90 Amazing Facts About the '90s

MarkPiovesan/ iStock, Getty Images Plus
MarkPiovesan/ iStock, Getty Images Plus

As we near the 20th anniversary of the end of the ‘90s, it’s only appropriate to look back at the music, movies, TV shows, and unfortunate fashion trends that helped make the decade what it was. For those who lived through it, these 90 facts about the ‘90s should bring a nostalgic smile to your face. For everyone else, try not to judge the decade too harshly for its Hanson albums, love of pogs, and PalmPilots.

1. People believed Furbies were spying on them.

In 1999, people believed that Furbies contained computer chips so they could record words and repeat them. Obviously that wasn't true, but the National Security Agency still banned people from bringing their Furbies to work.

2. Jennifer Aniston hated her Friends haircut.

Jennifer Aniston haircut. 90 facts about the '90s.
NBC Television/Getty Images

Jennifer Aniston's haircut on Friends, known as "the Rachel," was just as big of a hit as the show itself. But in later years, the actress has admitted she wasn't a fan—in fact, she called it “the ugliest haircut I've ever seen."

3. Alanis Morissette's hit song, "Ironic," got irony wrong.

No, "a traffic jam when you're already late" isn't actually irony, but Morissette does note that it's ironic that a song call "Ironic" is not filled with ironies. Touché.

4. Napster was on millions of computers around the globe.

The music-sharing program launched in 1999, and within two years, it had 26.4 million users.

5. AOL Instant Messenger became a sensation.

AOL Instant Messenger launched in 1997 and gained 53 million users in less than 10 years and wasn't full discontinued until December 2017.

6. Pagers were one of the most important ways to communicate.

In 1994, 61 million people were sporting pagers.

7. Hillary Clinton slighted a country music legend.

Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton. 90 Facts About the '90s.
Simon Bruty /Allsport

In 1992 during a 60 Minutes interview about Bill’s infidelity, Hillary Clinton said, “I'm not sitting here as some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.” Hillary later gave an apology to the singer.

8. The '90s book Who Moved My Cheese? was big everywhere. 

The 1998 self-help book even sold a couple million copies in China, where it inspired books like Whose Cheese Should I Move? and No One Can Move My Cheese! This is especially weird when you consider that cheese does not really have a place in Chinese cuisine.

9. Jackie Chan was a beast.

Well, for Disney, anyway. He voiced the Beast for the Chinese release of Beauty and the Beast.

10. Those chokers everyone wore during high school? There's a lot of history there. 

You may remember that choker necklaces made a comeback in the '90s. Throughout history they've had different implications, like during the French Revolution, some women wore red ribbons around their neck to pay tribute to those who had been executed. In the 1800s, it was a way to identify prostitutes.

11. Doc Martens became popular again in the '90s grunge community.

Doc Martens became a huge fashion trend in the 1990s.
Pablo Cuadra/Getty Images

The inventor, Claus Martens, came up with the idea when he needed a low-impact shoe after a ski accident.

12. Miss Cleo told people their futures (but probably not).

Miss Cleo was the spokesperson for Psychic Readers Network Inc. and was known for making psychic readings on her pay-per-call service to people who would dial in. She later got a $5 million fine from the FTC for making deceptive claims, you know, like about being psychic. The amazing thing is that they didn't see it coming.

13. In 1990, NC-17 became an official movie rating.

The first movie to get the rating? 1990's Henry & June.

14. Slap Bracelets noisily adorned wrists in high schools everywhere.

This short-lived fad was invented by a high school shop teacher who was playing with steel ribbons.

15. Billy Crystal missed out on Toy Story.

Billy Crystal at the premiere of Monsters University.
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Pixar's hit 1995 animated film raked in an astounding $373 million worldwide, so it shouldn't come as a shock that Crystal has publicly said turning down the role of Buzz Lightyear was one of his biggest regrets. 

16. Pulp Fiction wasn't sponge-worthy.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus turned down the role of Mia in Pulp Fiction due to her Seinfeld commitment.

17. The "show about nothing" had one rule.

Larry David made a “no hugging, no learning” rule for Seinfeld scripts. Basically, he didn't want the characters to have sentimental, Full House-y revelations.

18. Microsoft Office ... for Mac?

You probably associate Microsoft Office with your '90s PC, but the program was actually first released in 1989 for Apple Macintosh computers. The Windows version came in October 1990. 

19. The voice behind your mail unveiled.

The voice who announced "You've Got Mail!" whenever you received an e-mail was Elwood Edwards. He recorded the saying in his living room on a cassette deck.

20. The PalmPilot was the precursor to an ipad.

Jeff Hawkins developed the PalmPilot’s look by cutting a block of wood to the right size and using a short chopstick as the model for the writing utensil.

21. "I'll Be There For You" Reached #17 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Rembrandts stand on stage before performing on the "Today" show at Rockefeller Plaza May 6, 2004
Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

The Rembrandts can thank the television program Friends for their only hit, "I’ll Be There for You," which was co-written by the show's producers.

22. NSYNC owes their name to Justin Timberlake's mom. 

Justin Timberlake's mom came up with the name *NSYNC, which was the last letter of each band member’s name. 

23. The Backstreet Boys owe their name to, well, a flea market. 

The Backstreet Boys, on the other hand, were named after a flea market in Orlando: the Backstreet Market.

24. Nintendo's Game boy slipped The Surly Bonds of Earth.

In 1993, a Russian astronaut brought his Game Boy to space. He was allowed to bring only one game, and he chose Tetris.

25. Anthony Hopkins Turned to two unlikely sources for his Hannibal Lecter voice. 

You will no doubt remember Anthony Hopkins’s distinct voice for Hannibal Lecter in 1991's The Silence of the Lambs—he called it a combination of Truman Capote and Katherine Hepburn.

26. Warheads candy made everyone pucker up.

Did you know that the mascot on Warheads candy actually has a name? It's Wally Warheads.

27. Power Rangers was banned in New Zealand. 

The Power Rangers at the San Diego Comic-Con.
Chelsea Lauren/Getty Images for Saban Brands

While many Power Rangers shows were filmed in New Zealand during the '90s, the show itself was banned there for violence until 2011.

28. Pogs were Banned from schools around the country. 

Those little circles of cardboard were banned at many schools in the '90s because people thought they promoted gambling. Little did they know, Pogs are worthless.

29. The Massive Mall of America Opened in 1992 in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Seven Yankee Stadiums could fit inside this mammoth monument to shopping.

30. Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" wasn't supposed to be a hit.

Vanilla Ice rapping with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Matthew Eisman/Getty Images

"Ice Ice Baby" was originally a B-side, and the song only caught on when a radio deejay in Georgia played it, possibly by accident.

31. The bucket hat made a valiant comeback.

In Australia, bucket hats are known as "giggle hats."

32. There was originally an entire song in The Lion King about eating bugs.

The 1994 animated film wound up grossing over $950 million worldwide, so it certainly didn't miss this tune too much. 

33. And by the way, young Simba was voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas.

The older Simba was voiced by Matthew Broderick. 

34. And here's the most '90s fact we've got.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas won the first-ever Nickelodeon Kids Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on the sitcom Home Improvement.

The cast of TV's 'Home Improvement.'
Getty Images.

35. eBay launched in 1995.

The pioneering auction site was originally called AuctionWeb.

36. The Perks of Being a Wallflower hit shelves in 1999.

Author Stephen Chbosky got the idea for the book's format because he once wrote an anonymous letter to professor who gave a seminar at USC.

37. Michael Jordan won six NBA titles in eight years (1991-1993, 1996-1998).

A close-up photo of Air Jordans during a '90s NBA game.
Jonathan Daniel /Allsport

Jordan may have gotten rich off of Nike Air Jordans, but he wanted to wear Adidas. In fact, he brought them his Nike contract and said if they could come close to matching it, he'd sign with them. But they didn't.

38. One '90s myth to debunk: Jordan was cut by his high school basketball team.

This myth blew up during his '90s title streak, but it's not true. It is true, however, that he was put on the JV team, which was still probably a mistake in retrospect, but yeah.

39. Another '90s myth: the Taco Bell Chihuahua commercial stopped when the dog died.

In fact, they stopped when we collectively realized that those commercials were unbelievably annoying.

40. Chuckie from Rugrats was based on the lead singer of Devo, Mark Mothersbaugh.

Devo lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh.
Jim Dyson/Getty Images

Mothersbaugh also worked as a composer on the show. 

41. The Hubble Space Telescope launched in 1990.

According to the Space Telescope Science Institute, it was able to lock onto a target without deviating more than the width of a human hair seen at a distance of one mile.

42. Chris Wiggs invented the Polly Pocket after making a doll house for his daughter in a powder compact.

Though the popular toyline debuted in the late '80s, it owned the first half of the '90s. 

43. JNCO jeans made our pant legs far wider (and our public property much more colorful).

You can blame graffiti artists for the popularity of JNCO jeans—the company hired them to paint murals to advertise the jeans in LA.

44. A dog brought Jurassic Park's iconic roar to life.

To get the sound for the T. rex in Jurassic Park, the crew slowed down a recording of a Jack Russell terrier playing with a rope.

45. Carmen Sandiego has a full name. 

Her middle name is actually Isabella, so we know who she is—but do we know where she is?

46. Pepsi tested around 3,000 variations for Crystal Pepsi, which was still not enough.

A tub full of Crystal Pepsi.
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Crystal Pepsi

All that effort for a drink that was launched in 1992 and gone by 1994. 

47. Britney Spears's cousin played her love interest in the "Baby One More Time" music video.

Ol' cousin Chad had a moment in the spotlight in the video that would go on to launch Britney Spears's career. 

48. The "Hamster Dance" website from 1998 is still live

Art student Deidre LaCarte created the Hamster Dance web page in 1998 to increase traffic to her website.

49. In 1997, people sold Tickle Me Elmos online for the reasonable price of $1500.

It retailed for $30, but the hottest toy of the 1997 Holiday season soon became a scalper's dream. 

50. Saved by the Bell started as a show about a teacher in Indianapolis called Good Morning, Miss Bliss.

It was retooled in 1989 into the familiar series that people still watch reruns of today. 

51. Tara Lipinski started out as a roller skater before she ever went on ice.

Tara Lipinski wins gold at the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Mike Powell / Staff

She would go on to win a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics.

52. When the Hummer was released in 1992, it weighed 10,000 pounds and got less than 10 miles to the gallon.

Now, electric Hummers are being prototyped. 

53. Another popular 1992 invention: light-up sneakers.

LA Gear sold around 5 million pairs annually for the first few years.

54. The Matrix was a gamble for Warner Bros. 

1999 Carrie-Anne Moss Stars In "The Matrix." 1999 Warner Bros. And Village Roadshow Film.
Getty Images

Execs at Warner Brothers weren't sure about The Matrix, considering that the writers and directors, the Wachowskis, were unknowns, so they created a 600-page shot-for-shot storyboard to convince the studio to make the movie. It went on to gross more than $450 million. 

55. Mattel sued MCA records over the song "Barbie Girl" by Aqua for copyright infringement.

The case went to the U.S. Court of Appeals where judge Alex Kozinski said “the parties are advised to chill.”

56. Psychic Uri Geller sued Pokemon.

He believed that the character Kadabra, who also bent spoons with his mind, was based on him. The character has since been retired.

57. R.L. Stine wasn't a complete unknown before writing the Goosebumps series.

R.L. Stine speaks during "Make it Matter Day" in support of literacy and education at The New York Public Library.
Andy Kropa/Getty Images

He also wrote the novelizations for Spaceballs and Ghostbusters 2.

58. The toy Bop It was inspired by the games Simon and Whack-a-Mole.

And all these years later, you can still buy it on Amazon. 

59. Sabrina the Teenage Witch Has a Familiar ZIP code.

Sabrina, the teenage witch, lives in a fictional town, Westbridge, but its ZIP Code is the real ZIP Code for Salem, Massachusetts. She also lives at 133 Collins Road, the same address from Dark Shadows. By the way, Sabrina’s cat is also named Salem.

60. The Thighmaster was invented by Joshua Reynolds, heir to the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company.

He also invented the mood ring.

61. speaking of innovators: '90s boy band Hanson has their own beer brand called mmmHops now.

 The boy band Hanson. 90 facts about the '90s.
Brenda Chase / Stringer

Well, now that they're all of legal drinking age, of course. 

62. 80 members of the crew for the movie Titanic got sick on the same day.

Some were even hospitalized due to hallucinations. It turned out that someone had spiked the lobster chowder with PCP.

63. We know who's responsible for Budweiser's "Whassup" commercials. 

Justin Reardon came up with the "Whassup" Budweiser commercial, and for his hard work, the company gave him a $250 bonus and a baseball bat "that said something like, 'Way to go, slugger!'"

64. Nirvana released Nevermind and left Metallica gushing over it. (Though Lars still hates ... something.)

Nirvana once received the following fax: “We really dig Nirvana. Nevermind is the best album of the year. Let's get together soon, love, Metallica. P.S., Lars hates the band." Unclear whether the band in question was Metallica or Nirvana, but regardless, probably true.

65. The first Google server’s storage rack was made out of Legos.

Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.
David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Now the company makes over $100 billion a year.

66. The Doug Funnie character originated in Florida grapefruit juice commercials.

It wasn't until two years later that the character made his Nickelodeon debut in Doug

67. Super Soaker inventor Lonnie Johnson shot the water gun in the middle of a meeting with the president of Larami toy company.

Johnson is also a former engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

68. The Macarena made it to the DNC.

The Macarena was so popular during the 1996 Democratic National Convention that Al Gore made the following joke: “And if I could have your silence, I would like to demonstrate for you the Al Gore version the Macarena,” at which point he stood completely still.

69. The Magic School Bus Was Created to Keep Young Girls and Minorities Interested in Science. 

Producer Deborah Forte of Scholastic Entertainment says they were inspired to create the Magic School Bus TV show after learning that many girls and minorities were opting out of science at young ages.

70. In the original Sonic the Hedgehog, the SEGA logo and sound at the beginning took up 1/8 of the cartridge's memory for the game.

The Sonic the Hedgehog balloon is seen during the 87th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 28, 2013 in New York City.
Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Sega of America

Worth it.

71. Amy Heckerling, who wrote and directed Clueless, sat in on high school classes to get a feel for how real teens talk.

It paid off, as Clueless grossed more than $50 million at the box office. 

72. Hermione Granger's last name was almost Puckle.

Hey Puckle, we can't help but notice that your initials are H.P.

73. The Coca-Cola company released Surge to compete with Mountain Dew.

While the drink was in the creation stages, employees called it "Mountain Dew Killer."

74. The princess Beanie Baby raised over $15 million for the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.

They now go for over $10,000 on eBay

75. David Lynch and Mark Frost once tried to make a biopic about Marilyn Monroe.

That project fell through, but they ended up making Twin Peaks, also about a beloved blonde who died tragically young, resulting in secrets being revealed.

76. 32 percent of the original iMacs were sold to first-time computer buyers.

Workers setting up Apple iMacs in 1999.
Getty Images

The original model went on sale August 15, 1998. 

77. Mike Myers got the inspiration for the Austin Powers film after hearing the Dusty Springfield song, "The Look of Love."

The original 1997 Austin Powers grossed more than $50 million against a $16 million budget. The sequel, 1999's The Spy Who Shagged Me, went on to gross more than $300 million worldwide. 

78. Destiny's Child was originally called Girls Tyme.

The group's debut album hit stores on February 17, 1998. 

79. Bridget Jones originated in a newspaper column in The Independent.

Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones Diaries have sold 15 million copies worldwide and have been made into two hit films.
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The first book, Bridget Jones's Diary, came out in 1996. 

80. The most-remembered slogan in beverage history is "Got Milk?"

Remember that "Alexander Hamilton" commercial for the "Got Milk?" campaign? It was directed by Michael Bay. 

81. Will Smith knew that people would call him by his Fresh Prince of Bel-Air character name for the rest of his life, so he named the character Will Smith.

And yes, we still call him that. 

82. While Tupac was in high school, his friend got shot while playing with a gun.

Tupac then wrote his first rap, which was about gun control.

83. 1991's My Girl made Macaulay Culkin the first child actor to be paid $1 million for a film.

Home Alone 2 brought him $4.5 million just a year later. 

84. While the Nintendo 64 was in development, its code name was "Project Reality."

 A Nintendo 64 on the shelf in 1999.
Joe Raedle/Newsmakers

Its proposed final name was the "Ultra 64," and it was even referenced as such up until a few months before its release. 

85. Back in 1997, a band called Kara’s Flowers performed on Beverly Hills 90210

They're now called Maroon 5.

86. Simon Cowell wanted to sign the Spice Girls back in the day, but he approached them too late.

He calls this his biggest regret.

87. Marilyn Manson originally performed with friends like Madonna, Wayne Gacy, and Olivia Newton Bundy.

Marilyn Manson with Rose McGowan at the premiere of "Alien Resurrection."
Brenda Chase / Stringer

For what it's worth.

88. Tamagotchi comes from the Japanese words for egg and friend.

These things are still readily available if you're looking for a nostalgia fix. 

89. Lois Lowry wrote The Giver when her father was beginning to lose his memory.

The book has gone on to sell more than 10 million copies around the world. 

90. The United States spent around $100 billion dollars to prepare for Y2K.

And we're all still alive to talk about it. 

To learn more about the '90s, check out this video we did all about it:

16 Biting Facts About Fright Night

William Ragsdale stars in Fright Night (1985).
William Ragsdale stars in Fright Night (1985).
Columbia Pictures

Charley Brewster is your typical teen: he’s got a doting mom, a girlfriend whom he loves, a wacky best friend … and an enigmatic vampire living next door.

For more than 30 years, Tom Holland’s critically acclaimed directorial debut has been a staple of Halloween movie marathons everywhere. To celebrate the season, we dug through the coffins of the horror classic in order to discover some things you might not have known about Fright Night.

1. Fright Night was based on "The Boy Who Cried Wolf."

Or, in this case, "The Boy Who Cried Vampire." “I started to kick around the idea about how hilarious it would be if a horror movie fan thought that a vampire was living next door to him,” Holland told TVStoreOnline of the film’s genesis. “I thought that would be an interesting take on the whole Boy Who Cried Wolf thing. It really tickled my funny bone. I thought it was a charming idea, but I really didn't have a story for it.”

2. Peter Vincent made Fright Night click.

It wasn’t until Holland conceived of the character of Peter Vincent, the late-night horror movie host played by Roddy McDowall, that he really found the story. While discussing the idea with a department head at Columbia Pictures, Holland realized what The Boy Who Cried Vampire would do: “Of course, he's gonna go to Vincent Price!” Which is when the screenplay clicked. “The minute I had Peter Vincent, I had the story,” Holland told Dread Central. “Charley Brewster was the engine, but Peter Vincent was the heart.”

3. Peter Vincent is named after two horror icons.

Peter Cushing and Vincent Price.

4. The Peter Vincent role was intended for Vincent Price.

Roddy McDowall in Fright Night (1985)
Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent in Fright Night (1985).
Columbia Pictures

“Now the truth is that when I first went out with it, I was thinking of Vincent Price, but Vincent Price was not physically well at the time,” Holland said.

5. Roddy McDowall did not want to play the part like Vincent Price.

Once he was cast, Roddy McDowall made the decision that Peter Vincent was nothing like Vincent Price—specifically: he was a terrible actor. “My part is that of an old ham actor,” McDowall told Monster Land magazine in 1985. “I mean a dreadful actor. He had a moderate success in an isolated film here and there, but all very bad product. Basically, he played one character for eight or 10 films, for which he probably got paid next to nothing. Unlike stars of horror films who are very good actors and played lots of different roles, such as Peter Lorre and Vincent Price or Boris Karloff, this poor sonofabitch just played the same character all the time, which was awful.”

6. It took Holland just three weeks to write the Fright Night script.

And he had a helluva good time doing it, too. “I couldn’t stop writing,” Holland said in 2008, during a Fright Night reunion at Fright Fest. “I wrote it in about three weeks. And I was laughing the entire time, literally on the floor, kicking my feet in the air in hysterics. Because there’s something so intrinsically humorous in the basic concept. So it was always, along with the thrills and chills, something there that tickled your funny bone. It wasn’t broad comedy, but it’s a grin all the way through.”

7. Tom Holland directed Fright Night out of "self-defense."

By the time Fright Night came around, Holland was already a Hollywood veteran—just not as a director. He had spent the past two decades as an actor and writer and he told the crowd at Fright Fest that “this was the first film where I had sufficient credibility in Hollywood to be able to direct ... I had a film after Psycho 2 and before Fright Night called Scream For Help, which … I thought was so badly directed that [directing Fright Night] was self-defense. In self-defense, I wanted to protect the material, and that’s why I started directing with Fright Night."

8. Chris Sarandon had a number of reasons for not wanting to make Fright Night.

Chris Sarandon stars in 'Fright Night' (1985)
Chris Sarandon stars in Fright Night (1985).
Columbia Pictures

At the Fright Night reunion, Chris Sarandon recalled his initial reaction to being approached about playing vampire Jerry Dandrige. "I was living in New York and I got the script,” he explained. “My agent said that someone was interested in the possibility of my doing the movie, and I said to myself, ‘There’s no way I can do a horror movie. I can’t do a vampire movie. I can’t do a movie with a first-time director.’ Not a first-time screenwriter, but first-time director. And I sat down and read the script, and I remember very vividly sitting at my desk, looked over at my then wife and said, ‘This is amazing. I don’t know. I have to meet this guy.’ And so, I came out to L.A. And I met with Tom [Holland] and our producer. And we just hit it off, and that was it.”

9. Jerry Dandridge is part fruit bat.

After doing some research into the history of vampires and the legends surrounding them, Sarandon decided that Jerry had some fruit bat in him, which is why he’s often seen snacking on fruit in the film. When asked about the 2011 remake with Colin Farrell, Sarandon commented on how much he appreciated that that specific tradition continued. “In this one, it's an apple, but in the original, Jerry ate all kinds of fruit because it was just sort of something I discovered by searching it—that most bats are not blood-sucking, but they're fruit bats,” Sarandon told io9. “And I thought well maybe somewhere in Jerry's genealogy, there's fruit bat in him, so that's why I did it.”

10. William Ragsdale learned he had booked the part of Charley Brewster on Halloween.

William Ragsdale had only ever appeared in one film before Fright Night (in a bit part). He had recently been considered for the role of Rocky Dennis in Mask, which “didn’t work out,” Ragsdale recalled. “But a few months later, [casting director] Jackie Burch tells me, ‘There’s this movie I’m casting. You might be really right for it.’ So, I had this 1976 Toyota Celica and I drove that through the San Joaquin valley desert for four or five trips down for auditioning. And in the last one, Stephen [Geoffreys] was there, Amanda [Bearse] was there and that’s when it happened. I had read the script and at the time I had been doing Shakespeare and Greek drama, so I read this thing and thought, ‘Well, God, this looks like a lot of fun. There’s no … iambic pentameter, there’s no rhymes. You know? Where’s the catharsis? Where’s the tragedy?’ … I ended up getting a call on Halloween that they had decided to use me, and I was delighted.”

11. Not being Anthony Michael Hall worked in Stephen Geoffreys's favor.

In a weird way, it was by not being Anthony Michael Hall that Stephen Geoffreys was cast as Evil Ed. “I actually met Jackie Burch, the casting director, by mistake in New York months before this movie was cast and she remembered me,” Geoffreys shared at Fright Fest. “My agent sent me for an audition for Weird Science. And Anthony Michael Hall was with the same agent that I was with, and she sent me by mistake. And Jackie looked at me when I walked into the office and said, ‘You’re not Anthony Michael Hall!’ and I’m like ‘No!’ But anyway, I sat down and I talked to Jackie for a half hour and she remembered me from that interview and called my agent, and my agent sent me the script while I was with Amanda [Bearse] in Palm Springs doing Fraternity Vacation, and I read it. It was awesome. The writing was incredible.”

12. Evil Ed wanted to be Charley Brewster.

Stephen Geoffreys stars in 'Fright Night' (1985).
Stephen Geoffreys stars in Fright Night (1985).
Columbia Pictures

Geoffreys loved the script for Fright Night. “I just got this really awesome feeling about it,” he said. “I read it and thought I’ve got to do this. I called my agent and said ‘I would love to audition for the part of Charley Brewster!’ [And he said] ‘No, Steve, you’re wanted for the part of Evil Ed.’ And I went, ‘Are you kidding me? Why? I couldn’t… What do they see in me that they think I should be this?' Well anyway, it worked out. It was awesome and I had a great time.”

13. Fright Night's original ending was much different.

The film’s original ending saw Peter Vincent transform into a vampire—while hosting “Fright Night” in front of a live television audience.

14. A ghost from Ghostbusters made a cameo in Fright Night.

Visual effects producer Richard Edlund had recently finished up work on Ghostbusters when he and his team began work on Fright Night. And the movie gave them a great reason to recycle one of the library ghosts they had created for Ghostbusters—which was deemed too scary for Ivan Reitman's PG-rated classic—and use it as a vampire bat for Fright Night.

15. Fright Night's cast and crew took it upon themselves to record some DVD commentaries.

Because the earliest DVD versions of Fright Night contained no commentary tracks, in 2008 the cast and crew partnered with Icons of Fright to record a handful of downloadable “pirate” commentary tracks about the making of the film. The tracks ended up on a limited-edition 30th anniversary Blu-ray of the film, which sold out in hours.

16. Vincent Price loved Fright Night.


Columbia Pictures

Holland had the chance to meet Vincent Price one night at a dinner party at McDowall’s. And the actor was well aware that McDowall’s character was based on him. “I was a little bit embarrassed by it,” Holland admitted. “He said it was wonderful and he thought Roddy did a wonderful job. Thank God he didn’t ask why he wasn’t cast in it.”

13 Secrets of Halloween Costume Designers

vadimguzhva/iStock via Getty Images
vadimguzhva/iStock via Getty Images

For consumers, Halloween may be all about scares, but for businesses, it’s all about profits. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend $8.8 billion this year on spooky goods, including $3.2 billion on costumes. “It’s an opportunity to be something you’re not the other 364 days of the year,” Jonathan Weeks, founder of Costumeish.com, tells Mental Floss. “It feels like anything goes.”

To get a better sense of what goes into those lurid, funny, and occasionally outrageous disguises, we spoke to a number of designers who are constantly trying to react to an evolving seasonal market. Here’s what we learned about what sells, what doesn’t, and why adding a “sexy” adjective to a Halloween costume doesn’t always work.

1. Some Halloween costumes are just too outrageous for retail

For kids, Halloween is a time to look adorable in exchange for candy. For adults, it’s a time to push the envelope. Sometimes that means provocative, revealing costumes; other times, it means going for shock value. “You get looks at a party dressed as an Ebola worker,” Weeks says. “We have pregnant nun costumes, baby cigarette costumes.” The catch: You won’t be finding these at Walmart. “They’re meant for online, not Spencer’s or Party City.”

2. … but there are some lines Halloween costume designers won’t cross.

Although Halloween is the one day of the year people can deploy a dark sense of humor without inviting personal or professional disaster, some costume makers draw their own line when it comes to how far to exceed the boundaries of good taste. “We’ve never done a child pimp costume, but someone else has,” says Robert Berman, co-founder of Rasta Imposta. Weeks says some questionable ideas that have been brought to the discussion table have stayed there. “There’s no toddler KKK costume or baby Nazi costume,” he says. “There is a line.”

3. Designers can produce a Halloween costume in a matter of days.

A lot of costume interest comes from what’s been making headlines in the fall: Costumers have to be ready to meet that demand. “We’re pretty good at being able to react quickly,” says Pilar Quintana, vice-president of merchandising for Yandy.com. “Something happening in April may not be strong enough to stick around for Halloween.”

Because the mail-order site has in-house models and isn’t beholden to approval from big box vendors, Quintana can design and photograph a costume so it’s available within 72 hours. If it's more elaborate, it can take a little longer: Both Yandy and Weeks had costumes inspired by the Cecil the Lion story that broke in July 2015 (in which a trophy hunter from Minnesota killed an African lion) on their sites in a matter of weeks.

4. Beyonce can help move stale inventory.

Extravagant custom tailoring jobs aside, Halloween costumes are a business of instant demand and instant gratification—inventory needs to be plentiful in order to fill the deluge of orders that come in a short frame of time. If a business miscalculates the popularity of a given theme, they might be stuck with overstock until they can find a better idea to hang on it. “[In 2016] we had 400 or 500 Zorro costumes that we couldn’t sell for $10,” Weeks says. “It had a big black hat that came with it, and I thought, ‘That looks familiar.’ It turned out it looked a lot like the one Beyonce wore in her ‘Lemonade’ video.” Remarketed as a "Formation" hat for Beyonce cosplayers, Weeks moved his stock.

5. Women don’t usually wear masks as part of their Halloween costumes.

Curiously, there’s a large gender gap when it comes to the sculpted latex monster masks offered by Halloween vendors: They’re sold almost exclusively to men. “There just aren’t a lot of masks with female characters,” Weeks says. “I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because men in general like gory, scary costumes.” One exception: Hillary Clinton masks, which were all the rage in 2016.

6. Food costumes are always a hit for Halloween.

At Rasta Imposta, Berman says political and pop culture trends can shift their plans, but one theme is a constant: People love to dress up as food. “We’ve had big success with food items. Bananas, pickles. We did an avocado.”

7. Adding ”sexy” to a Halloween costume doesn’t always work.

It’s a recurring joke that some costume makers only need to add a “sexy” adjective to a design concept in order to make it marketable. While there’s some truth to that—Quintana references Yandy’s “sexy poop emoji” costume—it’s no guarantee of success. “We had a concept for ‘sexy cheese’ that was a no-go,” she says. “'Sexy corn’ didn’t really work at all. ‘Sexy anti-fascist’ didn’t make the cut this year.”

8. People ask for some weird stuff when it comes to Halloween costumes.

In addition to monitoring social media for memes and trends, designers can get an idea of what consumers are looking for by shadowing their online searches. Costumeish.com monitors what people are typing into their search bar to see if they’re missing out on a potential hit. “People search for odd things sometimes,” Weeks says. “People want to be a cactus, a palm tree, they’re looking for a priest and a boy costume. People can be weird.”

9. Halloween costume designers have workarounds for big properties.

Go out to a Halloween party over the past few years and you’re almost guaranteed to run into the Queen of the North. But not every costume maker has the official license for Game of Thrones. What are other companies to do? Come up with a design that sparks recognition without sparking a lawsuit. “Our biggest seller right now is Sexy Northern Queen,” Quintana says. “It’s inspired by a TV show.” But she won’t say which one.

10. People love sharks.

From the clunky Ben Cooper plastic costume from 1975’s Jaws to today, people can’t seem to get enough of shark-themed outfits. “We do a lot of sharks,” Berman says. “Maybe it’s because of Shark Week in the summertime, but sharks always tend to trend. People just like the idea of sharks.”

11. Dead celebrities mean sales.

It may be morbid, but it’s a reality: The high-profile passing of celebrities, especially close to Halloween, can trigger a surge in sales. “Before Robin Williams died, I couldn’t sell a Mork costume for a dollar,” Weeks says. “After he died, I couldn’t not sell it for less than $100.”

12. The Halloween costume business profits from people shopping at the last minute.

Ever wonder why food and other novelty costumes tend to outsell traditional garb like pirates and witches? Because costume shopping for adults is usually done frantically and they don’t have time to compare 25 different Redbeards. “People tend to do it at the very last minute, so we want something that pops out at them,” Berman says. “Like, ‘Oh, I want to be a crab.’”

Weeks agrees that procrastination is profitable. “We make a lot of money on shipping,” he says. “Some people get party invites on the 25th and so they’re paying for next-day air.”

13. It’s not actually a seasonal business.

Everyone we spoke to agreed that the most surprising thing about the Halloween business is that it’s not really seasonal on their end. Costumes are designed year-round, and planning can take between 12 and 18 months. “It’s 365 days a year,” Quintana says. “We’ll start thinking about next Halloween in December.”

This piece was first published in 2017 and republished in 2019.

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