15 Star-Studded Facts About the Emmy Awards

Angela Weiss, AFP/Getty Images
Angela Weiss, AFP/Getty Images

Anything can happen at the Emmys: Impromptu make-outs. Presenter fraud. Near-death experiences for Bob Newhart. Before the 2018 broadcast begins on Monday, September 17, read up on the weirdest and most fascinating facts from the award ceremony’s 70-year history. Sure, hosts Michael Che and Colin Jost are likely to bring the comedy heat (with a side of politics), but can even their dual host power match the insanity of the 1974 Super Emmys?

1. THE WORD “EMMY” COMES FROM A CAMERA TUBE.

When the Television Academy was brainstorming a name for its new awards back in the late 1940s, founder Syd Cassyd first suggested “Ike,” a.k.a. the nickname for a television iconoscope tube. But the other members worried that that term was too closely linked to World War II hero (and future POTUS) Dwight Eisenhower, and therefore might seem too political. So instead, Henry Lubcke (who would go on to become the Academy's third president) floated “Immy.” It would reference another piece of TV tech, the image-orthicon tube. The rest of the team decided to feminize it into “Emmy,” so that it matched the statuette they had selected. That statuette, which resembles the one you know today, included a winged woman holding an atom. And it was based on a real person. (Keep reading ...)

2. DOROTHY MCMANUS WAS THE MODEL FOR THE STATUETTE.

Cassyd and his friends considered 47 design proposals for their award statuette, and promptly rejected all of them. But the 48th time was the charm. Television engineer Louis McManus’s design of a woman with wings (representing the arts) holding an atom (representing science) was the last one the team reviewed, but it turned out to be the winning pitch. McManus had modeled the woman on his wife, Dorothy—leading at least one art curator to wonder why the awards weren’t called “Dorothies.”

3. ONLY SIX AWARDS WERE HANDED OUT AT THE FIRST CEREMONY, AND ONE WENT TO A VENTRILOQUIST.

The very first Emmy Awards ceremony was held on January 25, 1949 at the Hollywood Athletic Club. Unlike the current iteration, it was a fairly cheap affair (tickets cost just $5) and the run time was a lot shorter. Only six awards were handed out that evening. The first one, for Most Outstanding Television Personality, went to 20-year-old Shirley Dinsdale and her puppet, Judy Splinters, for The Judy Splinters Show. Other winners included a program called Pantomime Quiz and Louis McManus, who got a special Emmy for designing the thing.

4. “BEST CONTINUING PERFORMANCE IN A SERIES BY A PERSON WHO ESSENTIALLY PLAYS HERSELF” USED TO BE A CATEGORY.

In the early years of the awards, the Emmys tested out a number of categories, some of them more logical than others. By far the most nonsensical pair came in 1958, when the Television Academy decided to honor the “Best Continuing Performance in a Series by a Comedienne, Singer, Hostess, Dancer, M.C., Announcer, Narrator, Panelist, or Any Person Who Essentially Plays Herself” along with a corresponding male category. Rumor has it the categories were mostly designed to honor Lucille Ball for I Love Lucy, but if that was the intention, it failed miserably. Dinah Shore won instead for The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, while Jack Benny took the male category for The Jack Benny Show. These categories were seemingly axed by 1959, much to the relief of tongue-tied presenters.

5. JACKIE KENNEDY IS THE ONLY FIRST LADY TO WIN AN EMMY.

To date, only one First Lady of the United States has won an Emmy. That distinction goes to Jackie Kennedy, who received a special Trustees Award for her famous televised tour of the White House in 1962. (Lady Bird Johnson accepted the statuette on Kennedy's behalf.) No First Lady has matched her Emmy count since, although Michelle Obama came somewhat close: She received Emmy attention when her Billy on the Street segment earned a 2015 nomination. Alas, it lost to Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis.

6. THE “SUPER EMMYS” WERE A HUGE FLOP.

In 1974, the Emmys decided to get experimental with a so-called “Super Emmy” ceremony. The show pitted the winning performers from the drama and comedy categories against each other—think Best Lead Actor in a Drama vs. Best Lead Actor in a Comedy, Best Supporting Actress in a Drama vs. Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy, etc. The ultimate champions would be crowned the actor or actress “of the year” in their respective categories, and the big winners included Alan Alda, Mary Tyler Moore, and Cecily Tyson. The next day, The New York Times wrote that the broadcast was "more confusing than ever" and that "the new 'super awards' are pointless"; things went back to normal for the next year's ceremony.

7. ALAN ALDA CARTWHEELED DOWN THE AISLE FOR HIS 1979 WIN.

Speaking of Alan Alda: He made a bigger splash at the Emmys just five years later. During the 1979 ceremony, he picked up a prize for his writing on M*A*S*H. Although he’d previously won acting and directing awards for the show, he’d never been recognized for his writing before—and he was excited. So he cartwheeled down the aisle in what is now an iconic Emmy moment.

“The writing one meant so much," Alda later told Variety. "I wanted to be a writer and a good writer since I was eight years old. To get an Emmy for writing meant so much that that was really spontaneous when I did the cartwheel on the way to the stage … I’m 80 now, but a couple of months after my 80th birthday, I was on the beach in the Virgin Islands and I said, ‘I’m gonna see if I can still do a cartwheel.'"

8. SOMEONE NEARLY STOLE BETTY THOMAS’S EMMY—ON STAGE.

When Betty Thomas won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Hill Street Blues in 1985, a man came up to accept the Emmy on her behalf. This was strange for two reasons: Thomas was actually in the audience, and she had no idea who this guy was. The mystery man turned out to be Barry Bremen, a.k.a. “The Great Imposter.” He was known to pull similar pranks at large sporting events, including the Super Bowl. The Emmys were just his latest target, and it cost him; he walked away from that stunt with a $175 fine and six months' probation.

9. CABLE SHOWS WEREN’T ELIGIBLE FOR EMMY AWARDS UNTIL 1988.

Up until the late 1980s, only network shows were eligible for Emmy consideration. Cable series competed for prizes at their own awards show, the CableACE Awards. But the Emmys modified their rules in 1988 to allow cable programming in. The last CableACE Awards ceremony took place in 1997.

10. LORNE MICHAELS IS THE MOST EMMY-NOMINATED PERSON OF ALL TIME.


Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for TheWrap

The most Emmy-nominated individual of all time is Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, with a whopping total of 87 nominations. He'll compete this year for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series for SNL, and he'll also executive produce the Emmy Awards ceremony itself.

But when it comes to actual wins, HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins has got Michaels beat; she has collected a total of 31 Emmy Awards over the years (more than twice Michaels's 15 wins), including the 2018 Emmy for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special for The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling.

11. SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE IS THE MOST CELEBRATED SERIES.

Over its 43-year history, Saturday Night Live has racked up a total of 252 nominations and 62 wins (and counting). That makes it the most nominated show in Emmy history.

12. THE TELEVISION ACADEMY REALLY LOVES COPS.

If you’re serious about winning that statuette, it’s best to pick up a badge and a gun. In 2015, Rolling Stone crunched the numbers and discovered that characters in law enforcement receive the most Emmy love. It adds up when you look at past acting winners: Dennis Franz picked up four for his run on NYPD Blue, Tony Shalhoub won three for Monk, and Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless collectively earned six as the stars of Cagney & Lacey.

13. SOME WINNERS HAVE TO PAY FOR THEIR STATUETTES.

No, Julia Louis-Dreyfus doesn’t have to fork over cash for her Emmy backstage. But for categories where the winners can include 15 to 20 people (think writing teams), the Television Academy imposes some fees. In the interview above, Mo Rocca recounted how he paid for his own Emmy as part of The Daily Show writing staff.

14. IT COSTS $400 AND TAKES OVER FIVE HOURS TO MAKE ONE EMMY.

Charging winners to collect their prize might seem outrageous, but then again, an Emmy isn’t cheap. Each statuette costs about $400 and requires five-and-a-half hours of labor to create. They’re all made at Chicago's R.S. Owens, where employees mold and then coat the figures in copper, nickel, silver, and gold. Watch them in action above.

15. THE EMMYS OVERCAME A DIVERSITY HURDLE IN 2015.

When Isabel Sanford won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for The Jeffersons in 1981, she was the first black woman to receive that honor. The corresponding drama category remained all-white for over six decades, until 2015. Two years ago, Viola Davis won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for How to Get Away With Murder. She used her acceptance speech to talk about race and opportunity, provoking tears from several audience members and wild applause from her fellow nominee, Taraji P. Henson. (Davis is nominated again this year for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for a spot she did on Scandal.)

This year will bring even more diversity to the category, as Sandra Oh is the first Asian actor to compete for the coveted Lead Actress in a Drama statuette for her role in Killing Eve.

An earlier version of this story ran in 2016.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Almost Had a Different Title

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a favorite for fans of both the Harry Potter book series and its film franchise. In addition to offering readers a more mature outing for Harry and the gang, the stakes are far more dangerous—and the characters’ hormones are all over the place.

The name Goblet of Fire is a pretty literal title, as that’s how Harry is forced into the Triwizard Tournament. In addition to being accurate, the title has a nice ring to it, but it was previously revealed that JK Rowling had some other names in the running.

In JK Rowling: A Bibliography 1997-2013, author Philip W. Errington reveals tons of unknown details about the Harry Potter series, so much so that Rowling herself described it as "slavishly thorough and somewhat mind-boggling." In it, Errington revealed that Goblet of Fire had at least three alternate titles: Harry Potter and the Death Eaters, Harry Potter and the Fire Goblet, and Harry Potter and the Three Champions were all working titles before the final decision was made.

While Death Eaters sounds far too depressing and scary to market as a children’s book, Fire Goblet just doesn’t have the elegance of Goblet of Fire. As for Three Champions? It's as boring as it is vague. So kudos to Rowling and her editor for definitely making the correct choice here.

It's not the only time a Harry Potter title led to a larger discussion—and some confusion. In 1998, readers around the world were introduced to Harry through the first book in the series: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. But elsewhere around the world, it was known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

As Errington explains in his book, the book's publisher wanted “a title that said ‘magic’ more overtly to American readers." They were concerned that Philosopher's Stone would feel "arcane," and proposed some alternatives. While Rowling agreed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, she later admitted that she regretted the decision.

"To be honest, I wish I hadn't agreed now," she explained. "But it was my first book, and I was so grateful that anyone was publishing me I wanted to keep them happy."

The 20 Best-Selling Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Movie soundtracks can be big business—sometimes bigger than the movie itself. (And sometimes better than the film itself.) In early December 2018, three soundtracks were in the Billboard Top 10, and Mariah Carey’s Glitter soundtrack has been in the news recently for reentering the charts. But they have a long way to go before entering the top echelon.

Here are the 20 best-selling movie soundtracks of all time—many of which have been on the list for decades.

(The following list is based on RIAA certified units).

1. The Bodyguard (1992)

Certified units: 18 million

Elvis Presley originally wanted to record Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” but his people wanted half the publishing rights. Parton refused and later commented that “when Whitney [Houston’s version] came out, I made enough money to buy Graceland."

2. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Certified units: 16 million

CPR will never be the same.

3. Purple Rain (1984)

Certified units: 13 million

Prince wrote around 100 songs for the movie—and "Purple Rain" wasn’t even in that original group.

4. Forrest Gump (1994)

Certified units: 12 million

Like a box of chocolates, except songs, with everything from Jefferson Airplane to Lynyrd Skynyrd featured in Robert Zemeckis's Oscar-winning hit.

5. Dirty Dancing (1987)

Certified units: 11 million

Maybe don’t rush to get the album if you love the film’s songs: According to executive producer Jimmy Ienner, “We needed different mixes for the film and record ... For example, the guitars were dropped way down for the film because guitars weren’t a dominant instrument back then; saxophones were. We took out most of the synthesized stuff and replaced it with organs in the film version.”

6. Titanic (1997)

Certified units: 11 million

Céline Dion told Billboard that when she was recording "My Heart Will Go On," her thoughts were: “Sing the song, then get the heck out of there."

7. The Lion King (1994)

Certified units: 10 million

"Nants ingonyama" apparently translates to “Here comes a lion.” And if you've seen this Disney classic—which is about to get a live-action remake—you certainly know what "Hakuna Matata" means.

8. Footloose (1984)

Certified units: 9 million

When Ann Wilson of Heart was prepping to duet for the song “Almost Paradise” for Footloose, she broke her wrist. But she refused painkillers because they’d affect her singing voice.

9. Top Gun (1986)

Certified units: 9 million

The songs of Top Gun “still define the bombastic, melodramatic sound that dominated the pop charts of the [mid-80s],” according to AllMusic

10. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

Certified units: 8 million

According to Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons, they were introduced to bluegrass through the Coen brothers's O Brother, Where Art Thou, saying “That movie kind of heralded the advent of bluegrass in mainstream British culture."

11. Grease (1978)

Certified units: 8 million

According to Box Office Mojo, Grease is the second highest-grossing musical of all time, beaten only by 2017’s Beauty and the Beast.

12. Waiting To Exhale (1995)

Certified units: 7 million

The song “Exhale” is famous for its "shoop" chorus. But writer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds explained that it’s a result of every time he wanted to write actual lyrics, they just got in the way.

13. The Little Mermaid (1989)

Certified units: 6 million

According to co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker, “Part of Your World” was nearly cut from The Little Mermaid after a black-and-white and sometimes sketched version made a test audience squirm with boredom. Everyone kept with it until a more polished version solved the problem.

14. Pure Country (1992)

Certified units: 6 million

Not bad for a movie that only grossed $15 million (and one you've probably never heard of).

15. Flashdance (1983)

Certified units: 6 million

The song “Maniac” was originally inspired by a horror film the songwriters saw (the lyrics were rewritten for Flashdance).

16. Space Jam (1996)

Certified units: 6 million

Not only was "I Believe I Can Fly" the best-selling soundtrack single of 1997, but third place was Monica’s “For You I Will”—which is also from Space Jam.

17. The Big Chill (1983)

Certified units: 6 million

By RIAA certified units, The Big Chill soundtrack is the fifth biggest Motown album of all time.

18. City of Angels (1998)

Certified units: 5 million

One of the chief songs from the soundtrack—“Uninvited” by Alanis Morissette—caused some piracy issues. A California radio station got their hands on a bootlegged copy and played it. Someone recorded the song off the radio and uploaded it to the internet (this was in 1998) and even radio stations began playing illegally downloaded versions. As a result, Warner Music was forced to release the album to radio stations a week earlier than planned.

19. The Jazz Singer (1980)

Certified units: 5 million

Fun Fact: Neil Diamond won the first Razzie for Worst Actor for this movie and was also nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor.

20. Evita (1996)

Certified units: 5 million

Evita started off as a concept album in 1976. Then two years later it premiered on London’s West End. In 1979 it debuted on Broadway and an album was released that went platinum in the U.S. before Madonna got to it.

Honorable Mention: Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

Certified units: 5 million

Whether a Broadway cast recording counts as a soundtrack or not is debatable, but Lin-Manuel Miranda’s cultural powerhouse managed to shift as many units as Madonna and Neil Diamond, according to the RIAA .

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