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14 Fun Facts About Hairspray

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In 1988, Pope of Trash John Waters surprised fans by releasing his tamest cult movie to date. Hairspray told the story of Tracy Turnblad, a “pleasantly plump” teenager in 1962 Baltimore who dreams of dancing on The Corny Collins Show. But she soon aims for the nobler goal of integration after befriending a group of black students and their matriarch, Motormouth Maybelle.

Waters drew on his own memories of Baltimore in the 1960s to make the movie, which featured his perennial star Divine as well as famous musicians like Debbie Harry and Ruth Brown and future daytime talk show host Ricki Lake. (Plus a pop star you might’ve missed.) Here are a few facts on the film, the sequel to which is still sitting on some Hollywood exec’s desk as we speak.

1. IT WAS JOHN WATERS’ FIRST (AND ONLY) PG MOVIE.

John Waters has proudly been a thorn in the MPAA’s side for his entire career. Most of his movies have been slapped with R ratings at best, NC-17 or X at worst, and they’ve forced the board to issue some rather creative warnings. But Hairspray earned the director his first and last PG rating, much to his surprise and mock horror. “I made a family movie. It was PG—a shock,” he told The Baltimore Sun. “I remember when it got [that] rating, I wanted to commit suicide.”

2. STOCKARD CHANNING TURNED DOWN A ROLE.

In a 1994 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Waters recalled the actresses who had declined parts in his movies. At the top of his list? “Stockard Channing for Hairspray.” Waters also revealed that Lisa Marie Presley and Mamie Van Doren, who “said she deserved better than Divine,” turned down offers for non-specified movies.

3. IT WAS SHOT AT PERRY HALL HIGH SCHOOL IN BALTIMORE.

For Tracy’s high school, Waters used an actual Baltimore public school: Perry Hall High. Although it opened in 1963, a year after the events in Hairspray take place, Perry Hall was an historically savvy pick. Integration was still a new concept when the first graduating class received its diplomas, as former students recounted to The Baltimore Sun.

4. THE CORNY COLLINS SHOW WAS BASED ON THE BUDDY DEANE SHOW.

While growing up in Baltimore, Waters was obsessed with The Buddy Deane Show, an American Bandstand knock-off that featured local teenagers demonstrating all the latest dance crazes. Sound familiar? The Corny Collins Show is a very obvious ode to this WJZ-TV series, which ran from 1957 to 1964, except The Buddy Deane Show didn’t end in a multiracial dance party. The people running the show actually did want to integrate it, but experienced pushback from the market—or, more specifically, from the dancers’ parents. Deane himself explained in an AP interview that when the station ran the idea by each of the dancers, or “Committee Members,” the response was unanimous: they were fine with it, their “folks” weren’t. The show was thus canceled, but Deane stepped behind the camera again for a Hairspray cameo, as a reporter covering the protests at the governor’s mansion.

5. RUBY BRIDGES INSPIRED LITTLE INEZ.

In the movie, Tracy’s fight for integration is ignited by an afternoon she spends with record shop owner Motormouth Maybelle and Maybelle’s kids, Seaweed and Little Inez. According to The Village Voice, Inez was based on another determined young girl: Ruby Bridges. Bridges was the first black child to attend New Orleans’ all-white William Frantz Elementary School in 1960 and the subject of Norman Rockwell’s painting, The Problem We All Live With.

6. TILTED ACRES WAS BASED ON A REAL, RACIALLY-FRAUGHT AMUSEMENT PARK.

Toward the end of the movie, riots break out at Tilted Acres, the segregated amusement park owned by Tracy’s nemeses, the Von Tussles. Waters shot this sequence at Dorney Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania, but he based Tilted Acres on Gwynn Oak Park. The Baltimore amusement park was the site of demonstrations in July of 1963. Members from CORE (Congress for Racial Equality), CIG (Civic Interest Group), NCC (National Council of Churches), and the NAACP first gathered to protest the park’s segregation policy on July 4. About 300 people were arrested, but the group showed up again on July 7, and this time, national outlets like TIME were there to cover it. Facing enormous public scrutiny, the owners of Gwynn Oak integrated the next month. The amusement park no longer exists, but you can still ride the carousel on the National Mall.

7. DEBBIE HARRY SLYLY DID A VERSE ON THE SONG “HAIRSPRAY.”

Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry has a starring role as Velma Von Tussle, but she had to be careful about her involvement with the film. As Waters explained to CMJ, “Debbie—because of her recording contract—we couldn’t really say it was her. I mean, we could say it was her, but we couldn’t put out an album or single.” This is why she only sneakily popped up in Rachel Sweet’s title track on the Hairspray album. Sweet opens the song by asking, “Hey girl, what you doing over there?” Harry responds, “Can’t you see? I’m spraying my hair.” Those are her only two lines in the song, but she does appear in the music video. Watch closely—you might miss Harry under that giant brunette beehive.

8. VITAMIN C PLAYED AMBER.

The part of Amber Von Tussle is billed to Colleen Fitzpatrick, but you probably know her by her stage name—Vitamin C. Fitzpatrick was just 16 years old when she filmed Hairspray. After graduating college, she decided to pursue a career in music, not acting. Her first gig was lead singer for the band Eve’s Plum, but after the group broke up, she dubbed herself Vitamin C and released her platinum-selling, self-titled debut album. It included this inescapable graduation party anthem, “Graduation (Friends Forever).”

9. THE VON TUSSLES QUOTE GEORGE WALLACE.

When Franklin and Velma Von Tussle are interviewed by a news crew outside Tilted Acres, they rail against integration, saying, “Segregation today! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” The chant is an almost verbatim quote from the 1963 inaugural address of Alabama governor George Wallace.

10. RIC OCASEK AND JOHN WATERS HAD CAMEOS.

Baltimore-bred musician Ric Ocasek (who you probably know from The Cars) nabbed a minor role as a bizarre Beatnik painter that Tracy, Penny, Link, and Seaweed visit. Not to be outdone, Waters gave himself a quick cameo as Dr. Fredrickson, the quack psychiatrist Penny’s parents hire to make her break up with Seaweed.

11. JOSH CHARLES MADE HIS FILM DEBUT AS A DANCER.

Ocasek and Waters weren’t the only Baltimore natives with cameo roles. Actor Josh Charles also appeared as one of the dancers on The Corny Collins Show. At the time, Charles was a student at the Baltimore School for the Arts and had never acted in a movie. But soon after his debut in Hairspray he nabbed roles in movies like Dead Poets Society and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.

12. IT WAS DIVINE’S FINAL FILM.

Mere weeks after Hairspray hit theaters, Divine was found dead in a Los Angeles hotel room. The actor, whose real name was Harris Glenn Milstead, had suffered a heart attack. At the time of his death, Divine was earning excellent reviews for Hairspray and had just nabbed a role on Married… With Children. “I’ve never seen him happier,” his manager Bernard Jay told People. “His career was taking off. He was actually going to play a very good character role on a network television show. That’s what he wanted. To show them that he didn’t have to play women, that he was respected as an actor, that he was not regarded as a freak. But he didn’t make it.”

13. THE REMAKE INCLUDED SEVERAL ORIGINAL CAST MEMBERS.

Hairspray was turned into a smash-hit Broadway musical in 2002, which led to a 2007 movie remake. While stars like John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer received top billing, many of the original film’s cast members appeared in the reboot. Jerry Stiller, the original Wilbur Turnblad, plays Mr. Pinky of Mr. Pinky’s Hefty Hideaway. Ricki Lake cameos as a talent scout. And John Waters nabs the best part of them all, as the “flasher who lives next door” in the opening number, “Good Morning Baltimore.”

14. THERE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A SEQUEL.

After the remake of Hairspray earned nearly $120 million at the box office, Waters wrote a wild treatment for a sequel titled Hairspray 2: White Lipstick. The script moved the characters into the late 1960s and called for, among other things, Link (Zac Efron) to take acid. Director Adam Shankman was enthusiastically on board in early 2009, but apparently the deal fell through. In June 2010, Shankman confirmed that New Line Cinema had dropped the sequel.

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10 Things to Remember About Memorial Day
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Memorial Day is much more than just a three-day weekend and a chance to get the year's first sunburn. Here's a handy 10-pack of facts to give the holiday some perspective.

1. IT STARTED WITH THE CIVIL WAR.

Memorial Day was a response to the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War, in which some 620,000 soldiers on both sides died. The loss of life and its effect on communities throughout the country led to spontaneous commemorations of the dead:

• In 1864, women from Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, put flowers on the graves of their dead from the just-fought Battle of Gettysburg. The next year, a group of women decorated the graves of soldiers buried in a Vicksburg, Mississippi, cemetery.

• In April 1866, women from Columbus, Mississippi, laid flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers. In the same month, in Carbondale, Illinois, 219 Civil War veterans marched through town in memory of the fallen to Woodlawn Cemetery, where Union hero Major General John A. Logan delivered the principal address. The ceremony gave Carbondale its claim to the first organized, community-wide Memorial Day observance.

• Waterloo, New York began holding an annual community service on May 5, 1866. Although many towns claimed the title, it was Waterloo that won congressional recognition as the "birthplace of Memorial Day."

2. MAJOR GENERAL JOHN A. LOGAN MADE IT OFFICIAL.

General Logan, the speaker at the Carbondale gathering, also was commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans. On May 5, 1868, he issued General Orders No. 11, which set aside May 30, 1868 "for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion."

The orders expressed hope that the observance would be "kept up from year to year while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades."

3. IT WAS FIRST KNOWN AS DECORATION DAY.

The holiday was long known as Decoration Day for the practice of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags. The name Memorial Day goes back to 1882, but the older name didn't disappear until after World War II. Federal law declared "Memorial Day" the official name in 1967.

4. THE HOLIDAY IS A FRANCHISE.

Calling Memorial Day a "national holiday" is a bit of a misnomer. While there are 10 federal holidays created by Congress—including Memorial Day—they apply only to Federal employees and the District of Columbia. Federal Memorial Day, established in 1888, allowed Civil War veterans, many of whom were drawing a government paycheck, to honor their fallen comrades without being docked a day's pay.

For the rest of us, our holidays were enacted state by state. New York was the first state to designate Memorial Day a legal holiday, in 1873. Most Northern states had followed suit by the 1890s. The states of the former Confederacy were unenthusiastic about a holiday memorializing those who, in General Logan's words, "united to suppress the late rebellion." The South didn't adopt the May 30 Memorial Day until after World War I, by which time its purpose had been broadened to include those who died in all the country's wars.

In 1971, the Monday Holiday Law shifted Memorial Day from May 30 to the last Monday of the month.

5. IT WAS JAMES GARFIELD'S FINEST HOUR—OR MAYBE HOUR-AND-A-HALF.

James Garfield
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On May 30, 1868, President Ulysses S. Grant presided over the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery—which, until 1864, was Confederate General Robert E. Lee's plantation.

Some 5000 people attended on a spring day which, The New York Times reported, was "somewhat too warm for comfort." The principal speaker was James A. Garfield, a Civil War general, Republican congressman from Ohio and future president.

"I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion," Garfield began, and then continued to utter them. "If silence is ever golden, it must be beside the graves of fifteen-thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem the music of which can never be sung." It went on like that for pages and pages.

As the songs, speeches and sermons ended, the participants helped to decorate the graves of the Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.

6. NOT EVEN THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER CAN AVOID MEDIA SCRUTINY THESE DAYS.

"Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God." That is the inscription on the Tomb of the Unknowns, established at Arlington National Cemetery to inter the remains of the first Unknown Soldier, a World War I fighter, on November 11, 1921. Unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean War subsequently were interred in the tomb on Memorial Day 1958.

An emotional President Ronald Reagan presided over the interment of six bones, the remains of an unidentified Vietnam War soldier, on November 28, 1984. Fourteen years later, those remains were disinterred, no longer unknown. Spurred by an investigation by CBS News, the defense department removed the remains from the Tomb of the Unknowns for DNA testing.

The once-unknown fighter was Air Force pilot Lieutenant Michael Joseph Blassie, whose jet crashed in South Vietnam in 1972. "The CBS investigation suggested that the military review board that had changed the designation on Lt. Blassie's remains to 'unknown' did so under pressure from veterans' groups to honor a casualty from the Vietnam War," The New York Times reported in 1998.

Lieutenant Blassie was reburied near his hometown of St. Louis. His crypt at Arlington remains permanently empty.

7. VIETNAM VETS GO WHOLE HOG.

Rolling Thunder members and motocyclists wait for the 'Blessing of the Bikes' to start at at the Washington National Cathedral, May 26, 2017 in Washington, DC
ANGELA WEISS, AFP/Getty Images

On Memorial Day weekend in 1988, 2500 motorcyclists rode into Washington, D.C. for the first Rolling Thunder rally to draw attention to Vietnam War soldiers still missing in action or prisoners of war. By 2002, the ride had swelled to 300,000 bikers, many of them veterans. There may have been a half-million participants in 2005, in what organizers bluntly call "a demonstration—not a parade."

A national veterans rights group, Rolling Thunder takes its name from the B-52 carpet-bombing runs during the war in Vietnam.

8. MEMORIAL DAY HAS ITS CUSTOMS.

General Orders No. 11 stated that "in this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed," but over time several customs and symbols became associated with the holiday.

• It is customary on Memorial Day to fly the flag at half staff until noon, and then raise it to the top of the staff until sunset.

• Taps, the 24-note bugle call, is played at all military funerals and memorial services. It originated in 1862 when Union General Dan Butterfield "grew tired of the 'lights out' call sounded at the end of each day," according to The Washington Post. Together with the brigade bugler, Butterfield made some changes to the tune.

Not long after, the melody was used at a burial for the first time when a battery commander ordered it played in lieu of the customary three rifle volleys over the grave. The battery was so close to enemy lines, and the commander was worried the shots would spark renewed fighting.

• The World War I poem "In Flanders Fields," by John McCrea, inspired the Memorial Day custom of wearing red artificial poppies. In 1915, a Georgia teacher and volunteer war worker named Moina Michael began a campaign to make the poppy a symbol of tribute to veterans and for "keeping the faith with all who died." The sale of poppies has supported the work of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

9. THERE STILL IS A GRAY MEMORIAL DAY.

Several Southern states continue to set aside a day for honoring the Confederate dead, which is usually called Confederate Memorial Day. It's on the fourth Monday in April in Alabama, April 26 in Georgia, June 3 in Louisiana and Tennessee, the last Monday in April in Mississippi, May 10 in North and South Carolina, January 19 in Texas, and the last Monday in May in Virginia.

10. EACH MEMORIAL DAY IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT.

Ricky Parada sits at the grave of his little brother Cpl. Nicolas D. Paradarodriguez who was killed in Afghanistan, at Section 60 on Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery on May 28, 2012 in Arlington, Virginia
Mark Wilson, Getty Images

No question that Memorial Day is a solemn event. Still, don't feel too guilty about doing something frivolous (like having barbecue) over the weekend. After all, you weren't the one who instituted the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1911. That credit goes to Indianapolis businessman Carl Fisher. The winning driver that day was Ray Harroun, who averaged 74.6 mph and completed the race in 6 hours and 42 minutes.

Gravitas returned on May 30, 1922, when the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated. Supreme Court Chief Justice (and former president) William Howard Taft dedicated the monument before a crowd of 50,000 people, segregated by race, and which included a row of Union and Confederate veterans. Also attending was Lincoln's surviving son, Robert Todd Lincoln.

In 2000, Congress established a National Moment of Remembrance, which asks Americans to pause for one minute at 3 p.m. in an act of national unity. The time was chosen because 3 p.m. "is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday."

This post originally appeared in 2008.

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5 Things You Might Not Know About Henry Kissinger
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You probably know Henry Kissinger as a Nobel Peace Prize winner and former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. Let’s take a look at five things you might not know about the German-born political scientist and diplomat.

1. MAO ZEDONG TRIED TO GIVE HIM "10 MILLION" WOMEN.

In 1973, Henry Kissinger was engaged in a discussion of trade with Mao Zedong when the chairman abruptly changed the subject by saying, “We [China] don't have much. What we have in excess is women. So if you want them we can give a few of those to you, some tens of thousands.”

Kissinger sidestepped this bizarre offer and changed the subject, but Mao later returned to the subject by jokingly asking, “Do you want our Chinese women? We can give you 10 million.”

This time Kissinger diplomatically replied, “It is such a novel proposition. We will have to study it.”

Other Chinese officials in the room pointed out that Mao’s attitudes toward women would cause quite a stir if the press got their hands on these quotes, so Mao apologized to his female interpreter and talked Kissinger into having the comments removed from the records of the meeting.

2. NO, HE'S NOT THE INSPIRATION FOR DR. STRANGELOVE.

Here’s a riddle that’s been bugging film buffs for decades: who was the basis for the title character in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove? For years many observers thought that Kissinger might have inspired Peter Sellers’s memorable performance. Blame it on the accent and the glasses. Even though Kissinger was still a relatively obscure Harvard professor when the film premiered in 1964, the rumor that Kubrick modeled the character on him just wouldn't die.

Kubrick did what he could to dispel this notion before his death, saying, “I think this is slightly unfair to Kissinger ... It was unintentional. Neither Peter nor I had ever seen Kissinger before the film was shot.” Most observers now think that Dr. Strangelove was actually a distorted version of Herman Kahn, an eccentric nuclear strategist for the RAND Corporation.

3. HE WAS QUITE THE LADIES MAN.

Even in his youth, Kissinger didn’t quite fit the bill of a matinee idol, but he has always been a hit with the ladies. A 1972 poll of Playboy bunnies selected Kissinger as the man with whom Hef’s ladies would most like to go out on a date. He also had a string of celebrity girlfriends in his younger days, including Diane Sawyer, Candice Bergen, Jill St. John, Shirley Maclaine, and Liv Ullman, who called Kissinger, “the most interesting man I have ever met.”

Kissinger’s swinging bachelor days are long gone, though. He was married to Ann Fleischer from 1949 to 1964 then married philanthropist Nancy Maginnes in 1974—a union that at one point seemed so improbable that just a year before they tied the knot, Maginnes had called speculation that she and Kissinger would marry “outrageous.”

4. PROTECTING HIM ISN'T ALWAYS EASY.

In 1985 former Secret Service agent Dennis McCarthy released the memoir Protecting the President—The Inside Story of a Secret Service Agent, in which he described being on Kissinger’s security detail as “a real pain.” McCarthy shared a funny anecdote about a 1977 trip to Acapulco with Kissinger and his wife. There were signs warning of sharks in the water, but Nancy wanted to go for a swim. Kissinger then told his security detail to get in the water to guard for sharks.

Personal protection is one thing, but McCarthy and his fellow agents drew the line at fighting off sharks. Instead, they made the reasonable point that if the Kissingers were afraid of sharks, they shouldn’t go swimming. Agent McCarthy did, however, offer a compromise; he told Kissinger, “If the sharks come up on this beach, my agents will fight them.”

5. THE STATE DEPARTMENT NIXED HIS OFFICIAL PORTRAIT.

Official portraits of government luminaries don’t usually become big news, but in 1978 the painting of Kissinger commissioned by the State Department for its gallery made headlines. Boston artist Gardner Cox had previously painted Secretaries of State Dean Acheson and Dean Rusk, so he got the $12,000 commission to paint Kissinger. The finished product didn’t earn rave reviews, though.

Some viewers at the State Department thought the painting lacked Kissinger’s dynamism and made him look “somewhat a dwarf.” Others felt the portrait was “a rogues' gallery thing." The State Department offered to let Cox fix the painting, but he said he didn’t see anything that need changing. He lost the commission but got $700 for his expenses.

Kissinger took the whole episode in stride, though. When Houston artist J. Anthony Wills painted a replacement, Kissinger declared it to be, “an excellent likeness, swelled head and all,” and called the unveiling "one of my most fulfilling moments. Until they do Mount Rushmore."

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