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12 Outrageous Facts About Twisted Sister

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Music Box Films

Shock rockers Twisted Sister will forever be known for Dee Snider's confrontational personality, their outrageous costumes, and the chart-topping anthems "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock." The band's multi-platinum 1984 album, Stay Hungry, made them one of the biggest rock sensations of the 1980s, which was vindication after the group had duked it out in the clubs for more than a decade prior. They were a true example of the power of perseverance. The "overnight success" of Snider, original member/guitarist Jay Jay French, guitarist Eddie Ojeda, bassist Mark Mendoza, and the late drummer AJ Pero took longer than most people knew.

Director Andrew Horn recently unleashed a documentary profile of the glam agitators called We Are Twisted F**king Sister, which chronicles the band's slow rise. They began life in December 1972 as a New Jersey-based cover band called Silver Star featuring French, developed with the acquisition of songwriting frontman Snider and guitarist Ojeda in 1976, and landed the subsequent, long-awaited record deal in 1982 after the Snider lineup performed more than 2000 shows together.

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Snider’s arrival and the band’s current farewell tour, we spoke with Jay Jay French, who shared some wild and shocking facts about the pink-powered rock quintet.

1. A MURDER ALMOST TOOK PLACE BACKSTAGE.

During the original incarnation of the band, they were playing a gig in Adams, Massachusetts in December 1974 when a drunken roadie told singer Michael "Valentine" O'Neill that he felt disrespected by bass player Kenny Neill. Also inebriated, the frontman went looking for the bassist but found their drummer, Mell "Starr" Anderson, who told him to shut up. Heated words were exchanged, and Valentine—who had brought a rifle along so that he could go hunting in western Massachusetts—grabbed the weapon after the drummer said, "Michael, what are you gonna do? Kill me?"

"It was at that moment when I walked into the room and saw him standing with the gun aimed at Mel," guitarist Jay Jay French tells mental_floss. "I said to myself, 'Oh my God, he's going to kill him. He's really going to kill him.' Listen, to Michael's credit and to the credit of everybody, he obviously didn't do anything. He threw the gun down, then they started fighting. Michael was so drunk he could've pulled the trigger and it could've been a disaster. And he did not. Then the roadie who instigated the affair screamed, 'I broke up Twisted Sister!' And ran out of the club and started running back to New Jersey barefoot. It was freezing cold. He was obviously drunk and high. We piled into our cars and caught up to him two miles down the road and brought him back."

2. FANS DEMOLISHED FOUR CLUBS AT THE BAND'S REQUEST.

Twisted Sister played on the last night that Hammerheads, a rock club on Long Island, was going to be open. As French recalls: "The club owner said, 'By the way, we're closing tonight. I hate the landlord, and I don't really care what you tell people. Tell them to smash up the club.' It only further enhanced the band's crazy reputation, right?"

At the gig either Dee or Jay Jay (or both) told the crowd that it was the last night and to take everything. "People went to the bathrooms and took the stalls and the fire alarms," says French. "I thought that they would take little pieces of the wall. I didn't think they were going to actually remove the structural foundation of the building." They even brought down the false ceiling and caused the plumbing to burst and leak. The crew waded through the water to retrieve the band's gear.

Word spread about the unrehearsed demolition, and later three other New York and New Jersey club owners asked them to do the same at the 2001 Odyssey (where John Travolta's famous dance in Saturday Night Fever was filmed), the Soap Factory, and Emmett's Inn. At 2001, weapons were confiscated from fans who went through metal detectors. Wallpaper at the Soap Factory was torn off the walls, which were pure sheetrock—some of which came down, too. "But in no case did a club owner come to us and state any kind of disappointment that the room was destroyed any more than he wanted it to be, which I think is funny," says French.

3. A MEMBER WAS THREATENED WITH VIOLENCE OVER A BUSINESS DISPUTE.

According to French, after Twisted Sister recorded their self-released single "Under The Blade," the owner of Electric Lady Studios became angry because part of their production deal with producer Eddie Kramer included the clause that if the band got a deal, they had to pay four times the studio rate. Even though the band used the single as a promotional item, the studio owner bought a copy at a Sam Goody store in the spring of 1982, so he demanded $24,000 and reportedly threatened French with bodily harm if he didn't pay up.

"I was threatened directly by the owner," French states. "Then my manager, Mark Puma, and I called some club owner guys who he knew knew the right kind of people to call. Phone calls were made, conversations were had, which I was not privy to, but I was told that $10,000 would clear it. We were told that, out of respect, we should pay this. Out of respect? You mean out of desire to not have my knees broken? Okay. So we did."

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4. THE BAND HUNG AN EFFIGY OF BARRY WHITE ONSTAGE.

Twisted Sister and their fans loathed disco. At one point in the late '70s, frequent onstage chants of "Disco Sucks" were echoed by the audience while the group often displayed "Disco Sucks" banners onstage. But then they decided to take things to the next level by hanging an effigy of singer Barry White onstage and beating it to show their disdain for his music. They were very naive because they did not consider the wider racial implications of their actions. When one club owner in particular shared his positive views on lynching, the band was appalled.

"That scared us and taught us a lesson," says French. "We were bored to death in the bars and looking for things to do, things to say, and things to make people react. We fell prey to the mentality of crowd manipulations. After [the club owner] said that to us, not only did we stop doing it, but we also never played that room again. We didn't want to be associated with a guy like that."

5. AS A TEENAGER, JAY JAY FRENCH DROVE HIS NEIGHBORS CRAZY.

After buying his first big amp stack in 1969, French opened his windows and cranked his guitar loud and proud. Soon a neighbor was banging on his door. When she confronted him, she said she could hear him on 88th and Columbus. "I said, 'You live four blocks away? And you heard my guitar? Okay.'" he recalls. "And I slammed the door on her."

At another time, French took his amp and guitar to the roof and blasted all across the West Side of Manhattan while doing windmills. After trying to gesture to him to turn it down, and getting a middle finger in return, a neighbor in a penthouse two blocks away called the cops, who came up to the roof. "They basically said, 'Put the guitar down, and step away from the guitar,'" French recalls with amusement. "The guitar was reverberating all over the buildings. It was pretty funny."

6. SOMEONE ONCE SET THEIR TRUCK ON FIRE.

After renting trucks for a long time, Twisted Sister finally bought one, but they only had it for one day. They were playing their favorite club, Speaks, on Long Island in early 1978 when, mid-set, someone yelled, "Your truck's on fire!" They opened the door behind the stage to see their vehicle completely engulfed in flames. French recalls it was so hot that it was melting the adjacent truck belonging to another band. Luckily it did not explode and no one was hurt.

Two years later, he received a revelation about that night. The ex-wife of the son of a rival club owner walked up to him while he was playing Pac-Man at a bar in Westchester. "She said, 'I know about your truck being destroyed,'" French explains. "'You know your truck that was set on fire on Long Island a couple of years ago? That was my husband who did that. His dad told him to go do it.'"

French acknowledges that it was hearsay and speculation, but "it kind of made sense" given that this was the son of the racist club owner who liked their Barry White stunt. "It makes total sense now that it was done on purpose because the band stopped playing the venue [and cost them revenue]. The loop was closed, but I can't prove it."

7. THE HEAD OF THEIR RECORD LABEL HATED THEM. AT LEAST AT FIRST.

Twisted Sister were never critical darlings. Nor did the major labels like them. The list of reasons why record labels would not sign them included everything from the color of their pants to "been done before," but "there was never any acknowledgment that the band was super popular," says French.

When Atlantic Records' then-president Doug Morris found out that Phil Carson, the label's London-based senior vice president, had signed Twisted Sister during Christmas week of 1982, he was incensed. A&R man Jason Flom had been championing them for years to no avail. But after the band's second album (and Atlantic debut) You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll sold 100,000 copies in 1983 with no label support, just constant touring, Morris called French into his office.

"He apologized to me," French says. The guitarist says that the label chief revealed to him that Warner Music and American Express owned MTV at that point. "He said, 'You make the right record and the right video and I'll make you the biggest band in the world.' I didn't buy it at all. What signaled that he wasn't full of it was that he hired [producer] Tom Werman, the hottest guy in town [for Stay Hungry]. He put his money where his mouth is."

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8. EVEN AS A LARGE CLUB DRAW, THE BAND LIVED NEAR THE POVERTY LEVEL FOR MANY YEARS.

Even though at the height of their pre-fame club popularity Twisted Sister could draw anywhere from 2000 to 3500 people to a gig, the group did not live large like other local stars. They put all their money back into the band. "I think our best year was $12,000 each in the bars because all the money went to the show, the equipment, demos, and the crew," French explains. "So we lived on near-poverty level wages the whole time because we understood that you had to put the money back in. With other bands, some guys bought houses and cars, we didn't. We took the least amount of money you could take to get by, and all the rest was invested. While we were definitely able to earn good money to keep the business going, that was never the key."

9. DESPITE ALL THE CRAZINESS AROUND THEM, THE BAND WAS SOBER.

A majority of Twisted Sister's members do not drink and none do drugs, and nobody ever drank to excess. They were laser focused on their music and achieving success. "We lost a lot of ex-members who did party and found it a very inhospitable place to work," French admits. "We were not a hospitable band if you partied. We were so straight that if you were f**ked up, you were out of the band."

The guitarist recalls that when the band held drinking contests onstage (to the point that some contestants got sick) in the late '70s, he had no idea how much booze he had been handing out. At one point, "The bartender said, 'I think you've handed out enough to kill somebody,'" he recalls. "I didn't know how much was enough to trash somebody. I had no idea."

10. DEE SNIDER WAS ARRESTED FOR OBSCENITY IN 1984.

The group was playing a show in Amarillo, Texas. They were a bar band that originally played to college-aged audiences, but with their platinum success in the summer of 1984 graduated to playing amphitheaters and arenas. Their poppy hit songs of that year belied the darker nature of their other material.

"Before I realized it, there was a large body of elementary school kids who were coming down with their parents to see that fun band," Snider told me for a Goldmine magazine interview in 1999. "I was still doing the same show that we were doing in biker bars in 1979." At one point, he cursed out a fan who was starting trouble. "This mother’s jaw hit the floor, and then she went and pressed charges."

Snider was arrested after the show, but the charges were dropped. "We, at the time, thought it was not a good thing to make a big issue out of it," the singer said. "In retrospect, I think we should have. The ACLU wanted to step in. Basically we just paid the minimal fine and the charges were dropped. It was disorderly conduct and abusive language, or something like that, whatever that means."

11. THE BAND CREATED A ZOMBIE VIDEO THAT WAS BANNED.

The group became a multiplatinum success in 1984 through two humorous videos starring Animal House actor Mark Metcalf ("We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock"), and the debut single for their fourth studio album, 1985's Come Out And Play, was their cover of The Shangri-Las' tune "Leader Of The Pack," another upbeat and commercial track. While the album quickly achieved gold status with 500,000 copies sold, the band began losing momentum in late 1985/early 1986, so they did an about-face with the next video clip for the '50s-sounding single "Be Chrool To Your Scuel," a song that featured Alice Cooper, Brian Setzer, Billy Joel, and Clarence Clemons.

For the video, the band unleashed a tale of a teacher who daydreams that he and his fellow educators turn into Twisted Sister and preside over a school full of zombies.  The clip—which featured fellow shock rocker Cooper, comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, gory makeup guru Tom Savini, and reportedly a young Luke Perry (if you can spot him beneath his undead look)—was gruesomely funny but too graphic for MTV. The cable network subsequently banned it, which is unfortunate because it could have re-established Twisted Sister as an edgy band and less of a novelty at the time. True fans, however, knew the real deal.

12. FRENCH IS A BUSINESS COLUMNIST AND MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER.

For the last year, French has been penning a business column for Inc., in which he often relates anecdotes about his crazy 40-plus years in Twisted Sister as prime examples of what to do—and what not to do—in business. He also does business motivational speaking and keynote addresses. He usually asks his audiences how many have graduated college and how many have business degrees.

Then: "How many of you find it ironic that you take advice from a drug addict, misogynistic, wife beating, former heavy metal rock 'n roll star and high school dropout?" he jokes. "And they all start laughing. I say, 'You guys missed a party, and I'm telling you about business.' It's ironic, but it's what makes it interesting and funny because I've been successful for 40 years. Nothing replaces that, and if you can articulate your experiences, then you have a narrative."

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Animals
15 Incredible Facts About Pigeons
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Though they're often described as "rats with wings" (a phrase popularized by the movie Stardust Memories), pigeons are actually pretty cool. From homing instincts to misleading rump feathers, here are 15 things you might not know about these avian adventurers.

1. THEY MIGHT BE THE FIRST DOMESTICATED BIRD.

The common city pigeon (Columba livia), also known as the rock pigeon, might be the first bird humankind ever domesticated. You can see them in art dating back as far as 4500 BCE in modern Iraq, and they've been a valuable source of food for thousands of years.

2. THEY WON OVER CHARLES DARWIN—AND NIKOLA TESLA.

Pigeon-breeding was a common hobby in Victorian England for everyone from well-off businessmen to average Joes, leading to some fantastically weird birds. Few hobbyists had more enthusiasm for the breeding process than Charles Darwin, who owned a diverse flock, joined London pigeon clubs, and hobnobbed with famous breeders. Darwin's passion for the birds influenced his 1868 book The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication, which has not one but two chapters about pigeons (dogs and cats share a single chapter).

Nikola Tesla was another great mind who enjoyed pigeons. He used to care for injured wild pigeons in his New York City hotel room. Hands down, Tesla's favorite was a white female—about whom he once said, "I loved that pigeon, I loved her as a man loves a woman and she loved me. When she was ill, I knew and understood; she came to my room and I stayed beside her for days. I nursed her back to health. That pigeon was the joy of my life. If she needed me, nothing else mattered. As long as I had her, there was a purpose in my life." Reportedly, he was inconsolable after she died.

3. THEY UNDERSTAND SPACE AND TIME.

In a 2017 Current Biology study, researchers showed captive pigeons a series of digital lines on a computer screen for either two or eight seconds. Some lines were short, measuring about 2.3 inches across; others were four times longer. The pigeons were trained to evaluate either the length of the line or how long it was displayed. They found that the more time a line was displayed, the longer in length the pigeon judged it to be. The reverse was true too: If the pigeons encountered a longer line, they thought it existed in time for a greater duration. Pigeons, the scientists concluded, understand the concepts of both time and space; the researchers noted "similar results have been found with humans and other primates."

It's thought that humans process those concepts with a brain region called the parietal cortex; pigeon brains lack that cortex, so they must have a different way of judging space and time.

4. THEY CAN FIND THEIR WAY BACK TO THE NEST FROM 1300 MILES AWAY.

A pigeon flying in front of trees.
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The birds can do this even if they've been transported in isolation—with no visual, olfactory, or magnetic clues—while scientists rotate their cages so they don't know what direction they're traveling in. How they do this is a mystery, but people have been exploiting the pigeon's navigational skills since at least 3000 BCE, when ancient peoples would set caged pigeons free and follow them to nearby land.

Their navigational skills also make pigeons great long-distance messengers. Sports fans in ancient Greece are said to have used trained pigeons to carry the results of the Ancient Olympics. Further east, Genghis Khan stayed in touch with his allies and enemies alike through a pigeon-based postal network.

5. THEY SAVED THOUSANDS OF HUMAN LIVES DURING WORLD WARS I AND II.

Pigeons' homing talents continued to shape history during the 20th century. In both World Wars, rival nations had huge flocks of pigeon messengers. (America alone had 200,000 at its disposal in WWII.) By delivering critical updates, the avians saved thousands of human lives. One racing bird named Cher Ami completed a mission that led to the rescue of 194 stranded U.S. soldiers on October 4, 1918.

6. TWO PIGEONS ALMOST DISTRACTED FROM THE DISCOVERY OF EVIDENCE OF THE BIG BANG.

In 1964, scientists in Holmdel, New Jersey, heard hissing noises from their antenna that would later prove to be signals from the Big Bang. But when they first heard the sound, they thought it might be, among other things, the poop of two pigeons that were living in the antenna. "We took the pigeons, put them in a box, and mailed them as far away as we could in the company mail to a guy who fancied pigeons," one of the scientists later recalled. "He looked at them and said these are junk pigeons and let them go and before long they were right back." But the scientists were able to clean out the antenna and determine that they had not been the cause of the noise. The trap used to catch the birds (before they had to later be, uh, permanently removed) is on view at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

7. YOU CAN TRAIN THEM TO BE ART SNOBS …

Japanese psychologist Shigeru Watanabe and two colleagues earned an Ig Nobel Prize in 1995 for training pigeons, in a lab setting, to recognize the paintings of Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso and to distinguish between the painters. The pigeons were even able to use their knowledge of impressionism and cubism to identify paintings of other artists in those movements. Later, Watanabe taught other pigeons to distinguish watercolor images from pastels. And in a 2009 experiment, captive pigeons he'd borrowed were shown almost two dozen paintings made by students at a Tokyo elementary school, and were taught which ones were considered "good" and which ones were considered "bad." He then presented them with 10 new paintings and the avian critics managed to correctly guess which ones had earned bad grades from the school's teacher and a panel of adults. Watanabe's findings indicate that wild pigeons naturally categorize things on the basis of color, texture, and general appearance.

8. … AND TO DISTINGUISH WRITTEN WORDS.

In a 2016 study, scientists showed that pigeons can differentiate between strings of letters and actual words. Four of the birds built up a vocabulary of between 26 and 58 written English words, and though the birds couldn't actually read them, they could identify visual patterns and therefore tell them apart. The birds could even identify words they hadn't seen before.

9. FLUFFY PIGEON FEET MIGHT ACTUALLY BE PARTIAL WINGS.

A white pigeon with curly feathers and fluffy feet.
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A few pigeon breeds have fuzzy legs—which hobbyists call "muffs"—rather than scaly ones. According to a 2016 study, the DNA of these fluffy-footed pigeons leads their hind legs to take on some forelimb characteristics, making muffed pigeon legs look distinctly wing-like; they're also big-boned. Not only do they have feathers, but the hindlimbs are somewhat big-boned, too. According to biologist Mike Shapiro, who led the study, "pigeons' fancy feathered feet are partially wings."

10. SOME PIGEONS DISTRACT FALCONS WITH WHITE RUMP FEATHERS.

In a life-or-death situation, a pigeon's survival could depend upon its color pattern: Research has shown that wild falcons rarely go after pigeons that have a white patch of feathers just above the tail, and when the predators do target these birds, the attacks are rarely successful.

To figure out why this is, Ph.D. student Alberto Palleroni and a team tagged 5235 pigeons in the vicinity of Davis, California. Then, they monitored 1485 falcon-on-pigeon attacks over a seven-year span. The researchers found that although white-rumped pigeons comprised 20 to 25 percent of the area's pigeon population, they represented less than 2 percent of all the observed pigeons that were killed by falcons; the vast majority of the victims had blue rumps. Palleroni and his team rounded up 756 white- and blue-rumped pigeons and swapped their rump feathers by clipping and pasting white feathers on blue rumps, and vice versa. The falcons had a much easier time spotting and catching the newly blue-rumped pigeons, while the pigeons that received the white feathers saw predation rates plummet.

Close observation revealed that the white patches distract birds of prey. In the wild, falcons dive-bomb other winged animals from above at high speeds. Some pigeons respond by rolling away in midair, and on a spiraling bird, white rump feathers can be eye-catching, which means that a patch of them may divert a hungry raptor's focus long enough to make the carnivore miscalculate and zip right past its intended victim.

11. DODOS WERE RELATED TO TODAY'S PIGEONS.

Two blue and green Nicobar pigeons.
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Though most of this list focuses on the rock pigeon, there are 308 living species of pigeons and doves. Together, they make up an order of birds known as the columbiformes. The extinct dodo belonged to this group as well.

Flightless and (somewhat) docile, dodos once inhabited Mauritius, an island near Madagascar. The species had no natural predators, but when human sailors arrived with rats, dogs, cats, and pigs, it began to die out, and before the 17th century came to a close, the dodo had vanished altogether. DNA testing has confirmed that pigeons are closely related to the dodo, and the vibrant Nicobar pigeon (above) is its nearest genetic relative. A multi-colored bird with iridescent feathers, this near-threatened creature is found on small islands in the South Pacific and off Asia. Unlike the dodo, it can fly.

12. AT ONE POINT, MORE THAN ONE-QUARTER OF ALL THE BIRDS LIVING IN THE U.S. MAY HAVE BEEN PASSENGER PIGEONS.

Wild/feral rock pigeons reside in all 50 states, which makes it easy to forget that they're invasive birds. Originally native to Eurasia and northern Africa, the species was (most likely) introduced to North America by French settlers in 1606. At the time, a different kind of columbiform—this one indigenous—was already thriving there: the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius). As many as 5 billion of them were living in America when England, Spain, and France first started colonizing, and they may have once represented anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of the total U.S. bird population. But by the early 20th century, they had become a rare sight, thanks to overhunting, habitat loss, and a possible genetic diversity issue. The last known passenger pigeon—a captive female named Martha—died on September 1, 1914.

13. THEY'RE REALLY GOOD AT MULTITASKING.

According to one study, they're more efficient multitaskers than people are. Scientists at Ruhr-Universitat Bochum put together a test group of 15 humans and 12 pigeons and trained all of them to complete two simple jobs (like pressing a keyboard once a light bulb came on). They were also put in situations wherein they'd need to stop working on one job and switch over to another. In some trials, the participants had to make the change immediately. During these test runs, humans and pigeons switched between jobs at the same speed.

But in other trials, the test subjects were allowed to complete one assignment and then had to wait 300 milliseconds before moving on to the next job. Interestingly, in these runs, the pigeons were quicker to get started on that second task after the period ended. In the avian brain, nerve cells are more densely packed, which might enable our feathered friends to process information faster than we can under the right circumstances.

14. PIGEONS PRODUCE FAKE "MILK."

Only mammals produce genuine milk, but pigeons and doves (along with some other species of birds) feed their young with something similar—a whitish liquid filled with nutrients, fats, antioxidants, and healthy proteins called "crop milk." Both male and female pigeons create the milk in the crop, a section of the esophagus designed to store food temporarily. As is the case with mammal milk, the creation of crop milk is regulated by the hormone prolactin. Newly-hatched pigeons drink crop milk until they're weaned off it after four weeks or so. (And if you've ever asked yourself, "Where are all the baby pigeons?" we have the answer for you right here.)

15. ONE STUDY SUGGESTS THAT, GIVEN THE RIGHT CONDITIONS, THEY'RE AS GOOD AT IDENTIFYING CANCER AS DOCTORS.

We've already established that pigeons are excellent at differentiating between artists and words, but a 2015 study revealed they can also distinguish between malignant and benign growths in the right conditions. Researchers at University of California Davis Medical Center put 16 pigeons in a room with magnified biopsies of potential breast cancers. If the pigeons correctly identified them as either benign or malignant, they got a treat, According to Scientific American.

"Once trained, the pigeons' average diagnostic accuracy reached an impressive 85 percent. But when a "flock sourcing" approach was taken, in which the most common answer among all subjects was used, group accuracy climbed to a staggering 99 percent, or what would be expected from a pathologist. The pigeons were also able to apply their knowledge to novel images, showing the findings weren't simply a result of rote memorization."

Mammograms proved to be more of a challenge, however; the birds could memorize signs of cancer in the images they were trained on but could not identify the signs in new images.

No matter how impressive their results, "I don't anticipate that pigeons, no matter how good they become at pathology or radiology, will be playing a role in actual patient care—certainly for the foreseeable future," study co-author Richard M. Levenson told Scientific American. "There are just too many regulatory barriers—at least in the West."

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10 Wild Facts About Westworld
John P. Johnson, HBO
John P. Johnson, HBO

The hit HBO show about an android farm girl finding sentience in a fake version of the old West set in a sci-fi future is back for a second season. So grab your magnifying glass, study up on Lewis Carroll and Shakespeare, and get ready for your brain to turn to scrambled eggs. 

The first season saw Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her robotic compatriots strive to escape bondage as the puppet playthings of a bored society that kills and brutalizes them every day, then repairs them each night to repeat the process for paying customers. The Maze. The Man in Black. The mysteries lurking in cold storage and cantinas. Wood described the first season as a prequel, which means the show can really get on the dusty trail now. 

Before you board the train and head back into the park, here are 10 wild facts about the cerebral, sci-fi hit. (Just beware of season one spoilers!)

1. IT’S NOT THE FIRST TV ADAPTATION OF THE MOVIE.

Though Westworld, the 1973 film written and directed by Michael Crichton, was a hit, its 1976 sequel Futureworld was a flop. Still, the name and concept had enough cachet for CBS to move forward with a television concept in 1980. Beyond Westworld featured Delos head of security John Moore (Jim McMullan) battling against the villainous mad scientist Simon Quaid (James Wainwright), who wants to use the park’s robots to, what else, take over the whole world. It would be a little like if the HBO show focused largely on Luke Hemsworth’s Ashley Stubbs, which just might be the spinoff the world is waiting for.

2. THE ORIGINAL GUNSLINGER HAS A CAMEO.

Ed Harris and Eddie Rouse in 'Westworld'
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The HBO series pays homage to the original film in a variety of ways, including echoing elements from the score to create that dread-inducing soundscape. It also tipped its ten-gallon hat to Yul Brynner’s relentless gunslinger from the original film by including him in the storage basement with the rest of the creaky old models.

3. QUENTIN TARANTINO, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, AND MANY OTHERS COULD HAVE REBOOTED IT.

Speaking of Brynner’s steely, murderous resolve: His performance as the robo-cowboy was one of the foundations for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s turn as the Terminator. Nearly 20 years later, in 2002, Schwarzenegger signed on to produce and star in a reboot of the sci-fi film from which he took his early acting cues. Schwarzenegger never took over the role from Brynner because he served as Governor of California instead, and the reboot languished in development hell.

Warner Bros. tried to get Quentin Tarantino on board, but he passed. They also signed The Cell director Tarsem Singh (whose old West would have been unbelievably lush and colorful, no doubt), but it fell through. A few years later, J.J. Abrams—who had met with Crichton about a reboot back in 1996—pitched eventual co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy on doing it as a television series. HBO bought it, and the violent delights finally made it to our screens.

4. IT COSTS $40,000 A DAY TO VISIT THE PARK. (AND THAT’S THE CHEAP PACKAGE.)

Thandie Newton and Angela Sarafyan in 'Westworld'
HBO

In season one, Logan (Ben Barnes) revealed that he’s spending $40,000 a day to experience Westworld. That’s in line with the 1973 movie, where park visitors spent $1000 a day, which lands near $38,000 once adjusted for inflation. Then again, we’re talking about 2052 dollars, so it might still be pricey, but not exorbitant in 2018 terms. But a clever Redditor spotted that $40,000 is the minimum you’d pay; according to the show’s website, the Gold Package will set you back $200,000 a day.

5. BEN BARNES BROKE HIS FOOT AND DIDN’T TELL ANYONE.

Once Upon a Time’s Eion Bailey was originally cast as Logan but had to quit due to a scheduling conflict, so Ben Barnes stepped in … then he broke his foot. The actor hid the injury for fear he’d lose the job, which is why he added a limp as a character detail. “I’m sort of hobbling along with this kind of cowboy-ish limp, which I then tried to maintain for the next year just so I could pretend it was a character choice,” Barnes said. “But really I had a very purple foot … So walking was the hardest part of shooting this for me.”

6. THE CO-CREATORS RICKROLLED FANS OBSESSED WITH UNCOVERING SPOILERS.

Eagle-eyed fans (particularly on Reddit) uncovered just about every major spoiler from the first season early on, which is why Nolan and Joy promised a spoiler video for anyone who wanted to know the entire plot of season two ahead of its premiere. They delivered, but instead of show secrets, the 25-minute video only offered a classy rendition of Rick Astley’s internet-infamous “Never Gonna Give You Up,” sung by Evan Rachel Wood with Angela Sarafyan on piano, followed by 20 minutes of a dog. It was a pitch-perfect response to a fanbase desperate for answers.

7. IT FEATURES AN ANCIENT GREEK EASTER EGG.

Amid the alternative rock tunes hammered out on the player piano and hat tips to classic western films, Westworld also referenced something from 5th century BCE Greece. Westworld, which is run by Delos Incorporated, is designed so that guests cannot die. Delos is also the name of the island where ancient Greeks made it illegal for anyone to die (or be born for that matter) on religious grounds. That’s not the only bit of wordplay with Greek either: Sweetwater’s main ruffian, Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro), gets his last name from the Greek eschaton, meaning the final event in the divine design of the world. Fitting for a potentially sentient robot helping to bring about humanity’s destruction.

8. JIMMI SIMPSON FIGURED OUT HIS CHARACTER’S TWIST BECAUSE OF HIS EYEBROWS.

Evan Rachel Wood and Jimmi Simpson in 'Westworld'
HBO

In season one, the show’s many secrets were kept even from the main cast until the time they absolutely needed to know. Jimmi Simpson, who plays timid theme park neophyte William, had a hunch something was funny with his role because of a cosmetic change.

“I was with an amazing makeup artist, Christian, and he was looking at my face too much,” Simpson told Vanity Fair. “He had me in his chair, and he was just looking at my face, and then he said something about my eyebrows. ‘Would you be cool if we just took a couple hairs out of your eyebrows, made them not quite as arched?’” Guessing that they were making him look more like The Man in Black, Simpson said something to Joy, and she confirmed his hunch. “She looked kind of surprised I’d worked it out,” he said.

9. THE PLAYER PIANO MAY BE AN ALLUSION TO KURT VONNEGUT.

One of the show’s most iconic elements is its soundtrack of alternative rock songs from the likes of Radiohead, The Cure, and Soundgarden redone in a jaunty, old West style. In addition to adding a creepy sonic flavor to the sadistic vacation, they also may wink toward Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, which deals with a dystopia of automation where machines do everything for humans, leading to an entrenched class struggle. The show’s resonant elements are clear, but Westworld also mentions that the world outside the theme park is one where there’s no unemployment and humans have little purpose. Like The Man In Black (Ed Harris), the protagonist of Player Piano also longs for real stakes in the struggle of life.

10. THERE ARE TWO JESSE JAMES CONNECTIONS.

Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright in 'Westworld'
HBO

Anthony Hopkins’s character Dr. Robert Ford is an invention for the new series, and he shares a name with the man who assassinated infamous outlaw Jesse James (a fact you may remember from the aptly named movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). The final episode of the first season flips the allusion when Ford is shot in the back of the head, which is exactly how the real-life Ford killed James.

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