originally published January 19, 2014
While in the next room my wife is no doubt running the trumpeters through a quick rehearsal of the jazzed-up fanfare that will herald the massive party she is throwing in my honor, I’m going to flex my consonants and stretch my vowels for the final 250-day sprint to the finish line. I’m right on course with this project, having achieved my goals of graduating from University and acquiring a paid gig spewing words onto a screen. All that’s left is an upgrade to my day job, perhaps the shedding of a few pounds and having Scarlett Johansson sing me an acoustic cover of Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection album while I feast on bacon and hummus.
But then I don’t know the details of the party next door. Maybe that’ll come off my list today.
For an insatiable snarfer of inconsequential trivia, this project has been a god-send of forgettable (though momentarily nod-worthy) factoids and tiddly-bits. It’s been a treat finding so many wonky folds of space-time that have overlapped with my daily topics and rewarded me for having scooped up all this pop-cultural flotsam. Today I’m going to treat my readers to some of the great weirdness upon the Hollywood petri dish. Today’s quiz is a glob of some of the weirdest facts I could find about A-list stars. The answers are, as always, linked at the end of each question.
- One year after serving as an usher at Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral, this actor took the Morehouse College board of trustees hostage (including Martin Luther King Sr.), refusing to release them until the school agreed to reform its curriculum and policies. He won, but was then convicted of unlawful confinement and kicked out of school for two years. Answer.
- At the age of 22, this star became a New York City Firefighter, a job he held for five years before quitting to pursue acting. During the hazy aftermath of the September 11 attacks, when headlines were breezing by in a blur of carnage and horror, this guy re-enlisted with his old firehouse and spent several 12-hour shifts sifting through the rubble of the World Trade Center, looking for survivors. Answer.
- This magnificent actor fought to join the US Air Force during World War II, heading up the 703rd Bombardment Squadron. He earned two Distinguished Flying Cross medals and a heap of other shiny doodads for blowing up a bunch of Nazi stuff. He came home and stuck with the USAF Reserve after the war, eventually reaching the rank of Brigadier General. He even participated on a mission in Vietnam. By the 1980’s, he was one of the most respected men in movie history, and quite literally the very model of a modern Major General. Answer.
- It’s one thing to be a famous actress, but quite another when you’ve got a beefy family history to stand upon. This lady’s family includes several famous British politicians and noblemen, a maternal grandmother who saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust, and a great-great grandfather who happened to be the Prime Minster of Britain from 1908 to 1916. Her mother is a psychotherapist, and this actress regularly discusses her characters with her in order to work through their psychological motivations. Some people become stars through leaked sex tapes and professional whoredom – this lady pours her sweat into every role. Answer.
- Hooked on cocaine at 13, this actor is probably lucky to still be alive. He was charged with attempted murder at 16 for bashing a Vietnamese man’s head with a wooden stick and blinding another one in one eye. At 21 he broke a neighbor’s jaw and went to prison for assault. Luckily, his “good vibrations” led him from a cell to a recording studio and eventually to the big screen. Answer.
- This actor met his current wife in 1984 when he played a bad guy on one episode of the show Airwolf, while she played his terrified hostage. Not really that mesmerizing a story, but I wanted an excuse to mention this guy because he’s just awesome. Answer.
- If this writer/actor is technically on Hollywood’s A-List, he has probably found something about it to complain about. He was a writer on Saturday Night Live for one season in the mid-80’s, scoring only one on-air sketch. That lone piece was plopped into the 12:50 slot, right before the end of the show when only the insomniacs are still watching. Answer.
- Her grandfather was an acclaimed stage and screen actor, her father directed some of the greatest films of the past century (and won two Academy Awards), and her nephew plays the masked bad-ass Richard Harrow on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. What the hell is it with these Hollywood family dynasties? Answer.
- This guy returned to New York University in 1994 to complete his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. By then he was already able to score a table at any restaurant in the city, he was locked into one of the longest-lasting modern celebrity marriages (hey, nine years ain’t bad), and he had no legitimate vocational need for a college degree. I guess he just wanted to learn how to work his craft well, rather than ride his celebrity status into easy money. Probably why everybody (except the occasional paparazzo photographer) likes the guy. Answer.
- Years ago, my wife and I took an early, pre-Facebook online quiz to determine our celebrity spouses. She got Mike Myers (this was pre-Love Guru so that wasn’t an embarrassing result) and I got this woman, which worked out well since I’ve had a star-crush on her for as long as I can remember. I was able to look past her boozing at Studio 54 (at age 11), heavy pot-smoking (age 12), and bizarre 3-month habitation with David Crosby in an attempt to get sober. I’m pretty sure my window of opportunity (which – let’s face it – never really existed to begin with) is shut by now. Answer.
- Despite having scored the same legal team that kept O.J. Simpson out of prison in the mid-90’s, this actor was still sent to the joint for 3 years for being unable to control his substance abuse problems. He was once busted for wandering into a neighbor’s home by accident and falling asleep on one of the beds. On another occasion he was caught driving his Porsche naked, with some coke, some heroin and a .357 Magnum on the seat beside him. Talk about committing to one’s own downfall. Answer.
- This director, whose movies have been cloaked in ominous darkness, co-wrote the screenplay for Stewart Little in 1999. He was also revealed to have been the ghost writer of the fluffy teen comedy She’s All That, and was in line to write the fourth Indiana Jones film for a while. Perhaps the strangest twist in this guy’s life was when a Sci-Fi Channel documentary in 2004 revealed that he had been dead for nearly 30 minutes in a frozen pond as a child, and since then has been able to communicate with spirits. Okay, it was all a hoax. But someone must have believed it, at least for a few minutes. Answer.
Thanks to everyone who has stuck around this long, and who has continued to give me an audience for my ramblings for over two years. 250 days to go… then I sleep.