Have you noticed how uninteresting you are recently?
That’s an honest question, not an attack. I personally noticed how disinteresting my stories have become about two weeks ago when I went to catch up with friends over dinner. To be fair, it wasn’t just me who was boring as batshit, all five of us just sat there with nothing to say. The pandemic has seen to it that none of us have done anything noteworthy for the last twenty thousand years, so we pretty much spent two hours straight talking about house plants and that new TV series with Kate Winslet in it (heavily recommend, btw).
Anyway, I came home from that dinner quite full, but also totally determined to equip myself with fascinating stories for my next social outing. While I’m yet to have been invited anywhere again, I’m optimistic that a request will come my way, and when it does—watch out world. If you too have found your tale tank on empty recently, breathe easy. I’ve done the reddit reading heavy lifting for the both of us. Re-spin a few of these yarns at your next dinner party and then order another round of Dos Equis for the table.
Big Bird Almost Blew Up on Live Television
Okay so ‘almost’ might be a bit of a stretch, but do you want to get your dinner date’s attention or not? The story of Sesame Street’s giant canary almost going up in a fire of feathers is actually pretty crazy. Remember the Challenger space shuttle? So does every other American kid still in therapy. On the morning of January 28, 1986, the NASA shuttle carrying seven crew members, including a 37-year-old teacher, exploded 73 seconds after it was launched into space in front of a national audience. In 2015, the puppeteer behind Big Bird, Caroll Spinney, explained that he’d actually been contacted by NASA to ask if he’d ‘be willing to join a mission to orbit the Earth as Big Bird to encourage kids to get interested in space.’ Apparently, it was the size of his 8-foot-2 costume that took him out of the running for a spot on the shuttle, which would have taken up too much, um, space.
A man once shipped himself home from Australia in a box
We all know what it’s like to feel homesick. But has anyone ever felt so homesick that they’ve bought a small wooden crate and convinced two men by the name of Paul and John to stow them aboard a Qantas freight plane to the UK? Yes, and his name is Brian Robson. In 1965, 19-year-old Brian was working for Victorian Railways in Australia and really hated it. He wanted to go back to London, but he couldn’t afford the £700 plane ticket. Instead, he packed himself into a box with a pillow, suitcase, and a book of Beatles songs and had Paul and John nail it shut before labelling the package as a computer and booking it onto a flight from Melbourne.
Brian even took laxatives for a few days leading up to his departure so he wouldn’t have to relieve himself on board, but things took a turn for the worst when the box ended up on a PanAm flight to LAX instead, and he was eventually discovered by an airport worker five days later. He then spent another five days in hospital before questioned by the FBI and finally, deported back to the UK.
Tom Cruise divorced all three of his wives when they were 33
Tom Cruise’s creep factor knows no bounds. Everything he does is suss, including divorcing all three of his wives in their 33rd year of life. On May 9, 1987, American actress Mimi Rogers married Tom Cruise in a New York City ceremony. At the time, she was 31-years-old. Rogers is said to have introduced Cruise to the cult of Scientology, which she was brought up in. Anyway, two years later, Mimi was 33 and divorced. A year later, in 1990, Cruise got married again, this time to our very own Nicole Kidman. Cruise was 28 when he married 23-year-old Kidman, and their divorce was finalised in 2001. Amazing sidenote: when asked on Letterman about the divorce, Kidman said, ‘I can wear heels now. Let’s move on!’
Stay with me. In 2006, the Cruise curse strikes again—this time taking 28-year-old Joey Potter (AKA Katie Holmes) to the alter. The couple divorced in 2012, when Cruise was 50 and Holmes was—you guessed it—33. So, what does it all mean, Basil? No fucking idea. Probably nothing. But it’ll likely spur some conspiracy theories among dinner guests before your mains arrive.
There used to be an amusement park on Tamarama Beach
Back in 1887, Sydney’s iconic Tamarama Beach actually housed The Royal Aquarium, which had seal and shark pools, a skating rink, and a rollercoaster suspended above the sand. After it burned down a few years later, some bloke called William Anderson signed a lease on all the land up and around Tamarama Beach, excluding a small 12ft strip for public access to the water. Absolute deal.
Anyway, Anderson refurbed what was left of the aquarium whilst adding a few bells and whistles and opened an amusement park called Wonderland City which was a direct rip off of Coney Island. There was everything from a merry-go-round to a haunted house, circus ring, and even Japanese tearooms on the sand, and apparently some 20 thousand people turned up on opening day (and you thought parking was bad on a Saturday). It closed for good in 1911, but rumour has it that every time you bring a portable speaker to the beach and force David Guetta remixes onto the unsuspecting ears of nearby beachgoers, a ghost from Wonderland City follows you to all the way to The Bucket List.
Michelin Stars were created as a marketing ploy to sell more tires
In 1895, there were less than 1,000 cars on the road in France, and of those, few were rarely driven because upkeep was so expensive. Brothers Edouard and Andre Michelin wanted to drive those numbers up, because they’d just developed a new car tire that was air-filled and easily replicable, as opposed to being glued on. To get more people on the road and thus sell more tires, the brothers printed a 399-page guide packed with information to ‘go touring’ through French towns and cities by car. Along with information on how to change your tires and where to buy petrol, the guide profiled restaurants and hotels. The guide was a huge success—the more restaurants it rated, the further people drove to check them out and the sooner their tires needed replacing. Genius.