10 Things You Don't Know About Starbucks (But Should!)

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Getty Images

Starbucks is the coffee icon people either love or love to hate. The Seattle company opened its first shop in 1971, and all these years later, the coffee giant is still brewing up addictive drinks and venti-sized controversy across the globe. Here are 10 things you might not have known about Starbucks.

1. It Could Have Been "˜Pequods'

Nothing says marketing genius like an extremely vague literary reference. At least that was the logic of Starbucks' original founders — two teachers and a writer — who chose to name their fledgling coffee bean business after a minor character in Moby-Dick.

When the first Starbucks opened in Seattle's Pike Place Market in 1971, it didn't sell coffee drinks, just beans. The founders wanted to name the place after Captain Ahab's first mate Starbuck. Right"¦ that guy. Before that, they considered naming it after Ahab's boat, the Pequod, but changed their mind — according to a Starbucks spokesperson — when a friend tried out the tagline "Have a cup of Pequod."

2. About That Logo...

At close inspection, the Starbucks logo makes no sense. At closer inspection, it makes even less sense, plus you risk dipping your nose in frap foam.

There's some lady with long hair wearing a crown and holding what appears to be two"¦ giant salmon? Decapitated palm trees? Miniature sand worms from Beetlejuice?

Conspiracy theorists have had a field day with the cryptic image. Anti-Semitic groups have claimed that the crowned maiden is the biblical Queen Esther, proving that Starbucks is behind various Zionist plots. Others see parallels to Illuminati imagery. The real story is less about evil conspiracies than prudish graphic design.

Since Starbucks was named after a nautical character, the original Starbucks logo was designed to reflect the seductive imagery of the sea. An early creative partner dug through old marine archives until he found an image of a siren from a 16th century Nordic woodcut. She was bare-breasted, twin-tailed and simply screamed, "Buy coffee!"

In the ensuing years, Starbucks marketing types decided to tastefully cover up the mer-boobs with long hair, drop the suggestive spread-eagle tail and give the 500-year-old sea witch a youthful facelift. The result? Queen Esther at Sea World.

3. "˜Want a Kidney With That?'

For three years, Annamarie Ausnes was just another Sharpie-scrawled name on a paper cup. She would stop by the same Tacoma, Washington, Starbucks a few times a week for a morning lift and make small talk with barista Sandie Andersen. No one would have called them friends. And no one could have guessed what would happen next.

For 20 years, Ausnes had suffered from polycystic kidney disease, a rare condition that invariably ends in kidney failure. In the fall of 2007, the 55-year-old started feeling weak and her doctor confirmed that her kidneys were only operating at 15%. Any lower and she'd have to go on dialysis. Much like a barroom regular spilling his soul to the bartender, Ausnes shared her sad tale with the friendly barista Andersen, who went above and beyond the call of customer service. Andersen immediately got a blood test, and when she found out she was a match, told Ausnes that she wanted to donate her kidney. A few months later, the two women -- barista and casual professional acquaintance -- entered the Virginia Mason Medical Center to swap internal organs. The transplant was a success, leaving the only remaining question: how much of a tip do you leave for a kidney?

4. A Starbucks on Every Corner

There are over 16,700 Starbucks locations in more than 50 countries, including Wales, which we're pretty sure isn't a country (update: it is a country). During a particularly heady period in the late 1990s and early aughts, Starbucks was opening a new store every workday.

In 2008 and 2009, as millions of Starbucks customers lost their latte money — and their homes, cars and first born children — to the recession, the coffee giant was forced to shrink just a tad. It closed 771 stores worldwide and has plans to close a couple hundred more. Australia was particularly hard-hit, losing 61 of its 84 Starbucks in July 2008. At least they still have giant beer and koalas.

But before you start feeling sorry for the Seattle-based mega-company, consider this statistic gathered by Harper's magazine in 2002, confirming the nagging suspicion that Starbucks is stalking you: 68 of Manhattan's 124 Starbucks are located within two blocks (!) of another Starbucks. [Image credit: Starbucks Everywhere]

5. Hand in the Tip Jar

Back in 2008, a San Diego judge ordered Starbucks to pay back $86 million in tips (plus interest) to over 100,000 of its California baristas. For years, Starbucks had a policy of spreading the tip jar love among all employees, even shift supervisors. The cash and coins (and occasional Skittles) were pooled weekly and divvied out according to how many hours the employee had clocked, adding up to an extra $1.71 an hour.

An ex-barista filed a class-action suit in 2006 citing that supervisors aren't entitled to tips under California law. The Super Court judge agreed, and dropped the $105 million bomb on Starbucks in a curt four-paragraph ruling. Starbucks called the suit "fundamentally unfair and beyond all common sense and reason," citing the fact that supervisors also make coffee and serve customers.

In a rare win for corporate American (ahem), the judge's ruling was reversed a year later by the Court of Appeals, who agreed that supervisors "essentially perform the same job as baristas." Just don't tell that to their girlfriends.

6. Who's "˜So Vain' Now?

Carly Simon is famous for her transparently personal "you-done-me-wrong" ballads in which unnamed exes like Cat Stevens and James Taylor drag her heart through the dirt. But few people expected the 64-year-old crooner to lavish the same overwrought emotion on Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks.

In 2009, Simon filed a lawsuit against Starbucks, claiming the coffee chain had failed to adequately promote her album This Kind of Love, produced and distributed by Starbucks' house label, Hear Music. But before she called her lawyer, Simon sent a series of handwritten notes to CEO Schultz, including the following quasi-Haiku quoted in the New York Times: "Howard, Fraud is the creation of Faith/ And then the betrayal. Carly."

For its part, Starbucks said it stocked Simon's CD at over 7,000 stores, put it on heavy rotation in the droning Starbucks soundtrack and even kept the slow-selling album on the shelves way past its expiration date just to be "nice." In the end, it was Starbucks' vice president of brand content Chris Bruzzo who ended up sounding like a Carly Simon song:

"We're very disappointed that Carly has decided to file this suit because we worked very hard and put a lot of time, and energy, and effort from the music team and thousands of stores behind giving this album its best shot in finding its audience," Bruzzo said. Put a samba beat to that and he's got something.

7. "˜Forbidden' Latte

When a Starbucks affiliate opened a 200-square-foot coffee stand inside the walls of China's Forbidden City in 2000, the proud nation of 1.3 billion reacted as if someone had spilled a Venti Caramel Macchiato on its collective crotch.

A nationwide survey found that 70% of Chinese thought that a coffee shop had no business in the 600-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site. A news anchor on China's state-run television even led an online protest to the caffeinated intruder, saying that Starbucks "undermined the Forbidden City's solemnity and trampled over Chinese culture."

Turns out that Starbucks only opened the mini-outpost at the invitation of Forbidden City Museum officials who were "testing the waters" for more commercial interests in the 178-acre site. The test concluded that the waters were teeming with coffee-hating Chinese sharks. In 2007, the Forbidden City Starbucks (OK, that does sound a little funny) closed its tiny bamboo doors.

8. Undercover Bux

The owner of Victrola Coffee Roasters in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle knew something was brewing when a team of known Starbucks employees started hanging out at his shop and scribbling notes into a conspicuous folder labeled "OBSERVATIONS."

A few months later, the Starbucks outlet down the street closed up for renovations. The "slutty mermaid" sign came down and a new one went up: 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea. Did someone actually buy out a Starbucks in Seattle? Was this a rare victory for little coffee? What do you think?

This was Starbucks being Starbucks without being Starbucks. The hope is that brand-averse hipsters will ignore the obvious Starbuckiness of the new store and concentrate on the new wine and beer selection (inspired by Victrola). Plans are in the works for additional stealth Starbucks in Seattle.

9. Reading Material

Back in the '90s, Starbucks tried to sell a paper version of Microsoft's online magazine Slate, which nobody read. In 1997, it started stocking selections from Oprah's Book Club, which nobody bought. And in 1999, it tried to publish its very own literary magazine called Joe, a convincingly high-brow, well-written, stylish rag that only lasted three issues.

10. The Starbucks-Peet's Connection

Remember the first time you saw The Empire Strikes Back? Luke's right hand goes hurdling down that bottomless vent thingy, he's holding on for his life, and Vader is going on about the power of the Dark Side. Then he drops the shocker-to-end-all-shockers: "I am your father." NOOOOOOOOOOO!

All you Peet's Coffee & Tea fans are about to have your own one-hand Luke moment. Back in 1970, Starbucks co-founder Jerry Baldwin worked at the original Berkeley location of Peet's, the creator of the American specialty coffee concept. When Baldwin and his buddies Zev Siegel and Gordon Bowker decided to open their own coffee shop in Seattle in 1971, they bought all their raw beans from Alfred Peet.

But here's the kicker. Baldwin actually bought Peet's in 1984, then he sold Starbucks in 1987. He was the chairman of Peet's until 2001 when the store went public and he became the director. In other words, "Peet's, I am your father!"

So if you're one of those people who hates Starbucks and loves Peet's Coffee & Tea or one of those people who hates Peet's and loves the bux, it turns out you're only hating yourself.

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20 Crafty Facts About Beastie Boys

L to R: Beastie Boys Ad-Rock (Adam Horowitz), MCA (Adam Yauch), and Mike D (Michael Diamond) pose in Portugal 1998.
L to R: Beastie Boys Ad-Rock (Adam Horowitz), MCA (Adam Yauch), and Mike D (Michael Diamond) pose in Portugal 1998.
Martyn Goodacre/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When a group has been around as long as Beastie Boys—particularly a band that has made such an indelible impact on popular music—every person’s connection to them is likely to be very different, and very specific. I wasn’t a huge fan of Licensed To Ill (1986) as a kid and missed the Paul’s Boutique (1989) heyday by just a few years, so my first strong memory of them was navigating Check Your Head while my parents succumbed to Parental Advisory paranoia and confiscated the CD to “protect me” from the band's corrupting influence. But it was too late. By the time mom and dad started fretting over the trio’s infrequent, and innocuous, f-bombs, I had already become a diehard fan, infected (like so many others) by their uniquely intoxicating combination of rap, funk, and punk that wasn’t just fun and exciting to listen to but self-referential, self-reflective, and actively inspiring.

Of course, they also had bars and absolute bangers. (“Intergalactic” will always and forever leave a smoldering crater on any dance floor.) But after disbanding in 2012 following the untimely death of Adam "MCA" Yauch from parotid cancer, remaining members Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz and Michael "Mike D" Diamond have spent the past few years reflecting on their experiences as a group—first with the exceptional Beastie Boys Book, and then with the Spike Jonze-directed Beastie Boys Story, a kinda-sorta live recitation/performance of key moments from their career. Between those two projects, they offered some intimate and unprecedented insights into the journey the three of them went on to become one of the most important and influential hip-hop bands in the history of the genre.

1. Beastie Boys originally wasn’t just a name, it was an acronym.

Beastie Boys formed in New York City in 1981 as a hardcore punk band. The name stood for “Boys Entering Anarchistic States Towards Inner Excellence,” which made no sense with a second “Boys” tacked on at the end. (They subsequently admitted that the acronym was invented after coming up with the name.) It also was immediately inaccurate, since the founding members included Adam Yauch, Michael Diamond, John Berry, and their female drummer Kate Schellenbach.

2. Beastie Boys’s first hip-hop single was basically a prank call set to music.

Released in 1983, “Cooky Puss” marked the first appearance of Adam Horovitz on a Beastie Boys recording. The single became an underground hit in New York City clubs, earning them minor renown and establishing a path incorporating hip-hop into their sets.

3. A lawsuit earned Beastie Boys their first real money as musicians.

“Beastie Revolution” the B-side of "Cooky Puss," earned Beastie Boys their first real income as a group when British Airways sampled the song in a television ad without the band's permission. A lawyer successfully sued the airline for $40,000, which was enough for the band to rent an apartment together in Manhattan's Chinatown, which they used as both living and recording space.

4. There’s a good chance you’ve never heard "Rock Hard," Beastie Boys’s first single as a full-fledged rap group.

After hiring NYU student and future Def Jam Records co-founder Rick Rubin as their DJ—based purely on his dorm room speaker set-up, which included a bubble machine—Beastie Boys began recording rap music in earnest, inspired by early genre luminaries like the Funky 4 + 1. In addition to dropping Schellenbach as their drummer—an insensitive decision the band later regretted—the guys yielded to Rubin’s expertise as a producer with just one other single (T La Rock’s “It’s Yours”) under his belt.

For “Rock Hard,” Rubin sampled AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” which was subsequently withdrawn because they hadn’t sought permission. Decades later, the Beasties appealed directly to Angus Young for the rights to sample the song to add to their 1999 compilation The Sounds Of Science, but Young again refused.

5. Beastie Boys got into trouble on more than one occasion with their music sampling.

“Rock Hard” marked the first—but certainly not the last—time Beastie Boys ran into trouble with sampling. (More on this later.) But during the same period, they recorded the song “I’m Down,” which featured a Beatles sample, but given Michael Jackson’s ownership of the Fab Four’s catalog, they were similarly rebuffed. (A single featuring “I’m Down” and “Drum Machine,” a track credited to “MCA & Burzootie,” was unofficially released in 2007.)

6. Beastie Boys opened for Madonna during 1985's "The Virgin Tour."

Beastie Boys at the West 42nd Street subway station in Times Square in 1986.
Beastie Boys at the West 42nd Street subway station in Times Square in 1986.
Michel Delsol/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Beastie Boys became tour mates with the Queen of Pop after her manager contacted Def Jam Records looking for Run-D.M.C. to open for her Virgin Tour. Run-D.M.C. charged too much. After label chief Russell Simmons told Madonna’s management that their second choice, The Fat Boys, were unavailable (even though Simmons never managed the Fat Boys), he volunteered Beastie Boys for the sum of $500 per week. They spent most of that time antagonizing Madonna’s teenage fan base with raucous, sophomoric stage hijinks, while recording the final tracks on their debut album, Licensed to Ill.

7. Licensed to Ill became Beastie Boys's calling card—and, almost as quickly, an albatross around the band's neck.

With Licensed to Ill, Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin wanted to capitalize on the novelty of a full-length rap album by one of the few (if only) white performers in the genre. To create it, Beastie Boys threw themselves into a misogynistic, lunk-headed frat boy perspective they initially targeted for ridicule, not celebration. But “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)” became an anthem for exactly the kind of people they were trying to make fun of, and their subsequent 1987 tour was heavily populated by exactly those kinds of drunken louts. A stage set-up featuring a giant inflatable penis and go-go cages filled with girls also didn’t dissuade critics from thinking they endorsed the lifestyle chronicled on their record. By the time they realized how far they had strayed from their satirical intentions, Beastie Boys had become worldwide rock stars.

8. Beastie Boys broke up after Licensed to Ill—but they didn’t know it.

Disillusioned by their own success with a record they’d come to dislike, the band was slow to begin recording a follow-up for Def Jam—especially after they realized they allegedly hadn’t earned any money at all from it, despite selling what would add up to more than 9 million copies over the next three and a half decades. Simmons claimed they breached their contract to record new music even though he had encouraged them to keep touring, which in turn kept them from recording new material. After the end of their final Licensed to Ill-related tour dates, the Boys went their separate ways, thinking it was just a break. But after they reconnected at the beginning of the recording process for Paul’s Boutique, Yauch told Diamond and Horovitz that he’d actually quit the band temporarily without telling them.

9. Adam Horovitz attempted to launch an acting career.

During the time after Licensed to Ill, Horovitz moved to Los Angeles and attempted to embark on an acting career (not counting his performances as a member of Beastie Boys in Krush Groove and the Run-D.M.C. vehicle Tougher Than Leather). He co-starred opposite Donald Sutherland and Amy Locane in the now-lost Lost Angels. In 2015, Horovitz told GQ that he hadn't seen the film since it screened at Cannes in 1989—and had no interest in seeing it again. He hasn't given up on acting entirely; he has taken on small roles in the intervening years, including a part in Noah Baumbach's While We're Young (2014).

10. Beastie Boys expected Paul’s Boutique to be their comeback. It wasn’t.

One very positive thing did come out of the time Horovitz spent in Los Angeles: He invited Diamond and Yauch to visit, and the three of them met Mike Simpson and John King, hip-hop producers for the Delicious Vinyl record label who employed computers for pioneering sampling techniques. The trio immediately fell in love with their sound and hired them to create the musical backdrop for Paul's Boutique, their 1989 follow-up to Licensed to Ill.

Contrary to popular belief, clearing all 105 samples used on the album (including 24 on the final track “B-Boy Bouillabaisse”) was relatively easy. But even if they were thrilled by the dense sonic tapestry that accompanied their evolving lyrics, fans weren’t immediately taken by the record. Opinion has changed over time though; today, Paul's Boutique is considered a masterpiece—both as a musical endeavor and a technical marvel.

11. Check Your Head catapulted Beastie Boys back to the top of the charts—and inspired a new creative freedom.

Prior to Paul’s Boutique, Beastie Boys signed a multi-album contract with Capitol Records. So even when their comeback fizzled, Capitol was obligated to give them money for another record. They used their advance to create G-Son Studios in the then-sleepy Los Angeles neighborhood of Atwater Village, where they not only had equipment and record space but a basketball hoop and a skateboarding half pipe.

Though they played on their earliest recordings, they really learned—and in many cases, taught themselves—to play the instruments on Check Your Head. The various influences of their adolescence, from hip-hop to punk to funk, pushed them to experiment and combine these sounds into what became a watershed moment for rap and rock reaching tenuous harmony.

12. Beastie Boys's creative endeavors during their time in Los Angeles weren’t only musical.

Mike Diamond, Adam Yauch and Adam Horovitz in 1993 from an archival photo used in “Beastie Boys Story,”
Mike Diamond, Adam Yauch, and Adam Horovitz circa 1993 in a still from Apple TV+'s Beastie Boys Story (2020).
Apple TV+

Around the same time they were recording Check Your Head, Beastie Boys created Grand Royal, a record label that allowed them to release music by artists they liked—starting with Luscious Jackson, an all-female rock/rap band featuring their former drummer Kate Schellenbach.

Over the next decade, they created Grand Royal Magazine, where they evidently officially coined the term mullet; launched the clothing label X-Large (whose name makes it really difficult to find vintage articles on eBay); and founded the New York-based publicity firm Nasty Little Man. After the release of Ill Communication, Yauch mounted the two-day Tibetan Freedom Concert, the biggest benefit concert since 1985’s Live Aid.

13. Beastie Boys helped usher in the Internet era for their fans (or at least people who went to their shows).

In the early 1990s, a computer programmer named Ian Rogers created a website (on the pre-World Wide Web) to answer questions and explore trivia about Beastie Boys. Within a few years, his little FAQ site became the definitive resource for all things related to the band. After launching Grand Royal Magazine, the band decided to make the out-of-print first issue available for free online and reached out to Rogers to have him help them.

Rogers initially turned them (and the money their label offered) down. But the Beasties persisted, and soon enough, he had created an official site where the band could publish information and updates—you know, all the stuff that every band does now. During their tour in 1995, Beastie Boys handed out floppy disks to ticket buyers (a decision they came to regret because people would throw them on stage during their performances). But their forward-thinking efforts to preserve their own legacy would become the standard for anyone creating their identity on the net for decades to come.

14. Spike Jonze directed "Sabotage," which is regularly cited as one of the best music videos of all-time.

Mike Diamond, Spike Jonze and Adam Yauch prepare for the “Sabotage” music video in a scene from “Beastie Boys Story,”
Mike Diamond, Spike Jonze, and Adam Yauch prepare to shoot the “Sabotage” music video in a scene from Apple TV+'s Beastie Boys Story.
Apple TV+

In 1994, Oscar-winning filmmaker—and frequent Beastie Boys collaborator—Spike Jonze directed the video for "Sabotage." The video, an anarchic parody of ‘70s cops shows that perfectly complemented the song’s energy, was shot around Los Angeles with no permits. “[W]e just ran around L.A. without any permits and made everything up as we went along,” Yauch told New York Magazine. Even today, more than 25 years after its original debut, "Sabotage" is regularly cited as one of the greatest music videos ever made.

15. Several Beastie Boys videos were directed by Nathanial Hörnblowér, Adam Yauch's alter ego.

Sabotage” marked a transition point for the band as they regained the success they had during their Licensed to Ill days, except on their own terms. The music video cemented their superstardom and brought Yauch's alter ego, Nathanial Hörnblowér, into the spotlight. When "Sabotage" lost the award for Best Direction to R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" at the 1994 MTV Music Video Awards, Hörnblowér stormed the stage to express his outrage (as a very confused Michael Stipe looked on). The official story is that Hörnblowér is Yauch's uncle from Switzerland. The real story is that Hörnblowér is a pseudonym for Yauch which he first enlisted on Paul’s Boutique (he created the cover art).

16. According to the band, Hello Nasty is Beastie Boys's best album.

If Check Your Head and Ill Communication felt like two parts of the same creative workflow, 1998's Hello Nasty—which is named for how the phone was answered at Beastie Boys's New York-based PR firm—marked the full realization of the band's independence and imagination. Long, weird, and fearless, the album effortlessly shuffles from booming dance floor fillers to introspective instrumentals, feeling entirely unrestrained and free for the first time. "Hello Nasty is our best record," Ad-Rock wrote in Beastie Boys Book then included a list of all the reasons why, including the fact that: “It has the song 'Intergalactic,' and that song is the f***in’ jam, right?!”

17. According to the band, To The 5 Boroughs is not their best album.

To the 5 Boroughs, Beastie Boys's follow-up to the Grammy Award-winning Hello Nasty, arrived in 2004, and it arrived with both some counterproductive restrictions and some heavy personal baggage. A planned tour with Rage Against the Machine was canceled after Mike D broke his collarbone in a bike accident, and by the time he healed, Rage had broken up. A year or more ensued with the Boys just living life, growing up, engaging in more ordinary adult activities. 9/11 and the cultural fallout affected the recording of the album, right down to the title, but Yauch initiated the process of recording insisting that the album be all rap—meaning no instrumentals or digressions like they’d done in the past.

“A good path to creating something mediocre is having rigid rules for what you’re making,” Horovitz wrote in Beastie Boys Book. The combination of these “rules,” and an effort to make something more “serious” and politically-minded, might have hobbled what remains a record with some amazing moments but nothing fully coherent.

18. Hot Sauce Committee was originally named for Elvis Presley's driver.

Rebounding from To The 5 Boroughs, Beastie Boys decided to swing in the opposite direction for their next album and record an album of all instrumentals. The result was The Mix-Up, which they toured while wearing suits like an old-school funk band. Moving forward after that album, which netted them a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album, they started work on a follow-up, a two-part opus that would bring their eclectic style full circle one more time. Though it became known as Hot Sauce Committee, one prospective title was Tadlock’s Glasses, which referred to Tadlock, one of their tour bus drivers, who worked for Elvis Presley. Presley gifted Tadlock a pair of gold-framed glasses that became a prized possession.

19. It will be tough for crate diggers to find the original albums that went into Hot Sauce Committee.

Hot Sauce Committee was conceived as a collage of samples from records that didn’t exist, which meant they would play instrumentals in different styles, then cut them up in a computer and combine them to feel like samples—even though the original “sources” didn’t actually exist. (In Beastie Boys Book, you can see some of the fictional albums they sampled, as they created fictional artists and titles and even designed cover images.) Ultimately, only Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2 came out, because the band actually lost the recordings for Pt. 1 on a train. (If anyone finds it, let us know!)

20. There’s a reason you haven’t heard Beastie Boys’s music more since 2012—and it’s not (just) because they disbanded.

Beastie Boys Mike D (left) and Adam Yauch leaving their hotel in London in 1987.
Beastie Boys Mike D (left) and Adam Yauch leaving their hotel in London in 1987.
Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Following Adam Yauch's death on May 4, 2012, the band effectively disbanded. (There is evidently some music recorded in 2011 that may one day see the light of day, but nothing yet.) Yauch’s will expressly forbid the use of any Beastie Boys music in advertising of any kind, in perpetuity. What this means is that companies cannot use a Beastie Boys song in their commercials.

Ad-Rock and Mike D have continued to record and produce music in the years since Yauch's passing, but they honor his legacy and their longtime partnership by refusing to ever perform again as Beastie Boys without him.