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Cooper Neill/Getty Images for dcp

7 Facts About Garth Brooks

Cooper Neill/Getty Images for dcp
Cooper Neill/Getty Images for dcp

Everyone has a friend who claims that he or she hates country music but loves Garth Brooks. With legendary live performances and songs that boast sing-in-the-shower catchiness, Brooks has captivated fans to the tune of more than 148 million records sold, making him the top-selling solo artist in U.S. history (sorry, Elvis).

Since bursting onto the scene almost 30 years ago with his self-titled 1989 debut album, Troyal Garth Brooks has slowed down a little in more recent years. A little. And while he now lists eating and napping as two of his favorite hobbies and claims he uses his guitar more to “hide my gut” than anything else, make no mistake about it: Brooks is far from done. Here are seven things you might not have known about the iconic musician, who turns 56 years old today.

1. HE MET HIS FIRST WIFE WHEN HE THREW HER OUT OF A BAR.

While working as a bouncer during his senior year of college, Brooks was required to toss an unruly woman. Little did he know that that woman, Sandy Mahl, would become his wife just a couple of years later.

“My job was to escort people out that caused disturbances,” Brooks recalled. “She beat me about nine times close to hell that night, too. I finally got her outside and I just kept noticing how cute she was … I asked her out. She told me to drop dead.”

The couple married in 1986 and divorced 15 years later. In 2005, Brooks married fellow country superstar Trisha Yearwood.

2. HE SANG WITH KISS.

It’s no secret that Brooks is a huge rock ‘n’ roll fan. In fact, his live shows during the 1990s were heavily influenced by acts like Queen and KISS. Fortunately for Brooks, KISS decided to produce a tribute album, Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved, in 1994 and asked him to contribute. Brooks played with the band and sang lead vocals on the track “Hard Luck Woman.”

Brooks later sang the tune on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (which you can see in the clip above).

3. KEEPING UP HIS CHRIS GAINES ALTER EGO WAS TOO MUCH WORK.

In 1999 the album “Garth Brooks in… The Life of Chris Gaines” was released in an attempt to generate enthusiasm for a potential movie about Brooks’s fictional alter ego, Chris Gaines. Little enthusiasm occurred, however, and the movie was shelved. But Brooks has no regrets about the Chris Gaines experiment and would not be averse to revisiting it if it weren’t for the problem of weight and long hours.

“I love the music, and that’s what it’s all about,” Brooks said earlier this year. “Would I love to do a second one? Sure. Would I ever drop that much weight again? I don’t think I could.”

Brooks believes that his appearance was partly to blame for the failure of Chris Gaines:

“There is a ton of Garth in Chris, once you start to get familiar with Chris’s music. But one of the things that still will never settle easy with a lot of people, including my dad still doesn’t get it, is how this kind of face, that looks like this and has for a decade, sings a song that goes [sings in falsetto] ‘There’s no more waiting.’ It’s very strange to see that coming out of this face.”

“I got the sh*t kicked out of me for doing that,” Brooks told Larry King of his time as Chris Gaines. “That was fun to do though. Those guys work too hard for me. The guys in the pop world. We were up ‘til three or four every morning. Country music we’re at home eating dinner at six.”

4. HE TURNED DOWN A ROLE IN SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.

At least allegedly. In 2013, a former business partner filed a lawsuit against Brooks in which she claimed, among other things, that Brooks was approached to play the role of Private Jackson (the part that eventually went to Barry Pepper) in Saving Private Ryan, but that Brooks did not want to be cast under Hanks’s shadow. The suit also claimed that Brooks turned down a role in Twister because “the star of the film was the tornado and Brooks wanted to be the star.”

5. HE WAS SIGNED TO A MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL CONTRACT.

MIKE FIALA/AFP/Getty Images

Brooks has always been a solid athlete; he earned a track and field scholarship to Oklahoma State University, where he threw the javelin. In 1999 the San Diego Padres signed him to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training. Brooks played mostly left field and finished the spring with one hit in 22 tries for a .045 batting average. After getting his first (and only) hit, Brooks was met at first base with a hug from future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. The next year, he signed with the New York Mets and took one more shot at the big leagues with the Kansas City Royals in 2004.

6. HE TRIED TO DONATE PART OF HIS LIVER.

When longtime friend and fellow country music artist Chris LeDoux was diagnosed with a disease of the bile ducts, Brooks graciously offered him a portion of his own liver. Although Brooks’s liver was incompatible, LeDoux was able to undergo a transplant in 2000 and release two more albums before being diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct in 2004. He passed away the following year.

7. HE HAS AN MBA.

Brooks has great business acumen (it would be hard to sell 148 million albums without it). In 2011 he was able to make it official, however, when he received his Master of Business Administration from Oklahoma State University. And not an honorary one, either—this one was legit.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Steve Martin
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

Is there anything Steve Martin can't do? In addition to being one of the world's most beloved comedians and actors, he's also a writer, a musician, a magician, and an art enthusiast. And he's about to put a number of these talents on display with Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, a new comedy special that just arrived on Netflix. To commemorate the occasion, here are 10 things you might not have known about Steve Martin.

1. HE WAS A CHEERLEADER.

As a yellleader (as he refers to it in a yearbook signature) at his high school in Garden Grove, California, Martin tried to make up his own cheers, but “Die, you gravy-sucking pigs,” he later told Newsweek, did not go over so well.

2. HIS FIRST JOB WAS AT DISNEYLAND.

Martin’s first-ever job was at Disneyland, which was located just two miles away from his house. He started out selling guidebooks, keeping $.02 for every book he sold. He graduated to the Magic Shop on Main Street, where he got his first taste of the gags that would later make his career. He also learned the rope tricks you see in ¡Three Amigos! from a rope wrangler over in Frontierland.

3. HE OWES HIS WRITING JOB WITH THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS TO AN EX-GIRLFRIEND.

Thanks to a girlfriend who got a job dancing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Martin landed a gig writing for the show. He had absolutely no experience as a writer at the time. He shared an office with Bob Einstein—better known to some as Super Dave Osborne or Marty Funkhauser—and won an Emmy for writing in 1969.

4. HE WAS A CONTESTANT ON THE DATING GAME.

While he was writing for the Smothers Brothers, but before he was famous in his own right, Martin was on an episode of The Dating Game. (Spoiler alert: He wins. But did you have any doubt?)

5. MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT HE WAS A SERIES REGULAR ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

Martin hosted and did guest spots on Saturday Night Live so often in the 1970s and '80s that many people thought he was a series regular. He wasn't. 

6. HIS FATHER WROTE A REVIEW OF HIS FIRST SNL APPEARANCE.

After his first appearance on SNL, Martin’s father, the president of the Newport Beach Association of Realtors, wrote a review of his son’s performance in the company newsletter. “His performance did nothing to further his career,” the elder Martin wrote. He also once told a newspaper, “I think Saturday Night Live is the most horrible thing on television.”

7. HE POPULARIZED THE AIR QUOTE.

If you find yourself making air quotes with your fingers more than you’d really like, you have Martin to thank. He popularized the gesture during his guest spots on SNL and stand-up performances.

8. HE QUIT STAND-UP COMEDY IN THE EARLY 1980S.

Martin gave up stand-up comedy in 1981. “I still had a few obligations left but I knew that I could not continue,” he told NPR in 2009. “But I guess I could have continued if I had nothing to go to, but I did have something to go to, which was movies. And you know, the act had become so known that in order to go back, I would have had to create an entirely new show, and I wasn't up to it, especially when the opportunity for movies and writing movies came around.”

9. HE'S A MAJOR ART COLLECTOR.

As an avid art collector, Martin owns works by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, and Edward Hopper. He sold a Hopper for $26.9 million in 2006. Unfortunately, being rich and famous doesn’t mean Martin is immune to scams: In 2004, he spent about $850,000 on a piece believed to be by German-Dutch modernist painter Heinrich Campendonk. When Martin tried to sell the piece, “Landschaft mit Pferden” (or "Landscape With Horses") 15 months later, he was informed that it was a forgery. Though the painting still sold, it was at a huge loss.

10. HE'S AN ACCOMPLISHED BLUEGRASS PERFORMER.

Many people already know this, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that he’s an extremely accomplished bluegrass performer. With the help of high school friend John McEuen, who later became a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Martin taught himself to play the banjo when he was 17. He's been picking away ever since. If you see him on stage these days, he’s likely strumming a banjo with his band, the Steep Canyon Rangers. As seen above, they make delightful videos.

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Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
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Star Wars Premiered 41 Years Ago … and the Reviews Weren’t Always Kind
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

A long time ago (41 years, to be exact) in a galaxy just like this one, George Lucas was about to make cinematic history—whether he knew it or not. On May 25, 1977, moviegoers got their first glimpse of Star Wars, Lucas’s long-simmering space opera that would help define the concept of the Hollywood “blockbuster.” While we're still talking about the film today, and its many sequels and spinoffs (hello, Solo), not every film critic would have guessed just how ingrained into the pop culture fabric Star Wars would become. While it charmed plenty of critics, some of the movie’s original reviews were less than glowing. Here are a few of our favorites (the good, the bad, and the Wookiee):

"Star Wars is a fairy tale, a fantasy, a legend, finding its roots in some of our most popular fictions. The golden robot, lion-faced space pilot, and insecure little computer on wheels must have been suggested by the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. The journey from one end of the galaxy to another is out of countless thousands of space operas. The hardware is from Flash Gordon out of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the chivalry is from Robin Hood, the heroes are from Westerns and the villains are a cross between Nazis and sorcerers. Star Wars taps the pulp fantasies buried in our memories, and because it's done so brilliantly, it reactivates old thrills, fears, and exhilarations we thought we'd abandoned when we read our last copy of Amazing Stories."

—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Star Wars is not a great movie in that it describes the human condition. It simply is a fun picture that will appeal to those who enjoy Buck Rogers-style adventures. What places it a sizable cut about the routine is its spectacular visual effects, the best since Stanley Kubrick’s 2001Star Wars is a battle between good and evil. The bad guys (led by Peter Cushing and an assistant who looks like a black vinyl-coated frog) control the universe with their dreaded Death Star."

—Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

Star Wars is like getting a box of Cracker Jack which is all prizes. This is the writer-director George Lucas’s own film, subject to no business interference, yet it’s a film that’s totally uninterested in anything that doesn’t connect with the mass audience. There’s no breather in the picture, no lyricism; the only attempt at beauty is in the double sunset. It’s enjoyable on its own terms, but it’s exhausting, too: like taking a pack of kids to the circus. An hour into it, children say that they’re ready to see it again; that’s because it’s an assemblage of spare parts—it has no emotional grip. “Star Wars” may be the only movie in which the first time around the surprises are reassuring…. It’s an epic without a dream. But it’s probably the absence of wonder that accounts for the film’s special, huge success. The excitement of those who call it the film of the year goes way past nostalgia to the feeling that now is the time to return to childhood."

—Pauline Kael, The New Yorker

"The only way that Star Wars could have been interesting was through its visual imagination and special effects. Both are unexceptional ... I kept looking for an 'edge,' to peer around the corny, solemn comic-book strophes; he was facing them frontally and full. This picture was made for those (particularly males) who carry a portable shrine within them of their adolescence, a chalice of a Self that was Better Then, before the world's affairs or—in any complex way—sex intruded."

—Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic

“There’s something depressing about seeing all these impressive cinematic gifts and all this extraordinary technological skills lavished on such puerile materials. Perhaps more important is what this seems to accomplish: the canonization of comic book culture which in turn becomes the triumph of the standardized, the simplistic, mass-produced commercial artifacts of our time. It’s the triumph of camp—that sentiment which takes delight in the awful simply because it’s awful. We enjoyed such stuff as children, but one would think there would come a time when we might put away childish things.”

—Joy Gould Boyum, The Wall Street Journal

Star Wars … is the most elaborate, most expensive, most beautiful movie serial ever made. It’s both an apotheosis of Flash Gordon serials and a witty critique that makes associations with a variety of literature that is nothing if not eclectic: Quo Vadis?, Buck Rogers, Ivanhoe, Superman, The Wizard of Oz, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table … The way definitely not to approach Star Wars, though, is to expect a film of cosmic implications or to footnote it with so many references that one anticipates it as if it were a literary duty. It’s fun and funny.”

—Vincent Canby, The New York Times

"Viewed dispassionately—and of course that’s desperately difficult at this point in time—Star Wars is not an improvement on Mr Lucas’ previous work, except in box-office terms. It isn’t the best film of the year, it isn’t the best science fiction ever to be translated to the screen, it isn’t a number of other things either that sweating critics have tried to turn it into when faced with finding some plausible explanation for its huge and slightly sinister success considering a contracting market. But it is, on the other hand, enormous and exhilarating fun for those who are prepared to settle down in their seats and let it all wash over them.”

—Derek Malcolm, The Guardian

“Strip Star Wars of its often striking images and its high-falutin scientific jargon, and you get a story, characters, and dialogue of overwhelming banality, without even a ‘future’ cast to them. Human beings, anthropoids, or robots, you could probably find them all, more or less like that, in downtown Los Angeles today. Certainly the mentality and values of the movie can be duplicated in third-rate non-science fiction of any place or period. O dull new world!”

—John Simon, New York Magazine

"Star Wars is somewhat grounded by a malfunctioning script and hopelessly infantile dialogue, but from a technical standpoint, it is an absolutely breathtaking achievement. The special effects experts who put Lucas' far-out fantasies on film—everything from a gigantic galactic war machine to a stunningly spectacular World War II imitation dogfight—are Oscar-worthy wizards of the first order. And, for his own part, Lucas displays an incredibly fertile imagination—an almost Fellini-like fascination with bizarre creatures.”

—Kathleen Carroll, New York Daily News

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