80 Totally Awesome Facts About the '80s

LightFieldStudios/iStock via Getty Images
LightFieldStudios/iStock via Getty Images

The 1980s were the birthplace of so many things that have become commonplace in our lives: Personal computers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, and two-pound cell phones. It was a strange, magical time that is still widely celebrated thanks to our obsession with nostalgia, but here are 80 things you might not know about the 1980s.

1. Toni Basil was 38 years old when she recorded "Mickey."

Thanks to the music video, the 1982 song, "Mickey" became a cheerleader anthem even though its singer was more than a few years out of high school. It was also originally called, "Kitty," but producers changed it so it would be about a man.

2. Hacky sacks were all the rage, but they were hardly a 1980s invention.

Hacky sacks had a major moment in the 1980s, but they’ve been around since 3000 BCE—when Chinese Emperor Wong Ti used to kick around a leather ball filled with hair.

3. Casey Kasem quit the Transformers cartoon because of a racist script.

Legendary DJ and voice actor Casey Kasem played Cliffjumper on the animated Transformers, but he left the show over a racist script containing an Arab character named Abdul, King of Carbombya. They still made the episodes.

4. Clark Kent helped name the Walkman.

Getty Images

Sony named the Walkman after the Pressman audio recorder featured popularly in Superman. They originally called it the Sound-About in the United States and the Stowaway in the United Kingdom.

5. Waterbeds were an immensely popular luxury item.

In 1987, 20 percent of all mattress sales were waterbeds. The waterbed market was worth $2 billion.

6. Roald Dahl had an existential crises writing Matilda.

Roald Dahl struggled to write the book-devouring character because he was genuinely afraid that books in general were becoming unpopular. Fortunately for all of us, he was wrong.

7. April 24th is "New Kids On The Block Day" in Massachusetts.

Michael Dukakis is famous for losing to George H.W. Bush in the 1988 presidential election, but people forget about his larger contributions to history—like, for instance, declaring April 24, 1989 "New Kids On the Block Day" in Massachusetts.

8. Luke Skywalker was almost trained by Buffy.

In early outlines for The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda was named Buffy. Jedi and vampire slayer?

9. You could buy the phone from your favorite show.

In 1984, if you wanted a phone shaped like lips, like the one that D.J. had on Full House, it would cost you $70. Nowadays, no one even knows the price of a landline phone—and many people will never know the thrill of chatting on a hamburger phone or a banana phone or a Mickey Mouse phone or one of those transparent phones where you could see all the wires inside. A lip-based telephone will run you about $20 today.

10. Barbra Streisand's stylist invented the crimping iron.

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Stylist Geri Cusenza invented the crimping iron after hours of braiding and unbraiding Barbra Streisand's hair for a photo shoot, unleashing a hairstyle that would rule over the decade.

11. Ms. Pac-Man had an … interesting tagline.

When the video game character was introduced in 1982, her tagline was: "The new femme fatale of the game world." Sure. Fine.

12. Jolt cola found a slogan to stick with.

Jolt Cola, which was introduced in 1985, used the same slogan, "all the sugar and twice the caffeine," for 24 years straight. In the late 2000s, they changed it to "Maximum caffeine, more power," which just doesn't have the same punch.

13. DC Comics was nice enough to let The Karate Kid keep its name.

Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid (1984).Columbia Pictures

Before The Karate Kid movie, The Karate Kid was a completely unrelated DC Comics superhero. Columbia Pictures actually thanked DC Comics in the movie's credits for letting them use the name.

14. Christian Bale once helped sell Pac-Man cereal.

In the 1980s Christian Bale starred in a commercial for Pac-Man cereal, thus giving us the name for his inevitable autobiography: From Pac-Man to Batman.

15. A lot of popular books were ghostwritten.

Ghost writing was incredibly common in the 1980s, especially among serials aimed at tweens and teens. For example, The Baby-sitter's Club author Anne M. Martin ghost wrote the first Sweet Valley Twins book, and Sweet Valley Twins author Peter Lerangis ghostwrote 43 Baby-sitter's Club books.

16. Olivia Newton-John’s song Physical was meant to be macho.

According to songwriter Steve Kipner, the Olivia Newton-John song Physical was originally written for "a macho male rock figure like Rod Stewart." The singer also worried after she recorded it that it was too raunchy.

17. The Razzies were born out of a bad double feature.

Speaking of Olivia Newton-John: After publicist John J.B. Wilson watched a double feature of Can't Stop the Music and Xanadu, he was inspired to start the Golden Raspberry Awards, a.k.a. "The Razzies." The parody plaudits for bad filmmaking were initially awarded at his home Oscar party.

18. Halley's Comet was first observed via spacecraft in 1986.

Chinese astronomers first noticed it in 239 BCE. We won't see it again from Earth until 2061.

19. Boomboxes demanded some serious arm strength.

BrAt_PiKaChU/iStock via Getty Images

According to boombox expert Fred Brathwaite, those boxes were so heavy that "some cats that would carry their boxes all the time, they would develop massive forearms and biceps." Some boomboxes were 26 pounds.

20. You're a big fan of Project Ii—whether you know it or not.

When American Greetings was developing Care Bears, they were top secret and only called "Project II." Project I, by the way, was none other than Strawberry Shortcake.

21. a Strawberry Shortcake convention lasted into the 2000s.

Incidentally, Strawberry Shortcake has her own annual convention in Cleveland that kicked off in 2003 and lasted more than a decade.

22. A soap opera helped make Rick Springfield a global pop star.

In 1981, Rick Springfield accepted a role on General Hospital after recording his album, "Working Class Dog." The show got around 14 million viewers daily, which may be why Jesse's Girl hit number one that year. It's his only single to ever hit the top spot.

23. You can visit a Rainbow Brite museum.

Your wish has come true. There's a Rainbow Brite museum in North Carolina made up of 1500 items of memorabilia from one woman's Rainbow Brite collection.

24. Nintendo got its console into stores with an offer they couldn't refuse.

In 1985, in an attempt to convince stores in New York City to carry the new Nintendo Entertainment System, a Nintendo exec promised that they could send back the ones they didn't sell free of charge, but they ended up selling 50,000 that holiday season.

25. Leopard print helped Simon Le Bon get his lead singer gig.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Simon Le Bon showed up for his Duran Duran audition in pink leopard prints pants. Nick Rhodes said, "Anyone who looks that stupid is positively the one."

26. Eddie Murphy's debut musical album was produced by Rick James and Stevie Wonder.

It cost over half a million dollars to make Eddie Murphy's album "How Could It Be," featuring the infamously bad single Party All the Time, which is now in your head. You're welcome.

27. Real-life scientists inspired Jem And The Holograms.

The last names of Jem (a.k.a. Jerrica Benton) and the Holograms were the names of real scientists who worked on hologram technology.

28. Don't Worry, Be Happy still makes people happy.

The 1988 song Don't Worry, Be Happy still has many fans, including Hillary Clinton, who received a teddy bear that sings the song from former Secretary of State George Schultz. Her memoir claims, "I kept it in my office, first as a joke, but every so often, it really did help to squeeze the bear and hear that song."

29. Lisa Frank has her own proprietary ink.

It's a mixture that makes colors brighter.

30. Members Only jackets were a big, big deal.

Another brand that did well for itself in the 80s: Members Only. Thanks to their famous jackets, the company brought in $100 million a year.

31. Hairspray helped relaunch hairspray.

JackF/iStock via Getty Images

In 2002, Aqua Net Hairspray had an unlikely comeback when the musical Hairspray, based on John Waters' 1988 film, started on Broadway. Because nothing says fashion like a musical that takes place in 1960s Baltimore. (Which was kind of Waters's point.)

32. Jon Bon Jovi hated Livin' On A Prayer (at first).

Speaking of hairspray: Jon Bon Jovi didn't like the song "Livin' on a Prayer" and almost scrapped it from the Slippery When Wet album before it gave them their first number one song.

33. Two famous '80s styles were invented decades before the 1980s.

Thanks to Dynasty and Working Girl, shoulder pads in women's clothing became very popular during the 1980s, but designer Elsa Schiaparelli actually invented the style in the 1930s. Also people have been perming their hair since 1872.

34. "Mr. T" is not a stage name.

Michael Buckner/Getty Images

When he turned 18, Laurence Tureaud legally changed his name to Mr. T, because he wanted people to call him Mister, which he considered a sign of respect that white people didn't generally grant black men.

35. Baby Animal on The Muppet Babies had two famous voices.

Both Dave Coulier and Howie Mandel voiced Animal on Muppet Babies. What a great program.

36. Cheers didn't get off to a good start.

NBC

The Cheers premiere in 1982 was ranked almost last in ratings, but its finale 11 years later brought in 80.4 million viewers.

37. ALF did wunderbar in Germany.

Speaking of sitcoms: ALF was very popular in Germany. The country actually has a city named Alf, and people kept stealing the sign due to the show's popularity. It also led, for some reason, to ALF making hit hip-hop records.

38. John Hughes wrote Sixteen Candles for Molly Ringwald before ever meeting her.

Molly Ringwald and Michael Schoeffling in Sixteen Candles (1984).Universal Pictures

John Hughes wrote Sixteen Candles after an agent sent him a stack of actresses' head shots, including Molly Ringwald's. He put her picture over his desk and wrote the bulk of the film in one weekend.

39. John Hughes wrote Ferris Bueller's Day Off in six days.

But Hughes often wrote pretty quickly. In fact, the script for Ferris Bueller's Day Off took him just six days as he raced an oncoming writer's strike.

40. Most of Run DMC didn't like the name "Run DMC."

Russell Simmons—Joseph "Run" Simmons's brother, who helped promote the band and get their first single produced—actually came up with the name "Run DMC," which the rest of the group hated. They wanted to be called the "Devastating Two" or the "Dynamic Two MCs."

41. Gelly roll pens have something in common with gluten-free baking.

Gelly Roll pens were invented in the 1980s, but it took a while to come up with the perfect ink formula after trying things like grated yam and egg whites. A member of the team saw an ad for the food additive xanthan gum, which turned out to be the missing ingredient.

42. The Terminator most iconic line was supposed to be "I'll come back."

Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator (1984).20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

The line, "I'll be back," from the Terminator movies was written in the movie's novelization as "I'll come back." But before you write that off as a typo: "I'll come back" is how the line was written in the original script.

43. Jane Fonda helped popularize leg warmers.

Jane Fonda gets some of the credit or, arguably, blame for making leg warmers trendy. She wore them in her very first workout video and encouraged people to wear them to "feel like athletes."

44. Jennifer Beals accidentally launched the ripped sweatshirt craze.

Another reason for the leg warmer craze: the movie Flashdance, which also gave us the collarless sweatshirt. Actress Jennifer Beals once shrunk a sweatshirt in the dryer then cut around the collar so it could fit. She wore that to her audition, and the style made it into the movie.

45. The ubiquitous "Baby On Board" signs might not have been so great.

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Stickers for your car that said "Baby on Board" were very popular in the '80s. But, according to a 2012 study, one in 20 drivers blame such stickers for obscuring their vision and causing accidents.

46. The oldest known emoticon is from 1982.

Computer Scientist Scott E. Fahlman offered them as a way of showing lightheartedness on message board posts. :-)

47. The Clapper wasn't the only product with that ear worm jingle.

The Clapper is notorious thanks to its commercial jingle, but the exact same song was actually used earlier in the 1980s in a commercial for Sine-Off cold medicine.

48. Slash almost joined Poison.

Future Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash auditioned for Poison but realized he wasn't right for the job when they asked him if he'd wear make-up.

49. Richard Page almost joined Toto.

Similarly, Richard Page—the lead singer of Mr. Mister—turned down the lead singer job in two other bands, Toto and Chicago, because, you know, he was waiting for Mr. Mister to come alone. It's unclear how he feels about the rains down in Africa.

50. Van Halen's famous "M&M" request had a serious purpose.

Samohin/iStock via Getty Images

In the 80s, Van Halen famously requested a bowl of M&Ms minus all the brown candies backstage at their shows. It wasn't to be snooty jerks. They added it to their contracts to make sure that people running the venue actually read the entire rider. If they saw brown M&Ms, they knew the venue wasn't detail-oriented and that there might be some (potentially dangerous) technical problems on stage.

51. Fraggle Rock was HBO's first original series.

Fraggle Rock was HBO's first original series. It was a lot like the content that HBO makes now, but there was less violence than Game of Thrones, fewer drugs than Euphoria, and just about as much scheming as Succession.

52. The Pee-Wee's Playhouse theme song had a famous singer.

Cindy Lauper! She revealed in her autobiography that she sang the theme song for the wacky show.

53. Neil Armstrong turned down MTV.

NASA/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When MTV premiered in the 1980s, they wanted to use Neil Armstrong's "One Small Step" quotation from the moon landing, but Armstrong refused, so they tossed in a beeping sound over the video collage of the Apollo 11 landing instead.

54. The Beastie Boys opened for Madonna.

The opening act for Madonna's first ever tour? The Beastie Boys, who often got booed for screaming obscenities. But it worked for Madonna. It turns out that the audience hating the opening act makes them that much happier to see the headliner.

55. "Fight For Your Right" is a parody song.

The Beastie Boys, by the way, wrote "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)" as a parody of rock songs (so many parentheses). It was a joke. They refused to play it live.

56. Bright Lights, Big City's publisher thought the setting would limit its greatness.

While Jay McInerney was working on his novel Bright Lights, Big City, his publisher said that no great American novels took place in New York, to which Jay McInerney probably replied, "Have you read The Great Gatsby?"

57. A three-year-old inspired the Polaroid camera.

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All the cool '80s kids had a Polaroid 660. The brand itself was started in 1944 by Edwin H. Land because his three-year-old daughter didn't understand why she couldn't see a picture right after it was taken, so he fixed that problem for her, and then became a billionaire. Listen to your toddlers, people.

58. The Ghostbusters crew made three Stay Puft suits

It cost $20,000 to create the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man suit for Ghostbusters. The crew had to make three of them, which were all destroyed during filming.

59. Dr. Ruth was almost in Dirty Dancing.

Eleanor Bergstein, who wrote and produced Dirty Dancing, was friends with Dr. Ruth. Anyways, Bergstein wanted to cast Dr. Ruth as Mrs. Schumacher, but Dr. Ruth declined when she realized the character was a thief.

60. Doc Brown almost had a chimp sidekick.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Doc Brown had a chimpanzee in early drafts of Back to the Future, but the head of Universal said no movie with a chimpanzee ever made any money. Which is just completely unfair. I mean, granted MVP: Most Valuable Primate hadn't been made yet, but surely that exec was familiar with the Ronald Reagan movie Bedtime for Bonzo. Anyway, Doc Brown's chimp would have been named Shemp.

61. Miami Vice didn't have a real Ferrari at first.

Sonny Crockett's car on Miami Vice was originally a Corvette that the crew made to look like a Ferrari, but eventually Ferrari gave the show a Testarossa.

62. There was a literal book about what "real men" don't do.

In the 1980s, the book Real Men Don't Eat Quiche spent 55 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. According to the book, here are a few things that real men don't do: have meaningful dialogues, catch rays, drink light beer, or wear gold chains or anything with more than three zippers.

63. We didn't have Chicken McNuggets until 1981.

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Believe it or not, America lived in ignorance of McDonald's Chicken McNuggets until the 1980s. They were released to test markets in 1981. Supposedly, by the way, they only come in four shapes: the boot, the ball, the bow tie, and the bell.

64. Michael Jackson's Beat It had a famous guitarist.

Eddie Van Halen! He rocked the guitar solo in Michael Jackson's Beat It for free as a favor to Quincy Jones. It lasts 20 seconds.

65. Thriller almost got a Fred Astaire cameo.

Fred Astaire almost guest-starred as a zombie in Michael Jackson's music video for Thriller. He even attended a rehearsal.

66. Pat Benatar expanded what music videos could do.

Pat Benatar's Love Is a Battlefield music video was the first ever to feature spoken dialogue. Near the beginning of the story where Benatar's rebellious teen character runs away from home, her father tells her she can "forget about coming back" if she leaves.

67. Spandex is an anagram of expands.

Fitting for the stretchy, synthetic fabric.

68. Paula Abdul choreographed for ZZ Top and Janet Jackson.

Such great team-ups. Abdul designed the dance for ZZ Top's Velcro Fly in 1985, and her 1986 design work for Janet Jackson's Nasty solidified her status as an elite choreographer. She also crafted the giant dance sequence in Coming to America.

69. the inventor of the Rubik's Cube struggled to solve it.

xmagic/iStock via Getty Images

So don't feel too bad. After creating the set of colored cubes, Erno Rubik was fascinated by their beauty, saying, "It was tremendously satisfying to watch this color parade." Then he wondered how to figure it out. It took him a month, but there are also over 43 quintillion possible combinations, so a month isn't too shabby. Rubik also gave us the key to not figuring it out: Just enjoy the satisfaction of the color parade.

70. Hair mousse is named after the french word for foam.

It was invented in France and popularized in North America in the 1980s thanks to L'Oreal.

71. The guy who wrote Heathers wanted Stanley Kubrick to direct it.

Getty Images

Daniel Waters initially wrote Heathers as a three-hour-long dark comedy with Kubrick in mind as his dream director. Obviously Kubrick didn't direct it, or any movie after 1987's Full Metal Jacket until he made his final film, 1999's Eyes Wide Shut.

72. Rick Allen's mom got him his Def Leppard gig.

Drummer Rick Allen joined Def Leppard when he was just 14 years old after his mom responded to the band's ad for him. He auditioned against two others, including the band's original drummer who wanted the job back.

73. Prince wrote Manic Monday.

BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images

Manic Monday by the Bangles was written by Prince under the pseudonym Christopher. That was before his pseudonym was a symbol. He also wrote "Nothing Compares 2 U" for Sinead O'Connor and hits for Alicia Keys, Chaka Khan, and more.

74. Quoting Top Gun at Topgun comes with a fine.

People at the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School (a.k.a. TOPGUN) reportedly receive a $5 fine every time they quote Top Gun. Which is tough, fair, and worth it to toss out a few cracks about feeling the need for speed during class.

75. Ray-Ban was very happy with top Gun.

Paramount Pictures

On the other end of the $5 fine spectrum: Ray-Ban Aviator sales jumped 40 percent after Val Kilmer snapped his teeth at Tom Cruise on the big screen.

76. Reese's Pieces were happy with E.T.

But if you think that's impressive, after E.T. came out, Reese's Pieces sales increased by 65 percent. The original script called for Elliot to use M&Ms to draw out the alien, but Mars famously turned them down (and lost out).

77. Wendy's fired the "Where's The Beef?" lady for being unfaithful.

Clara Peller, who said the "Where's the beef?" line in Wendy's ads, got fired from Wendy's when she did a commercial for Prego spaghetti sauce in which she said, "I found it!"

According to Wendy's, that quote inferred "That Clara found the beef at somewhere other than Wendy's restaurants." We all know there is only one location for the beef.

78. Fake Cabbage Patch Kids were a real problem for the FBI.

Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

While parents were scrambling to find Cabbage Patch Kid dolls in stores, the FBI was hunting down thousands of counterfeit versions that sold for cheap and had "a strong chemical odor." They were tipped off to a massive operation when customs officials seized 240 fake dolls heading from Canada into Michigan.

79. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s Uncle Phil voiced Shredder in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon.

The late James Avery was a familiar presence in households all over the world as Will Smith's sensible, put-upon father figure in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but he also voiced the cruel nemesis of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in their late-80s animated show. Enjoy using this to win $5 bets with your friends. 

80. The recording for the star-packed song We Are the World lasted until 3 a.m.

Stevie Wonder wanted to record a verse in Swahili, and was waiting for a phone call about correct pronunciations. When the call finally came, Ray Charles said, "It's three o'clock in the g*ddamn morning. Swahili, sh*t—I can't even sing in English no more."

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Kodak’s New Cameras Don't Just Take Photos—They Also Print Them

Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Kodak

Snapping a photo and immediately sharing it on social media is definitely convenient, but there’s still something so satisfying about having the printed photo—like you’re actually holding the memory in your hands. Kodak’s new STEP cameras now offer the best of both worlds.

As its name implies, the Kodak STEP Instant Print Digital Camera, available for $70 on Amazon, lets you take a picture and print it out on that very same device. Not only do you get to skip the irksome process of uploading photos to your computer and printing them on your bulky, non-portable printer (or worse yet, having to wait for your local pharmacy to print them for you), but you never need to bother with ink cartridges or toner, either. The Kodak STEP comes with special 2-inch-by-3-inch printing paper inlaid with color crystals that bring your image to life. There’s also an adhesive layer on the back, so you can easily stick your photos to laptop covers, scrapbooks, or whatever else could use a little adornment.

There's a 10-second self-timer, so you don't have to ask strangers to take your group photos.Kodak

For those of you who want to give your photos some added flair, you might like the Kodak STEP Touch, available for $130 from Amazon. It’s similar to the regular Kodak STEP, but the LCD touch screen allows you to edit your photos before you print them; you can also shoot short videos and even share your content straight to social media.

If you want to print photos from your smartphone gallery, there's the Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer. This portable $80 printer connects to any iOS or Android device with Bluetooth capabilities and can print whatever photos you send to it.

The Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer connects to an app that allows you to add filters and other effects to your photos. Kodak

All three Kodak STEP devices come with some of that magical printer paper, but you can order additional refills, too—a 20-sheet set costs $8 on Amazon.

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

8 Times People Ruined Priceless Works of Art

Antonio Canova, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0
Antonio Canova, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

“Don’t touch the art” is a simple rule, enacted by almost every gallery and museum in the world. Yet for some reason, there are a select few who choose to ignore it, either because their curiosity gets the best of them, or, in a surprising number of cases, because they're on a quest for the perfect selfie. Whatever their motives, the museum-goers below left a trail of mangled artwork in their wakes.

1. Pauline Bonaparte as Venus Victrix

If any lesson should be taken from art gallery mishaps, it’s that you should never use a valuable work of art as a piece of furniture. In July 2020, an unnamed tourist from Austria decided to luxuriate on the plaster cast of Antonio Canova’s Pauline Bonaparte as Venus Victrix (1804) at Italy’s Antonio Canova Museum to make his selfie look as casual as possible. (Bonaparte was Napoleon’s sister.) In doing so, he crumbled the toes of poor Pauline, who is depicted in the sculpture as reclining on a cushion. Surveillance footage shows the man acknowledging the loss of the extremities before walking away. Police later identified him from a museum reservation. He apologized for the accident and offered to pay for the restoration work.

2. Dom Sebastiao Statue

In 2016, a 24-year-old visiting Lisbon, Portugal, made a very bad call when he climbed onto a 126-year-old statue installed on the facade of Lisbon, Portugal's Rossio Train Station to snap a selfie. The freestanding statue, which depicted 16th century king Dom Sebastiao, toppled over and shattered on the ground. The tourist, who attempted to flee, was caught by the authorities and eventually forced to appear in front of a judge; Portugal's infrastructure department has no information about when the statue will be fixed.

3. Statua Dei Due Ercole

Hercules might have had the strength of the Gods, but unfortunately, that toughness didn't translate to sculptures of him. In 2016, two tourists visiting the Loggia dei Militi Palace in Cremona, Italy, damaged the 300-year-old Statua dei due Ercole (Statue of Two Hercules) when they climbed on it to take a selfie. The tourists were reportedly hanging off the crown of one of the marble figures—which held the town's emblem between them—when it gave way, falling to the ground. The tourists were charged with vandalism, and the government called in experts to assess the damage.

4. Ecce Homo

The most famous (read: hilarious) art "restoration" in history might be 80-year-old Cecilia Gimenez’s attempt to fix a deteriorating fresco painting at a church in Borja, Spain. Her new and improved art made international headlines and inspired endless internet memes in 2012. Saturday Night Live even worked the news into their Weekend Update segment a couple of times, with Kate McKinnon playing Gimenez.

The painting, a depiction of Jesus Christ by artist Elías García Martínez in the 1930s, was flaking due to moisture; Gimenez, a parishioner at the church, worked off a 10-year-old photo of the fresco while doing her restoration. When her work was revealed, Ecce Homo was redubbed "Potato Jesus." Gimenez told a Spanish TV station that she had approval to work on the fresco (which authorities deny), and had done so during the day. “The priest knew it,” she said. “I’ve never tried to do anything hidden.”

Though the church had originally planned to work with art restorers to fix the fresco, by 2014 they had changed their tune. Gimenez's artwork became a major tourist attraction, bringing 150,000 visitors from around the world and revitalizing Borja. The church charged $1.25 a head to see the artwork, which was preserved behind plexiglass, just like another very famous, memeworthy work of art: the Mona Lisa. A center dedicated to the interpretation of the new Ecce Homo opened in 2016.

5. Qing Dynasty Vases

Rule number one for entering any space with priceless art: tie your shoelaces. In February 2006, a man named Nick Flynn took the wrong staircase inside the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England—and when he tried to change course, he accidentally stepped on his own untied shoelace and fell. With no handrails to grab, the only thing to break his fall were three Qing Dynasty vases from the 1600s and 1700s, which were sitting on a windowsill. Flynn was unhurt, but the vases, worth more than $100,000, were not so lucky: They shattered into 400 pieces.

"Although [I knew] the vase would break I didn't imagine it would be loose and crash into the other two," he said. "I'm sure I only hit the first one and that must have flown across the windowsill and hit the next one, which then hit the other, like a set of dominos." Flynn, who was reportedly banned from the museum, called the incident “just one of those unbelievably unlucky things that can sometimes happen.”

This story has something of a happy ending, though: By August 2006, Penny Bendall, a ceramic restorer, had glued one of the vases—which had broken into 113 pieces—back together for an exhibition on art restoration. "Putting the vase back together may have looked impossible to most people but actually it wasn't a difficult job—fairly straightforward," she told the Daily Mail.

6. Annunciazione

Should you be given a pass for breaking something if it was technically already broken? In 2013, a Missouri man visiting Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence, Italy, wanted to see how the pinky finger of a 600-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary by Giovanni d’Ambrogio measured up next to his own. You know what happened next: The man got a little too close and damaged the statue's digit. Thankfully, the finger that he broke was made of plaster and not original to the sculpture, and art restorers grabbed it quickly before it could fall and be further damaged. The man apologized, and restorers at the museum made plans to repair the finger again. Hopefully the second fix was more permanent.

7. The Drunken Satyr

The good news is this Milan statue, which lost its left leg to an unknown selfie enthusiast in 2014, was a replica of another statue that dates back to 220 BCE. The bad news is that the replica was still very valuable and pretty old, dating back to the 1800s. Security cameras in that area of the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera weren't working when the incident occurred, but according to the Daily Mail, witnesses saw a student tourist climb onto the statue and sit on its knee to take a photo. What the student didn't realize was that the statue, made of terra cotta and plaster, had been assembled in pieces, and the leg was already partially detached; museum director Franco Marrocco told the Corriere della Sera that the museum was already planning to restore the statue before the accident.

8. The Actor

A 6-foot-tall Picasso painting is pretty hard to miss when it’s hung on a museum wall, just as the visitor who fell into one back in January 2010 discovered. A woman was attending a class at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art when she lost her footing and tumbled into The Actor, leaving a 6-inch tear as well as a dent in the lower right corner of the 1904 artwork. “We saw the big, coarse threads that looked sort of like a nasty jute rug,” Gary Tinterow, chairman of the museum’s department of 19th Century, Modern and Contemporary art, said in an interview. “The question was how to get Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

That process took three months. Lucy Belloli, a conservator at the Met, told The New York Times that the process involved photographing the canvas, securing flakes of paint with adhesive, and using strips of paper with rabbit-skin glue as bandages, as well as a six-week period of realigning the painting using small sand bags. ("[T]he torn portion of the canvas had to be gently coaxed back to its flat state, otherwise it would have a tendency to return to the distortion left by the accident," the Times explained.) Some retouching was also necessary. The painting was returned to the wall in April 2010 with a layer of Plexiglass to protect it; most visitors would not have been able to tell the painting was ever damaged.

This story has been updated for 2020.