Why Do Awards Shows Have a Red Carpet?

Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images
Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images

For the world premiere of the action-adventure film Robin Hood on October 18, 1922, Sid Grauman—owner of Los Angeles's Egyptian Theatre—decided he would embellish the spectacle of seeing stars like Douglas Fairbanks arrive by having them walk on a red carpet. Grauman had workers unfurl the carpet outside the theater on Hollywood Boulevard. It wasn’t just the first time a premiere had used such an adornment—it was the first movie premiere, period.

Grauman probably didn’t realize it at the time, but his selection of color would be imitated at other premieres before being adopted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1961. At that year’s Oscars ceremony, attendees walked a red carpet to arrive at the auditorium, a parade of glamour and social status that might be the closest thing the United States has to a royal class. When the arrivals started airing on television in 1964—and the carpet’s color was telecast for the first time for those owning a color set in 1966—red carpets and Hollywood became intertwined.

Workers unroll the red carpet at the 2017 Academy Awards
Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images

If Grauman inspired the Academy, who or what inspired Grauman? According to cultural historian Amy Anderson, he was following in the footsteps of those who considered a red carpet synonymous with wealth, power, and status. In 458 BCE, the play Agamemnon portrayed a king invited to walk a “crimson path” by his calculating wife tired of her husband’s violent ways. In the 15th century, the Aztecs and Mayans considered scarlet-colored carpeting to be a symbol of prosperity, with the dye (made from the cochineal insect) considered a rare and valuable commodity. Like an expensive car or watch, a red carpet implies luxury.

Of more recent history for Grauman was the use of a red carpet for the New York Central Railroad in the early 1900s. Passengers were guided by the path and used it to navigate toward their boarding entrances. He may have even heard that President James Monroe was reportedly invited to walk a red carpet when he got off a riverboat in Georgetown, South Carolina in 1821.

The tradition has become more elaborate than ever. At the annual Academy Awards ceremony, carpet vendors Signature Systems Group will unroll 50,000 square feet of carpet, working a total of 900 man-hours to make sure the 900-foot-long, 33-foot-wide path is ready to be walked upon by the cast of Blade Runner 2049.

Those within a few feet of it might realize the iconic red carpet is not actually red: Signature representatives say it’s more of a burgundy.

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What Happens During a Jeopardy! Commercial Break?

Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek chats with the show's contestants.
Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek chats with the show's contestants.
Getty Images Entertainment

Jennifer Quail:

Typical Break One: First, if there are "pickups" (re-recordings where Alex misspoke or coughed or stuttered, or Johnny mispronounced someone’s name or hometown) to record, they do those. A stagehand brings water bottles for the contestants. The production team who wrangles contestants comes over and gives their pep talk, makes any corrections, like if someone is consistently buzzing early; and keeps you quiet if there are pickups. Alex gets the cards with the "fun facts" (there are about three, one highlighted, but which one he goes for is ultimately up to Alex alone) and when the crew is ready, they come back from commercial to Alex’s chat with the contestants.

Typical Break Two: If there are any pickups from the second half of the Jeopardy! round they do those, the water gets distributed, the production team reminds the contestants how Double Jeopardy! works and that there’s still lots of money out there to win, and Alex comes over to take a picture with the two challengers (the champion will have had their picture taken during their first match.) Then we come back to Double Jeopardy!.

Typical Third Break: This is the big one. There are pickups, water, etc. and they activate the section of the screen where you write your wager. One of the team members brings you a half-sheet of paper ... and you work out what you want to bet. One of your "wranglers" checks it, as does another production team member, to make sure it’s legible and when you’re sure that’s what you want, you lock it in. At that point you can’t change it. They take away the scratch paper and the part of the board where you write your answer is unlocked. Someone will tell you to write either WHO or WHAT in the upper left corner, so you do know at least whether it’s a person or thing. They make sure the "backup card" (a piece of card stock sitting on your podium) is turned to the correct who or what side, just in case your touchscreen fails. If everything’s ready, then as soon as the crew says, they come back and Final Jeopardy! starts.

There are breaks you don’t [even know about, too]. If there is a question about someone’s final answer, they will actually stop tape while the research team checks. Sometimes if something goes really off, like Alex completely misreads a category during the start of a round, they’ll stop and pick it up immediately. Those [are breaks] you’ll never notice because they’ll be completely edited out.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

Why Is There a Leap Day?

Bychykhin_Olexandr/iStock via Getty Images
Bychykhin_Olexandr/iStock via Getty Images

At some point in elementary school, your science teacher probably explained to you that there are 365 days in a year because that’s how long it takes for Earth to complete one full rotation around the sun. What they might not have specified, however, is that it’s not exactly 365 days—it’s actually closer to 365.2421 days.

So, if we want our calendar year to begin right when Earth begins a new rotation around the sun, we have to account for (roughly) an extra quarter of a day each year, or one day every four years. History.com reports that the Egyptians had already been doing this for a while before Europe finally caught on in 46 B.C.E., when Roman dictator Julius Caesar and astronomer Sosigenes put their heads together to come up with what we now call the Julian calendar, which includes 12 months, 365 days, and an additional “leap day” every four years on February 29.

But rounding 0.2421 up to 0.25 each year created an issue, because it didn’t quite add up to a full day every four years—and that tiny discrepancy meant that after 128 years, the calendar year ended up starting a day before Earth had completed its rotation around the sun. By the 14th century, the calendar year was starting a whopping 10 days before Earth finished its orbit.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII sought to correct the error by suggesting that we simply skip a leap day every so often. His Gregorian calendar, which we still use today, mandates that we omit the leap day during years evenly divisible by 100 but not by 400. For instance, the year 2000 included a leap day because it’s divisible by 100 and 400; the year 2100, on the other hand, will not include a leap day, since it’s evenly divisible by 100, but not by 400.

Gregory XIII’s correction to Caesar’s overcorrection is itself a bit of an under-correction, so we’ll probably need to reevaluate our leap day protocol again in about 10,000 years.

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