15 Fabulous Facts About Sex and the City

HBO
HBO

Still wondering if you’re a Carrie, a Miranda, a Charlotte, or a Samantha? It has been exactly 20 years since Sex and the City first premiered on HBO and instantly pushed cosmos, Post-it note break-ups, and Mr. Big into the cultural lexicon, and affection for the groundbreaking series has yet to diminish. The Sarah Jessica Parker-starring show offered a fresh, funny, and very frisky look inside the lives of four very different New York City gals. But even a show as beloved and written about as Sex and the City still has some secrets to spill, and we’ve found a handful of trivia bits that might surprise even its most hardcore fans.

1. CARRIE BRADSHAW ISN’T EXACTLY CANDACE BUSHNELL.

Even casual fans of the series know that Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, is based on author Candace Bushnell, who penned her own sex column in the New York Observer back in the 1990s, which she then adapted into the essay collection also known as Sex and the City. Although Bradshaw and Bushnell have a lot in common, they’re not the same woman. Bushnell started writing for the Observer in 1994, using her own name and adventures to seed her wickedly funny column with salacious, true-life tidbits. But writing such stuff under your own name can be tricky—Carrie found that out the hard way plenty of times—and Bushnell eventually started writing stories about “Carrie” and her friends. Although she still pulled these stories from her own life, her semi-autobiographical heroine afforded Bushnell a special kind of freedom. You can still read some of her original columns over at the Observer’s website.

2. CARRIE’S ADDRESS ISN’T REAL.

Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City (1998)
HBO

Carrie supposedly lived in a very chic apartment for the entire run of the series—a rent-controlled Upper East Side brownstone located on East 73rd Street, between Park and Madison Avenues. Swanky location, right? Too bad it was doubly fictional. Carrie’s building number was 245 (a nonexistent number that, if it did exist, would be located further east, between Second and Third Avenues) and the exterior shots were actually filmed in the West Village, at 66 Perry Street.

3. SAMANTHA AND MIRANDA’S ADDRESSES AREN'T REAL EITHER.

Although the other ladies moved around during the course of the series, each of them had their own signature abode, none of which actually exist. Samantha’s Meatpacking District loft at 300 Gansevoort Street isn’t real (that address doesn’t exist), while Miranda’s Upper West Side apartment is also fictional. Charlotte’s chi-chi address at 700 Park Avenue is, however, a real one, and it’s home to a 21-floor co-op that specializes in large apartments. (The cheapest pad on sale there right now—with its two bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms—is on the market for $2,295,000.)

4. SARAH JESSICA PARKER WANTED TO QUIT THE SHOW EARLY.

Even though Parker had a no-nudity clause in her Sex and the City contract (which explains all those sexy scenes that feature Carrie in cute bras and nothing less), she was still nervous about the sexual content of the series. Back in 2010, she told The Sun, “I was not comfortable with nude scenes, scenes with sex toys, or vulgar language—so I did not do any ... My character, Carrie, kissed a lot of men—but that's as far as it went. I had the maturity to control my panic about the whole series and what it meant. At one point, after the pilot show of Sex and the City was made and they wanted me to sign up for the series, I wanted to get out of it.”

5. IT WAS THE FIRST CABLE SHOW TO WIN THE EMMY FOR OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES.

Winner for Outstanding Comedy Series, 'Sex in the City' at the 53rd Annual Prime-Time Emmy Awards held at the Shubert Theatre, Los Angeles, CA., Nov. 4, 2001
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Although HBO has had great success with their dramatic series, Sex and the City was the network's first comedy series to win Emmy gold in 2001. It maintained that record until 2015, when Veep won the coveted award (which it won again in 2016 and 2017). 

6. THE FOURTH WALL-BREAKING LASTED FOR MORE THAN ONE SEASON.

Early episodes of Sex and the City feature one majorly jarring element that was later jettisoned from the rest of its run: characters breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the camera. Although Miranda, Charlotte, and random supporting characters did it in the pilot episode (even Skipper did it!), eventually only Carrie turned to the camera to chat it up. Most fans remember this as a strange quirk of the series’ first season, but it actually lasted until the second season, as its last appearance reared its ugly (and talkative) head in “The Freak Show,” the third episode of season two.

7. IT’S STILL THE INSPIRATION FOR A BUS TOUR.

It makes sense that Sex and the City, one of those “oh, it’s like New York City is its own character!” series, spawned a bus tour of the show’s various New York City-set locations back in 2001. But it’s a little surprising that the tour is still going. Run by On Location Tours, the three-and-a-half-hour tour has now been operating for 17 years—nearly three times as long as the series was on the air—and it shows no sign of slowing down. It operates seven days a week, complete with stops at Magnolia Bakery (for cupcakes) and Bleecker Street (for shopping). And, yes, it does drive by Carrie’s stoop (the one on Perry Street, naturally).

8. NATASHA ONLY APPEARED IN SEVEN EPISODES.

Sex and the City featured a ton of very memorable recurring characters, from Candice Bergen as Enid Frick, Carrie’s Vogue editor, to Frances Sternhagen as Bunny MacDougal, Charlotte's one-time mother-in-law. But few guest stars had quite the same impact as Bridget Moynahan as Natasha Naginsky, Mr. Big’s second wife. Considering how deeply the introduction of Natasha changed Carrie’s life (and her relationship with Mr. Big), it’s surprising that Moynahan only popped up in seven episodes, spread out over the second and third seasons. Her last appearance? The 17th episode of season three, “What Goes Around Comes Around,” in which Carrie desperately tries to make amends.

9. THE SHOW ADDRESSED 9/11 IN ITS OWN WAY.

The September 11th attacks occurred in between half-seasons, as the fourth season was split in two and the first run ended on August 12, 2001. When the show returned on January 6, 2002, the opening credits had been altered so as to not show the Twin Towers, which originally appeared twice, once with the show’s title, once with “Starring Sarah Jessica Parker."

Of the change, led by producer Michael Patrick King, Parker—who watched the towers collapse—told New York Magazine: “Like the rest of us, I had had all sorts of mixed feelings about the Twin Towers ... But once they were gone, they were beloved." They were replaced in the credits by the Empire State Building.

10. THE SHOW DIDN’T INVENT THE COSMO, BUT IT CERTAINLY POPULARIZED IT.

The ladies’ cocktail of choice, the pink-hued vodka sipper, may have risen to frothy fame thanks to the series, but the drink is believed to have been invented way back in the 1930s. Although its exact provenance is up for debate (no one can agree on whether it was first made in Provincetown or Miami or somewhere else), no one questions that its '90s popularity is due to its many, many appearances on the show. Pair it with a Magnolia Bakery cupcake and you’ve got yourself one heck of a Sex and the City snack.

11. THERE WAS A REAL MR. BIG.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Noth in 'Sex and the City'
Paramount Home Entertainment

Given the true-life (and true-love) events that inspired Bushnell’s original columns, it should come as little surprise that there was a real Mr. Big and he has actually been identified. Although the series’ Big was a big-time financier and entrepreneur, his inspiration—Ron Galotti—was a publisher whom Bushnell met at a party in 1995. The pair dated for about a year, but his presence was felt in her columns—and in Carrie’s own story—for years to come.

12. KRISTIN DAVIS USED TO HIDE THE SHOW FROM HER FAMILY.

Kristin Davis was concerned that the show’s risqué subject matter—and even its title—would shock her family, so she didn’t tell her grandmother about it and asked her parents not to watch it. But her attitude changed over time, and she later confessed that her parents had started watching the show after her grandmother passed away. Davis's dad, a psychology professor, really got into it, even using the show as part of his college lectures on "Marriage and Sexuality."

13. KIM CATTRALL WAS WORRIED SHE HAD BEEN CAST AS SOMEONE’S MOTHER.

Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon in 'Sex and the City'
Paramount Home Entertainment

As the oldest member of the cast, Kim Cattrall was a little blown away by the fact that the series wanted her to play the role of Samantha Jones, a sexy singleton, and not someone’s mom. Back in 2002, she commented, “I never thought I'd be playing this character at this age in my life ... I thought I'd be playing somebody's mom ... The other girls on the show are 10 years younger than I am, so I have to get enough sleep and work out and watch what I eat. Just running around New York City is a good way to keep in shape.”

14. THE SHOW’S FINALE REALLY WAS INTENDED AS AN ENDING.

Although Sex and the City has spawned two feature films—and rumors of a third movie continue to pop up from time to time—producer Michael Patrick King (who directed both of the feature films) originally believed that the show ended just as it was meant to. In 2004, mere months after the show aired its final episode, King said at a panel, “Nothing we did in the series was altered to save something for the movie ... This is exactly the way we wanted to end the series. We’re proud of what we did.”

15. SARAH JESSICA PARKER PUSHED FOR DIVERSITY.

When Blair Underwood joined the cast as a love interest for Miranda back in 2003, it marked the injection of a long-needed bit of diversity in the show’s cast. Of the casting, Cynthia Nixon (Miranda herself) said, “We all of us, and no one more than Sarah Jessica, had lobbied for this for a long, long time ... I'm a huge fan of the show, but if we had area in which we really could use improvement, it's certainly this one ... I think it's about time.”

An earlier version of this article ran in 2016.

11 Fun Facts About Them!

Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Warner Home Video

In the 1950s, Elvis was king, hula hooping was all the rage, and movie screens across America were overrun with giant arthropods. Back then, Tarantula (1955), The Deadly Mantis (1957), and other “big bug” films starring colossal insects or arachnids enjoyed a surprising amount of popularity. What kicked off this creepy-crawly craze? An eerie blockbuster whose impossible premise reflected widespread anxieties about the emerging atomic age. Grab a Geiger counter and let’s explore 1954's Them!.

1. Them!'s primary scriptwriter once worked for General Douglas MacArthur.

When World War II broke out, the knowledge Ted Sherdeman had gained from his career as a radio producer was put to good use by Uncle Sam, landing him a position as a radio communications advisor to General MacArthur. However, the fiery conclusion of the war left Sherdeman with a lifelong disdain for nuclear weapons. In an interview he revealed that upon hearing about the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, he “just went over to the curb and started to throw up."

Shifting his focus from radio to motion pictures, Sherdeman later joined Warned Bros. as a staff producer. One day he was given a screenplay that really made his eyes bug out. George Worthing Yates, best known for his work on the Lone Ranger serials, had decided to take a stab at science fiction and penned an original script about giant, irradiated ants attacking New York City. "The idea appealed to me very much,” Sherdeman told Cinefantastique, "because, aside from man, ants are the only creatures in the world that plan to wage war, and nobody trusted the atomic bomb at that time.” (His statement about animal combat is debatable: chimpanzee gangs will also take organized, warlike measures in order to annex their rivals’ territories.)

Although he loved the basic concept, Sherdeman felt that the script needed something more. Screenwriter Russell S. Hughes was asked to punch up the script, but died of a heart attack after completing the first 50 pages. With some help from director Gordon Douglas, Sherdeman took it upon himself to finish the screenplay. Thus, Them! was born.

2. Two main ants were built for the movie.

Them! brought its spineless villains to life using a combination of animatronics and puppetry, courtesy of an effects artist by the name of Dick Smith. He constructed two fully functional mechanical ants for the production, with the first of these being a 12-foot monster filled with gears, levers, motors, and pulleys. Operating the big bug was a job that required a small army of technicians who’d pull sophisticated cables to control the ant’s limbs off-camera. These guys worked in close proximity and often crashed into each other as a result, prompting Douglas to call them “a comedy team.”

The big insect mainly appears in long shots, and for close-ups, Smith built the front three quarters of a second large-scale ant and mounted it onto a camera crane. During scenes that required swarms of ants, smaller, non-motorized models were used. Blowing wind machines moved the little units’ heads around in a lifelike manner.

3. Them! features the Wilhelm Scream.

Fifty-nine minutes in, the ants board a ship and one of them grabs a sailor, who unleashes the so-called "Wilhelm Scream." You can also hear it when James Whitmore’s character is killed, and the sound bite rings out once again during the movie’s climax. Them! was among the first movies to reuse this distinctive holler, which was originally recorded three years earlier for the 1951 western Distant Drums. Since then, it’s become something of an inside joke for sound recording specialists. The scream has appeared in Titanic (1997), Toy Story (1995), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Batman Returns (1992), the Star Wars saga (1977-present), all three The Lord of the Rings movies (2001-2003), and countless other films.

4. Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance.

In one brief scene, future Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy plays an Army man who receives a message about an alleged “ant-shaped UFO” sighting over Texas. He then proceeds to poke fun at the Lone Star State, because, as everybody knows, insectile space vessels are highly illogical.

5. Many different sounds were combined to produce the screeching ant cries.

Throughout the movie, the monsters announce their presence with a haunting wail. Douglas’s team created this unforgettable shriek by mixing assorted noises, including bird whistles, which were artificially pitched up by sound technicians.

6. Sandy Descher had to sniff a mystery liquid during her signature scene.

Like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Them! has a deliberate pace and the massive insects don’t make an onscreen appearance until the half hour mark. Douglas took credit for this restrained approach, saying, “I told Ted, let’s tease [the audience] a little bit before you see the ant. Let’s build up to it."

So instead of showing off the big bugs, the opening scene follows a little girl as she wanders through the New Mexican desert, listlessly clutching her favorite doll. That stunning performance was delivered by child actress Sandy Descher. Later, in one of the most effective title drop scenes ever orchestrated, a vial of formic acid is held under her character’s nose. Suddenly recognizing the aroma, the traumatized youngster screams “Them! Them!” Descher never found out what sort of liquid was really sloshing around in that container.

“They used something that did smell quite strange. It wasn’t ammonia, it was something else,” she told an interviewer. Still, the mysterious brew had a beneficial effect on her performance. “They tried to create something different and it helped me a lot with that particular scene,” Descher said.

7. Them! was originally going to be filmed in 3D and in color.

To hear Douglas tell it, the insect models looked a lot scarier in person. “I put green and red soap bubbles in the eyes,” he once stated. “The ants were purple, slimy things. Their bodies were wet down with Vaseline. They scared the bejeezus out of you.” For better or for worse, though, audiences never got the chance to savor the bugs’ color scheme.

At first, Warner Bros. had planned on shooting the movie in color. Furthermore, to help Them! compete with Universal’s brand-new, three-dimensional monster movie, Creature From the Black Lagoon, the studio strongly considered using 3D cameras. But in the end, the higher-ups at Warner Bros. didn’t supply Douglas with the money he’d need to shoot it in this manner. Shortly before production started on Them!, the budget was greatly reduced, forcing the use of two-dimensional, black and white film.

8. The setting of the climactic scene was changes—twice.

Yates envisioned the final battle playing out in New York City’s world-famous subway tunnels. Hughes moved the action westward, conjuring up an epic showdown between human soldiers and the last surviving ants at a Santa Monica amusement park. Finally, for both artistic and budgetary reasons, Sherdeman set the big finale in the sewers of Los Angeles.

9. Warner Bros. encouraged theaters to use Them! as a military recruitment tool.

The film’s official pressbook advised theater managers who were screening Them!& to contact their nearest Armed Forces recruitment offices. “Since civil defense in the face of an emergency figures in the picture, make the most of it by inviting [a] local agency to set up a recruiting booth in the lobby,” the filmmakers advised. Also, the document suggested that movie houses post signs reading: “What would you do if (name of city) were attacked by THEM?! Prepare for any danger by enlisting in Civil Defense today!”

10. The movie was a surprise hit.

Studio head Jack L. Warner predicted that Them!, with its far-fetched plot, wouldn’t fare well at the box office. So imagine his surprise when it raked in more than $2.2 million—enough to make the picture one of the studio's highest-grossing films of 1954.

11. Them! landed Fess Parker the role of TV's Davy Crockett.

When Walt Disney went to see Them!, he had a specific objective in mind: Scout a potential Davy Crockett. At the time, Disney was developing a new television series that would chronicle the life and times of the iconic frontiersman, and James Arness, who plays an FBI agent in Them!, was on the short list of candidates for the role. Yet as the sci-fi thriller unfolded, it was actor Fess Parker who grabbed Disney’s attention. Director Gordon Douglas had hired Parker to portray the pilot who ends up in a psych ward after an aerial encounter with a gargantuan flying ant. And while his character only appears in one scene, the performance impressed Disney so much that the struggling actor was soon cast as Crockett.

By the Texan’s own admission, his good fortune may’ve been the product of bargain hunting. “Walt probably asked, ‘How much would Arness cost?’ and then ‘This fellow [Parker], we ought to be able to get him real economical,” Parker once said.

George R.R. Martin Doesn't Think Game of Thrones Was 'Very Good' For His Writing Process

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

No one seems to have escaped the fan fury over the finals season of Game of Thrones. While likely no one got it quite as bad as showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, even author George R.R. Martin—who wrote A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the show is based, faced backlash surrounding the HBO hit. The volatile reaction from fans has apparently taken a toll on both Martin's writing and personal life.

In an interview with The Guardian, the acclaimed author said he's sticking with his original plan for the last two books, explaining that the show will not impact them. “You can’t please everybody, so you’ve got to please yourself,” he stated.

He went on to explain how even his personal life has taken a negative turn because of the show. “I can’t go into a bookstore any more, and that used to be my favorite thing to do in the world,” Martin said. “To go in and wander from stack to stack, take down some books, read a little, leave with a big stack of things I’d never heard of when I came in. Now when I go to a bookstore, I get recognized within 10 minutes and there’s a crowd around me. So you gain a lot but you also lose things.”

While fans of the book series are fully aware of the author's struggle to finish the final two installments, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, Martin admitted that part of the delay has been a result of the HBO series, and fans' reaction to it.

“I don’t think [the series] was very good for me,” Martin said. “The very thing that should have speeded me up actually slowed me down. Every day I sat down to write and even if I had a good day … I’d feel terrible because I’d be thinking: ‘My God, I have to finish the book. I’ve only written four pages when I should have written 40.'"

Still, Martin has sworn that the books will get finished ... he just won't promise when.

[h/t The Guardian]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER