Anthony Bourdain: More than just a celebrity chef

As a child I was always enthralled by cooking and cooking shows. My grandfather was the head chef while he served in World War II; and he brought his love of cooking home with him. Cooking was never a ‘woman’s job’. It was an art that was enjoyed because food was something that we enjoyed. As I grew up the the bevy of cooking shows started to build up on TV and I loved them all. My TV time in the 80s was mostly made up of reruns of Julia Child, Justin Wilson’s cajun inspired cooking shows on PBS, and Great 145px-Food_Network_New_LogoChefs of America/Great Chefs of the World. This continued throughout the 90s when my family got a big satellite dish in the backyard which coincidently was the time that the Food Network started broadcasting. The introduction of shows from Bobby Flay and Mario Batali also brought Emeril Lagasse and Rachel Ray. I was in love with cooking and was one step away from going to culinary school. I won’t divulge you with the real reason that I didn’t go to culinary school (I’ll just say that the closest one was about 6 hours from my home and I had a girlfriend…so…you do the math).

I went on to college and continued to enjoy cooking in my spare time. My roommate and I would invite friends over and always enjoyed cooking for them. This trend continued into my 20s after graduating from college. It was about that time that a new cooking show trend started. The ‘traveling’ show that highlighted not only food but the chef/host of the show eloquently spoke to you. It was like a well written essay that centered around some of the most interesting people and places in the world. I became obsessed with Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain. Anthony Bourdain’s panache and deft writing ability amplified the sometimes unremarkable places he visited.

Anthony_Bourdain_at_Maxwell_Food_Centre,_Singapore_-_20060324Anthony Bourdain had shot to Pop Culture fame in 2000 when his best-selling book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly exposed the rest of the world to the dirty underbelly of the culinary world; where he candidly wrote about his drug use among other tantalizing topics. I remember his face first becoming relevant in the culinary world when he started appearing on the Food Network in 2002 on his show A Cook’s Tour. Then three years later his superstar status skyrocketed when his hit Emmy award winning TV show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations started on the Travel Channel. He jumped to CNN in 2013 with a new show called Parts Unknown which is where we would find him traveling the world for 250 days a year. The show is in its 11th season and it was in France, where he was working on and filming and episode of his show, where they found him dead in his motel room this morning. It was reported this morning that he was found by his best friend and fellow celebrity chef Eric Ripert, who was there filming with him. He had died of an apparent suicide by hanging.

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The Anthony Bourdain that I watched on TV was and is unapologetic. His insight,eloquent words and delightful descriptions brought a poignant beauty into the world. He was one of my idols. I can recall many episodes of his TV shows that have left me in tears. The bitter slap of reality that he hit us with is real. It was never evident by watching his shows that he was suicidal; but most of the time it never is. If you are in the US and need someone to talk to you can contact the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Test Line by texting HOME to 741741. Those of you from the UK can call the Samaritans at 116123.

Anthony Bourdain’s eloquent and sometimes crass descriptions have impacted me. I will pray for the ones he left behind: his loved ones and especially his friend Eric Ripert. Anthony’s extraordinary storytelling on his TV shows brought the world into our homes and not only that but he inspired us to go out and visit those places. Anthony Bourdain I hope that you have found peace. Know that your words have always inspired us; but leaving us with an ellipses instead of a period has impacted us immensely. You will be greatly missed.


Images: 

Anthony Bourdain at Maxwell Food Centre in Singapore by Cheryl/miss bake-a-lot. – Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thebakerwhocooks/117114719/., CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1459812

Anthony Bourdain receiving his Peabody for “Parts Unknown” attributed to the Peabody Awards – Anthony Bourdain, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51812465

Food Network logo by and attributed to the Food Network – http://www.foodnetwork.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25239626

 

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Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Actor’s Improvised Scenes

I’m not an actor but I do appreciate the craft. Part of that reason lies in the fact that I love movies and TV shows. I’m just a fan of Pop Culture in general. I’m the nerdy guy that always watches the extra footage, ‘behind the scenes’, and ‘the making ofs’ of movies and TV shows. Since I’m one of those people that tries to be funny off-the-cuff; I find the improved scenes and lines of movies to be extremely interesting. So many directors allow their actors to make suggestions to the scene or just give them suggestions of how to go about their scene; which can lead to some amazing footage. Sometimes those improvised scenes or lines become more infamous than the movie or TV show itself. Take for instance what would have been my number 13 choice; Dustin Hoffman’s off-the-cuff improvisation of the line “I’m walking Here!” while walking across the street full of actual New York City traffic for the 1969 classic Midnight Cowboy. Director John Schlesinger loved the improvised line so much that he kept it in the movie, and thusly becoming one of the movies most memorable scenes. Much like the improvised quote by Michael Madsen in the torture scene in Quentin Tarantino’s infamous cult classic Reservoir Dogs, “You hear that?” Mr. Blonde, what you hear are my choices for the Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Actor’s Improvised Scenes. Hopefully by the end of this blog I’ll be able to confidently ask “Do I amuse you?” just like Joe Pesci did in the scene from The Goodfella’s where he improved the line for the quick-tempered enforcer.  And much like Roy Scheider’s off-script line, “you’re going to need a bigger boat,” in the 1975 classic movie Jaws, I need a bigger list!



Honorable Mentions:

Good Will Hunting (1997) – “Farting Wife Story”

A movie which shows the life struggles of reluctant genius Will Hunting (played by a young Matt Damon), the scene I am referring to is now just as infamous than the Academy Award winning movie itself. Hunting is in a session with his therapist (played by Robin Williams), and is as always reluctant to open up about his life. So therapist Sean Maguire beings to tell him a personal story about his late wife to help bridge the gap. The story about his late wife’s sleep flatulence was improvised at the moment by Robin Williams. Damon’s genuine belly laugh is matched by the laughter of the cameraman whom you can clearly see is laughing so hard that he shakes the camera during the filming of the scene. Williams dramatic portrayal of the therapist earned him his only Academy Award but his time on the comedy stage which allowed him to improvise this scene caused him to be on my list.

A Clockwork Orange (1971) – “Singing in the Rain”

Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of the Anthony Burgess novel “A Clockwork Orange” had many controversial scenes. The book/movie centers around a teenager whose love for ‘ultraviolence’ finally catches up with him. One scene in particular, Alex (played by legendary actor Malcolm McDowell) and his miscreants break into a house and assault and rape a woman. Stanley Kubrick did not like the scene was turning out during filming, so he just tells McDowell to “(J)ust do whatever you want.” In the next take, McDowell breaks out in to a creepily happy version of “Singing in the Rain” while physically and sexually assaulting the woman. The take was used in the film and thusly helped reveal the truly sadistic side of Alex.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – Sword vs Gun scene

I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t at least heard of Indiana Jones. But did you know that one of the most infamous scenes from Raiders of The Lost Ark improvised? The scene is a wild chase in the Cairo market streets, and Indiana Jones (played by Harrison Ford) runs into a crowded market. The crowd separates to reveal a black-robed warrior wielding a huge sharp sword. After the warrior intimidatingly swings the sword around, Jones puts away his trusty whip and shoots the guy. It’s ruthless but it most definitely plays into his character. The scene had been rehearsed for weeks with Jones and the black-robed warrior having an elaborate whip vs sword fight. Well Harrison Ford got food poisoning, so he went to Steven Spielberg and decided to improvise. The scene became so infamous that I’m sure even Ford himself is okay with the food poisoning he endured the night before shooting that scene.


10. Dumb and Dumber (1994) – “Most Annoying Sound in the World”

Yes its dumb….but no one can deny Dumb and Dumber‘s influence on the comedy landscape. When Dumb and Dumber hit the big screen in 1994, one scene in particular has stuck in the minds of fans ever since; but would you ever imagine that this scene was completely improvised. The script just called for the duo (made up of Lloyd  played by Jim Carrey and Harry played by Jeff Daniels) to argue about jelly beans while the hitchhiker (who is actually a hitman sent to kill them) sat between them got more and more agitated. During the improvised scene, the two of them horse around until the hitman loses his cool and yells “Enough!” Thankfully for him there is a moment of calm until Lloyd breaks the silence and asks, “Hey wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?” Then he proceeds to squeal as loud as possible in his ear. This improved scene is successfully one of the most memorable comedic scenes (to me) of all time.

9. Star Wars – Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – “I love you…I know”

Han Solo is cocky. To be the best pilot in the universe, you have to be. In an effort to continue the tough guy image that Harrison Ford had perfected in his Han Solo character, he Ford argued on a line in one of the more touching scenes of the movie. When Solo was supposed to show his more sensitive side and say “I love you too” in response to his Princess Leia; George Lucas told Ford to just say what he thought was best for the character. So his response to her “I love you” was…”I know”. The response meant more than it let on but it fit perfectly with his character’s cocky persona.

8. Caddyshack (1980) – “The Cinderella Story”

Bill Murray, who is to me one of the funniest human beings on the planet, created one of the best and most quoted scenes from Caddyshack. The scene; which consisted of the dimwitted groundskeeper Carl Spackler (played by Murray) mutters off a story to himself where he, an unknown golfer, wins the Masters golf tournament. Murray said in his 1999 book Cinderella Story: My Life in Golf, that “The Cinderella Story” was a spur-of-the-moment idea. ‘Get me some flowers.’ I said. ‘Four rows of mums.'” After the mums were planted and the cameras started rolling, he ad-libbed the “Cinderalla Story” and demolishes the mums golf swing by golf swing. It truly is comedy gold.

7. The Dark Knight (2008) – The Slow Clap

In what is arguably Heath Ledger’s greatest performance, his version of the villainous Joker is brilliant. Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is comic book movie gold but Ledger’s performance as The Joker pushes the bounds of perfection. In this particular scene, The Joker (whom Ledger had completely embedded himself into the character) waits in a solitary holding cell in the middle of the police headquarters after being arrested. Mayor Garcia (played by Nestor Carbonell) announces the promotion of Jim Gordon (played by Gary Oldman) to the position of Police Commissioner. As the officers in the room applaud, The Joker begins (unscripted) to slowly clap while keeping the same maniacal facial expression. The result was a dark and extremely unsettling set up for the rest of the scene. This simple improvisation deserves more than a slow clap itself…it deserves the posthumous Oscar that Ledger received for his performance as The Joker.

6. Forrest Gump (1994) – “My name’s Forrest Gump.”

Okay, so Forrest Gump is full of famous one-liners but one of the most quotable was an off-the-cuff improvisation by Tom Hanks. The scene shows Forrest introducing himself to another character, Bubba. Bubba says upon inviting Forrest to sit with him, “My given name is Benjamin Buford Blue, but people call me Bubba. Just like one of them ol’ redneck boys. Can you believe that?” Tom Hanks improves a line which fits perfectly when he responses with, “My name’s Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump.” The simple showcase of this man’s sincere yet simple mind is as beautiful as it is funny. It is the beginning of a relationship that would impact Forrest forever and the improvised line would be one of the most quotable lines in all of cinematic history.

5. Taxi Driver (1976) – “You talking to me?”

The phrase, “You talking to me?” has become a cultural phenomenon. People are using the quote in that context without realizing that it comes from the 1976 cult classic Taxi Driver. The movie follows the taxi driver himself, Travis Bickle (played by legendary actor Robert De Niro) and showcases how his mentally spiraling out of control. In a specifically creepy neurotic and sociopathic episode, Bickle is shown talking to himself in the mirror. The original script only called for De Niro to ‘talk to himself’ in the mirror to showcase Travis’s mental state but De Niro took it upon himself to create a whole scene. He pretends that he is confronting the politician that he plans to kill. He looks at himself in the mirror and says, “You talkin’ to me?” before whipping out and pointing a gun. The scene not only does well to showcase the irrational state of the character but De Niro delivers one of the most classic and memorable one liners ever.

4. The Warriors (1979) – “Warriors, come out to play!”

David Patrick Kelly’s improvised line is the exclamation mark to the statement about his remarkable performance as Luther in the 1979 movie, The Warriors. The script said for Luther to taunt the Warriors; but, in the moment, Kelly slipped three bottles on his fingers to clang together and screeched out “Warriors, come out to play!” The director of course kept the take in the final cut of the film and the rest is history. Pop Culture history.

3. The Shining (1980) – “Here’s Johnny”

The Shining follows Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson), his wife and son as Jack goes insane inside the walls of the hotel that they are looking after during its closed down off-season. After finally snapping, the deranged husband and father runs after his family with an axe. He grabs the axe and begins to chop the door down which is only heightened by intermitted screams from his wife. After a hole is finally visible, Jack puts his head inside the jagged hole and says, “Here’s Johnny!” The quote is actually Ed McMahon’s popular catchphrase from when he introduces Johnny Carson on The Johnny Carson Show which adds all kinds of creep level when used in this context. The improved part of the scene is amazingly memorable and one of the most quoted in pop culture.

2. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – “The Hiss”

Actors know when to improvise but sometimes it is ultimately the guidance of the director that guides the scenes and ultimately the movie. During the filming of The Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins would try to spook Jodie Foster. In one of his scenes where he describes one of his cannibalistic adventures; he gives a vivid description of his meal. You remember the meal. He was eating the liver of a census-taker with ‘some fava beans and a nice Chianti,” but it was the freakish hiss at the end that is even more devilish than the thought of the cannablistic act itself. Turns out that Hopkins would hiss during the rehearsals in his many attempts to spook her. Director Jonathan Demme decided to keep it in the film to maximize the revolting aspect of the already frightening scene. His 25 minutes of screen time earned him an Academy Award but that hiss will live on in infamy.

1. The Terminator (1984) – “I’ll be Back”

I don’t think I have to describe the synopsis about the cyborg assassin known as the Terminator who travels back in time from 2029 to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor. That’s right. I’m talking about Arnie and the Terminator! The movie that would springboard Arnold Schwarzenegger into superstardom. One of the biggest movies in pop cultural. Director James Cameron let a short unscripted moment into the final cut of his movie and he should be glad that he did. Arnold as the Terminator is not allowed into the police station, and the script simply instructed him to turn and leave in disappointment; but Schwarzenegger decided to look at the officer and say “I’ll be back.” Cameron loved the line, and it was not only used in subsequent Terminator movies but has become one of Schwarzenegger’s most memorable moments.


Images:

All gifs credited to and created by users from giphy.com. Fair use.

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Voices in Rock n’ Roll

I’ve been a fan of good Rock n’ Roll music for as long as I can remember. I’ve done other top ten lists where I talked about the best guitar solos and even the greatest rock music from the 90s. I’ve thought about the concerts that I wish I could go back in time to see; but one thing that I have never really explored is how amazing and individual that the voices of some Rock n’ Roll singers are. How a new raspy sound or a male singer hitting a vibrato that no one else had done before was not only something new but something that influenced the music realm about them. So since I have your yearning to hear my selections, I present to you Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Voices in Rock n’ Roll.

 


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Honorable Mentions: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Tom Waits, Mike Patton and Chester Bennington

10. Axl Rose – William Bruce Rose Jr. aka Axl Rose may have been born in Lafayette, Indiana but he is best known around the world as the controversial founder and lead singer of one of the most famous rock bands of all time: Guns N’ Roses. Guns N’ Roses burst onto the music scene with their debut album, Appetite for Destruction in 1987 and by 1988 the album had reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The album became the number one best-selling debut album of all time. The driving force behind their popularity was the guitar shredding abilities of Slash and the unique voice of their lead singer. Axl truly has one of the most distinctive voices in Rock music. Developing a wide range when he sang at his local church, starting when he was only five years old but it was during his high school chorus practice that he began to truly develop his unique voice. He can go from the normal bass-baritone to a high tenor with ease. If you listen to the varying differences in his vocal range in songs like “Welcome to the Jungle”, they sound completely different from those found in their song “Patience”. Rolling Stones magazine listed him as the 6th most unique singing voice of all time but he’s only at number 10 for me because there are truly so many to choose from.

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9. Bob Dylan – Without Bob Dylan, there would be no Eddie Vedder. No Kurt Cobain. No Tom Waits. No Bruce Springsteen. No vocalist with a cracking voice or bluesy howl. Bob Dylan changed things. His impact is evident. Dylan’s was as much the voice of his generation as Kurt Cobain was the voice of his. He drew a metaphorical sword upon the generations that came before. There is a reason why Dylan was the opening act before Martin Luther King, Jr made his now infamous “I have a Dream” Speech. His singing is comparative to what Marlon Brando did to acting. He was thrusted through the chicanery of the music industry and pierced the heart of the art that music truly is.

8. Kurt Cobain – People that know me, know that I am a Nirvana fan; so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Nirvana front man appeared on this list. The listing does not come by happenstance or come undeservingly. Cobain was the voice of the ignored American youth, but that voice was distinctively unique to him. He wasn’t a complex singer with elaborate vocal range. He just belted out a naturally raspy song as only he could. His voice is not like anyone else in the business and he was obviously very hard on his vocal cords. His singing, which included a lot of distortion and guttural notes, may not have been associated with ‘proper technique’ but his voice matched his personality and definitely deserved to be the ‘voice of the generation’.

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7. Robert Plant – Like many English musicians (ie The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, etc), Robert Plant was obsessed with American blues. Plant heard the music early on and after seeing Sleepy John Estes, he came to the realization that he ‘wanted that voice’. He somehow got that voice that was as powerful as it was beautiful. The unearthly howl that he unleashed as the front runner of Led Zeppelin was, as quoted by Rolling Stone’s magazine as “a bluesman crossed with a Viking diety. Singing like a girl never seemed so masculine, and countless hard-rock singers would shred their vocal cords reaching for the notes Plant gained by birthright.”

6. Layne Staley – Layne Staley had a way of grabbing your soul as he sang. With true convention of the words that he spoke, the guttural lyrics were powerfully belted but sang with true conviction. “Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan said “Layne had an amazing voice that had such a beautiful, sad, haunting quality about it. He was different because his heaviness was in that voice.”He had his own distinct voice and he knew how to use the tools that he had. He would improvise in the recording studio as evident with the stacked vocal layering he used on the album Dirt; but he was also able to transform his voice as if he was using a tremolo or a Leslie speaker on his voice. Staley didn’t imitate Jim Morrison or Rob Halford or Ozzy; his distinct voice was his soul using his vocal cords as vessel to escape.

5. Janis Joplin – The unanimously dubbed “Queen of Rock and Roll” was singing the Black Blues; and was blowing audiences away. The raw, emotionally charged Mezzo-soprano had a curiously unique coarseness to her voice. At times the throaty and guttural chest noise that crept up could extend into octaves that matched her charismatic personality. But just as charismatic as Joplin was, the vulnerable and rough around the edges rocker paved the way for countless women to join the rock revolution. She will be remembered for her unique voice as much as becoming a megastar that bloomed during the 1960s with fellow San Franciscans Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, and Santana.

4. Roy Orbison – Tom Petty is quoted as saying that Roy Orbison is “probably the greatest singer in the world.” He is adored and has influenced some of the greatest singers/artists of all time. Artists whom he toured with like Bob Dylan said that his voice was “the voice of a professional criminal;” while his singing and music influenced powerful names like Bruce Springsteen, Chris Isaak, and k.d. lang. I remember listening to Roy Orbison with my dad when I was young. I remember listening to Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” and “Only the Lonely.” Just the other day my dad and I were listening to some of his favorite music while riding back from getting some food, and he said something that influenced me to write this blog entry. He said that, “Roy Orbison had a voice that no one could duplicate. He was just good.” My dad who is a man of purposeful words would make me think about all of the influential voices in Rock n’ Roll. The Roy Orbison that I hear is someone who could start out a song and take you on a journey that climbed to the highest highest and lowest lows. His voice is a symphony and is (and should be) celebrated as one of the greatest voices of rock; not just from the sixties but from all time.

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3. David Bowie – Throughout his career, David Bowie would range from a sonorous low range baritone to a powerful tenor; there is no denying that the British-accented singer brought a level of drama into every song. The Starman, Major Tom, Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust…whatever persona he took on, his voice would match that persona. The theatrical and talented performer influenced many generations of popular musicians throughout many decades. His distinctive and idiosyncratic singing voice was not inefficient in creating the pop culture phenomenon that he would become; but it was merely a part of the multifaceted Spaceman.

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2. Freddie Mercury – He’s been called the most inspirational frontman of all time and whatever song that the majestic, operatic singer brought forth in his four-octave range; his voice would literally rock the rock world forever. Whether he was creating an unmatchable wall of sound on tracks like “Bohemian Rhapsody” or was slamming down the hard-rock hammer on “Ogre Battle”; he will rock you. (Pun intended.)

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  1. Elvis Presley – A lot of people have great singing voices; but you venture into another realm entirely when you can create an aura around you when you start to sing. It doesn’t matter to me if Elvis wasn’t the first person to sing “Hound Dog” (or even if Big Mama Thorton’s version is truly better); its about who Elvis was. It’s about the fact that Elvis’s voice drew you in to whatever song. He painted an emotional picture with the words that he sang. From the fun Rockabilly stylings of “Jailhouse Rock” to the brutally honest emotion in “In the Ghetto”; Elvis’s voice could vary from a high and low baritone to that of a high B tenor. He was a true musical prodigy whose influence cannot be denied. I truly don’t think the Rock n’ Roll world will ever see anyone like him ever again. As a matter of fact, the world will never see anyone like him ever again.

Images:

Tom Waits Concert by ntoper – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ntoper/2708045977/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6010162

Bob Dylan in Rotterdam, Netherlands, June 1978 by and attributed to Chris Hakkens – https://www.flickr.com/photos/chris_hakkens/5109976116/in/set-72157625228594192/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15981881

Robert Plant playing live at the Palace Theatre, Manchester, on Sunday the 31st of October 2010 by and attributed to Phil King – Flickr: Robert Plant, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14698440

“Ziggy Stardust” during the Ziggy Stardust Tour (1972 or 1973) by and attributed to Rik Walton – https://www.flickr.com/photos/rikwalton/2259388449/ http://www.rikwalton.com, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9523995

Featured Image – Freddie Mercury in New Haven, CT at a WPLR Show credited to Carl Lender. FreddieMercurySinging21978.jpg: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7798754

Elvis promotional photo for Jailhouse Rock, 1957 attributed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ6-2067Location: NYWTS — BIOG – The Library of Congress retrieved 3d02067r.jpg from Jailhouse Rock., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=727693

 

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Pop Culture Conspiracy Theories

I won’t deny that I invest way too much of my mental energy into thinking about conspiracy theories and how logical or illogical that they are. I have spent countless nights watching YouTube videos of people contriving fear into the viewers mind via their conspiracy theories. The reason why some conspiracy theories scare us is because some (if they are true) would have life altering ramifications (like the 9-11 conspiracy, Roswell/Area 51, Skull and Bones, the Illuminati, etc); whereas a lot of the conspiracies that we hear about are largely localized inside the world of Pop Culture. Now it is not to be said that, if true, these Pop Culture conspiracy theories wouldn’t strike a mighty blow upon the established governments and would be very daunting. To qualify one of these events/theories as a Pop Culture Conspiracy Theory, we’re going to say that their scope could go beyond the realms of ‘pop culture’ and impact a larger audience; but they more-or-less have a larger impact the Pop Culture world. So in hopes that these Pop Culture Conspiracy Theories can make you laugh, think, blush, or scare the bajesus out of you; I present to you Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Pop Culture Conspiracy Theories.


 

Honorable Mentions: Kim Kardashian Faked the Paris Robbery – Kim Kardashian is always finding ways to stay relevant…I mean how she is being used to distract us from the government…I mean to distract us from how talented she is not…no… Let me start that again. Kim Kardashian is finding ways to stay relevant and conspiracy theoriests say that one way she did this involves a conspiracy theory. The conspiracy involving Mrs. Kardiashian-West was fueled by internet trolls, Twitter users, Reddit scholars and myself; when we wondered whether or not Kim faked the now infamous Paris Robbery to boost ratings for her reality show: Keeping Up With the Kardashians. The conspiracy is that she could have also done it for the publicity or maybe even the insurance money. Probably not the insurance money part…since she’s now worth even more than her famous rapper husband.

Khloe Kardashian is O.J. Simpson’s daughter – I don’t watch Keeping up with the Kardashians. Sorry. But I do know that one of the few times that it flashed up on my TV screen at home while flipping through the channels, I remember hearing a conversation with Khloe about her paternity. She asked her mom if she had been adopted because she looked different from her siblings and the topic was visted again on the show in 2012 when Kris tried to get Khloe to do a DNA test to prove that she was Robert Kardashian’s daughter. So the conspiracy is that Kris Jenner and O.J. Simpson had an affair and Khloe was the result. So I hate to keep mentioning the Kardshians but this is one of my favorite conspiracies because despite my not having proof, I most definitely think its true. The Simpsons (not the cartoon) and the Kardashians had been friends for many years. They had traveled together and spent a lot of time together, so him joining O.J.’s “Dream Team” when he was on trial for murder. But man what does that make Kris look like; when she’s in the court room watching her baby daddy on trial for murder while being defended by her husband while sitting beside her future husband Bruce? Sounds like someone with that much drama would end up with a reality show. Oh wait.

10. Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears were Instruments used during the Presidential Administrations – This conspiracy theory goes beyond Pop Culture and dives deep into the government conspiracies that I said that I wasn’t going to talk about; but I can’t help it. This conspiracy says that Miley Cyrus’s infamous VMAs performance and her completely erratic Bangerz-era behavior stemmed from her being used by the Obama administrations ploy to distract the American people as their liberties were being taken away. Fellow pop star Britney Spears was supposedly also a tool of a Presidential administration. Remember when Britney had her very public breakdown? The shaving her head and hitting car windows with umbrellas Britney? Well the conspiracy is that Britney wasn’t doing this as a result of her own personal issues; but she was being paid by the Bush Administration to grab headlines away from a corrupt and incompetent White House. These conspiracies sound outlandish but why not imagine that they are true? Could the aforementioned Kim Kardashian and her sisters be our current distraction? Hmmm.

9. Katy Perry is JonBenet Ramsey – This one is kind of pushing the realms of believability but its still a legitimate conspiracy theory that has caused a lot of buzz on the interwebs. There have been thousands of conspiracy theories about JonBenet Ramsey’s murder but there is one that involves pop star and current American Idol judge Katy Perry. A 2016 YouTube video by Dave Johnson resurfaced and in which he claimed that JonBenet’s murder was a hoax so that Katy Perry the pop star diva could emerge. The claim is that JonBenet and Katie Perry are the same person; and that she was being groomed for superstardom by the Illuminati. I know. All that he really had to go on in his basis for this claim is that Katy and JonBenet look a lot alike, both sets of parents look a lot alike, that the murder was never solved, and that both of them were talented youths. Do I believe this one? Can’t really put merit into that one; but as you’re watching the next episode of American Idol think about this conspiracy theory and you be the judge. Get it. You be the judge. 😉

8. Elvis Presley is Still Alive – Before you think that this is just some tag line from a National Inquirer magazine or the title of an alien article in another supermarket tabloid; here me out. I know that the official word is that Elvis died of a heart attack in his Graceland home in 1977 because every August 16th my mom sends me a text to remind me that that day was the day that Elvis died. But since that sad day in 1977 fans around the world have sworn that they’ve seen the King ‘walking in Memphis’. (Cue Marc Cohn song.) The main conspiracy theory surrounding Elvis still being alive is that Elvis faked his own death and lived out his remaining years away from the public eye as Jon Burrows….or Jimmy Ellis (depends on who you’re asking). Fans even swore that they saw an aged Elvis in the airport line as an extra in the 1990 movie Home Alone. Some believe that Elvis has been ‘home alone’ the whole time and has been living as the Graceland’s groundskeeper. Either way Elvis will always be alive in the hearts of his fans; but you can’t blame the ‘Suspicious Minds’ who want him to be alive. Sorry. I couldn’t resist that last one. 🙂

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7. Paul is Dead – So this urban legend/conspiracy theory has been around since Paul McCartney’s supposed death in the 60s. The conspiracy is that Paul died in 1966 and was replaced with a hired doppelganger. The conspiracy pot was stirred in 1969 when American college students published a number of articles that gave clues to McCartney’s supposed death. The clues were found in lyrics and Beatles album artwork. The clue-hunting became an obsession for fans and within less than a month, it had become a worldwide phenomenon. Hundreds of supposed clues about McCartney’s death had been reported and they had done everything from investigated photos to listening to songs played backwards to interpreting song lyrics and album cover imagery. The various clues suggested led to believers saying that three years prior (on November 9th, 1966), that McCartney had an argument during a band recording session and had driven off angrily in his car. As a result of his anger, he crashed his car and died. To spare the public from the inevitable grief, the Beatles replaced him with the winner of a McCartney look-alike contest. Fans, as recent as 2015, have been attempting to present new clues to back up this conspiracy; so this could be more than just a rumor. I mean, it’s believable. Record company doesn’t want to lose money, so they replace him with a look alike? Sounds logical. They did it with Avril Lavigne when she died in 2003 and was replaced by her look-alike? 😉 Don’t worry I’m not going there today.

6. The FBI Killed Biggie and Tupac – It has been discussed at length, that these two rap legends were murdered by someone in authority. There are even rumors that Tupac is still alive and is living on an island somewhere in the Caribbean; but the conspiracy about who really killed Biggie and Tupac is really juicy. After two decades, the murders of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious BIG are still unsolved. The conspiracy builds its evidence from the fact that Tupac and Biggie were in the center of a heated East Coast vs West Coast feud. Now this wasn’t a ‘man our rap is better’ feud; people were taking this feud serious. The conspiracy is that the FBI ordered hit jobs on both of the rappers to put a wrap on the rap war. (Sorry I couldn’t resist myself.) Court documents and interviews with members of the FBI and CIA both suggest that Tupac was under FBI surveillance before he was murdered six months before the murder of Biggie Smalls. The deaths of these two rap legends have sparked the topic to be discussed in TV shows, movies, books, magazine articles, and countless documentaries.

5. Stanley Kubrick was hired to Fake the Moon Landing – Ever heard someone say that they don’t believe that we went to the moon because the whole think looked like it was done on a big stage in Hollywood? We could talk about the belief in or disbelief in the moon landing forever but since we’re going with Conspiracy Theories that center around Pop Culture figures, there is not much of a greater name in Pop Culture than that of Stanley Kubrick. You’re probably thinking: “Ground Control to Major Tom. Stanley Kubrick doesn’t have anything to do with the moon landing, he’s from Hollywood; not the government.” To properly diagnose this conspiracy, lets just say for arguments sake that no one went to the moon. There was no placing an American Flag on the moon after a landing and definitely no small step for mankind. Secondly, Stanley Kubrick directed 2001: A Space Odyssey which came out in 1968. 1968 was a year before the U.S. ‘supposedly’ landed on the moon. The conspiracy theory (as I have heard it) was that NASA and the American Government got Kubrick to make a completely realistic ‘moon set’ and hired him to ‘direct’ the moon landing. This ‘moon landing’ was broadcast live on TV and he did such an amazing job that the rest is as they say: ‘history’. Now I don’t believe this conspiracy theory but it is one of my favorites because I love history, Stanley Kubrick, and the NASA space program. So the thought of the scope of Kubrick’s work on this undertaking is quite interesting to think about. You can get excited at the thought of this theory but just keep your ‘eyes wide shut’ and remind yourself that it’s just a fan-fueled conspiracy theory.

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4. The Titanic Didn’t Sink – Oh the hearts that would be broken if they couldn’t imagine a world where Jack and Rose could have potentially fallen in love and inevitably their world was torn apart by a sinking ship. Well this literally could not have happened on a ship called The Titanic if this conspiracy theory is true. The theory I am referencing was popularized by the 1998 book, Titanic: The Ship That Never Sank? by Robin Gardner. In this book, it is theorized that the Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic was actually the ship that sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic on that dreaded April night in 1912. The theory is that the whole ordeal was part of an insurance scam that began when the Olympic crashed into the Royal Navy Warship, The HMS Hawke, in 1911 and White Star Line (the owner of the two ships) was found to be at fault of the collision. That means that the White Star Line was going to have to dish out enough money that would equal way more than that Heart of the Ocean diamond necklace. So the theory says that the White Star Line patched up the damaged Olympic and sent it out disguised as its identical sister ship the Titanic. They then orchestrated the sinking for an insurance pay out that would make up for the previous blunder.  ‘My heart will go on’ thinking that J.P. Morgan (yes that J.P. Morgan) planned it all and knew what was going to happen. Morgan, the owner of The White Star Line, planned to be aboard the Titanic for its maiden voyage but canceled his plans last minute. If they did it, knowing that there was a potential for people to die was just ice cold; like iceberg cold.

3. Lewis Carroll was Jack the Ripper – Hear me out. I outlined in a previous blog that Lewis Carroll could have been a slightly creepy guy. I mean people accused him of being a pedophile and that the stories of Alice were actually his secret love letters and cautionary warnings to her; so is it any stretch of the imagination to conspire that he moonlighted as a serial killer? Of course there is no substantial evidence to prove that he was Jack the Ripper but in 1996 writer Richard Wallace published a paperback book entitled; Jack the Ripper, Light-Hearted Friend. In this book he hints that Carroll had teamed up with Thomas Vere Bayne (an Oxford scholar and good friend of Carroll) to commit the murders. Wallace based his conspiracy on anagrams from two of Carroll’s works: The Nursery and the first volume of Sylvie and Bruno. You really have to go down the rabbit hole to follow this conspiracy; so follow the white rabbit if you choose to.

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2. The Simpsons can predict the future – In 2018, if you sit through 28 seasons and meander through over 600 episodes; you’ll see some eerie scenes. The reason why a couple of these scenes would creep you out is because there have been at least 15 times that The Simpsons have made eerily accurate predictions of future events. With everything from Disney‘s Fox Takeover to Siegfried and Roy’s Tiger Attack to Smart Watches to the Ebola Outbreak or even Donald Trump’s Presidency. Even eerily creating scenes that would later be played out in real life almost identically. It is undeniable that the critically-acclaimed, longest-running American sitcom and animated program will forever be known as a pop culture phenomenon; but could the Bartman really have the power to predict the future? Is the Illuminati using The Simpsons to gauge how people would react to seeing certain situations played out?


 

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  1. Courtney Love killed Kurt Cobain – It’s been more than 20 years since I sat in front of my parent’s TV and cried on the beige carpet of their living room floor. The day Kurt Cobain died, something in almost all of we Nirvana fans died. Most of those fans, and many other naysayers still find his death fishy. After all of these years, we still believe Kurt was murdered. Suspects have included everyone from his fellow bandmates to crazed fans; but it was private investigator Tom Grant who gave the most damning evidence that it was actually Courtney Love, Kurt’s widow. Tom Grant was hired to investigate the death by Courtney herself and the more he dug up, the more he didn’t believe that it was a suicide. There have been countless documentaries made about this conspiracy and headlines were made again when the Seattle Police Department released never-before-scene photos of the shotgun found in Kurt’s home. You can watch the documentaries for yourself and you can look at them subjectively but there is more evidence supporting her guilt than there is to free her. I am not saying that she pulled the trigger or inserted the needle which injected more than 10 times the lethal dose of drugs into his system…but I bet she knows who did.

Final Note: Am I one of those crazy conspiracy nuts that believes everything he reads or follows the fear mongering of every YouTubist? Most definitely not. But if the information is there and it sounds plausible; then it may just be plausible.


Images: 

Paul McCartney, previously credited, Fair Use.

The RMS Titanic ready for launch by Robert John Welch (1859-1936), official photographer for Harland & Wolff – Public Domain. This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3a27541.

A View of Main Street in Springfield, Oregon by and accredited to Visitor7 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32118280

The Suicide Note by Kurt Cobain found on April 8, 1994 but is suspected to have been written April 5 – http://kurtcobainssuicidenote.com/kurt_cobains_suicide_note_scan.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46886558

Typical Fan: The Psychology of why we need Superheroes

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Video games, comic books and super heroes in general are seeping into every crevice of the Pop Culture landscape. An estimated 150,000+ attendees of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con which will have an estimated $140 million positive impact on the economy. Still not convinced? Maybe the $1.5 billion box office income of 2012’s Avengers movie or the well over $1 billion estimated income of this year’s Black Panther will help you see that its easy to see that super heroes are extremely popular. As previously said, the popularity goes well beyond the movies; and is seeping all over the Pop Culture landscape. So why do we need superheroes? What is the draw to invest so much of our time, money, and emotions into these superheroes? Why do these super heroes and even villains receive so much idolization thusly becoming role models to children and adults alike? Why do hardcore fans stick around after the increase in popularity and commercialism of the industry?

SamsonFoxFeatureComicsThe term ‘superhero’ was not used until 1917 and was very popular during the Golden Age of Comics (the 1930s). The current Modern Age of comics brought about more psychologically complex characters, as well as a larger audience base. Many have claimed that superheroes are an integral part of American society; and despite some otherworldly aspects, comics are a reflection of our world. During World War II, Marvel famously showed Captain America punching Hitler in the face. Then years later (after finding out that President Obama collected Spider-Man comics), Marvel put Obama on the cover of their The Amazing Spider-Man issue No 583 where ‘Spidey meets the President’. Continuing to address and be on the forefront of social issues, in 1992 Marvel revealed Northstar to be a homosexual. Comic books and super heroes writers seem to mirror our lives, which in turn makes them even more relatable.

So we have established that the evolution of comics and superheroes themselves sometimes reflect the events that are happening around us as well as address the societal problems that our world is facing; but what about our idolizing relationship to a superhero? As we readIron Man Repulsors comics, especially the young audience, we not only increase our ability to read and understand more complex works; but we develop emotions and morals. Take for example, Tony Stark. Despite Tony’s celebrity status and the ultra-powerful Iron Man suit…he is a broken character. Throughout the years of Iron Man comics, the Tony Stark/Iron Man character has had to deal with insecurities due to his broken relationship with his father, has suffered from alcoholism, suffered panic attacks and even bouts of paranoia. This flawed character, much like many other comic book superheroes, help us see the human qualities and make us look at ourselves. But like fairytales and children stories, superhero stories serve a didactic purpose. Most superheroes teach the reader how to succeed in life. Whether that success is to better the world around them and defeat evil villains or just by demonstrating exemplary behavior. On the basic level, they educate readers between right and wrong.

When we are little, most of us pretend to be law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, cowboys, or someone in the armed forces. The same principles that cause use to look up to those people, are the same reasons they pretend to be Iron Man, Batman, Spider-Man, or Superman. These superheroes are larger-than-life, epic characters that do anything to take away evil and make things right. We admire paramedics, Marines, firemen, etc. because they help save us in our times of need. The Stamp_Day_for_Supermanpsychological theory called terror management theory proposes that people’s fear of death strengthens their allegiance to certain cultural values. For example, during times that we witness evil and death a typical response would be for us to think more about the fragility of life and it leads us to value heroes even more. Heroes also fulfill our need for fairness and lawfulness, which is sometimes lost in our normal everyday lives. In the 1950s Superman TV show always spoke of Superman’s never-ending quest for “truth, justice, and the American way”. They bring us hope.

While video game characters, comic books and superheroes of all types are exaggerated WonderCon_2012_-_Captain_America_and_girl_Captain_America_(7019315865)examples of what traits we hope to exhibit, they fill a purpose. We admire the masked superhero. The prosocial behavior has a positive impact on the readers/players. We sometimes find ourselves escaping the setbacks and failings that we are experiencing in our own lives; and we are living vicariously through these characters. Sometimes these characters help us face real adversity in our lives. Giving us courage and inspiring us to overcome health problems, failures, or even just the everyday challenges that we find. Heroes lift us up on a personal level by allowing us to compare and contrast the traits that they portray; and allow us to personify the best parts of their personalities, ethical commitments, and moral traits.

My son, Daniel, may have said it best when he said that when he’s watching a good movie or playing video games that he can forget about stressors, homework or chores; and just be lost in that character’s world. The characters that we play, watch, read, cosplay, or enjoy are sometimes flawed souls with admirable intentions. Just like normal life, we can be flawed and be successful. We can have complex backstories and have different motivations. We will continue to love and idolize these characters because we see a little bit of ourselves in them…or maybe we see something that we want to add to our own story.


Images:

Featured Image – Spidey cosplayer hugging a girl by US Defense Dept. – http://www.defenselink.mil/home/images/photos/2005-04/photoessays/pi20050428d11.jpg, Public Domain, http://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=124594
Fox Comics featuring Samson‘s original uploader was Konczewski at English Wikipedia – Grand Comic Book Database (http://www.comics.org/details.lasso?id=574), Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Hyju., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17710516
Firefly, the Archie Comics Superhero in Top-Notch Comics #10. November 1940 by and accredited to Bob Wood, – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Hyju., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17798406
Iron Man Repulsers Cosplay By Chris Favero from USA – CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34364573
Captain America and girl Captain America at WonderCon 2012 by and accredited to The Conmunity – Pop Culture Geek from Los Angeles, CA, USA – CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33398682
Screen Capture of George Reeves as Superman in the US Government Film “Stamp Day for Superman” by and accredited to U.S. Treasury Department – United States Treasury Department film, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13616319
Spider-Man with Donald Rumsfeld by and accredited to US Defense Dept. – Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6265138

Wolverine’s Wednesday Whips: The Dodge M4S

I was re-watching the 1984 version of Red Dawn the other day and I was reminded at how many big stars came from that cast. Despite his tumultuous headline making personal life which was fueled with drug induced outbursts, knowingly having sex with over 200 partners after learning he had HIV, and allegations of domestic violence; Charlie Sheen has been in some very entertaining movies and TV shows. Charlie Sheen was all over the place throughout the 80s well into the 2000s. But one of my favorite Charlie Sheen movies was the cult classic independent action-horror flick: The Wraith. As a child, I was obsessed with cars. I guess you could say that I still am. Infamous movie vehicles like Smokey and the Bandit, Cobra, or Cannonball Run; or TV shows like The Dukes of Hazard and Knight Rider fueled cars to be a pivotal part of movie culture. The 80s were full of iconic TV and movie vehicles and some even went a step above that. Movies like Christine, The Car and even Maximum Overdrive showcase vehicles who come to life and reek havoc. The same year that Emilio Estevez starred in Maximum Overdrive; his brother Charlie Sheen starred in The Wraith.

the wraith movie still 2The Wraith centers around teenager Jamie Hankins, who has been mysteriously murdered at the hands of the psychotic leader of a ruthless gang of car thieves. He comes back to life seeking revenge and to save his girlfriend who is now being intimidatingly possessed by the gang leader. He shows up covered from head-to-toe in black body armor and a black race helmet. No one is aware of who the driver actually is and as he quickly beats them at their own street racing game; he takes the members of the gang out one-by-one.

What makes him even more unique is that his vessel of revenge is a groundbreaking concept car: an all black Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor. The Dodge M4S (M4S meaning Mid-engine 4-cylinder sports car) was a prototype sports coupe that was built by Dodge in 1981 to literally demonstrate the current technology held by the company. Despite reportedly costing Dodge around $1.5 million to create, the concept car was the wraith movie stillcommissioned and paid for by PPG Industries. The powerhouse came at the hands of a 2.2 liter four cylinder Cosworth-headed 16 valve 14 cylinder twin-cam engine with dual Garrett T25 turbochargers and a Bosch fuel injection system. It made between 440 and 500 horsepower; while having roughly the same torque; before experts from Ferrari and Lamborghini were called in to help produce an a whopping 800 hp from the mid-engine 2.2 liter. The high horsepower output was handled by a hand-built 5 speed transmission and the record speed was clocked at 195 mph. The body was a streamline 2-door coupe that was comparable to the Lamborghini, Ford GT or Ferrari.  The M4S, now more commonly known as the Turbo Interceptor, was a supercar that would go on to influence car makers for years to come. The twin-turbo setup was later adopted by Porsche and Toyota.

Dodge M4S Pace CarDodge provided the filmmakers the molds to create six exact replicas of the M4S body to create stunt and dummy cars to be used in the film. Four basic shells were created to be used in the crash and explosion scenes; while two drivable stunt cars were made for racing footage. Due to launching to 60 mph in just over four seconds and having a top speed of nearly 190 mph car, a reckless stunt driver for the movie almost died. The original car, which was so powerful had to be toned down for the sake of the filmmakers, was used for the movie’s close-up shots. Sadly, the car never went into production. The original Dodge Turbo Interceptor is now housed at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, MI. Thankfully those old molds are being used to create kit cars; so that is our only hope of ever getting our hands on one of these beautiful supercars…unless of course you are one of the lucky people to have purchased one of the extras from the movie studio.



 

Images:

The Wraith movie stills attributed to New Cinema, Fair Use.

Featured Image – Dodge M4S Pace Car photo by and attributed to Joe Pappas, Fair Use.

 

 

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Hollywood Dynasties

Ever found out that two actors or singers were related and it kind of blew your mind? I mean, it almost seems that Hollywood likes to keep it in the family? Or is it really true that it helps to know someone in Hollywood? I would imagine that its easier to get into the business when you have someone in your corner. Especially when that person is your mother, your brother or your great-uncle. So with that being said, I present to you my pick of the most influential Hollywood Dynasty families.

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Most Influential Hollywood Dynasties:


Honorable Mention: Bridges –

Before branching out on an extremely successful movie and TV career, actor Lloyd Bridges was finding success on Broadway; but by the 60s he had his own TV show on CBS. Lucky for Beau and Jeff; he often featured his two sons. Beau and Jeff both went on to star in critically acclaimed roles. I mean, Jeff is the Dude…man.

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10. The Stillers –

Jerry Stiller and his wife Anne Meara were the cream of the comedy crop during the 1960s. They went on to star in movies and even legendary TV shows like Seinfeld, The King of Queens, and Alf. The couple went on to have kids and their son is an Emmy award winning actor. Their son, Ben Stiller, is one of comedies biggest names and this family is definitely a comedy and Hollywood dynasty.

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9. The Douglases –

The movie industry was booming in the 1950s and dramatic roles in war and Westerns went to Hollywood’s leading men. Kirk Douglas was one of those men. But by the time 1955 rolled around, he was bucking the system and formed his own production company to produce his own projects. He even famously collaborated with the infamous Stanley Kubrick. He defied Hollywood’s blacklist and then gave his son Michael the rights to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which he produced back in 1975. Besides the 1975 movie becoming a best-picture winner, it continued to spring board Jack Nicholson into superstardom. Michael has had his fair share of accolades by winning everything from an Oscar and a SAG Award to receiving an A.F.I. Lifetime Achievement Award. And also Michael is married to Catherine Zeta-Jones…which is an accomplishment in itself. Michael’s oldest son has been a bit of a disappointment but the two children he shares with Zeta-Jones are set to slide right into their place in their Hollywood Dynasty.

Pharrell Williams & Absolut Ruby Red Pre-VMA Bash

8. The Wayans –

What would be considered to be Hollywood’s largest and most successful comedic dynasties; Keenan, Damon, Kim, Shawn, Marlon, Dwayne, Nadia, Elvira, Diedre, and Vonnie Wayans have found success in TV and film. The members of the Wayans family have starred in, written, directed, and produced more than a dozen TV shows and films. Together they boast a net worth of over $100 million. In the early 90s, brothers Damon and Keenan were shot to stardom in their groundbreaking sketch-comedy TV series In Living Color. In Living Color helped launch the careers of Hollywood elite: Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Lopez and many more. In the early 00s, Keenan also created the successful Scary Movie franchise. The children of the Wayans are now entering the business and are slated to be just as dynamic as their parents.

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7. The Baldwin brothers –

The eldest Baldwin brother, Alec, may be the most well known but the Baldwin’s boys (Alec, Daniel, William and Stephen) are all in the business. Alec has felt the most time in the limelight, earning himself an Oscar nomination for The Cooler, plus two Emmys, three Golden Globes, and seven SAG Awards for his pivotal role on NBC’s 30 Rock. Thanks to Oliver Stone, brothers: Daniel, William, and Stephen were cast in his 1989 Born on the Fourth of July. Together they have appeared in over 300 films and TV shows. They have produced a flock of famous daughters and many have famous wives and ex-wives.

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6. The Sheens –

Ramon Gerardo Antonio Estevez was born to an Irish mother and a Spanish father. Despite opposition from his hard working father, he borrowed money from a priest and moved to New York City in hopes of fulfilling his dreams of becoming an actor. He invented a new, more Hollywood friendly name “Martin Sheen” by combining the last name of two big TV stars: CBS casting director, Robert Dale Martin and televangelist archbishop, Fulton J. Sheen. He decided to change his name after receiving hesitation when he would try to call for an appointment with a casting director. He honed his acting skills and started a family. His son Carlos Estevez took on his father’s Americanized last name when he started acting while his other famous son did not. So…you get it now. Martin Sheen is the father of Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez (though Martin’s other children are also in the business they are not quite as successful). So the son of immigrants becomes a world famous actor and one of his son’s becomes the highest paid actor in the television series. Not only did he start a dynasty but I would say that that is an amazing success story.

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5. The Smiths –

“Meat is murder.” Wait…no. I am not referring to the English rock band formed in Manchester, England back in the 1982 led by vocalist Morrissey whose song “Asleep” has been listened to by me 452 times according to my iTunes account. I am of course referring to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, his wife and their progeny. Will Smith became the only actor in history to have eight consecutive movies that grossed over $100 million in the domestic box office, while his wife Jada Pinkett Smith has starred in over 30 films and starred as Fish Mooney in the critically acclaimed crime drama Gotham. They have two children who started out with their parents in some of their movies; but Jaden (their  oldest son) starred in the remake of The Karate Kid and their daughter Willow became the youngest artist to be signed to rap mogul Jay-Z’s record label after her debut single went platinum. They are the definition of the new generation of what it means to be a Hollywood dynasty.

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4. Garland/Minnelli –

Hollywood is full of power couples. Whether they are still together or sadly broken apart like Brad and Angelina, the power couple sometimes produces an offspring who has that automatic ‘in’. This was definitely the case for infamous actress Judy Garland (yes I’m talking about Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz) and director Vincent Minnelli. That last name ring a bell? Well if your first thought was to Oscar, Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award-winning singer and actress; then you would be correct. Judy Garland and Vincent Minnelli birthed a star: Liza Minnelli. Despite being married four times, the actress and singer has never had any children. While the dynasty ends with Liza; you can’t deny the Pop Culture power in this family.

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3. The Barrymores –

Drew Barrymore may be known for being the little girl in ET and that girl who starred in most of Adam Sandler’s Rom-Com movies…but her lineage is nothing short of impressive. She could possibly be more than a dynasty…they could almost be Hollywood Royalty. Drew’s great-grandfather Maurice Barrymore (birth name Herbert Blythe) was an Indian born stage actor. His second wife (Georgie Drew Barrymore was an American stage actress and comedian. Their youngest son Lionel was a film director as well as a famous actor of stage, screen and radio. Lionel starred in over 200 films; including and the 1946 classic It’s a Wonderful Life. His brother John also became an actor and in the 1920s was known as the ‘greatest Shakespearian actor of his generation’. He and second wife, poet Blanche Oelrichs had a daughter who became an actress in the 40s and 50s. His third wife, Dolores Costello, was known as the “Goddess of the Silent Screen” and was one of the most successful silent film stars in history. Their son John also became an actor and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to television. Despite all of John Jr’s marriages ending in divorce; we come full circle to his daughter Drew.  Screen Actors Guild Award and Golden Globe Award winning actress, producer and director. Though Drew had a strained relationship with her family due to her father’s “problems”; hailing from Hollywood royalty had to help her get more than just her foot in the door.

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2. Fisher/Reynolds –

In the 1950s, musician and actor Eddie Fisher married actress Debbie Reynolds. Fisher was burning up the pop charts at the height of his crooning career; Reynolds had just had her big break in the classic Singin’ in the Rain. The marriage ended almost as quickly as it began because Fisher struck up a relationship with Debbie’s best friend: the scandalous Elizabeth Taylor. Well, the broken marriage didn’t keep her down and she went on to become an Academy Award winning actress. She was also a mother. A mother to a beautiful daughter: Carrie. Yes! Carrie Fisher, the iconic Princess Leia from the Star Wars movie franchise, was their daughter. Carrie’s brother Todd is a producer and cinematographer while her half-sisters are actresses as well. Carrie went on to have a daughter of her own who is already poised and pouncing upon her Hollywood career.

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1.The Coppolas –

If you are a movie buff then you probably recognize the last name Coppola. What you probably don’t realize is just how large the outstretched arm of this family’s Pop Culture influence is. The patriarch of the Coppola family is Carmine Coppola, who studied music at Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music before working with Arturo Toscanini with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in the 1940s. When he left the Orchestra in 1951 to pursue his dream of composing music. He worked as an orchestra conductor on Broadway and then became truly famous for contributing music to his son (Francis Ford Coppola)’s movies: The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Godfather Part III, and Apocalypse Now. He went on to compose music for nine other movies while his son has went on to become a pivotal figure in the New Hollywood wave of filmmaking. His ability to convey a beautiful story on screen is celebrated around the world. His movies Patton, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II and Apocalypse Now are featured in the Writers Guild of America’s list of 101 greatest screenplays of all time; while The Godfather, Apocalypse Now and The Godfather Part II are listed in AFI’s greats movies of the last 100 years.

That would be enough to qualify the Coppola’s to be a Hollywood Dynasty but the story does not stop there. Carmine’s daughter is none other than Talia Shire (birth name Talia Rose Coppola). That name still not ringing a bell? Connie Corleone from The Godfather films? Or maybe you would recognize her if I were to scream, “YO Adrian!!!” She played a truly iconic role in one of the greatest movie series of all time: Rocky. For her roles, she was nominated for two Academy Awards. She and her first husband, composer David Shire had one child but her other sons Jason and Robert (birthed while married to film producer Jack Schwartzman) are actors.

The last branch on this much larger and ever growing tree that I will explore is the third child of Carmine Coppola: August Floyd Coppola. August is an American academic (earning his doctorate degree at Occidental College), author, film executive and advocate for the arts. Despite his numerous achievements, we are perhaps more familiar with his son: Nicholas Kim Coppola. You may not recognize that name because he changed his name when he entered the entertainment business to forge his own path and not utilize his family name to break into show business. What did he change it to you ask? He kept the first part but change his last name to Cage. That’s right. Nicholas Cage is actually Francis Ford Coppola and Talia Shire’s nephew. And there is no telling as to what the future holds for the latter generations of the Coppola Hollywood dynasty.



Images:

Featured imageHollywood Sign by and accredited to Sten Rüdrich – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=752108
Publicity Photo of Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara with autograph by Unstated – eBay, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20513110
Cropped screenshot of Kirk Douglas from the trailer for the film A Letter to Three Wives, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4205586
Wayans Brothers image attributed to Coachella Valley Weekly, Public Domain, coachellavalleyweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/FP_Wayansbros.jpg
Alec Baldwin speaking at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con International, for “The Boss Baby”, at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California. Image by and attributed to Gage Skidmore, from Peoria, AZ, United States of America – Alec Baldwin, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56229448
Martin Sheen image by and accredited to Brian McGuirk from Providence, RI – Me and President Barlet, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5114657
Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland from the trailor for The Wizard of Oz, Licensing information: https://web.archive.org/web/20080321033709/http://www.sabucat.com/?pg=copyright and http://www.creativeclearance.com/guidelines.html#D2 – The Wizard of Oz trailer, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2438854
Will Smith at Time 100 Gala photo by and attributed to Amanda Cogdon – Rocketboom vodcast, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=869516
Drew Barrymore image by and attributed to David Shankbone, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5938890
Screenshot from Debbie Reynolds in I Love Melvin movie trailer – I Love Melvin trailer, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3484726
Francis Ford Coppola in 2007 image by flickr user squidish; cropped on 02/02/2009 by Before My Ken – flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5852010