The 10 Slimiest Stunts of Double Dare

Double Dare via Facebook
Double Dare via Facebook

Cats and babies. According to Byron Taylor, the art director who spent seven years involved in the creation of the slippery, weirdly ingenious obstacles that populated Nickelodeon’s Double Dare, those were virtually the only themes considered off limits.

“The lawyers had what they called an attractive nuisance,” he says. “That’s when a kid might see something on TV and then try to imitate it at home. We had a game where we tossed plush cats into these big clown pants, and another where we threw pudding at a doll. You couldn’t do either one. They were afraid kids would pick cats up by their tail and swing them around or throw food at real babies.”

Over the course of roughly 500 episodes of the 1986-93 original series and its many spin-offs, the crew got to do pretty much everything else involving replica mucus. “That period of time was sort of a transition," he says. "Now it’s commonplace to have all kinds of fart jokes. The level of taste has gone down in the last 30 years. I guess we were part of that.”

Affectionately known as the "Glopmaster" on set, Taylor was kind enough to take us through some of the show’s most innovative (and disgusting) courses.

1. THE ONE TON HUMAN HAMSTER WHEEL

After graduating from New York University in 1985, Taylor got a call from Jim Fenhagen, a friend he met at local print shop who had just designed the stage for a new game show and needed help. Shortly, Fenhagen was off to ABC News; Taylor was playing in baked beans at a PBS station in Philadelphia. Among the stunts already sketched out: the human hamster wheel. “I think they had hired a writer in Los Angles who had worked on Beat the Clock to come up with some of them,” Taylor says. “It was solid, but what we learned was, you couldn’t get any traction on the drum coming off a gooey obstacle—not if your feet were covered in eggs and flour. We eventually had to add grip tape inside so that kids had a chance of getting this thing going.”

The Wheel was among the obstacles that cost several thousand dollars to fabricate, forcing the production to sprinkle in more economical courses to stay within budget: “It’s cheap to have someone run through tires filled with cake mix.”

2. PICK IT

The giant, snot-filled nose is reviled in Double Dare fandom not for its questionable taste but for the way it slowed the game down. “Once you stuff pudding up the nose and shove a flag in there, you cannot tell the difference between the vinyl flag material and goop, Taylor says. It would stick to the nostril. People were scraping, pulling, and grabbing. We eventually had to add an air cannon to just blow it out.” The nose seemed to grow more obscene with each passing season, going from relatively clean to encrusted in green phlegm even before contestants got to it. “I think we once added a zit filled with vanilla pudding, Taylor says. That was bizarre.”    

3. KID FARM

Taylor says the idea for this kid-sized habitat came from David Letterman. “If you remember his old late night show, he had an ant farm for dogs. My thought was, ‘Let’s do one scaled big enough to put a kid through.’ We did it without any approval from the ant farm people, but I think we later gave some of those away as prizes.” According to Mathew Klickstein’s book, Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age, one adult employee tried it out and got stuck. Wouldn’t surprise me, Taylor says. It was meant for 80-pound kids.”

4. SODA JERK

Double Dare was fond of super-sizing mechanical objects, including a typewriter, personal computer, and a mailbox. “I’m not sure kids would even know what a soda fountain looks like today,” Taylor says. “And some kids then didn’t know what a foot-activated pedal was.” You had to step on the right one to release two gallons of soda and a flag. “The bucket was essentially toilet apparatus," Taylor says. "When the pedal was hit, the flap would open. Getting the right amount of liquid was a problem.” Is Taylor surprised the show never worked in a gigantic toilet? “I can’t remember being told, ‘No toilets.’ We probably stayed away because it fell in the category of an attractive nuisance.”

5. THE WRINGER

Built in homage to the clunky (and dangerous) clothes wringers of the early 20th century, Taylor says the device was a cautionary tale when it came to using absorbent, open-celled foam. “We were just improvising and got some cheap mattress-type foam, he says. We didn’t know how to upholster something so it was airtight, and this thing just became like a big, soppy, stinking sponge you’d carry around. No matter how powerful an industrial cleaner you used, it would rot and smell.”

6. THE SUNDAE SLIDE

If Double Dare’s appeal needs to be condensed into one idea, it’s that it's the one place kids are rewarded for playing with their food. A fixture of the show, the Slide deposited players right into a six-foot diameter sundae. The piece was actually made of playground equipment modified so it could sit on a weighted base instead of being bolted to the ground. (All of the courses needed to be mobile.) “It was a signature piece," Taylor says. "We had to use a non-dairy whipped topping called Baker’s Cream because the real stuff would just melt under the lights. Over time, we developed a kitchen where we’d whip up gallons of the stuff. We had to find an 80-quart mixer."

7. SANDWICHES, WAFFLES, AND OTHER OVERSIZED FOODSTUFFS 

Marinating latex foam props in condiments always made for an excellent visual, but the show learned early on to make them with colored pudding: Actual mustard and ketchup hurts. “On the first episode, we used the real stuff, and if you get it on your hands and feet and then touch your eye, it’s painful without eye protection," Taylor says. "We learned that very quickly.” Some “breads” would be too big to drag out and hose down. If they got a hole where food could enter, it could proceed to sit and stew until the following season. “It’s not a problem over three weeks," Taylor says, "but if you stick it in a hot warehouse for six months, it will smell. Yes.”

8. GUM DROP

Marc Summers’ favorite obstacle, and possibly the most visually interesting of the lot: Kids would leap into a vertical ball bit and come tumbling out of the bottom. “We’d come up with ideas just riding the train into the Philadelphia studio from New York,” Taylor says. “After so many years, it’s like, what else can we do?” The drawback was the door, which had to be opened by a stagehand with a switch. “Early on, we learned a kid could hit his head riding the balls down and smacking into the door, so we padded it,” Taylor says.

The balls came from a local outdoor amusement park that let the show scoop up their inventory during the winter months, and, says Taylor, “they would be covered in snow and ice. We’d have to thaw them out. Eventually, we realized the name and number of the company was printed on every one. So once someone looked at the ball, we called and ordered them directly.”

9. DOWN THE HATCH

Possibly the only obstacle designed after a celebrity, this slime-caked maw was inspired by an illustration of Diana Ross. “What happened was, I saw a caricature of her and just copied it as closely as I could,” Taylor says. Eventually, the teeth began to suffer from rot: “The bodies were rubbing all over the teeth and they just started to come apart. We did this, the nose, a foot. We went through as many body parts as we could put on air.”

10. FANCY FOOTWORK

A common image in clown-themed nightmares, the shoes tried to stomp contestants as they crawled across the platform. “That was incredibly complicated to do," Taylor says. "It was basically a blatant rip-off of old Rube Goldberg cartoons. The shoes were on pistons, so the rods could get bent by kids and then not retract.” Over time, toilet paper and gum began to appear on their bottoms. That level of repulsive detail was usually up to producers or stagehands—and occasionally Summers himself. "Obviously," one parent wrote in, "you cannot eat and watch Double Dare at the same time." 

All images courtesy of Nickelodeon.

8 Great Gifts for People Who Work From Home

World Market/Amazon
World Market/Amazon

A growing share of Americans work from home, and while that might seem blissful to some, it's not always easy to live, eat, and work in the same space. So, if you have co-workers and friends who are living the WFH lifestyle, here are some products that will make their life away from their cubicle a little easier.

1. Folding Book Stand; $7

Hatisan / Amazon

Useful for anyone who works with books or documents, this thick wire frame is strong enough for heavier textbooks or tablets. Best of all, it folds down flat, so they can slip it into their backpack or laptop case and take it out at the library or wherever they need it. The stand does double-duty in the kitchen as a cookbook holder, too.

Buy It: Amazon

2. Duraflame Electric Fireplace; $179

Duraflame / Amazon

Nothing says cozy like a fireplace, but not everyone is so blessed—or has the energy to keep a fire going during the work day. This Duraflame electric fireplace can help keep a workspace warm by providing up to 1000 square feet of comfortable heat, and has adjustable brightness and speed settings. They can even operate it without heat if they just crave the ambiance of an old-school gentleman's study (leather-top desk and shelves full of arcane books cost extra).

Buy It: Amazon

3. World Explorer Coffee Sampler; $32

UncommonGoods

Making sure they've got enough coffee to match their workload is a must, and if they're willing to experiment with their java a bit, the World Explorer’s Coffee Sampler allows them to make up to 32 cups using beans from all over the world. Inside the box are four bags with four different flavor profiles, like balanced, a light-medium roast with fruity notes; bold, a medium-dark roast with notes of cocoa; classic, which has notes of nuts; and fruity, coming in with notes of floral.

Buy it: UncommonGoods

4. Lavender and Lemon Beeswax Candle; $20

Amazon

People who work at home all day, especially in a smaller space, often struggle to "turn off" at the end of the day. One way to unwind and signal that work is done is to light a candle. Burning beeswax candles helps clean the air, and essential oils are a better health bet than artificial fragrances. Lavender is especially relaxing. (Just use caution around essential-oil-scented products and pets.)

Buy It: Amazon

5. HÄNS Swipe-Clean; $15

HÄNS / Amazon

If they're carting their laptop and phone from the coffee shop to meetings to the co-working space, the gadgets are going to get gross—fast. HÄNS Swipe is a dual-sided device that cleans on one side and polishes on the other, and it's a great solution for keeping germs at bay. It's also nicely portable, since there's nothing to spill. Plus, it's refillable, and the polishing cloth is washable and re-wrappable, making it a much more sustainable solution than individually wrapped wipes.

Buy It: Amazon

6. Laptop Side Table; $100

World Market

Sometimes they don't want to be stuck at a desk all day long. This industrial-chic side table can act as a laptop table, too, with room for a computer, coffee, notes, and more. It also works as a TV table—not that they would ever watch TV during work hours.

Buy It: World Market

7. Moleskine Classic Notebook; $17

Moleskin / Amazon

Plenty of people who work from home (well, plenty of people in general) find paper journals and planners essential, whether they're used for bullet journaling, time-blocking, or just writing good old-fashioned to-do lists. However they organize their lives, there's a journal out there that's perfect, but for starters it's hard to top a good Moleskin. These are available dotted (the bullet journal fave), plain, ruled, or squared, and in a variety of colors. (They can find other supply ideas for bullet journaling here.)

Buy It: Amazon

8. Nexstand Laptop Stand; $39

Nexstand / Amazon

For the person who works from home and is on the taller side, this portable laptop stand is a back-saver. It folds down flat so it can be tossed into the bag and taken to the coffee shop or co-working spot, where it often generates an admiring comment or three. It works best alongside a portable external keyboard and mouse.

Buy It: Amazon

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15 Facts About A Nightmare on Elm Street

Robert Englund as A Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger.
Robert Englund as A Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger.
New Line Cinema

Enrich your annual Halloween viewing A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven’s 1984 horror classic, with these fascinating tidbits.

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street is Johnny Depp’s film debut.

During casting, it came down to Johnny Depp, who was then 21 years old, or another young actor to play Glen. Director Wes Craven asked his teenage daughter which actor he should cast as the heartthrob boyfriend—she chose Depp.

2. A Nightmare on Elm Street was inspired by real-life events.

Craven decided to make A Nightmare on Elm Street after reading a series of Los Angeles Times articles about a group of teenage Khmer immigrants who, after moving to the U.S. from refugee camps, died in their sleep after suffering from disturbing nightmares.

3. Freddy Krueger is an amalgamation of Wes Craven’s childhood terrors.

“Freddy” was the name of a bully who beat Craven up in elementary school, and his signature hat was based on one worn by a neighborhood drunk who scared Craven when he was young.

4. Freddy Krueger’s sweater is scientifically scary.

Craven designed Freddy’s striped sweater after reading in Scientific American that the human eye has difficulty recognizing those particular shades of red and green side by side. Therefore, looking at it is subliminally unsettling.

5. Freddy Krueger’s weapon of choice was inspired by house pets and infomercials.

Craven didn’t want Freddy to wield a simple knife like Michael Myers in Halloween or Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th, so he drew on his fear of his own cat’s claws and a series of late-night commercials selling sets of knives to create Freddy’s iconic knife glove.

6. Wes Craven’s other influences include surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel and director Roman Polanski.

He drew on their works, particularly Polanski’s The Tenant and Repulsion, for the dream sequences in the film.

7. A Nightmare on Elm Street was shot in just 32 days.

Principal photography began in June 1984 and wrapped in July.

8. The boiler room in A Nightmare on Elm Street was an actual boiler room—in the basement of a jail.

The scenes where Freddy attacks his victims in a boiler room were shot in an actual boiler room in the basement of the Lincoln Heights Jail in Los Angeles. Soon after shooting ended, the building was condemned because of asbestos.

9. It took A Nightmare on Elm Street's makeup artists three hours each day to apply and take off Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger makeup.

The makeup consisted of 11 separate pieces applied to Englund’s face and upper chest.

10. Robert Englund based his performance as Freddy Krueger on a horror icon and musical theater star.

Englund was inspired by Klaus Kinski’s performance in the 1979 remake of Nosferatu and the work of actor James Cagney.

11. British actor David Warner was originally supposed to play Freddy Krueger.

He was forced to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.

12. One of A Nightmare on Elm Street's most famous scenes was inspired by Stanley Kubrick.

The famous scene in which a geyser of blood shoots out of Glen’s bed was inspired by a similar scene of blood pouring from an elevator in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. To create this effect, the blood was created from 80 gallons of water mixed with red paint, which was then was poured through a set built upside-down.

13. Nancy was almost killed by breakfast foods in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The sticky substance that keeps her from running up the stairs away from Freddy was in fact a mixture of oatmeal and pancake batter.

14. The movie that Nancy watches to try to stay awake is Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead.

Craven added the nod to Raimi because Raimi had previously included a poster of Craven’s second film, The Hills Have Eyes, in a scene in The Evil Dead. Raimi eventually returned the favor by hiding Freddy’s knife glove in a scene in a tool shed in Evil Dead II.

15. The sleep doctor who tries to cure Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street is played by Charles Fleischer.

Fleischer provided the voice for Roger Rabbit.

This story has been updated for 2020.