The Story Behind Keith Richards's Most Famous Birthday Gift

Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Today is Keith Richards's 75th birthday, which on its own would be a momentous occasion for the Rolling Stones guitarist who has cheated death so many times, people often can't remember if he's alive or not. In fact, there's even a phenomenon called the Keith Richards Effect, wherein Google Search traffic for "is Keith Richards dead?" spikes every time another famous rocker, such as David Bowie or Tom Petty, dies.

But December 18 is a special occasion for Richards for a couple of other reasons. Today is also his 35th anniversary—Keith met American model Patti Hansen in New York in the late '70s, and they married in 1983, on his 40th birthday. (Incredibly, Hansen told Vogue, they connected at the Roxy roller rink during his 1979 birthday party, and "have been together ever since.")

This year also marks another important anniversary for Richards, though. It's the 40th anniversary of a birthday gift that is so closely associated with Richards and his aesthetic that it’s now hard to picture him without it. No, not his eyeliner or headbands or custom Fender Telecaster. His right-hand skull ring.

In 1978, Richards was planning a blowout 35th birthday party in New York. Among those invited was David Courts, a longtime friend who was a craftsman and jeweler in London.

"At the time there was a big connection between the art scene and the music scene," Courts told Richards biographer Victor Bockris in 1992. "I think it had a lot to do with a lot of musicians coming out of art school, and so it was quite easy to jell. I started making jewelry for Keith through Anita [Pallenberg, Keith's longtime girlfriend]."

Courts said that his work for Richards started in the 1960s with a skull pin, which he'd adorned with a bishop's miter covered in sapphires, rubies, and diamonds. Pallenberg immediately wanted it custom-engraved for Richards, and after that, Richards was a regular customer of Courts's often-macabre works.

By the late '70s, Courts and his business partner, Bill Hackett, had been working on making realistic miniature skeletons. Using a real skull for reference, they had carved out a detailed mold, set it in silver, and created the large, heavy ring. Immediately, they knew that Richards was meant to have it. "From the moment he put it on his finger," their site declares, "the magic began."

For decades, Courts and Hackett never made replicas. Keith's ring was featured on album covers, magazine spreads, seen live at every concert—essentially the best possible product placement imaginable—but they never appeased fans by making the ring commercially available. That is, until 2009 (and with Keith's blessing, their site points out). Called the "Death's Head Skull Ring," it's sculpted from the same skull and features the same cranial and nasal detailing as Keith's. The solid 925 sterling silver ring can be custom-ordered to size for roughly $440.

As for Richards, his famous memento mori has resonated with him as much more than just a fancy talisman. "[My skull ring] is to remind me that we're all the same under the skin," Richards told Rolling Stone in 1988. "The skull—it has nothing to do with bravado and surface bullshit. To me, the main thing about living on this planet is to know who the hell you are and to be real about it. That's the reason I'm still alive."

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

America’s Most Popular Horror Movie Villains, Mapped

FrontierBundles.com
FrontierBundles.com

No matter how you feel about scary movies, it's hard to avoid them around Halloween. This is the time of year when the faces of cinema's classic horror villains seem to pop up in every store window and television set you see. Depending on where you live, certain horror icons may be especially hard to ignore. Check out the map below to find out the most popular scary movie villain in your state.

To make the map, FrontierBundles.com chose 15 classic horror movie antagonists and looked at regional Google Trends data for each name from the past year. Frankenstein's Monster from 1931's Frankenstein dominates most of the country, with 11 states including Pennsylvania and Arizona searching for the character. Ghostface from 1996's Scream ranked second with eight states. Chucky from Child's Play (1988), the Xenomorph from the Alien franchise, and Norman Bates from Psycho (1960) also rank high on the list.

FrontierBundles.com

Not every Halloween term Americans are searching for is horror-related. Some of the more wholesome seasonal queries that appear in Google's data include candy, crafts, and maze. But for every Google user searching for family-friendly fall activities, there are plenty looking up horror movies and monsters as well. Here's what people are Googling in your state for Halloween.