November 15 is George Spelvin Day

George Spelvin DayToday is George Spelvin Day. Who is he, and why does he have his own day? He was “born” on November 15, 1886, and is still going strong. How is that possible?

George Spelvin began as a pseudonym used in theatrical playbills to hide the fact that a performer was “doubling“—playing two roles in a play or musical. Actors changed costumes and makeup, sometimes adding a second, disguised photo to the program, all to (hopefully) fool theatergoers. Listing a player’s name twice would ruin the effect.

Sometimes a playwright or director added a fictitious actor and role to the cast list to trick audience members into thinking the character would appear. This misdirection could make a plot twist or other device harder to figure out and thus more effective and entertaining.

George Spelvin first appeared on a Broadway Playbill on November 15, 1886, opening night of Karl the Peddler, a play by Charles A. Gardiner. In 1906, Winchell Smith “cast” him in Brewster’s Millions. After the show’s success, Smith considered Spelvin a good luck charm and added him to many other shows.

Spelvin appeared in the credits of films such as D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915) and the Academy Award-winning From Here to Eternity (1953). He showed up on television and soap operas, including The Guiding Light and Edge of Night. He called himself George Spelvinsky, Georges SpelvinetGiorgio Spelvino or Gregor Spelvanovich for European roles.

Over time, the Spelvin family expanded. George Spelvin, Jr. shared billing with his “father” in the 1929 play Kibitzer. Georgette Spelvin debuted in the short-lived Broadway production of Love Girl (1922). The clan had a “black sheep” as well: Georgina Spelvin, used by porn actress Chele Welsh as her screen name in adult films such as The Devil in Miss Jones (1973) and mainstream fare like Police Academy (1984).

Although doubling has lost its stigma, pseudonyms remain popular. Actors’ Equity Association members wishing to work under a non-union contract may use alternate names to avoid fines and possible revocation of union membership. Performers who become unhappy while shooting a movie may try to substitute a false name in the credits, to disassociate themselves from a potential box office bomb.

The Spelvin name has grown so well-known that it has become an in-joke for sophisticated audiences. (Alan Smithee, used by disgruntled directors, enjoys a similar status among moviegoers.) Spelvin’s British counterparts are Mr. F. AnneyMr. Bart and Walter Plinge, who has his own holiday on December 2nd.

Have a happy George Spelvin Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

June 15 is Magna Carta Day

magna carta dayMagna Carta Day, explained in the style of Jeff Spicoli:

In 1215, the king of England was a total wad, so a bunch of rich baron dudes got together and decided his divine right was bogus, so they drew up some cool rules they called the Great Charter until somebody said it sounded way more righteous in Latin. They took it to the king on June 15th and told him, “Sign it, or you’ll never party again,” which was a gnarly scene for a minute, but then he signed it. 

The Pope was not cool with that and said, “Later, dudes!” and kicked all the baron guys out of the church. But none of it matters anyhow because Julius Caesar’s calendar was a mess so we use a different one now, which means the Carta got signed on June 8th but then, like, did it even happen?

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

May 4 is Star Wars Day

star wars day


Today is Star Wars Day. Its date is a play on words referencing the line, “May the Force be with you.” “May the fourth be with you” has become a rallying cry for fans.

It was inaugurated on May 4, 2011, at the Toronto Underground Cinema in Canada and has quickly spread around the world. Festivities include costume and trivia contests, Internet tributes, mashups and parodies.

Disney purchased Lucasfilm from its owner (and Star Wars creator) George Lucas in late 2012. Since May 4, 2013, the company has observed the holiday with events at Disney World and Disneyland. Today, its Star Wars homepage links to 37 purveyors of officially-licensed merchandise, from New Zealand Mint coins to Pendleton blankets.

If you’ve missed today’s celebrations or want to extend them 24 hours, you’re in luck. There is another. A new Star Wars holiday has arisen, this one from the pun “revenge of the fifth.” (By the way, on May 4, 2015, astronauts on the International Space Station watched Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. That got us thinking: Is there any distance great enough from which Hayden Christensen’s performance looks good?)

But wait, there’s more! In 2007, the Los Angeles City Council declared May 25th Star Wars Day to honor the 30th anniversary of the original movie’s release date. Diehard fans will take any excuse to celebrate. It puts us one day closer to the next installment.

Happy Star Wars Day(s), everybody!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

Back to the Future Day Update: Cubs Win World Series!

Most holidays don’t require frequent updates. They happen once a year and the details don’t change much. That is not the case with Back to the Future Day, which has continued to evolve since its first observance on October 21, 2015.back to the future day

Back to the Future Part II was released in 1989. In it, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) utters the following line as he and Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travel through time in his trusty DeLorean: “We’re descending toward Hill Valley, California, at 4:29 pm, on Wednesday, October 21st, 2015.”

While the time machine has not been perfected—as far as we know—some of the “technology” dreamed up for the movie has come to fruition. When Nike was offered product placement, execs imagined a pair of sneakers with self-tying laces. To celebrate the date when the real world caught up to the movie’s timeline, Nike created a working pair of Air Mags with self-tying laces and delivered them to Fox on October 21, 2015.

back to the future day

Fox tries on first working pair

For Back to the Future Day 2016, it produced 89 pairs of the sneakers and raffled or auctioned them off, raising more than $6.75 million dollars for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

The quest to create a hoverboard like the one McFly rides in the movie has been less successful. One prototype levitates over a special surface, has a battery that lasts less than two minutes and is so hard to steer that one reviewer simply spun around until someone came to his aid. Still, its maker produced 10 and sold them for $10,000 each.back to the future day hoverboard

Most hoverboards could be called HINOs (Hoverboards In Name Only). They are self-balancing scooters with wheels, like a Segway without handlebars. Many models have batteries that can overheat and burst into flame while being charged or ridden, presenting a potentially exciting yet possibly disastrous experience for riders. We’re still waiting for the real thing.

Back to the Future Day

Without a doubt, one of the things Future fans will discuss for years to come isn’t a product but a “prediction” made as a joke by screenwriter Bob Gale. In Back to the Future Part II, the Chicago Cubs beat Miami to win the World Series on October 21, 2015.

Gale, a St. Louis Cardinals fan, later said he was trying to come up with something completely outrageous that could only happen in a fictional universe. He also pointed out that Miami had no team in 1989: “People don’t automatically realize when they watch the movie today, but we were predicting there would be a major league team in Miami.”back to the future day mcfly chicago cubs

In reality, on October 21, 2015, the Cubs played the New York Mets in the fourth game of the National League Championship Series and lost. (The Mets swept all  four games, obviating the need to continue the seven-game series.)

The Major League Baseball schedule has changed since the movie came out, which explains why the timing of the World Series isn’t quite right.

Back to the Future Day - Cubs win World Series

The story doesn’t end there. On November 2, 2016, the Chicago Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians to win its first World Series since 1908. Coincidence or fate a year late? You decide.

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays