10 Things Created Over a Couple of Beers

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After a few beers at the bar, even the most ridiculous ideas start to seem like The One That Will Make Millions. Sometimes, though, those ideas actually pan out. Here are a few reasons to take your next tipsy brainstorming session a little more seriously.

1. Southwest Airlines

In 1966, lawyer Herb Kelleher’s client, Rollin King, owned a small commuter air service in San Antonio. King and his banker had been discussing the idea of running a quick commuter service between San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. They pitched the idea to Kelleher, and the triangular flight route was sketched out on a cocktail napkin. Since then, Southwest has expanded to a few more cities.

2. Pet Rock

It totally makes sense that the Pet Rock was conceived of after a few rounds, doesn’t it? After a bar conversation about what a commitment pets can be, Gary Dahl spent two weeks writing The Pet Rock Training Manual and started selling the low-maintenance pal for $3.95 not long after.

Once the Pet Rock fad had run its course, inventor Gary Dahl tried to recreate the magic by opening up his own bar, “so I can sit around and get ideas.” After ideas like “Sand Breeding Kits” and “Red China Dirt” were unsuccessful, he ended up creating his own advertising agency.

3. A Few Good Men

Aaron Sorkin wasn’t throwing back drinks when he started writing his play A Few Good Men; he was slinging them. As the bartender at Broadway’s Palace Theater, Sorkin organized his thoughts on napkins while patrons were watching shows. “I wrote A Few Good Men during the first act of La Cage aux Folles . . . I would come home with my pockets stuffed full of cocktail napkins,” he told CBS.

4. Marine Corps

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On November 10, 1775, a committee of the Continental Congress met at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. The mission? To establish two Battalions of men prepared to fight for independence on sea or shore. The tavern’s manager was declared the first official recruiter. Legend has it, Marines toast to the memory of Tun Tavern every year on November 10.

5. Shark Week

In a recent article in The Atlantic, executive producer Brooke Runnette said the idea for Shark Week "was definitely scribbled down on the back of a cocktail napkin" at a bar during a post-work brainstorming session that included Discovery Channel execs John Hendricks, Clark Bunting, and Steve Cheskin.

"One of them said something like, 'You know what would be awesome? Shark Week!' And somebody in that nexus scribbled it down on a napkin," said Runnette.

Less-colorful origin stories claim the idea for Shark Week was hatched "in a discussion about programming strategies." But as Runnette notes, "an idea in a bar comes from many fathers."

6. Quidditch

J.K. Rowling created Quidditch in a pub after having a fight with her then-boyfriend. "In my deepest, darkest soul," she said, "I would quite like to see him hit by a bludger."

7. Buffalo Wings

When the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, accidentally received a shipment of chicken wings instead of chicken parts in 1964, they made lemonade (figuratively, of course). Teressa Bellissimo coated the wings in a sauce of her own recipe, then served them with bleu cheese and celery, because that's what she had on hand. They were a hit with her son and his group of friends, and the Buffalo wing was born. The Anchor still serves wings in that secret special sauce.

8. Farrington B.

Doesn’t ring a bell? I bet it does when you see it:

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Yep, those squared-off letters and numbers that look back at you from almost every card in your wallet were invented in a bar at the Waldorf-Astoria. David H. Shepard, who invented the optical card reader, created the Farrington B numeric font to try to combat the smudging and smearing that would inevitably occur at gas pumps, one of the first places optical character recognition would be used. These days, credit card companies could use Comic Sans for the account number if they really wanted to; all of the pertinent information is gathered from the magnetic strip on the back. But Farrington B is kind of tradition.

9. The Gift of the Magi

Some of the best literature in history has been created after a drink or two; just ask Ernest Hemingway. William Sydney Porter, better known by his pen name, O. Henry, was a fan of this writing method as well. In the early 1900s, Porter, who lived just down the street, parked himself in Pete's Tavern - the third booth from the window, to be exact - and penned The Gift of the Magi.

10. The Ironman Triathlon

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It wasn’t in a bar, but it was over a couple of beers at an awards banquet. At the medal ceremony for the Oahu Perimeter Relay in 1977, John and Judy Collins realized that if they did the 2.4-mile Waikiki Rough Water Swim, then the 115-mile Round the Island bike race minus a few miles, they would be close to the start line of the Honolulu Marathon. Wouldn’t it be fun to do all three? The first to finish would be called an Ironman. Yep, that’s a drunken idea if I’ve ever heard one.

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August 23, 2012 - 1:01pm
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