WTF Fun Fact 12724 – Creating Summer Indoor Entertainment

Without Willis Carrier’s 1902 invention of the air conditioner, we’d have a very different world. And it would have started with missing out on opportunities for indoor cultural experiences in the summer when people are most commonly off from work and school.

Carrier’s original design was meant for a publishing company in Brooklyn that needed to keep its paper from expanding and contracting so it could achieve proper print quality while it was hot and humid. But not long after that, businessmen saw the opportunities to add it to factories (which technically cut off some summer break for workers who could now work more safely in the summer) and then to department stores. The real cultural moment came when it was added to movie theaters in the mid to late 1920s and regular theaters in the 1960s.

For example, Carrier’s company put an air conditioner in Lincoln Center in 1961. This extended the performing arts season in New York City from “a single season to 52 weeks a year,” according to the Carrier website.

For more cool facts and stories about the history of air conditioning, check out:
Slate, “A History of Air Conditioning”
JSTOR Daily’s “Can We Live Without Air Conditioning?”
BBC, “How Air Conditioning Changed the World”

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The History of Movie Theaters and Air Conditioning That Keeps Film Lovers Cool” — WPLF

WTF Fun Fact 12620 – Home Alone’s Spider Guest Star

There have been some famous and controversial guest stars in the Home Alone movies, but this one takes the cake.

We know it came out a long time ago (1990, to be exact), but perhaps you’ve seen the original Home Alone movie recently. And if you have, you likely remember the scene when bad-guy Marv, played by Daniel Stern, gets caught up in Kevin McAllister’s (Macauley Caulkin) set of booby traps. In one particularly cringe-worthy scene, he ends up with a tarantula on his face.

Now, tarantulas are venomous, but that venom doesn’t do humans any real harm. The worst that can happen is that they bite you and it hurts. Still, most of us want to avoid that.

Normally, a life-like tarantula would be created by a props department for use in a movie. And Home Alone’s propmasters did, indeed, make a spider for the scene. It’s just not the one that ended up on David Stern’s face. That one was real. And his name was Barry.

Stern told the story in a long Facebook post that read:

“I’ve talked about the stunt guys doing crazy things, I’ve talked about my love of doing physical comedy, but one of the most surreal moments of the film was the scene with the tarantula crawling across my face. People who meet me are always curious if the tarantula was real, if my scream was real, and if I was scared, crazy or both. The answer to all three of those questions is “Yes.”

My memory might be off and I will happily stand corrected if anybody has better info but here is how I remember it:

When I first read the script and talked to Chris Columbus, I thought the tarantula in the scene was going to be a mechanical one and when I showed up on set, sure enough the incredible crew in the prop department had made a very life-like spider replica which could move a bit, as well as a version that didn’t move. I told them I thought I could help sell it, with my great acting abilities and all… They were polite but not convinced. To insure that the “gag” was going to work, they brought in a different crew member, this one from the animal wrangling department. He had a cage and in this cage was an exact replica of the replica that the prop department had made. But you could definitely see by the way it moved that this was no fake, but a creature of royalty in the natural world. I was a little intimidated for the first time in the movie. The wrangler introduced me to “Barry the Tarantula” (possibly mis-remembering his name, apologies). They had Barry crawl around on my hand and head. I asked if Barry was trained and was told they had been working with him for a few days but tarantulas are kind of tough to train. I asked if his poison had been removed, and was told that if the poison was removed, Barry would die. I said, “Right, but if the poison isn’t removed, then I’m gonna die. See where I’m going here?!” “Just don’t make any sudden, threatening moves and you’ll be fine.” “But I’m going to be screaming in Barry’s face. Do you think he’ll feel threatened by that?!” “Barry doesn’t have ears. He can’t hear. Relax. “

I think I made one last feeble attempt to honor the hard work of the prop department and use the replica, but once the director saw Barry in action, the Barry Action Figure was put on the sidelines. I remember Barry crawling around my face. I remember trying not to piss off Barry. Once I got used to him and what he was doing, he turned out to be a great scene partner. I think I felt comfortable enough to have let out that scream right at him in the scene, but there’s another legend that says I only mimed it and added in the scream later. (I would love for the powers-that-be at 20th Century Fox to release the original footage to see if I screamed or mimed, so we can settle this “controversy” once and for all – and the world can finally be at peace.) Either way, the scream came out pretty good and was an homage to the shower scene in “Psycho”. I then had to beat Joe Pesci with a crowbar. And we all know that even though it was pretend and funny and a fake crowbar, it’s a thousand times more dangerous pissing off Joe Pesci than pissing off a venomous spider that’s crawling on your face.

Here’s to Barry! The greatest tarantula I have ever acted with!”

Want to revisit the scene now that you know that’s a real spider? Here you go:

– WTF fun facts

Source: “The Famous ‘Home Alone’ Tarantula Scene Included a Real, Venomous Spider Named Barry, Says Daniel Stern” — CheatSheet

WTF Fun Fact 12605 – The Voice of Bambi

When Donnie Dunagan joined the Marines, he was eager to keep his past a secret. And he managed to do it for his entire 25-year military career.

That secret? As a child, he had a brief stint as an actor, and one of his roles was a voiceover for Disney’s Bambi! The film was released in 1942.

Drafted in 1952 during the Korean War, over the course of his career, Dunagan was promoted 13 times in 21 years (a Marine Corps record). He was also awarded two awards for Valor in Combat as well as the Purple Heart.

When interviewed by his wife, Donna Dunagan, for a Story Corps podcast, he described how closely he held the secret:

“I never said a word to anybody about Bambi, even to you. When we first met I never said a word about it. Most of the image in people’s minds of Bambi was a little frail deer, not doing very well, sliding around on the ice on his belly.”

As a boot camp commander, he was responsible for overseeing hundreds of recruits as well as the drill instructors. He recalled: “I just thought to myself, ‘I don’t think I want all these young Marines to start calling me Major Bambi.’ And I kept my mouth shut.”

The first military colleague to find out was a fellow Marine he had worked and fought for. The secret was uncovered after a personnel audit. Dunagan explained:

“He called me in at five-thirty in the morning, I will never forget it. I go in his office and he says, ‘Dunagan! I want you to audit the auditors.’ I never said a disrespectful word to this man in twenty years, I said, ‘General, when do you think I’m going to have time to do that?’ Then he looked at me, pulled his glasses down like some kind of college professor. And there’s a big, red, top-secret folder that he got out of some safe somewhere that had my name on it. He pats this folder, looks me in the eye, and says, ‘You will audit the auditors. Won’t you…Major Bambi?’”

It turns out Dunagan was right – that’s exactly what he would have been called had he let it slip during his fighting career! – WTF fun facts

Source: “Donnie “Major Bambi” Dunagan and Dana Dunagan” — Story Corps

WTF Fun Fact 12595 – A Dream Job That Gives You Nightmares

Well, it may not be a long-term gig, but someone is going to make $2,400 to watch true crime documentaries.

The offer has been extended by MagellanTV and they’re technically offering one lucky person $100 an hour to watch 24 hours of documentaries and report back to them on the experience as part of their Third Annual True Crime Watch Dream Job.”

MagellanTV is a streaming service and they’re offering the money plus a free year-long subscription to one person. However, you don’t have a whole year to get your “job” done.

The winner needs to watch all 24 hours’ worth of true crime documentaries in a 48-hour period AND document the experience on social media.

Here’s who they’re looking for:

“Our ideal candidate lives for True Crime—they can handle the most menacing serial killer, the goriest details, and don’t flinch at the chilling paranormal. And they love it so much that they’re willing to stream it nonstop for 24 hours. Along with watching, they’ll be documenting their True Crime all-nighter on social media so everyone will see if they can hack it… or not.”

Documentaries include: “Lady Killers: Elizabeth Bathory,” “The Writer With No Hands,” “Nurses Who Kill: Paul Novak,” “Murder on the Internet: Fatal Targeting,” “21st Century Killer,” “Body Snatchers of New York,” “Nightclub Killer,” “The Family Who Vanished,” “Great Bank Heists,” and “CyberCrimes with Ben Hammersley,” and “Murder Maps.”

Sounds like you might have to plan for some nightmares and maybe spend some of that $2,400 for therapy. – WTF fun facts

Source: “You could earn $100 an hour — just by binging true crime” — CNN

WTF Fun Fact 12452 – The 11 Fingers of Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks – what a gas! The comedian and director of Young Frankenstein decided to celebrate his memorialization at Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre by giving fans the finger. The 11th finger, that is.

It was back in 2014, but it’ll be with us (in cement, at least) forever.

It’s true; Mel Brooks had 11 fingers when he pressed his hands in the cement at the ceremony to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his film Young Frankenstein. But one was a prosthetic.

A mere 88 years young at the time, Brooks explained his shenanigans later that same day on Conan O’Brien’s Late Show:

“I wanted to do something just a little different, I didn’t know what,” he told O’Brien. “So I got another finger.”

At the time of the ceremony, he joked around with his son: “About time, huh,” Max Brooks reportedly said. “Comedians never get their fair share of recognition in Hollywood…”

At the time, Mel Brooks gave a heartfelt thanks to his fans, saying: “I want to thank you all for being here and being part of the wonderful charade. I really love it.”

The charade involved an extra finger, but it seems it was one of the polite ones.

Now age 95, we’re just happy Mel is around to keep us laughing. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Mel Brooks brings extra finger to Hollywood handprint ceremony” — CBS News

WTF Fun Fact 12449 – Sly Stallone’s Dog

We heard this one straight from the legendary actor’s mouth (or Instagram page, which in 2022 is roughly the same thing).

It’s a pretty sad fact, actually. Having to sell your dog for food because you’re both starving must be heart-wrenching. And making the journey to repurchase him, paying out some of the first money you’ve laid eyes on in years sounds like it comes straight from a movie.

But here’s the skinny from Sly himself, which he posted alongside a photo of him and Butkus as a pup from 1971:

1971… Since we’re on the subject of ” man’s best friend” this is myself and Butkus as a puppy, we were both, thin, hungry and living in a flophouse above a subway stop, I used to say this apartment had ” … Hot and cold running roaches” anyway there was not much to do except spend time with each other and that’s where I started to learn the craft of screenwriting. Since I never went out, I relied on his companionship, And actually it was his idea to write Rocky, but don’t tell anyone…. Years later when things got even worse I had to sell him for $40 in front of a 7-Eleven store, because I couldn’t afford food, then like A modern day miracle, the screenplay for Rocky sold, and I could buy and buy him back, but the new owner knew I was desperate, and charged me $15,000 … He was worth every penny! #NewYorkCity #HellsKitchen#BullMastiff#It‘sADogsWorld. #MoreToCome#inspiration#ThunderingYourHeart#GoingThedistance

Now, to be completely honest, we were most surprised that Stallone was a screenplay writer and that he wrote the screenplay for Rocky. In fact, he wrote it in 3-and-a-half days, right after watching the championship match between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner on March 24, 1975.

If you’re confused by the dates, only the photo itself is from 1971; the story is from 1975.

– WTF fun facts

Source: Sylvester Stallone @officlaslystallone — Instagram

WTF Fun Fact – Dudley Dursley’s Weight Loss

WTF Fun Fact - Dudley Dursley's Weight Loss

Harry Melling had lost so much weight that the role of Dudley Dursley was almost recast for the seventh Harry Potter movie. Eventually it was decided that Melling would continue to play Dudley and would wear a fat suit to make him look heavier. – WTF Fun Facts