by philview & Philly Phanatic

PHILADELPHA, PA – It’s nice to know that, despite all of the microchips, cells, satellite transmissions, and fiber optics that dominate our lives, we still can appreciate the simple things in life. A smile. A sunny day. A ball game. A cold beer. A child’s laugh. Did I mention cold beer?

Another comforting thought is that in the shadow of these advancements, we can still relish the continued existence of those wonderful little mysteries known as urban myths. Sure, some of the best ones have been refuted, but there are still many out there that will always make one ponder – are they true, or not? Hollywood is always a great place to start. For example, Rebel Without a Cause was cursed. Poltergeist was cursed. The Exorcist was cursed. Personally, after seeing it, I think the recent release of Land of the Lost was also cursed.

And the list goes on. Anyone who’s ever played Superman was cursed. The cast of Our Gang was cursed (except Spanky). Montgomery Clift’s ghost plays a bugle in room 928 of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The blonde actress who dove to her death off the Hollywoodland sign is still wandering around those huge white letters in the dark. The Hollywood Wax Museum is haunted. Errol Flynn still throws parties at his old Hollywood home at 3100 Torreyson Place, even though the house isn’t there anymore. Marilyn Monroe’s ghost is seen regularly all over tinsel town. Elvis’ ghost is never seen, because Elvis is still alive.

And how about these, all false? Mama Cass Elliot died after choking on a ham sandwich. Paul was dead. A munchkin hung himself on the set of “The Wizard of Oz,” and his body is seen in the final print of the film. Tinkerbell was modeled after Marilyn Monroe. The ghost of a murdered boy appeared in Three Men and a Baby.

Some legends are, surprisingly, quite TRUE. Yes, one of the beautiful women in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only used to be a GUY. Yes, Charlie Chaplin once lost a Charlie Chaplin look-a-like contest (he didn’t even make the finals). And yes, Greg Brady was once stoned on camera. There was also a myth that Pauly Shore was funny, but I never got that one.

There’s no shortage of sports-related myths and legends, of course. For instance, Babe Ruth’s Called Shot. Can’t endorse it or deny it, no one can, but it’s wonderful that it happened in 1932, because it never would have happened today. The beauty of the called shot was that it was NOT filmed from 67 angles, with Fox microphones, instant replay, and Tim McCarver incorrectly stating the obvious.

While we’re on Ruth, here’s another – that the Baby Ruth candy bar was named after the daughter of President Grover Cleveland, not Babe Ruth. This is what I always heard, and that’s actually what the Curtiss Candy Company claimed when they introduced the Baby Ruth bar in 1921. However, the “truth” has holes. Ruth Cleveland died of diphtheria at age 12 in 1904, and it seems unlikely (and in bad taste) that the Curtiss marketing folks would have named their candy for the long-dead daughter of a former president. More likely it was legal – they probably just said that so that rising baseball star Ruth wouldn’t sue them. Some things never change.

Another minor Ruth myth, to uneducated souls, was that he was the greatest baseball player of all time – despite being woefully overweight. This is understandable, because the majority of the film clips in existence show the Great Fatbino in the early 1930s, when, by then, his rotund stomach would routinely cross home plate while his butt was rounding third. The reasons were simple – at that time he was pushing forty, happily married to his second wife, and no longer able to spend long nights in the whorehouses that kept him in shape.

Bill Buckner’s error WON the 1986 World Series for the Mets! I just heard this a short while ago, word for word, as uttered by those research-allergic folks at ESPN. ESPN is stacked with idiots, and that’s no myth. Regarding the error, well, it certainly didn’t hurt – but the fact is that the game was already tied; the Mets suddenly had more momentum than a freight train; and if you ask me, even if Buckner fields it cleanly, Mookie beats him to the bag, and the Mets score on the next play. And, as heartbreaking as it was for the Sox, it was only game SIX. For years I had forgotten that. But the lasting “final” memory is always of Buckner, and Ray Knight’s dance down the third base line.

Willis Reed single-handedly won game seven of the 1970 finals on one leg! Got this one from my Knick-loving North Jersey relatives. Close, fact-based, but not exactly. One of the great sports clips in history – game seven about to start, everyone wondering, and then Reed walks through the crowd like a messiah in a white warm-up. MSG goes nuts. Reed then makes his first two shots from the field. That’s usually where the highlights of that game end. The myth, of course, is that at that very moment, with an entire game yet to play, Chamberlain crawled under the Lakers bench in the fetal position, Elgin Baylor retired, and Jerry West became a GM – and the Knicks won in a walk.

Finally, a new myth – that steroids have ruined the “beauty” and “continuity” of baseball’s record books. Look, I HATE performance-enhancing drugs, and it ticks me off that Barry Bonds passed Henry Aaron with a head so engorged it would have had trouble crossing the Golden Gate Bridge without scraping the cables – but the fact is, while it remains the only sport where you can still compare players a century apart, baseball has always been a sea of change – the dead ball, the live ball, the spit ball, the exclusion of black players, the entry of black players, the lowering of the mound, expansion, the designated hitter, bullpen specialists, bigger gloves, and it goes on.

Before I depart, I’d like to return to Hollywood for one more myth. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Legend has it that the great thespian Sean Connery took his acting VERY seriously and, like Meryl Streep and Laurence Olivier, adopted thick, well-researched accents to give his roles more depth, reality and credibility. This myth, sadly, is impossible to prove or disprove, because it’s never been evident in ANY of his film performances.

In The Highlander, Connery’s character was Spanish, and yet sounded Scottish. In The Hunt for Red October, he played a Russian, who also sounded Scottish. In The Untouchables, he won an Oscar for playing an Irishman, with a Scottish accent. And finally, in First Knight, and every James Bond film, he’s supposed to be English, and yet every word he breathes is, you guessed it, Scottish.

So the legend lives on.

By the way, Ted Williams was frozen, Walt Disney wasn’t. And Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. And if you don’t believe me, ask my friend – the Loch Ness Monster.

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