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15 Things You Might Not Know About Baywatch

All-American Television
All-American Television

Even by the already-excessive standards of television, the idealized version of California life on Baywatch (1989-2001) was something else. Centered on the bronzed, impossibly-proportioned lifeguards of a fictional Los Angeles County beach patrol, the series was derided for its simplistic plots and cheesecake -- the same elements that made it one of the biggest success stories in the history of the medium.

While Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron put the finishing touches on a tongue-in-cheek film adaptation due in 2017, check out these 15 facts about the series that gave you more David Hasselhoff than you ever imagined possible.

1. THE SHOW WAS SOLD WITH A CUSTOM MUSIC VIDEO.

Co-creator Michael Berk told the BBC in 2013 that NBC was initially less than enthusiastic about a lifeguard series, fearing there were only so many plots that could revolve around CPR. To prove the concept was viable, Berk and his partners shot a montage of lifeguard footage on Venice Beach and spliced it to Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer." While that wouldn't appear to support an argument for substance, NBC bought the show.

2. THE SLOW-MO SHOTS WERE INSPIRED BY THE OLYMPICS.

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From the beginning, Baywatch's visual trademark was the sight of a lifeguard running toward danger in slow-motion. Berk recalled the idea came from a producing partner of his who had just been shooting the 1988 Summer Olympic Games and had captured footage of sprinters at slower frame rates during the 100-meter dash. Hasselhoff later claimed the shots were used to pad shows that were running short without having to spend more money for footage.

3. LEONARDO DICAPRIO WAS ALMOST CAST AS HOBIE.

For the role of Hasselhoff's onscreen son, Hobie, producers auditioned Leonardo DiCaprio. While they were impressed with his performance, they felt the 15-year-old was slightly too old for the part; actor Jeremy Jackson, four years younger than DiCaprio, was cast instead.

4. THEY CAST A REAL LIFEGUARD. (AND ONE PRO SURFER.)

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The immaculately-mustachioed Michael Newman was a real lifeguard when co-creator (and fellow competitive swimmer) Greg Bonann tapped him for a supporting role on the show. Because of his skills, Newman was able to pull double- or triple-duty, doing stunts, instructing cast members on rescue protocol, and sharing stories of real-life rescues for story plots. (Producers even named his character "Michael Newman.") Later, professional surfer Kelly Slater was cast as Jimmy Slade: He quickly grew tired of the show interfering with his surfing as well as the far-fetched plots. "I'd be like, 'What!? There's an octopus that's stealing surfboards and hiding them in a secret cove and I'm going to fight him in the next show!? Who writes this sh-t?'" he told GQ. In 1993, he asked to be written off the show.

5. HASSELHOFF'S GAMBLE SAVED THE SHOW.

Despite its virtues, American network viewers weren't all that enamored with Baywatch when it premiered in 1989; the show finished 74th out of 111 series that year. International viewers, however, couldn't get enough. Its popularity in Germany and the U.K. helped convince co-creators Berk, Bonann, and Douglas Schwartz to resurrect it for syndication. To make the deal work, Hasselhoff volunteered to reduce his salary per-episode in order to receive a greater share of the profits if it was a hit.

6. PRODUCERS BOUGHT THE SYNDICATED RIGHTS FOR $10.

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Another key reason Baywatch was able to find new life after NBC was the dissolution of a partnership between production company Gannett and former network executive Grant Tinker. Because no entity existed to control the show's assets, producers were able to secure the rights to the series back for a perfunctory sum of $10.

7. THE SETS WERE PRETTY PRACTICAL.

When Baywatch moved to syndication, the show's budget was slashed by 30 percent. In order to conserve funds, several sets that appeared on-screen were actually functional rooms for crew members to use off-screen. A lifeguard station kitchen had running water and was used as a production break room; a gym set was practical enough for Hasselhoff to pump his pecs between takes.

8. TOMMY LEE WAS NOT A FAN OF PAM ANDERSON'S LOVE SCENES.

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At the height of Baywatch-mania in the mid-1990s, Anderson married Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee. According to Hasselhoff in his autobiography, Don't Hassle the Hoff, Lee would go nuclear whenever his wife had love scenes with co-star David Chokachi, breaking windows and screaming until security moved him off the set.

9. NO ONE WAS ALLOWED TO GAIN WEIGHT.

The form-fitting flattery of the red Lycra swimsuits worn by the cast members turned out to have some unforgiving edicts: Alexandra Paul told Esquire that her contract specified she could not gain any weight while appearing on the show. While Paul initially thought it was just for the women, she later found out the clause applied to both sexes.

10. BAYWATCH NIGHTS WAS RENEWED JUST TO SAVE FACE.

Baywatch Fan Denmark via YouTube

Hoping to exploit the Baywatch brand, Hasselhoff and producers conceived of a spin-off, Baywatch Nights, in 1995 as a more adult-oriented alternative. Instead of saving drowning victims, Hasselhoff's Mitch Buchannon chased down criminals as part of his friend's private detective firm. Although ratings were modest during its first season, producers decided to renew it for a second (and final) season so it wouldn't appear the Baywatch brand was losing any steam. According to Hasselhoff, the company even bought airtime in some markets.

11. IRAN SOLD TICKETS TO WATCH IT ON TELEVISION.

The global popularity of Baywatch may never be rivaled: At its peak in 1993, it was widely reported over a billion people tuned into the show weekly. In places where television was not as commonplace, fans still found a way. In an interview with Men's Health, Hasselhoff said the Shah of Iran's wife once came up to him and told him Iranians sold tickets to the show in Tehran at homes with satellite dishes.

12. IT AFFECTED AUSTRALIA'S KOALA POPULATION.

As Baywatch approached its first decade on the air, rising production costs became an issue. To conserve funds, the series decided to move to Australia. Baywatch Down Under was intended to be a facelift of sorts, but locals were having none of it. Citizens of Avalon Beach protested the show closing down portions of the area, chasing away residing koalas, and even telling residents to keep the noise down while the show's stars caught naps. The production moved to Hawaii for its final two seasons and a 2003 made-for-TV movie.

13. AQUAMAN WAS PART OF THE CAST.

When Baywatch relocated to Hawaii, a number of cast additions were made. The most notable: Jason Momoa, who later found fame as Khal Drogo on HBO's Game of Thrones and is set to appear as Aquaman in the 2017 Justice League film as well as his own solo feature. Cast as a lifeguard at 19, Momoa told Entertainment Weekly in 2015 that the role was not necessarily his big break. "I couldn't find an agent for four years after Baywatch," he said. "They don't take you seriously. They think you're a pretty boy, this and that ... It's hard—no one really makes it off that show."

14. BAYWATCH: THE MUSICAL IS HEADED FOR LONDON.

In addition to the upcoming feature, Schwartz and Berk have ambitions to bring the franchise into uncharted waters: A Baywatch musical is set to debut in London's West End sometime in 2017. Schwartz promises that a water tank will be on stage.

15. IT USED 40 BOTTLES OF SUNSCREEN A MONTH.

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According to the show's make-up artist, JoAnna Connell, Baywatch went through 40 bottles of sunscreen a month in order to keep the cast free from sunburns and melanomas. The minimum: SPF 15.

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10 of Benjamin Franklin’s Lesser-Known Feats of Awesomeness
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

We all know about Benjamin Franklin’s kite-flyin’, library-establishin’, Declaration-signin’, newspaper-printin’, lady-killin’ ways. But let’s celebrate some of his lesser-known but very cool contributions to society, on what would be his 312th birthday.

1. HE SWAM WITH THE FISHES.

As a youngster, Ben learned to swim in Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River and became somewhat of an expert. On a Thames River boating trip with friends, a 19-year-old Franklin jumped into the river and swam from Chelsea to Blackfriars (around 3.5 miles), performing all sorts of water tricks along the way or, as he described it, “…many feats of activity, both upon and under the water, that surprised and pleased those to whom they were novelties.” Franklin’s Phelpsian feats earned him an honorary induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1968.

He was such an excellent swimmer, one of the careers he considered (and seemingly one of the few he did not choose) was running a swimming school of his own. Of course, he also invented his own swim fins.

2. HE PRINTED BENJAMINS, BEFORE THEY WERE BENJAMINS.

Many people know that Ben Franklin owned a printing company and the Pennsylvania Gazette. But it may be new knowledge that his company also printed all of the paper money for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Beginning in 1929, his face would grace the front of the $100 bill and people would call them “Benjamins” in his honor.

3. HE DEVELOPED AN ELECTRIC VOCABULARY.

Because the things Franklin was doing in his experiments with electricity were so new, he had to make words up for them as he went along. One scholar suggests that Franklin may have been the first to use as many as 25 electrical terms including battery, brushed, charged, conductor, and even electrician.

4. HE WAS NO DEBTOR.

Franklin was terrified of debt and viewed it as similar to slavery because he believed that, through the acquisition of debt, man essentially sold his own freedom. He was so anti-debt that he often spoke (seriously) about forming an international organization called The Society of the Free and Easy for virtuous individuals who, among other things, were free of debt and, therefore, easy in spirit.

5. HE WAS ALWAYS PUTTING OUT FIRES.

In addition to being a famously calming voice of reason and a frequent mediator at the Constitutional Convention, Franklin organized the first volunteer fire company in 1736: The Union Fire Company (nicknamed Benjamin Franklin’s Bucket Brigade). Among his many writings are articles on fire prevention, stressing that an "ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He was more eloquent than Smokey Bear.

6. HE INVENTED A TON OF COOL STUFF, INCLUDING THE ROCKING CHAIR AND THE ODOMETER.

Of course, you probably know that Franklin is responsible for the lightning rod, bifocal glasses, and the Franklin stove. But in 1761, Franklin also invented the glass harmonica (or "armonica," as he called it). It became quite popular during Franklin’s time and armonica-specific pieces were composed by the likes of Mozart, Beethoven, and Handel.

Some of Franklin’s other inventions include:
• The library stepstool, a chair whose seat could be lifted and folded down to make a short ladder.
• A mechanical arm for reaching books on high shelves. (Book retrieval—clearly a focus of Franklinian innovation.)
• The rocking chair—a chair that rocks.
• The writing chair—a chair with an arm on one side to provide a writing surface. (Activities one can do while seated were also a focus.)
• The odometer—used in Franklin’s time to measure distance along colonial roads used by the postal service.
• A pulley system that enabled him to lock and unlock his bedroom door from his bed.
• The flexible urinary catheter.

7. HE WAS PARTIALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF AMERICA'S FIRST HOSPITAL.

Established in 1751 by Ben and Dr. Thomas Bond, Pennsylvania Hospital was built “… to care for the sick-poor and insane who were wandering the streets of Philadelphia” (those sound like some wild streets). While the hospital was Bond’s brainchild, Franklin’s support and advocacy got the project off the ground. He galvanized the Pennsylvania Assembly and helped raise the necessary funds. It appears that Franklin was more proud of this accomplishment than most (even all those outrageous swimming tricks); he said later of the hospital’s establishment, “I do not remember any of my political maneuvers, the success of which gave me at the time more pleasure.”

8. HE HAD SEVERAL PSEUDONYMS.

Franklin was prolifically pseudonymous and his pseudonyms were pretty wonderful:

• Richard Saunders. Richard Saunders is Franklin’s most well-known pseudonym; it’s the one he used for his wildly popular Poor Richard’s Almanac, which ran annually from 1732 to 1758. Poor Richard was partially based on one of Jonathan Swift’s pseudonyms, Isaac Bickerstaff – Saunders and Bickerstaff shared a love of learning and astrology. The Richard character brought a comic frame to what was otherwise a serious resource in the almanac and, over the years of publication, the fun but likely unnecessary character gradually disappeared.

• Silence Dogood. When Ben was 16 years old, he desperately wanted to write for his brother James’s newspaper, The New England Courant, but James was something of a bully and wouldn’t allow it. So, Ben contributed to the paper as a middle-aged widow named Silence Dogood whose witty and satirical letters covered a range of topics from courtship to education. A total of 15 Dogood letters were published, resulting in the amusement of Courant readers, several marriage proposals for the pretend Mrs. Dogood, and, ultimately, a rise in the ire of James Franklin.

• Anthony Afterwit. Mr. Afterwit, a gentleman, wrote humorous letters about married life that appeared in Benjamin Franklin’s own Pennsylvania Gazette.

• Polly Baker. Polly Baker was a pseudonym Franklin used to examine colonial society’s unequal treatment of women. She was pretend punished by society for having pretend children out of pretend wedlock while the fathers of the pretend children went pretend unpunished.

• Alice Addertongue. Alice is another middle-aged widow who wrote what amounts to a gossip column for Franklin’s Gazette in the form of scandalous stories about prominent members of society.

• Caelia Shortface and Martha Careful. These pseudonyms were used by Franklin to settle a personal dispute; they wrote letters mocking Franklin’s former employer, Samuel Keimer, who had stolen some of Franklin’s publishing ideas. Shortface and Careful’s letters were published in The American Weekly Mercury, a publication by a Keimer rival.

Busy Body. Also published in The American Weekly Mercury, Miss Body’s letters were basically gossip stories about local businessmen.

• Benevolous. Benevolous wrote letters to British newspapers while Franklin was in London. The primary focus of the letters was to correct negative statements made about Americans in the British press.

9. HE WAS A TRAVELING FOOL.

During Franklin’s life, the average person never traveled more than 20 miles from their home. Franklin, on the other hand, crossed the Atlantic Ocean eight times (the first time at age 18 and the last time at age 79) and spent 27 years of his life overseas.

10. HE THOUGHT GETTING TOGETHER WITH HIS BUDDIES TO DRINK BEER AND CHAT WAS A FANTASTIC WAY TO IGNITE SOCIAL ACTION (AS IT TURNS OUT, HE WAS RIGHT).

Franklin formed a group that he called the Junto. The group’s purpose was to gather and debate philosophical questions on topics from ethics to business. Initially composed of 12 members, the group brought together people from different backgrounds (among the originals were printers, surveyors, a cabinetmaker, a clerk, a glazier, a cobbler, and a bartender) and gathered in a tavern on Friday nights. In his autobiography, Franklin described the group as a “…club for mutual improvement.” But the group discussions resulted in not only self-improvement, but societal improvement: The Junto has been credited as the breeding ground for some of Franklin’s greatest achievements, including the establishment of the first library, the first volunteer fire departments, the first public hospital, and even the University of Pennsylvania. Makes your Friday night pub trivia team seem like a bunch of underachievers, doesn’t it?

This post originally appeared in 2011.

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15 Things You Didn't Know About Betty White
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Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

Happy birthday, Betty White! In honor of the ever-sassy star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls's 96th birthday, let's celebrate with a collection of fun facts about her life and legacy. 

1. HER NAME IS BETTY, NOT ELIZABETH

On January 17th, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, the future television icon was born Betty Marion White, the only child of homemaker Christine Tess (née Cachikis) and lighting company executive Horace Logan White. In her autobiography If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't), White explained her parents named her "Betty" specifically because they didn't like many of the nicknames derived from "Elizabeth." Forget your Beths, your Lizas, your Ellies. She's Betty.

2. SHE'S A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD HOLDER.

In the 2014 edition of the record-keeping tome, White was awarded the title of Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female) for her more than 70 years (and counting) in show business. The year before, Guinness gave out Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Male) to long-time British TV host Bruce Forsyth. As both began their careers in 1939, they'd be neck-and-neck for the title, were they not separated by gender.

3. HER FIRST TELEVISION APPEARANCE IS LOST TO HISTORY.

A photo of Betty White
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Even White can't remember the name of the show she made her screen debut on in 1939. But in an interview with Guinness Book of World Records, she recounted the life-changing event, saying, "I danced on an experimental TV show, the first on the west coast, in downtown Los Angeles. I wore my high school graduation dress and our Beverly Hills High student body president, Harry Bennett, and I danced the 'Merry Widow Waltz.'" 

4. WHITE'S RISE TO STARDOM WAS DERAILED BY WORLD WAR II.

Before she took off on television, White was working in theater, on radio, and as a model. But with WWII, she shelved her ambitions and joined the American Women's Voluntary Services. Her days were devoted to delivering supplies via PX truck throughout the Hollywood Hills, but her nights were spent at rousing dances thrown to give grand send-offs to soldiers set to ship out. Of that era, she told Cleveland Magazine, "It was a strange time and out of balance with everything." 

5. HER FIRST SITCOM HIT WAS IN THE EARLY 1950S.

A photo of actress Betty White
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Co-hosting the Al Jarvis show Hollywood on Television led to White producing her own vehicle, Life With Elizabeth. As a rare female producer, she developed the show alongside emerging writer-producer George Tibbles, who'd go on to work on such beloved shows as Dennis The Menace, Leave It To Beaver, and The Munsters. Though the show is not remembered much today, in 1951 it did earn White her first Emmy nomination of 21 (so far). Of these, she's won five times.

6. WHITE LOVES A PARADE.

From 1962 to 1971, White hosted NBC's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade alongside Bonanza's Lorne Greene. But that's not all. For 20 years (1956-1976), she was also a color commentator for NBC’s annual Tournament of Roses Parade. However, as her fame grew on CBS's The Mary Tyler Moore Show, NBC decided they should pull White (and all the rival promotion that came with her) from their parade. It was a decision that was heartbreaking for White, who told People, "On New Year's Day I just sat home feeling wretched, watching someone else do my parade."

7. SHE HAS BEEN MARRIED THREE TIMES.


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White and her first husband, Dick Barker, were married and divorced in the same year, 1945. After four months on Barker's rural Ohio chicken farm, White fled back to Los Angeles and her career as an entertainer. Soon after, she met agent Lane Allen, who became her husband in 1947, and her ex-husband in 1949 after he pushed her to quit show biz. She wouldn’t marry again until 1963, after she fell for widower/father of three/game show host Allen Ludden.

8. HER MEET-CUTE WITH HUSBAND #3 HAPPENED ON PASSWORD.

Bubbly Betty was a regular on the game show circuit, but she met her match in 1961 when she was a celebrity guest on Password, hosted by Allen Ludden. Though White initially rebuffed Ludden's engagement ring (he wore it around his neck until she changed her mind), the pair stayed together until his death in 1981. Today, their stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame sit side-by-side.

9. WHITE ORIGINALLY AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF BLANCHE ON THE GOLDEN GIRLS.

A photo of actress Betty White
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Producers of the series thought of White for the role of the ensemble's promiscuous party girl because she'd long played the lusty Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Meanwhile, they eyed Rue McClanahan for the part of naive country bumpkin Rose Nylund because of her work as the sweet but dopey Vivian Harmon on Maude. Director Jay Sandrich was worried about typecasting, so he asked the two to switch roles in the audition. And just like that, The Golden Girls history was made.

10. IF SHE HADN'T BEEN AN ACTOR, SHE'D HAVE BEEN A ZOOKEEPER.

"Hands down," she confessed in a 2014 interview. This should come as little surprise to those aware of White's reputation as an avid animal lover and activist. Not only does she try to visit the local zoo of wherever she may travel, but also she's a supporter of the Farm Animal Reform Movement and Friends of Animals group, as well as a Los Angeles Zoo board member, who has donated "tens of thousands of dollars" over the past 40 years. In 2010, White founded a T-shirt line whose profits go to the Morris Animal Foundation.

11. SHE DIDN'T DO AS GOOD AS IT GETS BECAUSE OF AN ANIMAL CRUELTY SCENE.

A photo of actress Betty White
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White was offered the part of Beverly Connelly, onscreen mother to Helen Hunt, in the Oscar-winning movie As Good as It Gets. But the devoted animal lover was horrified by the scene where Jack Nicholson's curmudgeonly anti-hero pitches a small dog down the trash chute of his apartment building. On The Joy Behar Show White explained, "All I could think of was all the people out there watching that movie … and if there's a dog in the building that's barking or they don't like—boom! They do it." She complained to director James L. Brooks in hopes of having the scene cut. Instead, he kept it and cast Shirley Knight in the role.

12. A FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN MADE WHITE THE OLDEST SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE HOST EVER.

In 2010, a Facebook group called Betty White To Host SNL … Please? gathered so many fans (nearly a million) and so much media attention that SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels was happy to make it happen. At 88 years old, White set a new record. Her episode, for which many of the show's female alums returned, also won rave reviews, and gave the show's highest ratings in 18 months. White won her fifth Emmy for this performance.

13. SHE IS THE OLDEST PERSON TO EARN AN EMMY NOMINATION.


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In 2014, White earned her 21st Emmy nod—and her third in a row for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program—for the senior citizen-centric prank show Betty White's Off Their Rockers. She was 92. She also holds the record for the longest span between Emmy nominations, between her first (1951) and last (so far).  

14. SHE LOVES JUNK FOOD.

The key to aging gracefully has nothing to do with health food as far as White is concerned. In 2011, her Hot in Cleveland co-star Jane Leeves dished on White's snacking habits, "She eats Red Vines, hot dogs, French fries, and Diet Coke. If that's key, maybe she's preserved because of all the preservatives." Fellow co-star Wendie Malick concurred, "She eats red licorice, like, ridiculously a lot. She seems to exist on hot dogs and French fries." 

15. SHE WANTS ROBERT REDFORD.

A photo of actor Robert Redford
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White once gave this cheeky confession: “My answer to anything under the sun, like ‘What have you not done in the business that you’ve always wanted to do?’ is ‘Robert Redford.'” Though she has more than 110 film and television credits on her filmography, White has never worked with the Out of Africa star, who is 14 years her junior.

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