Authors: Bathroom Readers' Institute
All of the quotes in this chapter are from
No One Here Gets Out Alive
, by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman (Warner Books, 1980).
According to mathematicians, the billionth digit of pi is 9.
Fortunately for us, no one’s figured out how to put parking meters in bathrooms ...but it seems like they’re everywhere else. Here’s a little parking meter history, from
The Little Book of Boston Parking Horrors,
by Michael Silverstein and Linda Elwood (Silverwood Publications, 1986).
HE ORIGIN OF PARKING METERS
• In the early 1930s, Carl Magee, an Oklahoma City journalist, decided he was sick of looking for a parking space every time he drove to town.
• He was sure there was a way to build a machine that kept track of how long a car was parked in a space, but didn’t know how to do it. So in 1933 he sponsored a contest at the Engineering Department of Oklahoma State University, offering to pay a cash prize to the student who designed the best working model. A number of students entered the contest, but none came up with a workable design.
• Finally, two engineering professors at the university submitted a design. Magee liked it so much that he formed a company to sell their “parking meters.”
TAKING IT TO THE STREET
• The first parking meter, the “Park-O-Meter,” was installed at the intersection of First and Robinson in July 1935. Cost: 5¢ an hour.
• When the first batch of 150 meters was installed, curious motorists came from miles around to witness the unveiling and try one out.
• One local farmer tied his horse to the meter (he told reporters it was cheaper than keeping the horse in a stable); another family pumped a day’s worth of nickels into the meter, set up a card table, and spent the day playing bridge with their neighbors.
• The first person to get a ticket was Reverend H. C. North, a local clergyman. He was also the first person to talk his way out of a fine: He told the judge he’d gone to get change when the meter expired.
• R. H. Avant, another local, was the first person to actually
a fine for a meter violation. He handed over $11, an enormous amount of money in 1935. (Not all early fines were that steep; one woman only had to pay $3—and her fine was suspended until she sold enough chickens to come up with the money.)
In the original comics, Superman’s dog was named Krypto.
No one would have believed Ronald Reagan could be elected president—or even governor of California—until he gave a pro-Goldwater TV speech in 1964 called “A Time for Choosing.” Then he was on his way.
In 1954, Ronald Reagan was having such a hard time getting acting jobs that he had to work as a Las Vegas emcee. Then came General Electric.
G.E. was looking for someone to host its new half-hour television show—”a man,” says one historian, “who could act, sell General Electric products, help build the company’s corporate image, and visit General Electric plants to improve company morale.” Reagan’s agent at MCA got wind of it; he thought the assignment was tailor-made for Ronnie...and G.E. agreed.
Reagan started at $125,000 a year...then got a quick boost to $150,000—because G.E. loved him. “He was a superb TV salesman,” one biographer says. “There was a joke in Hollywood about someone who’d watched Reagan deliver an institutional advertisement for G.E.’s nuclear submarine, then remarked, ‘I really didn’t need a submarine, but I’ve got one now.’”
Between TV appearances on “G.E. Theater” from 1954 to 1962, Reagan traveled the country representing the company. He visited 125 G.E. plants, spoke to thousands of Rotary Clubs and other service organizations, and met with 250,000 workers. At each stop, he gave a standard address that became known as “The Speech.” It was a conservative diatribe extolling free enterprise and warning against the evils of big government.
In 1962, G.E. canceled “G.E. Theater,” and Reagan became host of “Death Valley Days.” He also became more active in Republican politics, speaking on behalf of Richard Nixon (who ran for California governor in 1962) and right-wing causes like Dr. Fred Schwartz’s Christian anti-Communist campaign. He even produced Ronald Reagan Record Kits “to warn listeners of...the spreading virus of socialized medicine.”
Millie the White House dog earned more than four times as much as Pres. Bush in 1991.
When Barry Goldwater was nominated for president in 1964, Reagan became co-chair of Californians for Goldwater.
“In late October,” writes Larry Learner in his book
, “Goldwater was unable to speak at the big $1000-a-plate dinner at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.” Reagan was asked to pinch-hit.
“Asking Ronnie to talk about the ‘cause,’” says Learner, “was like getting Billy Graham to discuss sin. He had been preparing his speech for more than a decade as he toured the country for General Electric. He had tried out each bit and piece scores of times. He had tested the response to each of his anecdotes, each of his stories of outrage, each of his shocking facts a score of times.”
Naturally, the speech went over well. In fact, it raised so much money around the state that California Republicans decided to televise it nationally. They called it “A Time for Choosing.”
“On October 27, 1964,” writes Lou Cannon in
, “a washed-up 53-year-old movie actor...made a speech on national television on behalf of a Republican presidential candidate who had no chance to be elected....Most of his address was standard, anti-government boilerplate larded with denunciations of communism and a celebration of individual freedom. His statistics were sweeping and in some cases dubious. His best lines were cribbed from Franklin Roosevelt.” He only mentioned Goldwater five times in the entire half-hour speech. Yet it was a magic moment in TV political history. Here are a few excerpts:
• “You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or a right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or a right....There is only an up or a down: up to man’s age-old dream—the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order—or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.”
• “We have so many people who can’t see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion that the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one! So they are going to solve all the problems of human misery through government and government planning.”
A scallop has 35 eyes—all of them blue.
• “We cannot buy our security, our freedom from the threat of the bomb, by committing an immorality so great as saying to a billion human beings now in slavery behind the Iron Curtain, ‘Give up your dreams of freedom because to save our own skin, we are willing to make a deal with your slave-masters.’”
• “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on Earth, or we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness. We will keep in mind and remember that Barry Goldwater has faith in us. He has faith that you and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny. Thank you.”
Before the speech, powerful California conservatives considered Reagan “little more than an after-dinner entertainer and cheerleader.” Afterward, he was regarded as the new star of the Right.
“Everyone thought I’d done well,” recalls Reagan, “but still you don’t know always about these things. Then the phone rang about midnight. It was a call from Washington, D.C., where it was 3 a.m. One of Goldwater’s staff called to tell me that the switchboard was still lit up from the calls pledging money to his campaign. I then slept peacefully. The speech raised $8 million [at that time, more than any speech in history] and soon changed my life.”
Washington columnist David Broder called it “the most successful political debut since William Jennings Bryan electrified the 1896 Democratic convention.” A group in Michigan immediately formed a Reagan for President committee. And legend has it that after watching the speech, President Johnson himself turned to aide Bill Moyers and drawled, “Y’ know, the Republicans have the wrong damn boy runnin’ for president.” The direct result of the speech: California Republicans insisted that Reagan run for governor of California. He did, and won two times. His next elected office was the presidency.
“Fluency in English is something that I’m often not accused of.”
Elvis’s nickname for his sexual organ was “Little Elvis.”
In previous Bathroom Readers we’ve included some uncommon words, and their meanings, to help build weak vocabularies. Here’s another batch.
A person who’s half introvert and half extrovert.
Shortening a longer word into a smaller one, like
A male kangaroo.
Having shapely buttocks.
The little circles of paper your hole-punch makes.
What dandruff does when it falls from your scalp.
Painting or decorating a person’s knees to make them more erotic.
A word placed inside another word to change its meaning, as in
The name of the letter “z.”
The act of hypnotizing yourself by staring into a sink filled with water.
People who work with computer software and hardware.
A place where bacteria multiplies.
A surgical procedure to fix ears that stick out.
An ear, nose, and throat doctor.
A military dog that’s been trained to parachute out of airplanes.
The bridesmaid or best man at a wedding.
A desire to eat non-foods (like dirt).
What your hair does when it stands on end.
What an unhatched chick does to break through its eggshell.
A female chicken one year old or younger.
An animal that’s half poodle and half wolf.
The tingling sensation you get when your foot falls asleep.
A word consisting of two identical parts, like
A neighbor whose house is burning down.
Diseases humans can get from animals.
All kangaroos use their tails when they jump.
“If I had a TV in my bathroom” writes BRI member D. Ottati, “I’d be a regular ‘Jeopardy!’ watcher. How about a few pages on the program, so I can still think about ‘Jeopardy!’ in the john?” We aim to please, so here’s some info from
by Alex Trebek.
In 1963 Merv Griffin and his wife, Juliann, were on a flight to New York when they began discussing game shows. Griffin describes the conversation:
“After the quiz show scandals of the late fifties, the networks were leery of shows where contestants answered questions for money....I mentioned how much I liked the old quiz shows, but reminded her that the scandals had created credibility problems for producers.
“‘So,’ Juliann joked, ‘Why not just give them the answers to start with?’ She was kidding, but the thought struck me between the eyes. She said to me, ‘79 Wistful Vista.’ And I replied, ‘What’s Fibber McGee and Molly’s address?’” The “Jeopardy!” format was born.
THE SHOW GOES ON
As soon as the plane landed in New York, Griffin began working on the show. “I decided to create separate categories of answers, such as History, Literature, Motion Pictures. Put the categories in columns and assign dollar values to each square. That was it. One big board with ten categories and ten answers in each category. We called the game ‘What’s the Question?’ and had a game board built to show to NBC.”
“During the development process, I showed our efforts to network executive Ed Vane, who commented, ‘I like what I see, but the game needs more Jeopardies,’” or portions of the game where the players risk losing it all. “I didn’t hear another word he said after that. All I could think of was the name: goodbye ‘What’s the Question?,’ hello ‘Jeopardy!’”
At first, NBC executives disliked the show. During the final sales presentation to the network, NBC head Mort Werner played the game, with Merv Griffin acting as host. Halfway through it, Werner threw up his hands and shouted, “I didn’t get one question right; it’s too hard.” But before he could reject the show, an assistant leaned over and whispered, “Buy it.” Werner bought it. (The assistant, a man named Grant Tinker, eventually became head of NBC himself.)
Poll results: 62% of Americans say Monday is the worst day of the week.
The first “Jeopardy!” host was an announcer Merv Griffin had seen on a TWA commercial. Fleming hosted the program for more than 12 years, ultimately appearing on 2,858 shows between 1964 and 1979.
Trebek took over when the show was revived in 1984. Earlier that year, Chuck Woolery, host of “Wheel of Fortune” (another Merv Griffin game show) became ill. The producer needed a replacement host, and he called Alex Trebek, who was emceeing a game show called “Battlestars.” Trebek agreed to fill in, and did so well that he was hired to host the new “Jeopardy!”