter house
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All the houses are present in this set of wood coasters.

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12. FALLOUT; $25

fallout coasters
Etsy

Just because it’s the end of the world doesn’t mean all manners go out the door: Never forget to use a coaster!

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13. BRAIN; $19.99

This set comes with 10 coasters, each with a slice of brain specimen. When you’re not using them, you can stack them together to create a full brain.

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14. THE LAST AIRBENDER; FROM $13

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Getting totally wigged by the idea of a stained table? All your favorite characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer can give you an assist.

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16. STUDIO GHIBLI; $25

Studio Ghibli Stone Tile Coasters
Etsy

These coasters feature scenes from the classics My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle.

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15 Educational Facts About Old School
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DreamWorks

Old School starred Luke Wilson as Mitch Martin, an attorney who—after catching his girlfriend cheating, and through some real estate and bitter dean-related circumstances—becomes the leader of a not-quite-official college fraternity. Along with his fellow thirtysomething friends Bernard (Vince Vaughn) and newlywed Frank (Will Ferrell), they end up having to fight for their right to maintain their status as a party-loving frat on campus.

The film, which was released 15 years ago today, marked Vaughn’s return to major comedies and Ferrell’s first major starring role after seven years on Saturday Night Live. Here are some facts about the movie for everyone, but particularly for my boy, Blue.

1. THE IDEA ORIGINATED WITH AN AD GUY.

Writer-director Todd Phillips was talking to a friend of his from the advertising industry named Court Crandall one day. Crandall had seen and enjoyed Phillips's movie Frat House (1998) and told his director buddy, “You know what would be funny is a movie about older guys who start a fraternity of their own.” After being told by Phillips to write it, he presented Phillips with a “loose version” of the finished product.

2. SOME OF THE FRAT SHENANIGANS WERE REAL.

While Crandall received the story credit for Old School, Phillips and Scot Armstrong received the credit for writing the script. Armstrong put his own college fraternity experiences into the script. “We were in Peoria, Illinois, so it was up to us to entertain ourselves," Armstrong shared in the movie's official production notes. "A lot of ideas for Old School came from things that really happened. When it was cold, everyone would go stir crazy and it inspired some moments of brilliance. Of course, my definition of ‘brilliance' might be different from other people's.”

3. IVAN REITMAN HELPED OUT.

Ivan Reitman, director of Stripes and Ghostbusters, was an executive producer on the film. Phillips and Armstrong wrote and rewrote every day for two months at Reitman’s house, an experience Phillips described as comedy writing “boot camp.”

4. THE STUDIO DIDN’T WANT VINCE VAUGHN.

Vince Vaughn in 'Old School' (2003)
DreamWorks

It didn’t seem to make a difference to DreamWorks that Phillips and Armstrong had written the role of Bernard with Vince Vaughn in mind—the studio didn't want him. After his breakout success in Swingers, Vaughn had taken roles in dramas like the 1998 remake of Psycho. “So when Todd Phillips wanted me for Old School, the studio didn’t want me,” Vaughn told Variety in 2015. “They didn’t think I could do comedy! They said, ‘He’s a dramatic actor from smaller films.’ Todd really had to push for me.”

5. RECYCLED SHOTS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY WERE USED.

The film was mainly shot on the Westwood campus of UCLA. The aerial shots of the fictitious Harrison University, however, were of Harvard; they had been shot for Road Trip (2000).

6. VINCE VAUGHN FANS MIGHT RECOGNIZE THE CHURCH.

In the film, Frank gets married at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, California. Vaughn and Owen Wilson were in that same church two years later for Wedding Crashers (2005).

7. WILL FERRELL SCARED MEMBERS OF A 24-HOUR GYM.

Frank’s streaking scene was shot on a city street. As Ferrell remembered it, one of the storefronts was a 24-hour gym with Stairmasters and treadmills in the window. “I was rehearsing in a robe, and all these people are in the gym, watching me. I asked one of the production assistants, ‘Shouldn’t we tell them I’m going to be naked?’ Sure enough, I dropped my robe and there were shrieks of pure horror. After the first take, nobody was at the window anymore. I took that as a sign of approval.”

8. FERRELL REALLY WAS NAKED.

Ferrell justified it by saying it showed his character falling off the wagon. “The fact that it made sense was the reason I was really into doing it, and why I was able to commit on that level," Ferrell told the BBC. "If it was just for the sake of doing a crazy shot, then I don't think it makes sense.” Still, Ferrell needed some liquid courage, and was intimidated by the presence of Snoop Dogg.

9. ROB CORDDRY WAS NOT NAKED, BUT HE STILL HAD TO SIGN AWAY HIS NUDITY RIGHTS.

Old School marked the first major film role for Rob Corddry, who at the time was best known as a correspondent for The Daily Show. He had a jewel bag around his private parts for his nude scene, but his butt made it into the final cut. He had to sign a nudity clause, which gave the film the right to use his naked image “in any part of the universe, in any form, even that which is not devised.”

10. SNOOP DOGG AGREED TO CAMEO SO HE COULD PLAY HUGGY BEAR IN STARSKY & HUTCH.

Phillips admitted to essentially bribing the hip-hop artist/actor, using Snoop Dogg’s desire to play the street informant in the modern movie adaptation of the classic TV show (which Phillips was also directing) to his advantage. “So when I went to him I said, 'I want you to do Huggy Bear,' he was really excited. And I said, 'Oh yeah, also will you do this little thing for me in Old School a little cameo?' So he kind of had to do it I think."

11. SNOOP WANTED TO HANG OUT WITH VINCE VAUGHN ON SET, BUT NOT LUKE WILSON.

Snoop Dogg in 'Old School' (2003)
Richard Foreman, Dreamworks

Vaughn and his friends accepted an invitation to hang out in Snoop Dogg’s trailer to play video games on the last day of shooting. Vaughn recalled seeing Luke Wilson later watching the news alone in his trailer; he had not been informed of the get-together.

12. WILSON WAS TEASED BY HIS CO-STARS.

Vaughn, Wilson, and Ferrell dubbed themselves “The Wolfpack”—years before Phillips directed The Hangover—because they would always make fun of each other. A particularly stinging exchange had Ferrell refer to Legally Blonde (which Wilson had starred in) as Legally Bland. Wilson said it didn’t make him feel great. Wilson retorted by telling Ferrell that "the transition from TV to the movies isn't a very easy one, so you might just want to keep one foot back in TV just in case this whole movie thing falls through!"

13. TERRY O’QUINN SCARED HIS SONS INTO THINKING THEY WERE TRIPPING.

Terry O’Quinn (who went on to play John Locke on Lost the following year) agreed to play Goldberg, uncredited, in what was a two-day job for him. He neglected to inform his sons he was in the movie, and when they saw it, one of them called their father. “I got a call from my sons one night, and they said, ‘What were you doing in Old School? We didn’t even know you were in it!’ They said, ‘We’re sitting there, and the first time we see you, it’s, like, in a reflection in a window. And when we saw it, and we both thought we were, like, tripping or something!’”

14. THE EARMUFFS WERE IMPROVISED.

Before filming, Vaughn worked with Ferrell to figure out their characters' backstories and how they knew each other; he credited that with helping him figure out who Bernard was, which led to several ad-libbed moments. “The earmuff scene where he swears in front of the kids, and then I tell the kid to earmuff, that all is off the cuff. But that stuff is a lot easier to do when you know who you are and your circumstances, and who your characters are,” Vaughn explained.

15. FERRELL AND VAUGHN DIDN’T LOVE A SCRIPT FOR A SEQUEL.

Armstrong had written Old School Dos in 2006, which saw the frat going to Spring Break. Ferrell said that he and Vaughn read the script but felt like they would just be “kind of doing the same thing again.” Wilson, on the other hand, was excited over the new script.

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