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12 Solid Facts About Pumping Iron

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Originally released in 1977, the bodybuilding docudrama Pumping Iron is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year—and has lost none of its original appeal. Bodybuilding is still a fringe sporting activity, and the film still serves to help humanize the athletes and clarify their pursuit of physical perfection. They’re both the sculptor and the marble, carving works of art from their own gigantic frames.

While the film will always be best known for helping to introduce Arnold Schwarzenegger to movie audiences, there’s a lot more to Pumping Iron. Check out 12 facts about the film’s origins, credibility controversies, and the unlikely political icon who helped promote its release.

1. THE MOVIE ORIGINALLY CO-STARRED A WIMP.

When photographer George Butler was dispatched by both Life magazine and The Village Voice to cover the burgeoning bodybuilding scene in the early 1970s, he was fascinated with its abundance of charismatic participants. Feeling one of the sport’s star attractions, Arnold Schwarzenegger, could carry a full-length film, Butler decided to pursue a feature-length project with collaborator Robert Fiore that he began shooting in 1975. The problem was that Butler was focused on the mass monsters of the Mr. Olympia scene; to balance it out and offer audiences a more relatable subject, he enlisted slightly-built actor Bud Cort (Harold and Maude) and shot a lot of footage of him working out and marveling at the well-developed bodies all around him. The footage wound up being cut from the finished film.

2. NO ONE BELIEVED ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER COULD CARRY THE MOVIE.

While Butler was trying to raise funds, he shot a 10-minute test sequence of Schwarzenegger making a guest posing appearance in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Screening the footage for investors in New York, Butler was dismayed to see that they seemed more horrified than intrigued by the sight of the massive Austrian flexing his deltoids. After the footage ended, playwright Romulus Linney stood, turned to Butler, and said, “I think I speak for all of us when I say that if you make a movie about this Arnold person, we will laugh you off 42nd Street.” (Butler turned to another approach, piecemealing his budget together by petitioning more than 3000 separate financiers until he got the money he needed.)

3. SCHWARZENEGGER’S NAME ALMOST KILLED THE MOVIE BEFORE IT GOT STARTED.

And not because it was hard to pronounce. According to Butler, cash was so tight during production that he once visited a film development lab hoping to get some work done on credit. When the employee asked him what he was doing, Butler told him it was about bodybuilding. Suddenly, the man turned icy and asked if it had anything to do with Schwarzenegger. When Butler told him he was the star, the lab turned him away. The reason? The actor’s first movie, 1970’s Hercules in New York, had burned his business. “I won't give you any credit,” he said. “I had a movie in here … Hercules in New York and they never paid a bill and they owe me thirty grand."

4. IT INSPIRED ANOTHER CLASSIC 1970S MOVIE.

For contrast, Butler decided to focus on Schwarzenegger’s rival for the 1975 Mr. Olympia title, a soft-spoken Brooklyn native named Lou Ferrigno. Unlike Schwarzenegger’s bombastic confidence, Ferrigno was depicted as being browbeaten by his domineering father. According to Butler, screenwriter Nik Cohn saw the scenes of the Ferrignos arguing over the dinner table and used it as inspiration for a project of his own: His story, "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night," was turned into 1977’s Saturday Night Fever, the disco melodrama that made a star out of John Travolta.

5. LOU FERRIGNO PREDICTED HIS OWN FUTURE.

The nature of raw footage means that hundreds of hours of film were left on the cutting room floor, but according to Butler, one sequence in particular has never left his memory. Talking to Ferrigno about his future hopes, the actor told the director that “all I want to be is the Hulk.” He got his wish just two years later, starring for five seasons on CBS’s The Incredible Hulk.

6. SOME SCENES WERE STAGED.

According to Schwarzenegger, some of the events depicted in Pumping Iron were orchestrated to the point where he no longer felt comfortable calling it a documentary. “It’s a docudrama,” he said. Citing investor concerns over endless training footage and not enough interpersonal drama, the actor said that he played up his arrogance for cameras. “We wanted to sell the idea of how cold I am, how I have no emotions,” he explained. In one famous scene, Schwarzenegger said he declined to go to his father’s funeral because it would interrupt his training cycle. In reality, the actor said that he “stole” the story from another bodybuilder because he knew it would create attention. “It never happened. My father never died before any competition.”

7. FERRIGNO WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE VILLAIN OF THE MOVIE.

According to Schwarzenegger, producers originally felt that Ferrigno would wind up becoming the adversary of the film, a six-foot-five giant who would topple the Austrian from his dominant position in the sport. But as time went on, Ferrigno revealed himself to be more vulnerable and less capable of pulling off the upset, leaving Schwarzenegger to play up his role as an instigator. “We actually made him the victim and made me the guy who pulls the tricks on him and wipes out guys year after year,” Schwarzenegger said.

8. YES, ARNOLD WAS ON STEROIDS.

Speaking decades after the fact, Schwarzenegger acknowledged that one of the most common questions regarding both Pumping Iron and his bodybuilding career was whether he was taking now-vilified performance-enhancing substances like anabolic steroids. “The answer is yes,” he said. “It was just in the beginning stage. Bodybuilders in those days just experimented with it, but it wasn’t illegal. We talked about it openly.”

9. JACKIE KENNEDY HELPED THE MOVIE BECOME A HIT.

A week before Pumping Iron premiered in January of 1977, the film’s press agent was able to stage a press luncheon in New York featuring an impressive list of the city’s notables like Andy Warhol and George Plimpton. But the most significant guest was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who appeared as a favor to a mutual friend of hers and Schwarzenegger’s. Her presence at an event meant to promote a bodybuilding movie was so unique that it received a considerable amount of press attention. “She certainly gave Pumping Iron a big publicity boost,” Schwarzenegger would later write. Onassis even attended the film’s premiere with her son, John F. Kennedy Jr.

10. BODYBUILDERS HATED IT—AT FIRST.

Having been given no breaks before, during, or after filming, Butler figured he’d find a receptive audience by filling a test screening full of the bodybuilders he had profiled in the movie. When the lights went up, Butler noticed that none of them was making a sound. “You really f*cked it up, George!” one of them screamed. “That was the worst piece of crap I’ve ever seen!” Fortunately, critics and mainstream audiences disagreed: Pumping Iron prompted an explosion of popularity in bodybuilding and helped usher in the fitness craze of the 1980s.   

11. THE SEQUEL BOMBED.

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Nearly 10 years after beginning work on the original film, Butler decided to film a follow-up. Pumping Iron II: The Women was a 1985 release that focused on the growing female segment of the bodybuilding scene. While it was warmly received by Sports Illustrated and other outlets, audiences seemed disinterested in an Arnold-free feature—and it has since been largely forgotten.

12. THERE WAS A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE DOCUMENTARY.

For the film’s 25th anniversary in 2002, a documentary titled Raw Iron was released. Intended as a meta-reflection on the original, it combined deleted scenes—like the abandoned Cort footage—with contemporaneous interviews featuring the principal bodybuilders and Butler. In it, Schwarzenegger makes a curious, ironic confession: He was initially hesitant to appear in the film because he was ready to give up bodybuilding and pursue acting full-time.

All images courtesy of Getty Images unless otherwise credited.

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8 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 3
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[Warning: There are lots of Stranger Things season two spoilers ahead.]

Stranger Things season two is in the books, and like we all hoped, it turned out to be a worthy follow-up to an addictive debut season. Now, though, we’re left with plenty of questions, mysteries, and theories to chew on as the wait for a third season begins. But for everything we don’t know about what the next year of Stranger Things will bring us (such as an actual release date), there are more than enough things we do know to keep those fan theories coming well into 2018. While the show hasn't been officially greenlit for a third season by Netflix yet, new details have already begun to trickle out. Here’s everything we know about Stranger Things season three so far.

1. THERE WILL BE ANOTHER TIME JUMP.

The third season of Stranger Things won’t pick up right where the second one left off. Like the show experienced between the first two seasons, there will be a time jump between seasons two and three as well. The reason is simple: the child actors are all growing up, and instead of having the kids look noticeably older without explanation for year three, the Duffer Brothers told The Hollywood Reporter:

“Our kids are aging. We can only write and produce the show so fast. They're going to be almost a year older by the time we start shooting season three. It provides certain challenges. You can't start right after season two ended. It forces you to do a time jump. But what I like is that it makes you evolve the show. It forces the show to evolve and change, because the kids are changing.”

2. THE IDEA IS TO BE SMALLER IN SCALE.

If the series’s second season was about expanding the Stranger Things mythology, the third season won't go bigger just for the sake of it, with the brothers even going so far as to say that it will be a more intimate story.

“It’s not necessarily going to be bigger in scale,” Matt Duffer said in an interview with IndieWire. “What I am really excited about is giving these characters an interesting journey to go on.”

Ross Duffer did stress, though, that as of early November, season three is basically “… Matt and me working with some writers and figuring out where it’s going to go.”

3. THE MIND FLAYER WILL BE BACK.

The second season ended on a bit of a foreboding note when it was revealed that the Mind Flayer was still in the Upside Down and was seen looming over the Hawkins school as the winter dance was going on. Though we know there will be a time jump at the start of next season, it’s clear that the monster will still have a big presence on the show.

Executive producer Dan Cohen told TV Guide: "There were other ways we could have ended beyond that, but I think that was a very strong, lyrical ending, and it really lets us decide to focus where we ultimately are going to want to go as we dive into Season 3."

What does the Mind Flayer’s presence mean for the new crop of episodes? Well, there will be plenty of fan theories to ponder between now and the season three premiere (whenever that may be).

4. PLENTY OF LEFTOVER SEASON TWO STORYLINES WILL BE IN SEASON THREE.

The Duffer Brothers had a lot of material for the latest season of the show—probably a bit too much. Talking to Vulture, Matt Duffer detailed a few details and plot points that had to be pushed to season three:

"Billy was supposed to have a bigger role. We ended up having so many characters it ended up, in a way, more teed up for season three than anything. There was a whole teen supernatural story line that just got booted because it was just too cluttered, you know? A lot of that’s just getting kicked into season three."

The good news is that he also told the site that this wealth of cut material could make the writing process for the third season much quicker.

5. THERE WILL BE MORE ERICA.

Stranger Things already had a roster of fan-favorite characters heading into season two, but newcomer Erica, Lucas’s little sister, may have overshadowed them all. Played by 11-year-old Priah Ferguson, Erica is equal parts expressive, snarky, and charismatic. And the Duffer Brothers couldn’t agree more, saying that there will be much more Erica next season.

“There will definitely be more Erica in Season 3,” Ross Duffer told Yahoo!. “That is the fun thing about the show—you discover stuff as you’re filming. We were able to integrate more of her in, but not as much you want because the story [was] already going. ‘We got to use more Erica’—that was one of the first things we said in the writers’ room.”

“I thought she’s very GIF-able, if that’s a word,” Matt Duffer added. “She was great.”

6. EXPECT KALI TO RETURN.

The season two episode “The Lost Sister” was a bit of an outlier for the series. It’s a standalone episode that focuses solely on the character Eleven, leaving the central plot and main cast of Hawkins behind. As well-received as Stranger Things season two was, this episode was a near-unanimous miss among fans and critics.

The episode did, however, introduce us to the character of Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), who has the ability to manipulate people’s minds with illusions she creates. Despite the reaction, the Duffers felt the episode was vital to Eleven’s development, and that Kali won’t be forgotten moving forward.

“It feels weird to me that we wouldn’t solve [Kali’s] storyline. I would say chances are very high she comes back,” Matt Duffer said at the Vulture Festival.

7. OTHER "NUMBERS" MIGHT SHOW UP.

We're already well acquainted with Eleven, and season two introduced us to Eight (a.k.a. Kali), and executive producer Shawn Levy heavily hinted to E! that there are probably more Hawkins Laboratory experiments on the horizon.

"I think we've clearly implied there are other numbers, and I can't imagine that the world will only ever know Eleven and Eight," Levy said.

8. THERE MIGHT NOT BE MANY SEASONS LEFT.

Don’t be in too much of a rush to find out everything about the next season of Stranger Things; there might not be many more left. The Duffer Brothers have said in the past that the plan is to do four seasons and end it. However, Levy gave fans a glimmer of hope that things may go on a little while longer—just by a bit, though.

“Hearts were heard breaking in Netflix headquarters when the Brothers made four seasons sound like an official end, and I was suddenly getting phone calls from our actors’ agents,” Levy told Entertainment Weekly. “The truth is we’re definitely going four seasons and there’s very much the possibility of a fifth. Beyond that, it becomes I think very unlikely.”

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20 Random Facts About Shopping
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Shopping on Black Friday—or, really, any time during the holiday season—is a good news/bad news kind of endeavor. The good news? The deals are killer! The bad news? So are the lines. If you find yourself standing behind 200 other people who braved the crowds and sacrificed sleep in order to hit the stores early today, here's one way to pass the time: check out these fascinating facts about shopping through the ages.

1. The oldest customer service complaint was written on a clay cuneiform tablet in Mesopotamia 4000 years ago. (In it, a customer named Nanni complains that he was sold inferior copper ingots.)

2. Before battles, some Roman gladiators read product endorsements. The makers of the film Gladiator planned to show this, but they nixed the idea out of fear that audiences wouldn’t believe it.

3. Like casinos, shopping malls are intentionally designed to make people lose track of time, removing clocks and windows to prevent views of the outside world. This kind of “scripted disorientation” has a name: It’s called the Gruen Transfer.

4. According to a study in Social Influence, people who shopped at or stood near luxury stores were less likely to help people in need.

5. A shopper who first purchases something on his or her shopping list is more likely to buy unrelated items later as a kind of reward.

6. On the Pacific island of Vanuatu, some villages still use pigs and seashells as currency. In fact, the indigenous bank there uses a unit of currency called the Livatu. Its value is equivalent to a boar’s tusk. 

7. Sears used to sell build-your-own homes in its mail order catalogs.

8. The first shopping catalog appeared way back in the 1400s, when an Italian publisher named Aldus Manutius compiled a handprinted catalog of the books that he produced for sale and passed it out at town fairs.

9. The first product ever sold by mail order? Welsh flannel.

10. The first shopping cart was a folding chair with a basket on the seat and wheels on the legs.

11. In the late 1800s in Corinne, Utah, you could buy legal divorce papers from a vending machine for $2.50.

12. Some of the oldest known writing in the world includes a 5000-year-old receipt inscribed on a clay tablet. (It was for clothing that was sent by boat from Ancient Mesopotamia to Dilmun, or current day Bahrain.)

13. Beginning in 112 CE, Emperor Trajan began construction on the largest of Rome's imperial forums, which housed a variety of shops and services and two libraries. Today, Trajan’s Market is regarded as the oldest shopping mall in the world.

14. The Chinese invented paper money. For a time, there was a warning written right on the currency that all counterfeiters would be decapitated.

15. Halle Berry was named after Cleveland, Ohio's Halle Building, which was home to the Halle Brothers department store.

16. At Boston University, students can sign up for a class on the history of shopping. (Technically, it’s called “The Modern American Consumer”)

17. Barbra Streisand had a mini-mall installed in her basement. “Instead of just storing my things in the basement, I can make a street of shops and display them,” she told Harper's Bazaar. (There are photos of it here.)

18. Shopping online is not necessarily greener. A 2016 study at the University of Delaware concluded that “home shopping has a greater impact on the transportation sector than the public might suspect.”

19. Don’t want to waste too much money shopping? Go to the mall in high heels. A 2013 Brigham Young University study discovered that shoppers in high heels made more balanced buying decisions while balancing in pumps.

20. Cyber Monday is not the biggest day for online shopping. The title belongs to November 11, or Singles Day, a holiday in China that encourages singles to send themselves gifts. According to Fortune, this year's event smashed all previous records with more than $38 million in sales.

A heaping handful of these facts came from John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, and James Harkin's delightful book, 1,234 Quite Interesting Facts to Leave You Speechless.

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