15 Fun Facts About Midnight Madness

Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures

If you were alive during the first half of the 1980s and lucky enough to have access to HBO, you’ll need no convincing that fagabeefe is indeed a word and will have no problem completing the following jock chant: "M-E-A-T…"

For those of you who are stumped, it’s "M-A-C-H-I-N-E," the battle cry of the muscle-headed green team. They're one of five teams competing against four other color-coded player groups (each one its own stereotype) in an all-night scavenger hunt known as Midnight Madness. Alan Solomon portrayed Leon, the character who coordinated the contest as the "Game Master" and slowly garnered the interest of everyone else in his apartment building, who cheered on the five teams. Here are 15 fun facts about the cult comedy film classic, which was released on February 8, 1980.

1. Midnight Madness was Michael J. Fox's feature film debut.

Michael J. Fox, Debra Clinger, David Damas, Joel Kenney, and David Naughton in Midnight Madness (1980)
David Naughton, David Damas, Joel Kenney, Michael J. Fox, and Debra Clinger in Midnight Madness (1980).
Walt Disney Pictures

Though he'd portrayed roles on scattered TV shows and made-for-TV movies since an episode of The Beachcombers back in 1973, Midnight Madness marked the soon-to-be-teen-heartthrob’s first appearance on the big screen. It was so early in Fox’s career, in fact, that he wasn’t even using the “J.” yet. He’s simply Michael Fox (just a couple years before the film’s release, he was Mike Fox).

2. Midnight Madness was based on a real thing.

The film is based on a real all-night scavenger hunt, which graphic designer Don Luskin staged in Los Angeles for the first time in 1973.

3. Midnight Madness inspired a number of alernate reality games.

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The most famous among them is probably Microsoft VP Joe Belfiore’s The Game. He started it as a high school student in Clearwater, Florida, before moving it to Stanford University and then to Seattle when he began working for Microsoft. During a TED Talk about The Game in 2004, Belfiore made all of the audience members’ cell phones ring. (Top that, Leon!)

4. David Naughton was promoting Dr Pepper at the time.

Walt Disney Pictures

Product placement in movies is nothing new, so David Naughton gulping down a bottle of Dr Pepper shouldn’t seem suspicious. What is curious—or, perhaps, coincidental—is that Naughton just so happened to be the soft drink’s pitchman. He spent four years singing, dancing, and making us believe that “I’m a Pepper, You’re a Pepper.” He lost the job a year later after delving into R-rated fare, notably the 1981 John Landis classic An American Werewolf in London.

5. Paul Reubens had a small (but memorable) role in Midnight Madness.

Paul Reubens played the proprietor of Pinball City, who has a very distinct way of making change (there’s gunplay involved). It was one of four big-screen appearances for Reubens that year, including Pee-wee Herman’s first on-screen gig in Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie. It was a busy year for Reubens; he launched The Pee-Wee Herman Show as a live stage show in 1980, too.

6. Midnight Madness was a Disney movie, but no one really knew that.

Because Disney was only known for its kiddie fare, the studio opted to keep its association with the film rather quiet. Their trepidation being that the teenage audience for which the movie was intended might be turned off by the fact that it came from Mickey Mouse’s house. Midnight Madness was only the second PG-rated film released by the studio (the first was The Black Hole).

7. Winnie the Pooh's buddy Piglet plays Leon's neighbor in Midnight Madness.

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At least the man who voiced Piglet—John Fiedler—was. Fiedler portrayed Wally Thorpe, one of Leon's apartment neighbors who gets caught up in the action of the treasure hunt. Other faces you might recognize in the film include Dirk Blocker (son of Dan "Hoss Cartwright" Blocker) and J. Brennan Smith, who portrayed Englebert in the TV version of The Bad News Bears..

8. Midnight Madness's working title was The All Night Treasure Hunt.

The title was changed to Midnight Madness so that the film wouldn’t be confused with 1979’s Scavenger Hunt. But it didn’t seem to concern the producers that actor Stephen Furst starred in both films.

9. The yellow team's Jeep in Midnight Madness isn't a Jeep at all.

The yellow team can call their ride a Jeep all they want. It’s not. It’s a Toyota Land Cruiser.

10. Maude Flanders is the leader of the red team in Midnight Madness.

Maggie Roswell—who has voiced a number of characters on The Simpsons, including Maude Flanders and Helen Lovejoy—plays the mouthy leader of the all-girl red team. The movie marked her feature film debut.

11. A Midnight Madness book followed the movie.

In 1980, the movie got novelized, courtesy of author T.M. Wright.

12. Diablo Cody is a major Midnight Madness fan.

A photo of Diablo Cody
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The Oscar-winning screenwriter included Midnight Madness in her lineup of favorite films when she took over programming at Los Angeles’ New Beverly Cinema (which Quentin Tarantino owns) for two weeks in 2008, an event dubbed “Mondo Diablo.” She even managed to persuade a few cast and crewmembers to take part in a Q&A.

13. Heltah Skeltah dug Midnight Madness, too.

Brooklyn-based rap duo sampled the film’s catchier-than-it-should-be theme in their song, “Midnight Madness.”

14. The Bonaventure Hotel only has 35 floors.

Elevators are deployed as the teams race to be the first ones to cross the finish line, which they only know is “somewhere ... in the Bonaventure Hotel.” The only problem is that while the elevator panel in the movie offers guests 51 floors from which to choose, the real Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites in Los Angeles is only 35 stories tall.

15. You really can look between the two giant melons.

It’s just not going to happen at Johnie’s Fat Boy, because the restaurant never existed. The historic restaurant that was used as one of the scavenger hunt’s more memorable locations (especially if you were into double entendre and busty waitresses) was Johnie’s Broiler in Downey, California, part of which was illegally demolished in 2007. Fortunately, the fine folks at Bob’s Big Boy Broiler stepped in and saved the landmark eatery.

11 Fascinating Facts About Mad Max

Mel Gibson stars in George Miller's Mad Max (1979).
Mel Gibson stars in George Miller's Mad Max (1979).
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

What began as director George Miller's ambitious action film about a solitary cop (Mel Gibson) on a mission to take down a violent biker gang has evolved into a post-apocalyptic sensory overload of a franchise that now has four films to its credit—Mad Max (1979), The Road Warrior (1981), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)—and additional sequels in the works. So let's obsess over Miller’s masterpieces even more with these 11 things you might not know about the franchise.

1. Director George Miller worked as a doctor to raise money for Mad Max.

Mel Gibson in Mad Max (1979)
Mel Gibson in Mad Max (1979).
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Since the film only had a budget of $350,000, Miller scraped together extra money as an emergency room doctor to keep the movie going. “It was very low budget and we ran out of money for editing and post-production, so I spent a year editing the film by myself in our kitchen, while Byron Kennedy did the sound,” Miller told CraveOnline. “And then working as an emergency doctor on the weekends to earn money to keep going. I’d got my best friend, and friends of friends of friends of his, and Byron ditto, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, we made a film and it won’t cut together and we’re going to lose all their money.’”

Miller’s medical training is all over the film: Max Rockatansky is named after physician Carl von Rokitansky, a pathologist who created the Rokitansky procedure, a method for removing organs in an autopsy.

2. Mel Gibson went to the Mad Max audition to accompany his friend, not for the part.

Gibson was black and blue after a recent brawl with “half a rugby team” when his friend asked him to drop him off at his Mad Max audition. Because the agency was also casting “freaks,” they took pictures of Gibson, who was simply waiting around, and asked him to come back when he healed. When he did, Miller gave him the role on the spot. In a clip for Scream Factory, Gibson recalled the moment: “It was real weird. [Miller] said, ‘Can you memorize this?’ and it was like two pages of dialogue with a big speech and stuff. I was like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ I went into the other room and just got a gist of what it was and I came out and just ad-libbed what I could remember. I guess they bought it.”

3. George Miller paid Mad Max crew members in beer.

With barely enough money to finish the original film, Miller offered to pay ambulance drivers, a tractor driver, and some of the bikers on set with “slabs” (Australian for a case of 24 cans) of beer, according to The Guardian.

4. Real-life motorcycle club the Vigilanties played Toecutter’s gang for Mad Max.

Forget the money required to train stuntmen; Miller and crew hired real bikers to professionally ride into production. In an interview with Motorcyclist Online, actor Tim Burns said about working with them: “[The Vigilanties] all wanted to ride the bikes as fast as possible, as often as possible, by their nature. Their riding was individually and collectively superb.” Additionally, stuntman Dale Bensch, a member of The Vigilanties, recalled seeing the ad for the shoot at a local bike shop, and took a moment to clarify a mishap that had happened during production. Bensch said, “There’s an urban myth that a stuntman was killed, and that was me. The scariest thing was dropping the bike on that bridge. They took the speedo and tach off because they didn’t want to damage more than they had to. They wet the surface to make it easier, but I hung onto the bike too long and it flipped me over with it; that’s why it looked bad. But it’s a famous scene, so it worked out all right!”

5. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior was inspired by the oil crises of the 1970s.

During an interview with The Daily Beast, Miller discussed the making of The Road Warrior. Of its inspiration, he said, “I’d lived in a very lovely and sedate city in Melbourne, and during OPEC and the extreme oil crisis—where the only people who could get any gas were emergency workers, firemen, hospital staff, and police—it took 10 days in this really peaceful city for the first shot to be fired, so I thought, ‘What if this happened over 10 years?’”

6. Mel Gibson only had 16 lines of dialogue in The Road Warrior.

Upon Fury Road’s release in 2015, social media lit up with complaints that Tom Hardy was underutilized, only there to grunt and utter a couple of one-liners. But just to remind you, in Mad Max 2, Mel Gibson only has 16 lines of dialogue in The Road Warrior.

On his use of sparse dialogue, Miller told The New York Times, “Hitchcock had this wonderful saying: ‘I try to make films where they don’t have to read the subtitles in Japan.’ And that was what I tried to do in Mad Max 1, and I’m still trying to do that three decades later with Fury Road.”

7. Mel Gibson says The Road Warrior is his favorite movie in the original trilogy.

Once upon a time Mel Gibson enthusiastically spoke about Beyond Thunderdome, telling Rolling Stone, "[The films are] a sort of cinematic equivalent to rock music. It's something to do with the nihilistic sentiments of the music of the ’80s—which can't continue. I say, let's get back to romanticism. And this film [Thunderdome] is actually doing that. It's using that nihilism as a vehicle, I think, to get back to romance.”

Years later, he told Playboy what he really thought of the films, namely that The Road Warrior was his favorite. “It still holds up because it’s so basic,” Gibson said. “It’s about energy—it didn’t spare anyone: people flying under wheels, a girl gets it, a dog gets it, everybody gets it. It was the first Mad Max, but done better. The third one didn’t work at all.”

8. Beyond Thunderdome was inspired by Lord Of The Flies.

Mel Gibson and Tina Turner in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).
Mel Gibson and Tina Turner in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).
Warner Home Video

Even though Miller and his producers were on the fence about a third Mad Max, they couldn’t help but give in. "George was sitting and talking to me about … quantum mechanics, I think," Miller’s co-writer Terry Hayes recalled to Rolling Stone. "The theory of the oscillating universe. You could say he's got a broad range of interests. And I said something about ‘Well, if there was ever a Mad Max III ...' And he said, 'Well, if there was ...'"

In a 1985 interview with Time Out, Miller recalled the story himself. “We were talking one day and Terry Hayes started talking about mythology and how where people are short on knowledge, they tend to be very big on belief. In other words, they take a few fragments of knowledge and, if you take like the Aboriginal tribes of Australia, they just take simple empirical information and using those little bits of the jigsaw construct very elaborate mythological beliefs, which explain the whole universe,” Miller said. “Terry was saying if you had a tribe of kids after the apocalypse who had only a few fragments of knowledge, [they would construct] a mythological belief as to what was before. And what would happen if Max or someone like that [came in] ... and it kicked off the idea of kids who were Lord of the Flies-type kids, and that led to this story.”

9. Tina Turner was cast in Beyond Thunderdome because of her positive persona.

According to Rolling Stone, Tina Turner beat out Jane Fonda and Lindsay Wagner for the role of Aunty Entity. On her casting, Miller told Time Out, “One of the main reasons we cast Tina Turner is that she’s perceived as being a fairly positive persona. You don’t think of Tina Turner as someone dark. You think of the core of Tina Turner being basically a positive thing. And that’s what we wanted. We felt that she might be more tragic in that sense. But more importantly [when] we actually wrote the character, as a shorthand way of describing the character we said someone ‘like Tina Turner’—without even thinking of casting her. We wanted a woman ... we wanted someone who had a lot of power, charisma, someone who would hold a place like that together—or build it in the first place. And we wanted someone who was a survivor.”

10. Mad Max characters’ names hint at their backstories.

One of the most peculiar quirks of Miller’s franchise has to be his bizarre character names. In an interview with Fandango, Miller explained exactly how he comes up with them: “One of the things is that everything in the story has to have some sort of underlying backstory. Not just every character, but every vehicle, every weapon, every costume—and the same with the language. So [the concept] was always found objects, repurposed. Immortan Joe is a slight adjustment to the word 'immortal.' The character Nux says 'mcfeasting' instead of using the word 'feasting,’” Miller explained, adding that his favorite name of all is Fury Road’s The Dag (played by Abbey Lee). “In Australia, the dag is sort of a goofball-type.”

11. George Miller is a proud feminist.

Director George Miller, recipient of the Feature Film Nomination Plaque for “Mad Max: Fury Road," poses in the press room during the 68th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on February 6, 2016 in Los Angeles
George Miller poses with the Feature Film Nomination Plaque for Mad Max: Fury Road during the 68th annual Directors Guild Of America Awards in 2016.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Perhaps evidenced by Charlize Theron’s scene-stealing role as Imperator Furiosa, Miller is a proud, outspoken feminist. He told Vanity Fair, “I’ve gone from being very male dominant to being surrounded by magnificent women. I can’t help but be a feminist.” That female influence even stretched behind the scenes, with Miller asking his wife Margaret Sixel to edit Fury Road. “I said, ‘You have to edit this movie, because it won’t look like every other action movie,” Miller recalled. Moreover, feminist activist Eve Ensler also consulted on the film to offer, according to Ensler herself, “perspective on violence against women around the world, particularly in war zones.”

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.
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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.

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