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6 Televised Musical Performances That Caused a Stir

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The free-spirited world of music is sometimes an odd fit for the controlled, advertiser-indebted medium of television, even though the two have been deeply entwined for decades. Here are six performances where rock or pop stars caused a stir with TV viewers, hosts, executives, or sponsors.

1. ELVIS PRESLEY ON THE MILTON BERLE SHOW // JUNE 5, 1956

When Elvis appeared on The Milton Berle Show for a second time in 1956, Mr. Television gave the young singer some advice: “Let ’em see you, son.” At Berle’s suggestion, Elvis ditched his guitar and performed “Hound Dog” for an at-home audience of around 40 million people. Unencumbered by his six-string, Elvis waved his arms and gyrated his hips, occasionally poking his pelvis into his microphone stand.

Ben Gross of the New York Daily News called it “an exhibition that was suggestive and vulgar, tinged with the kind of animalism that should be confined to dives and bordellos.” Other reactions, collected by Gilbert B. Rodman for his book Elvis After Elvis: The Posthumous Career of a Living Legend, were beyond reproachful. “He can’t sing a lick, makes up for his vocal shortcomings with the weirdest and plainly suggestive animation of an aborigine’s mating dance,” wrote Jack O’Brien of The New York Journal-American. The Catholic Church-published magazine America was also unkind: “If the agencies (TV and other) would stop handling such nauseating stuff, all the Presleys of our land would soon be swallowed up in the oblivion they deserve.”

Social conservatives were already wary of Elvis, but the “Hound Dog” performance turned him into a full-on moral threat. Soon after, a Florida judge threatened to jail him if he did those hip gyrations at a Jacksonville gig.

2. THE DOORS ON THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW // SEPTEMBER 17, 1967

After it introduced The Beatles to America, playing The Ed Sullivan Show became a must for upcoming bands, even as the program struggled to come to terms with the increasingly edgy content of rock songs. The show's producers cajoled the Rolling Stones into changing the lyrics of “Let’s Spend the Night Together” to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together,” though Mick Jagger gave the audience a knowing eye-roll.

The producers couldn't tame The Doors, however, who got a slot on Sullivan’s show nine months after the release of their debut album. Hours before they were set to go on, a producer stopped by their dressing room and instructed them to omit the word “higher” from “Light My Fire,” because of its association with drug use. The group agreed, but as soon as the producer left the room, Jim Morrison made it clear to his bandmates that they weren't going to change a word.

Sullivan and his producers were furious when they heard the offending “higher” during the performance, and the host declined to do the usual handshake with the band after their set. Backstage, a producer told The Doors, “Mr. Sullivan wanted you for six more shows, but you’ll never work The Ed Sullivan Show again,” to which Morrison reportedly shot back, “Hey, man, we just did the Sullivan show.”

3. THE WHO ON THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR // SEPTEMBER 17, 1967

Just one hour after The Doors’ Sullivan performance, CBS aired yet another infamous display by a young rock band. The Who’s appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was their first performance on American TV. Hosts Dick and Tommy Smothers knew the band would end their set by smashing their instruments. According to Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour' by David Bianculli, they’d seen the band do it at the Monterey Pop Festival, but The Who wanted something even louder and more destructive for their introduction to U.S. viewers.

The band planned a blast of smoke and noise to coincide with the finale of “My Generation,” and they convinced a stagehand to build a small cannon in Keith Moon’s drum set. “[I]n the rehearsal it went bang,” recalls guitarist Pete Townsend, “but it kind of made a lot of smoke and a bit of a dull thud. And Keith said, ‘Listen, you must increase the charge.’” Even after the stagehand complied, Moon packed it with even more explosives.

As they finished their performance, Townsend began smashing his guitar, and an explosion ripped through Moon's drum set, nearly knocking Townsend over. (Townsend later claimed the blast gave him hearing loss.) Dazed, Townsend managed to grab an acoustic guitar from a stunned Tommy Smothers as part of a pre-planned bit and smash it.

According to Dangerously Funny, the brothers thought the episode was so good they rushed it on the air two days later, bumping a previously taped one featuring Herman’s Hermits. The display of bedlam became another point of contention, and from that point forward CBS executives began demanding the brothers submit show footage days in advance for them to prescreen.

4. HARRY BELAFONTE AND PETULA CLARK ON PETULA // APRIL 8, 1968

In 1968, a Chrysler executive was aghast when he previewed footage of Petula Clark's NBC special Petula, which the auto company had sponsored.

Clark ended the show with a duet with Harry Belafonte, singing the antiwar song “On the Path of Glory,” but it wasn’t the protest component that troubled Doyle Lott, Chrysler's advertising manager for the Plymouth division; it was that Clark, a British-born white woman, held the arm of Belafonte, an American black man of Jamaican ancestry. Lott was concerned with backlash from Southern stations and asked for the segment to be re-taped. The performers refused, and they insisted the song be aired as-is.

Belafonte took the issue to the press, saying that "it is essential for television and industries to know that people like Doyle exist." Lott apologized, claiming he “overreacted to the staging, not to any feelings of discrimination," and Chrysler distanced itself from Lott, insisting the objections were his and not the company’s. The performance was left in, and the program aired as Clark and Belafonte intended.

5. SINEAD O’CONNOR ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE // OCTOBER 3, 1992

Promoting a new album in 1992, Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O'Connor appeared on Saturday Night Live to perform two songs. The second was an acapella cover of Bob Marley's “War,” to which she added lyrics about child abuse. During the live performance, she took out a photo of Pope John Paul II and ripped it to shreds, declaring, “Fight the real enemy.” The audience was stunned silent, and so were SNL's cast and crew—producers later said she had held up a picture of a child in rehearsals.

After the live performance, NBC received more than 4000 complaints. A spokesperson for the New York Archdiocese called it “an act of hatred and intolerance.” John Joseph O'Connor, archbishop of New York, accused O’Connor of trying to harm the Pope via “voodoo” or “sympathetic magic.” The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations offered to make a $10 donation to charity for anyone who forfeited to them a copy of an O’Connor album.

O’Connor explained the move to TIME, describing the performance as a protest against abuse in the Catholic Church. "In Ireland," she said, "we see our people are manifesting the highest incidence in Europe of child abuse. This is a direct result of the fact that they're not in contact with their history as Irish people and the fact that in the schools, the priests have been beating ... the children for years and sexually abusing them."

In 2010, O'Connor told Irish magazine Hot Press that the photo was not just a random image of the Pope—it was a photo that had been hanging on her mother's wall since 1978.

6. JANET JACKSON AND JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE'S SUPER BOWL HALFTIME SHOW // FEBRUARY 1, 2004

It was the event that added the term “wardrobe malfunction” to dictionaries. The MTV-produced halftime show for Super Bowl XXXVIII included Kid Rock, P. Diddy, and Nelly, and it ended with a set by Janet Jackson. As a finale, the veteran pop star bought out Justin Timberlake for a duet of his hit “Rock Your Body.” As Timberlake sang the line, “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song,” he pulled off a piece of Jackson’s costume, revealing—for less than a second before CBS cut away—her breast, adorned only by sun-patterned nipple jewelry.

The Federal Communications Commission received upwards of 200,000 complaints. AOL asked the NFL to pay back $7.5 million in sponsorship money, and the company refused to rebroadcast the event online (as they had originally agreed). Radio conglomerate Clear Channel Communications blacklisted Jackson’s songs and the Grammys disinvited her (but not Timberlake). The FCC cracked down on “indecency” across the board, levying $7.9 million in fines in 2004 (compared to $440,000 in 2003) [PDF]. The public, however, apparently wanted to see the offending footage; in 2006, the Guinness Book of World Records dubbed the incident “the most searched item in internet history.”

In November 2004, Viacom paid the FCC $3.5 million to settle a range of ongoing cases, but Super Bowl broadcaster CBS never paid its $550,000 fine. A court nullified it in 2008, ruling that a broadcaster shouldn’t be on the hook for unplanned “indecency” in a case like a "wardrobe malfunction."

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8 Allegedly Cursed Places
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Some of the most picturesque spots in the world hide legends of a curse. Castles, islands, rivers, and more have supposedly suffered spooky misfortunes as the result of a muttered hex cast after a perceived slight—whether it's by a maligned monk or a mischievous pirate. Below are eight such (allegedly) unfortunate locations.

1. A WALL FROM MARGAM ABBEY // WALES

An 800-year-old ruined wall stands on the grounds of a large steelworks in Port Talbot, Wales. The wall is surrounded by a fence and held up by a number of brick buttresses—all because of an ancient curse. The story goes that when King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the 16th century, one of the local Cistercian monks evicted from Margam Abbey told the new owners of the site, in a bid to protect it, that if the wall fell, the entire town would fall with it (it's unclear why he would focus on that particular part of the structure). Since then, the townsfolk have tried hard to protect the wall, even as an enormous steelworks was built around it. Rumors abound that the hex-giving monk still haunts the site in a red habit, keeping an eye on his precious wall.

2. ALLOA TOWER // SCOTLAND

Alloa tower in Scotland
HARTLEPOOLMARINA2014, Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 4.0

Alloa Tower in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, has reportedly been subject to a curse for hundreds of years. In the 16th century, the Earl of Mar is said to have destroyed the local Cambuskenneth Abbey and taken the stones to build his new palace. The Abbot of Cambuskenneth was so furious he supposedly cast a multi-part curse on the Erskine family—ominously known as “The Doom of Mar." It is said that at least part of the curse has come true over the years, including that three of the children of the Mar family would “never see the light” (three of the earl’s ancestors’ offspring were reportedly born blind). The curse also supposedly predicted that the house would burn down, which occurred in 1800. Another part of the curse: The house would lay in ruins until an ash sapling grew from its roof. Sure enough, around 1820 a sapling was seen sprouting from the roof, and since then the family curse is said to have been lifted.

3. A WORKERS' CEMETERY // EGYPT

In the fall of 2017, archeologists reopened an almost-4500-year-old tomb complex in Giza, Egypt, that contains the remains of hundreds of workers who built the great Pyramid of Giza. The tomb also contains the remains of the supervisor of the workers, who is believed to have added curses to the cemetery to protect it from thieves. One such curse reads: "All people who enter this tomb who will make evil against this tomb and destroy it, may the crocodile be against them in water and snakes against them on land. May the hippopotamus be against them in water, the scorpion against them on land." The complex is now open to the public—who may or may not want to take their chances.

4. RUINS OF THE CHATEAU DE ROCCA SPARVIERA // FRANCE

A chateau just north of the French Riviera may sound like a delightful place to be, but amid the ruins of the Chateau de Rocca-Sparviera—the Castle of the Sparrow-Hawk—lies a disturbing legend. The tale centers around a medieval French queen named Jeanne, who supposedly fled to the castle after her husband was killed. She arrived with two young sons and a monk known to enjoy his drink. One Christmas, she went into the village to hear a midnight mass, and when she returned, she found that the monk had killed her sons in a drunken rage. (In another version of the story, she was served a banquet of her own children, which she unknowingly ate.) According to legend, Jeanne then cursed the castle, saying a bird would never sing nearby. To this day, some travelers report that the ruins are surrounded by an eerie silence.

5. THE PEBBLES OF KOH HINGHAM // THAILAND

Stopped off at a small uninhabited island that, according to Thai mythology, is cursed by the god Tarutao. If anyone dared to even take one pebble off this island they would be forever cursed! 😈 I heard from a local that every year the National Park office receive many stones back via mail from people who want to lift the curse! I was never much of a stone collector anyway... ☻☹☻☹☻ #thailand #kohlanta #kohlipe #kohhingham #islandhopping #islandlife #beachlife #pebbles #beach #speedboat #travelgram #instatraveling #wanderlust #exploringtheglobe #exploretocreate #traveleverywhere #aroundtheworld #exploringtheglobe #travelawesome #wanderer #earth_escape #natgeotravel #serialtraveler #awesomesauce #picoftheday #photooftheday #potd

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The tiny uninhabited island of Koh Hingham, off the coast of Thailand, is blessed with a covering of precious black stones. The stones are not precious because they contain anything valuable in a monetary sense, but because according to Thai mythology the god Tarutao made them so. Tarutao is said to have invoked a curse upon anyone who takes a stone off the island. As a result, every year the national park office that manages the island receives packages from all over the world, sent by tourists returning the stones and attempting to rid themselves of bad luck.

6. INITIALS OUTSIDE THE CHAPEL AT ST. ANDREWS UNIVERSITY // SCOTLAND

The "cursed" PH stones of St. Andrews University
Nuwandalice, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The initials PH are paved into the ground outside St. Salvator’s Chapel at St. Andrews University in Scotland. They mark the spot where 24-year-old preacher and faculty member Patrick Hamilton was burned at the stake for heresy in 1528—an early trigger of the Scottish Reformation. The location is therefore supposed to be cursed, and it is said that any student who stands on the initials is doomed to fail their exams. As a result of this superstition, after graduation day many students purposefully go back to stand on the spot now that all danger of failure has passed.

7. CHARLES ISLAND // CONNECTICUT

Charles Island, Connecticut
Michael Shaheen, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Charles Island lies off the coast of Milford, Connecticut, and is accessible from the mainland via a sandbar when the tide is low. Today it's home to a peaceful nature reserve for local birds, but its long history supposedly includes three curses. The first is said to have been cast in 1639 by the chief of the Paugussett tribe, after the nation was driven off the land by settlers—the chief supposedly cursed any building erected on the land. The second was supposedly laid in 1699 when the pirate Captain William Kidd stopped by the island to bury his booty and protected it with a curse. Shortly afterward, Kidd was caught and executed for his crimes—taking the location of his treasure to his grave.

The third curse is said to have come all the way from Mexico. In 1525, Mexican emperor Guatimozin was tortured by Spaniards hoping to locate Aztec treasure, but he refused to give up its whereabouts. In 1721, a group of sailors from Connecticut supposedly stumbled across the Aztec loot hidden in a cave in Mexico. After an unfortunate journey home in which disaster after disaster slowly depleted the crew, the sole surviving sailor reportedly landed on Charles Island, where he buried the cursed treasure in the hope of negating its hex.

8. THE GHOST TOWN OF BODIE // CALIFORNIA

A house in Bodie, California
Jim Bahn, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Bodie, in California's Sierra Nevadas, sprang up as a result of the gold rush. The town boomed in the late 19th century, with a population nearing 10,000 people. But as the gold seams ran dry, Bodie began a slow and steady decline, hastened by a series of devastating fires. By the 1950s, the place had become a ghost town, and in 1962 it was designated a State Historic Park, with the the buildings kept in a state of “arrested decay." Bodie's sad history has encouraged rumors of a curse, and many visitors to the site who have picked up an abandoned souvenir have reportedly been dogged with bad luck. So much so, the Bodie museum displays numerous letters from tourists who have sent back pilfered booty in the hope of breaking their run of ill fortune.

But the curse didn't start with prospectors or spooked visitors. The rumor apparently originated from rangers at the park, who hoped that the story would prevent visitors from continuing to steal items. In one sense the story worked, since many people are now too scared to pocket artifacts from the site; in another, the rangers have just succeeded in increasing their workload, as they now receive letter after letter expressing regret for taking an item and reporting on the bad luck it caused—further reinforcing the idea of the Bodie curse.

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21 Other Royal Babies Born In The Last 20 Years
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by Kenny Hemphill

At 11:01 a.m. on April 23, 2018, the Royal Family got a new member when it was announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have welcomed their third child, a (yet-to-be-named) boy, who will become fifth in line to the throne. While William and Kate's three children may be the youngsters closest to the throne, they're not the only pint-sized descendants of Queen Elizabeth II to be born in the past 20 years. Here are 21 more of them.

1. ARTHUR CHATTO

Arthur Robert Nathaniel Chatto, who turned 19 years old February 5, is the younger son of Lady Sarah and Daniel Chatto. He is 23rd in the line of succession—and has been raising some royal eyebrows with his penchant for Instagram selfies.

2. CHARLES ARMSTRONG-JONES, VISCOUNT LINLEY

The grandson of Lord Snowden and Princess Margaret, and son of the 2nd Earl and Countess of Snowdon, Charles—who was born on July 1, 1999—is the heir apparent to the Earldom of Snowdon.

3. LADY MARGARITA ARMSTRONG-JONES

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) speaks to Serena Armstrong-Jones, Countess of Snowdon (L), David Armstrong-Jones (2L), 2nd Earl of Snowdon, and Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones (2R).
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Born on May 14, 2002, Lady Margarita is sister to Charles Armstrong-Jones, and great-niece to the Queen. She's 20th in line to the throne.

4. LADY LOUISE WINDSOR

Lady Louise Windsor is the eldest child and only daughter of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex. She was born on November 8, 2003 and is 11th in line for the throne.

5. ELOISE TAYLOR

The third child of Lady Helen and Timothy Taylor, Eloise Olivia Katherine Taylor was born on March 2, 2003 and is 43rd in line for the throne.

6. ESTELLA TAYLOR

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge chats to Estella Taylor on the balcony during Trooping the Colour - Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday Parade, at The Royal Horseguards on June 14, 2014 in London, England
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Eloise's younger sister, Estella Olga Elizabeth Taylor, was born on December 21, 2004. She is the youngest of the four Taylor children and is 44th in succession.

7. JAMES, VISCOUNT SEVERN

The younger child of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, James Alexander Philip Theo Mountbatten-Windsor—or Viscount Severn—was born on December 17, 2007 and is 10th in line for the throne.

8. ALBERT WINDSOR

Albert Louis Philip Edward Windsor, born September 22, 2007, is notable for being the first royal baby to be baptized a Catholic since 1688. He is the son of Lord and Lady Nicholas Windsor, and grandson of the Duke and Duchess of Kent. According to the Act of Settlement, which was passed in 1701, being baptized Catholic would automatically exclude a potential royal from the line of succession. But there was some controversy surrounding this when, up until 2015, the Royal Family website included Albert.

9. XAN WINDSOR

Lord Culloden, Xan Richard Anders Windsor, is son to the Earl of Ulster and Claire Booth, and grandson of the Duke of Gloucester. He was born on March 2, 2007 and is 26th in succession.

10. LEOPOLD WINDSOR

Like his older brother Albert, Leopold Windsor—who was born on September 8, 2009—is not in line to the throne, by virtue of being baptized a Roman Catholic (though he, too, was listed on the Royal Family's website for a time).

11. SAVANNAH PHILLIPS

Autumn Phillips, Isla Phillips, Peter Philips and Savannah Phillips attend Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on December 25, 2017 in King's Lynn, England
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Savannah Anne Kathleen Phillips, the Queen's first great-grandchild, was born on December 29, 2010 to Peter Phillips, son of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips, and Autumn Kelly. She is 14th in line for the throne.

12. SENNA LEWIS

Senna Kowhai Lewis, who was born on June 2, 2010, is the daughter of Gary and Lady Davina Lewis, elder daughter of Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester. She was a beneficiary of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which abolished the practice of giving sons precedence over daughters in the line of succession, regardless of when they are born. As a result, she is 29th in succession.

13. LYLA GILMAN

Daughter of Lady Rose and George Gilman, and granddaughter of Prince Richard, 2nd Duke of Gloucester, Lyla Beatrix Christabel Gilman was born on May 30, 2010. She is 32nd in succession.

14. COSIMA WINDSOR

Lady Cosima Rose Alexandra Windsor was born on May 20, 2010. She is sister to Lord Culloden, daughter of the Earl of Ulster and Claire Booth, and granddaughter to the Duke of Gloucester. She's 27th in line for the throne.

15. RUFUS GILMAN

Lyla Gilman's brother, Rufus, born in October 2012, is 33rd in line for the throne.

16. TĀNE LEWIS

Tāne Mahuta Lewis, Senna's brother, was named after a giant kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest of the Northland region of New Zealand. He was born on May 25, 2012 and is 30th in line for the throne, following the Succession to the Crown Act 2013.

17. ISLA PHILLIPS

Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Isla Phillips and Peter Phillips attend a Christmas Day church service
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Peter and Autumn Phillips's second and youngest daughter, Isla Elizabeth Phillips, was born on March 29, 2012 and is 15th in succession.

18. MAUD WINDSOR

Maud Elizabeth Daphne Marina Windsor, the daughter of Lord Frederick and Lady Sophie of Windsor and granddaughter of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, was born on August 15, 2013 and is 47th in line for the throne.

19. LOUIS WINDSOR

Louis Arthur Nicholas Felix Windsor, who was born on May 27, 2014, is the youngest child of Lord and Lady Nicholas Windsor, and brother of Leopold and Albert. As he was baptized into the Roman Catholic church, he's not in line to the throne.

20. MIA GRACE TINDALL

Mike Tindall, Zara Tindall and their daughter Mia Tindall pose for a photograph during day three of The Big Feastival at Alex James' Farm on August 28, 2016 in Kingham, Oxfordshire.
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

Daughter of Zara Phillips and her husband, former England rugby player Mike Tindall, Mia Grace Tindall was born on January 17, 2014 and is 17th in the line of succession.

21. ISABELLA WINDSOR

Isabella Alexandra May, the second and youngest daughter of Lord Frederick and Lady Sophie of Windsor, was the last addition to the royal family. In July 2016, she was christened at Kensington Palace wearing the same gown worn by both Prince George and Princess Charlotte (it's a replica of the one that Queen Victoria's children wore). Looking on was celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who is one of Isabella's godparents.

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