Holiday Inn, Dial Soap & Other Famous Not-So-American Brands

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iStock

Anheuser-Busch's announced sale to Belgian brewing giant InBev has been cause for considerable consternation among many members of the media, who seem to think that selling a company so firmly grounded in the American way of life is downright unpatriotic. To hear many people tell it, selling the makers of Budweiser to a foreign conglomerate is tantamount to selling nuclear secrets to Iran, burning a flag, or saying, "No thanks, I don't like apple pie that much." Some digging, though, reveals that lots of brands we think of a "solidly American" are in fact owned by foreign investors.

Miller Brewing Company
You don't even have to leave the beer market to find a company that's been through a transition similar to the one facing Anheuser-Busch. Milwaukee's Miller Brewing, Budweiser's closest competitor, isn't owned by American interests anymore, either. In 2002, South African Breweries bought a controlling interest in Miller by shelling out $3.6 billion in stock and taking on $2 billion of Miller's debt. The deal created the world's largest brewer, which took on the new hybrid name of SABMiller. The company, which also makes such imports as Peroni, Grolsch, and Pilsner Urquell is headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Holiday Inn
What could be more American the Holiday Inn, whose "great signs" were a key icon of classic vacations of the 1950s? Kemmons Wilson opened the first Holiday Inn in Memphis in 1952, and by 1957 owned an exploding chain of franchises. In a seemingly unrelated development in 1989, the British government put the kibosh on breweries owning too many of their own pubs in the U.K. In response, the brewers of Bass started to grow their hotel business. In 1988, Bass started acquiring Holiday Inn's international operations, then bought up the domestic hotels in 1990. The move did so well that Bass actually got out of the beer business by divesting itself of its brewing operation and trademarks in 2000 and switched its name to Six Continents PLC, which later morphed into InterContinental Hotels Group, which currently owns all Holiday Inns.

Lucent Technologies
The name "Lucent" may not ring a lot of bells, but it had a history as a firmly American concern. In fact, Lucent was originally part of AT&T; it was known as AT&T Technologies and specialized in telecomm equipment manufacturing. When AT&T split into three companies in 1996, Lucent became a stand-alone spinoff, and it stayed that way for a decade. Then, in 2006, French competitor Alcatel swallowed Lucent as part of an $11 billion acquisition. The renamed company, Alcatel-Lucent, is headquartered in Paris.

Firestone
Firestone is probably ingrained in your brain as one of America's oldest tire companies, a venerable institution that dates back to early-20th-century Akron. However, after years of taking huge losses and running up billions in debt, the company put itself on the market in 1988. Japanese tire company Bridgestone bought Firestone for $80 a share, or roughly $2.6 billion.

Columbia Pictures
After its inception in 1919, Columbia Pictures cranked out some of America's favorite films, including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, one of the most iconic screen visions of American patriotism and integrity. Other major hits in the studio's archives include On the Waterfront, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and Ghostbusters. However, the company's not in American hands. Coke briefly owned the company in the 1980s but allegedly talked itself out of the entertainment industry when Ishtar flopped. After a couple of years as a stand-alone company at the end of that decade, Japanese electronics colossus Sony bought Columbia for $3.4 billion in cash in 1989 to bolster its entertainment portfolio.

DKNY
Just reading the name "DKNY" might make you think the company is American. After all, it stands for "Donna Karan New York." However, its cash flows run to Paris, not New York. French holding company LVMH Moet Hennessy"“Louis Vuitton made an aggressive bid to buy the company in 2001, and as a result designer Donna Karan's brainchild moved into foreign hands as part of a $243 million purchase. It's now nestled in LVMH's portfolio alongside other luxury spirits, fashion labels, and cosmetics.

Hellman's
Richard Hellman was at the forefront of the condiment industry when he opened a delicatessen in New York and started selling his wife's mayonnaise in 1905. In 1932, Best Foods bought out Hellman's burgeoning mayo empire, and the brand bounced around various companies' portfolios until Best Foods became an independent company in 1995. In 2000, though, Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever gobbled up Best Foods for $20.3 billion in stock and $4 billion in debt. Along with Hellman's, Unilever picked up several other well-known food brands, including Skippy peanut butter, Karo syrup, and Entenmann's baked goods.

Dial Soap
Dial originated in 1948 as America's first deodorant soap; it was originally an offshoot of Chicago-based meat processor Armour and Company. It has had a tumultuous history, including a period of ownership by Greyhound, which was perhaps a clever attempt to synergize based on the dirty feeling one has after a long bus ride. By 1996 Dial was solely a hygienic products and cleaning company once again, and then in 2004 it was purchased by German consumer product Henkel KGaA, which also owns brands like Duck Tape and Persil detergent. Henkel dropped $2.9 billion to pick up the soapmaker, in part because it thought Dial's portfolio would play well in developing markets.

Ethan Trex grew up idolizing Vince Coleman, and he kind of still does. Ethan co-writes Straight Cash, Homey, the Internet's undisputed top source for pictures of people in Ryan Leaf jerseys.
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7 Massage Guns That Are on Sale Right Now

Jawku/Actigun
Jawku/Actigun

Outdoor exercise is a big focus leading into summer, but as you begin to really tone and strengthen your muscles, you might notice some tough knots and soreness that you just can’t kick. Enter the post-workout massage gun—these bad boys are like having a deep-tissue masseuse by your side whenever you want. If you're looking to pick one up for yourself, check out these brands while they’re on sale.

1. Actigun 2.0: Percussion Massager (Black); $128 (57 percent off)

Actigun massage gun.
Actigun

Don't assume you need a professional masseur to provide relief—this massage gun offers 20 variable speeds and can adjust the output power on its own according to pressure. Can your human massage therapist do that?

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

2. JAWKU Muscle Blaster V2 Cordless Percussion Massage Gun; $260 (13 percent off)

Jawku massaging gun.
Jawku

This cordless, five-speed massager uses a design that's aimed to increase blood flow, release stored lactic acid, and relieve sore muscles through various vibrations.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

3. DEEP4s: Percussive Therapy Massage Gun for Athletes; $230 (23 percent off)

Re-Athlete massage gun.
Re-Athlete

Instant relief is an option with this massage tool, featuring five different attachments made to tackle any muscle group. You can squeeze in eight hours of massage time before you have to charge it again.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

4. Handheld Massage Gun for Deep Tissue Percussion; $75 (15 percent off)

Massage gun from Stackcommerce.
Stackcommerce

With five replaceable heads and six speed settings, this massage gun can easily adapt to the location and intensity of your soreness. And since it lasts up to three hours per charge, you won't have to worry about constantly plugging it in.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

5. The Backmate Power Massager; $120 (19 percent off)

Backmate massage gun.
Backmate

Speed is the name of the game here. The Backmate Power Massager is designed for fast, effective relief through its ergonomic design. Fast doesn’t need to mean short, either. After the instant relief, you can stimulate and distract your nervous system for lasting pain relief.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

6. ZTECH Percussion Massage Gun (Red); $80 (46 percent off)

ZTech massage gun.
ZTech

This massage gun looks a lot like a power drill, and, similarly, you can adjust its design for the perfect fit with six interchangeable heads that target different muscle areas.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

7. Aduro Sport Elite Recovery Massage Gun (Maroon); $80 (60 percent off)

Aduro massage gun.
Aduro

Tackle large muscle groups, the neck, Achilles tendon, joints, and small muscle areas with this single massage gun. Four massage heads and six intensity levels allow this tool to provide a highly customizable experience.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. If you haven't received your voucher or have a question about your order, contact the Mental Floss shop here.


10 Fascinating Facts About Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge stars in Fleabag.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge stars in Fleabag.
Amazon Studios

In just two short seasons, British sitcom Fleabag has made a lasting mark on television. The series centers around Fleabag, a 30-year-old Londoner—played by the effortlessly funny Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who also created the show—who is caught up living a life of late nights filled with booze and promiscuity in the wake of her mother’s death.

At first Fleabag appeared to be a simple half-hour comedy following the often naughty exploits of its quirky main character. Yet, as the series progressed, it quickly proved itself to be a truly masterful piece of work with each episode adding more complicated layers and darker themes to which many viewers can relate. Here are some facts about the groundbreaking comedy.

1. Fleabag began as a one-woman stage play.

It’s hard to imagine what Fleabag might look like if it were stripped of all its chaotic characters and performed as a solo show, but that’s exactly how it started. Before there was a TV show, creator/star Phoebe Waller-Bridge staged Fleabag as a one-woman play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival back in 2013. The title character addressed the audience in an hour-long, sexcapade-filled monologue, which was generally met with praise by theater critics. The TV show was created soon after, and originally premiered on BBC Three in July 2016.

2. The title of the show refers to more than just the main character.

The title Fleabag comes from a nickname given to Phoebe Waller-Bridge by her family. “It was my family nickname as far back as I can remember,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 2019. Speaking to This Morning in April 2020, Waller-Bridge also revealed a deeper meaning for the name choice (which is never actually spoken in the show).

“A fleabag motel is something that's a bit rough around the edges,” Waller-Bridge explained. "I wanted to call her that because I wanted her persona and her outside aesthetic to give the impression that she was completely in control of her life, when actually, underneath, she's not."

3. Phoebe Waller-Bridge co-founded a theater company before penning Fleabag.


L to R: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Vicky Jones, and Tuppence Middleton at London's Soho Theatre.
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

In 2007, several years before Fleabag was born, Waller-Bridge was fed up with not being able to find work, despite having graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art two years earlier. So she co-founded her own theater company, DryWhite, with her best friend Vicky Jones. DryWhite paved the way for Waller-Bridge’s 2008 debut stage performance in Roaring Trade at London’s Soho Theatre, which led to two other successful plays—Crashing and, of course, Fleabag—both of which were created by and starred Waller-Bridge, and both of which were turned into television series. DryWhite is still going strong today, bringing fresh talent out in new productions every year.

4. Isobel Waller-Bridge, Phoebe's sister, composed the Fleabag soundtrack.

The badass guitar chords played after every episode of Fleabag are composed by Isobel Waller-Bridge, Phoebe’s very talented sister. Isobel earned a bachelor's degree in Music at Edinburgh University followed by a master's degree at King's College London then additional study at the Royal Academy of Music.

Isobel has firmly established herself in the music world. Like her sister, Isobel has received several awards, including Best Composer at the Underwire Film Festival. She also composed the chorused background music for Fleabag’s second season, which perfectly fit the religious theme. Her impressive work can be heard on her SoundCloud.

5. The fourth wall breaks in Fleabag aren’t just there for comedic effect.

Fleabag’s hilarious fourth wall breaks actually serve a deeper purpose for the character, which is realized by the end of season 1. Fleabag, who is deeply suppressing grief from the loss of her mother and best friend, uses these breaks to escape her troubled reality.

By season 2, the fourth wall breaks became less of a crutch as the character became more engaged in her real life and even fell in love. By the end of the show (spoiler!), Fleabag retires from the audience altogether as she decides to face her reality going forward.

6. The “Hot Priest” role was written specifically for Andrew Scott.

Waller-Bridge worked with Irish actor Andrew Scott years before she cast him to play the role of The Priest—a.k.a. “The Hot Priest”—in Fleabag’s second season. Speaking to IndieWire in 2019, Waller-Bridge praised Scott’s acting style, saying, “there’s something really dangerous about how truthful he is as an actor … he just comes with so much complexity that your characters instantly become interesting.” Waller-Bridge wrote the part once Scott agreed to it and their perfectly tragicomic love story was born.

7. Had Andrew Scott turned the part down, a second season of Fleabag might never have happened.

Waller-Bridge was so set on getting Andrew Scott to sign on to play The Priest that she admitted a second season might not have happened if he had said no. She told IndieWire:

"Religion was already a theme in my mind from very, very early on, but I didn’t know how to distill that until I had decided on The Priest. I worried it would be too much of an obvious sort of comedy idea, that Fleabag, who you can’t imagine has ever stepped foot in a church before, that she should come up against a man of the cloth. It seems almost too comedic, too sitcom.

"But then the moment I imagined Andrew Scott in that role, and making this man complex and three-dimensional, and sort of a match for Fleabag, then I was like ‘I’ve got the show now.’ It’s all about these two and how they affect each other’s lives. I called him up before I’d even written it to see if he’d be interested in doing it, and I pitched him the idea because I think if he’d said no, I don’t know if I would have actually been able to write that part."

8. The Priest notices something about Fleabag that no other character in the show is able to see.

Andrew Scott in Fleabag (2016)
Andrew Scott stars in Fleabag.
Amazon Studios

Fleabag often breaks the fourth wall mid-conversation with characters to address the audience, until she is eventually caught in the act of doing it by The Priest—much to her, and the viewer's, surprise. Whenever things get too intense for Fleabag, she switches off, which is something the Priest notices almost right away. In a 2019 interview with IndieWire, Waller-Bridge discussed the significance of this moment between the two characters: “[S]peaking to the audience concerns the theme of loneliness, and I think that he’s able to recognize that because he’s actually able to see her.”

9. Fleabag had an alternate ending.

In 2019, Waller-Bridge revealed to The Guardian that there was an alternate ending for Fleabag, but she remained tight-lipped on what it was. At the beginning of season 2, Fleabag tells audiences this is “a love story” which, despite ending rather tragically, remains hopeful by the end as Fleabag leaves audiences behind to move forward in her own life. So Waller-Bridge can keep her alternate ending—the one viewers saw was perfect.

10. No, there will not be a third season of Fleabag.

Sian Clifford and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in 'Fleabag'
Sian Clifford and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag.
Hal Shinnie/Amazon Studios

Though Fleabag dominated the most recent awards season, winning two Golden Globes (including Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy) and six Emmy Awards (including Outstanding Comedy Series), Waller-Bridge has made it clear that there will not be a third season. Even after the second season won so many awards, Waller-Bridge said, “I haven’t changed my mind about season 3. It feels more and more about being the right decision. [These awards shows] are just beautiful goodbyes."