You Might Be a Zombie . . . (4 page)

BOOK: You Might Be a Zombie . . .
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” Next time you’re at a dinner party, go ahead and try that “Hey baby, let’s go have a serious discussion” line out and then come back and tell us how much sex you didn’t have.

JFK’s sexual conquests all egedly include Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Jayne Mansfield, Angie Dickinson, Brazilian actress Florinda Bolkan, and famous burlesque stripper and rap name pioneer Blaze Starr. There are even rumors that he had sex with his insanely hot wife once in a while too.

Greatest display of badassery
: In August 1943, while serving as skipper of
, Kennedy’s boat was ripped in two by the Japanese destroyer
. Kennedy and his crew were tossed into the water and surrounded by flames. Kennedy managed to swim four hours to safety while towing an injured crewman by the life jacket strap with his teeth. His goddamned teeth!


Plenty of people know George Washington as the Father of Our Country, but few people know—and this is, perhaps, more important—just how similar he was in behavior to the Incredible Hulk.

As described by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington “was natural y irritable,” and when his temper “broke its bonds, he was most tremendous in his wrath.” One time, in fact, he became “much inflamed [and] got into one of those passions when he cannot command himself.” Witnesses agreed that after these sudden bursts of rage, Washington general y became calm and amiable again. Sound like anyone you know? Anyone incredible, perhaps? The Iroquois Indians affectionately nicknamed Washington Caunotaucarius, which translates to something like Town Destroyer or Devourer of Vil ages. We were really hoping it translated to One Who (When Angry) You will Not Like so we’d have more evidence for this whole Incredible Hulk thing, but Town Destroyer is pretty cool too, we guess.

Washington wasn’t just a shirt-ripping comic book character waiting to happen, he was also an amazing general and, possibly, totally invincible.

Washington was always at the front line in any of the many battles he took part in, and there are countless stories of Washington returning from battle with bul et holes in his uniform or without a horse (it having been shot out from under him), but he always remained unharmed. In a letter to his brother, he described being surrounded by bul ets and death and concluded by saying, “I heard the bul ets whistle and, believe me, there is something charming to the sound of bul ets.” When he caught news of this, George II reportedly remarked that Washington’s attitude would change if he heard a few more.

Washington went on to hear hundreds more and to rout King George’s army in a war.

Greatest display of badassery
: Making America.


Checking Teddy Roosevelt’s resume is like reading a how-to guide on ass-kicking manliness. He was a cattle rancher, a deputy sheriff, an explorer, a police commissioner, assistant secretary of the navy, governor of New York, and a war hero. Out of all his jobs, hobbies, and passions, Roosevelt always had a special spot in his heart for unadulterated violence. In 1898, Roosevelt formed the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, known as the Rough Riders. Most people already know of the Rough Riders and their historic charge up San Juan Hil , but few know that, since their horses had to be left behind, the “riders” made this charge entirely on foot. You just could not stop this man from violencing the hel out of a San Juan Hil .

And don’t think that Roosevelt lost his obsession with violence when he became president. He strol ed through the White House with a pistol on his person at all times, even though, with his black belt in jujitsu and his history as a champion boxer, it wasn’t like he needed it.

It wasn’t just his war record or the fact that he knew several different ways to kil you that made Roosevelt such a badass. It wasn’t even the fact that he decorated the White House with African lions and a bear he’d personal y kil ed. Teddy Roosevelt was a badass of the people. Roosevelt received letters from army cavalrymen complaining about having to ride twenty-five miles a day for training and, in response, Teddy rode horseback for a hundred miles, from sunrise to sunset, at fifty-one years old, effectively rescinding anyone’s right to complain about anything, ever again.

Did we mention he had asthma when growing up? He did, and after he beat asthma to death, he ate asthma’s raw flesh and ran a hundred straight miles off the energy it gave him.

Greatest display of badassery
: While campaigning for a third term, Roosevelt was shot by a madman and, instead of treating the wound, delivered his campaign speech with the bleeding, undressed bul et hole in his chest. At the time of Roosevelt’s death, a fel ow politician noted: “Death had to take him sleeping, for if Roosevelt had been awake there would have been a fight.”

We have no witty commentary here. That is just straight-up badass.


signature achievement is typically considered a stand-alone moment, epitomizing all that is worthwhile, unique, and memorable in one’s career, or at least a defining work that sets a standard in its field. For Hemingway, it was
The Sun Also Rises
, for Stanley Kubrick it was
, and for Radiohead it was
OK Computer
(Shut up! It was
OK Computer)
. But what happens when—either by public misperception or private manipulation—simply too much credit is given for a signature work? Not much, actual y, but it makes a tidy little list.


Ask anyone what their favorite Tim Burton movie is and they’ll tell you
Edward Scissorhands
. But rol your eyes, and say, “Yeah, besides that,” and they’ll probably say
The Nightmare Before Christmas
. The stop-motion animation managed to capture Burton’s quirky, dark vision and the imagination of mainstream audiences, proving once and for all that Tim Burton was no one-hit wonder as a director and that he could in fact do it in different mediums.

Well, except that it didn’t do any of those things. It would have if Tim Burton had directed
Tim Burton’s The Nightmare
Before Christmas
. While he produced it and wrote the poem it was based on, Henry Selick of
James and the Giant Peach
was tapped for the actual directorial duties.

Why didn’t you know that?

When you put your name in the title of something, people just kind of make assumptions. And just like the rest of Burton’s movies, it’s dark and creepy, with great moments and horrible plot and pacing problems. Plus, it’s unlikely you knew Henry Selick’s name at the time. The studio made the rational decision to go with the name you’d heard before.

It worked out pretty well for everyone except Selick, whose name you probably still don’t recognize. His biggest achievement subsequently has been directing Neil Gaiman’s
. In a cruel twist of fate, that movie was promoted as a new film from the  director who brought you
The Nightmare Before 
which by then you heard as
Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas
. So the few people who did show up to Selick’s failed follow-up were probably only there because they thought it was directed by Burton. Ouch.


No one’s denying George Harrison’s talent. He wrote some of the Beatles’ most famous songs while vying for album space against two of the greatest pop songwriters of all time. (If you’re too young to know who we’re referring to, go ask your parents, and be sure to tell them your upbringing was an abject failure.) But of all his accomplishments, George is probably best known for his classic cut “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” featuring a searing and wailing guitar solo that fully realizes the promise of the song’s evocative title and that was laid down by George Harrison’s best friend, Eric Clapton, and not by Harrison.

Why didn’t you know that?

“While My Best Friend Eric Clapton’s Guitar Gently Weeps” just didn’t have the right cadence to it. The Beatles weren’t touring at the time and no one was making music videos, so it’s not like you could
George not playing the part. Also, the Beatles were never very into liner notes, which is why everyone from Clapton to Bil y Preston to the old guy who repairs guitars at your town’s music shop has been called the fifth Beatle at some point.


Much of Kennedy’s presidency remains debated by modern historians. Some praise him as a president whose charisma and vision inspired a generation to public service and led the charge to the moon. Others claim that if you put him in a room with Marilyn Monroe, obscene amounts of pain medication, and a horribly planned Cuban invasion, Kennedy wouldn’t be able to decide which one to do first. But what everyone seems to agree on is that
Profiles in Courage,
the book Kennedy won the Pulitzer Prize for, is a damn fine read.
examined the bold decisions of eight U.S. senators and brought Kennedy the national attention and respect that was instrumental in building momentum for his presidential run.

What’s not as clear is how instrumental Kennedy was in actually writing it. Although odds are good that Kennedy
the book, credible evidence indicates that Kennedy’s speechwriter, Ted Sorenson, wrote the majority of it. In 2008, Sorenson claimed in his autobiography that he “did a first draft of most chapters,” and “helped choose the words of many of its sentences.” In literary circles this is known as “writing the book.”

Why didn’t you know that?

People tend to assume you’ve written something after you’ve won a Pulitzer Prize for it. Also, Kennedy allegedly paid Sorenson more than half the book’s royalties from its first five years in print, which is probably why it took Sorenson fifty years to blow the whistle. And lastly, Kennedy was probably too busy dragging soldiers out of sinking ships with his teeth like a goddamned rescue dog and inventing a cure for headaches that nine out of ten doctors agree is a hell of a lot more fun than aspirin (see page 207).


Although he put together a string of pop hits in the 1970s, Barry Manilow is perhaps best known for his 1975 signature song “I Write the Songs,” which topped
charts for two weeks and won Manilow a Grammy for Song of the Year. In it, Manilow sings: I write the songs that make the whole world sing.

I write the songs, I write the songs.

A little misleading since those words were written by Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys. In fact, Manilow wasn’t even the first person to

Manilow wrote a lot of his own songs, just none of the ones you’ve ever heard before. “Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again,” “Weekend in New England,”

BOOK: You Might Be a Zombie . . .
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