How Slim Goodbody Helped Kids Discover Their Inner Superhero

Slim Goodbody had all the superhero staples: a secret headquarters, a robot sidekick, and an identity he kept hidden behind a shimmering outfit. He even had a spandex costume that materialized behind a puff of smoke when he was called to action—though it’s safe to say he was the only superhero of his time that resembled a page from an anatomy textbook.

The main mission of the "Superhero of Health" wasn’t fighting bad guys (though he did that as well); it was teaching kids to understand and care for their bodies. John Burstein, the man responsible for bringing Slim Goodbody to life, didn’t initially intend to make a career out of the character. "When I was younger my goal was to be a Shakespearean actor," he told mental_floss. Burstein studied drama at Hofstra University, and in 1973 the 23-year-old took a job as a performer aboard the Floating Hospital in New York City. Playing guitar in front of audiences was something he had been doing since age 13. Using his musical talents, he was able to present health concepts to children in an engaging package.

The response to his songs was so positive that Burstein felt inspired to devise a character to go along with the act. "I wanted to do a body suit but I didn’t want it to be gory,” he said. “I wanted it to be superhero-esque." To create the style he was going for, he started with a leotard purchased from a dance supply company. An artist painted organs onto the suit (with him in it) and set the design through a special heating process (without him in it). The result was Slim Goodbody, possibly the only character in history capable of pulling off the skinless look.

From there, his one-man show moved beyond the Floating Hospital. He began performing at local schools, and in 1976, he landed the gig that would launch his television career. On Captain Kangaroo, Burstein played Slim (alter ego: Chief Hale and Hearty) in biweekly installments of "The Adventures of Slim Goodbody in Nutri-City." Slim Goodbody and his friends fought to uphold the laws of good health and protect the citizens of Nutri-City from villains like the mind-controlling mad scientists Sarah Bellum and Lobe. His four-year stint on the show proved to viewers and networks alike that health-centered programming didn’t have to be bland. Burstein’s work caught the attention of PBS, and in 1980 they offered him his own series titled The Inside Story With Slim Goodbody.

If Captain Kangaroo introduced Slim Goodbody to kids at home, Inside Story brought him into their classrooms. Teachers loved the show for its information-packed episodes told through catchy musical numbers. But unlike other mnemonic devices meant to remind students which parts go where, the songs in Inside Story made biology feel personal. During "The Smart Parts: The Inside Story of Your Brain and Nervous System" Slim walks through a tinsel-like webbing of nerves, singing: "You couldn’t laugh, read, think, dance, dream, have fun, or sing. Without your brain you couldn’t do anything."

And during the tune "Down, Down, Down: The Inside Story of Digestion," he tells the viewer: "When you were a baby your body was smaller, now you grow bigger and very much taller. Because your body takes food you chew and changes some of it into you." Slim was the face of the show, but by placing the wonders of the body center stage, any kid watching could feel like they had a starring role.

In addition to Inside Story and Captain Kangaroo, Slim Goodbody made appearances on Nickelodeon, Good Morning America, The Richard Simmons Show, and various other talk shows. By 1985 he told The Morning Call that "millions, maybe tens of millions" of children knew him by sight.

Even after making it big on TV, John Burstein never abandoned Slim's live performance roots. Over the past four decades he’s played the character everywhere from school assemblies to symphony shows. The 66-year-old continues to get on stage today, albeit much less often than he used to (for him that means 10 to 12 shows a year). He still performs to sold-out theaters of students, thanks in part to the teachers who grew up watching Slim when they were kids.

Burstein’s act has evolved since the 1970s: The visuals he incorporates into the show now include computer animation, and his songs have been remixed to sound "a little hipper." His body suit, originally a glorified art project, has been upgraded several times over the years. Slim’s latest outfit comes from the same costume designers behind Star Trek: The Next Generation and is worth roughly $4000.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the message Burstein hopes to impart on his young audience. According to him, the purpose of Slim Goodbody is to create "some positive feeling about what it means to be a human being." When asked what he wishes kids to get out of his shows, he said, "I hope they take away a sense of how wonderful they are, how wonderful the body is, and that possessing a body that’s so wonderful means there’s something marvelous about themselves."

How Much Would It Cost to Insure Star Wars’s Millennium Falcon?

Lucasfilm
Lucasfilm

In the Star Wars movies, we learn that Han Solo won the Millennium Falcon in a card game against Lando Calrissian. That sounds like a good deal—until you consider the cost of insuring one of the fastest starships in the galaxy. Ahead of the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on December 20, 2019, InsuretheGap.com has estimated the annual insurance payments for the Millennium Falcon.

To calculate the interstellar vehicle's value, the insurance company considered a number of factors, including size, weight, modifications, and owner details. It concluded that Han would have had to pay $544,339 a year to fly his ship safely across the galaxy.

The occupational hazards that come with his work are the main reasons for the high number. InsuretheGap.com lists Han Solo as a smuggler and a Rebel, which means that he's more likely to use his vehicle to flee Imperial starships than take a leisurely cruise. The question remains whether Han is the type of owner who would worry about insurance in the first place, but if he were a responsible pilot, the fee he charges Luke and Obi-Wan for passage to Alderaan would only cover a fraction of the annual bill. You can check out the full breakdown in the graphic below.

Infographic showing insurance costs of Millennium Falcon.
InsuretheGap.com

The Star Wars universe is filled with spacecraft that would take an impressive amount of credits to maintain. The Death Star may be the most expensive piece of technology in the franchise. In 2016, a math professor at Dartmouth College determined that operating the structure would cost the Empire £6.2 octillion a day.

The Many Lives of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"

Leonard Cohen in London in June 1974.
Leonard Cohen in London in June 1974.
Michael Putland/Getty Images

In the late 1970s, Leonard Cohen sat down to write a song about god, sex, love, and other mysteries of human existence that bring us to our knees for one reason or another. The legendary singer-songwriter, who was in his early forties at the time, knew how to write a hit: He had penned "Suzanne," "Bird on the Wire," "Lover, Lover, Lover," and dozens of other songs for both himself and other popular artists of the time. But from the very beginning, there was something different about what would become "Hallelujah"—a song that took five years and an estimated 80 drafts for Cohen to complete.

In the 35 years since it was originally released, "Hallelujah" has been covered by more than 300 other artists in virtually every genre. Willie Nelson, k.d. lang, Justin Timberlake, Bono, Brandi Carlile, Bon Jovi, Susan Boyle, Pentatonix, and Alexandra Burke—the 2008 winner of the UK version of The X Factor—are just a few of the individuals who have attempted to put their own stamp on the song. After Burke’s soulful version was downloaded 105,000 times in its first day, setting a new European record, “Hallelujah” soon became a staple of TV singing shows.

It's an impressive feat by any standard, but even more so when you consider that "Hallelujah"—one of the most critically acclaimed and frequently covered songs of the modern era—was originally stuck on side two of 1984’s Various Positions, an album that Cohen’s American record label deemed unfit for release.

“Leonard, we know you’re great,” Cohen recalled CBS Records boss Walter Yetnikoff telling him, “but we don’t know if you’re any good.”

 

Yetnikoff wasn’t totally off-base. With its synth-heavy ’80s production, Cohen’s version of “Hallelujah” doesn’t announce itself as the chill-inducing secular hymn it’s now understood to be. (Various Positions was finally released in America on the indie label Passport in 1985.) Part of why it took Cohen five years to write the song was that he couldn’t decide how much of the Old Testament stuff to include.

“It had references to the Bible in it, although these references became more and more remote as the song went from the beginning to the end,” Cohen said. “Finally I understood that it was not necessary to refer to the Bible anymore. And I rewrote this song; this is the ‘secular’ ‘Hallelujah.’”

The first two verses introduce King David—the skilled harp player and great uniter of Israel—and the Nazarite strongman Samson. In the scriptures, both David and Samson are adulterous poets whose ill-advised romances (with Bathsheba and Delilah, respectively) lead to some big problems.

In the third verse of his 1984 studio version, Cohen grapples with the question of spirituality. When he’s accused of taking the Lord’s name in vain, Cohen responds, hilariously, “What’s it to ya?” He insists there’s “a blaze of light in every word”—every perception of the divine, perhaps—and declares there to be no difference between “the holy or the broken Hallelujah.” Both have value.

“I wanted to push the Hallelujah deep into the secular world, into the ordinary world,” Cohen once said. “The Hallelujah, the David’s Hallelujah, was still a religious song. So I wanted to indicate that Hallelujah can come out of things that have nothing to do with religion.”

 

Amazingly, Cohen's original "Hallelujah" pales in comparison to Velvet Underground founder John Cale’s five-verse rendition for the 1991 Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan. Cale had seen Cohen perform the song live, and when he asked the Canadian singer-songwriter to fax over the lyrics, he received 15 pages. “I went through and just picked out the cheeky verses,” Cale said.

Cale’s pared down piano-and-vocals arrangement inspired Jeff Buckley to record what is arguably the definitive “Hallelujah,” a haunting, seductive performance found on the late singer-songwriter’s one and only studio album, 1994’s Grace. Buckley’s death in 1997 only heightened the power of his recording, and within a few years, “Hallelujah” was everywhere. Cale’s version turned up in the 2001 animated film Shrek, and the soundtrack features an equally gorgeous version by Rufus Wainwright.

In 2009, after the song appeared in Zack Snyder's Watchmen, Cohen agreed with a critic who called for a moratorium on covers. “I think it’s a good song,” Cohen told The Guardian. “But too many people sing it.”

Except “Hallelujah” is a song that urges everyone to sing. That’s kind of the point. The title is from a compound Hebrew word comprising hallelu, to praise joyously, and yah, the name of god. As writer Alan Light explains in his 2013 book The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah,” the word hallelujah was originally an imperative—a command to praise the Lord. In the Christian tradition, it’s less an imperative than an expression of joy: “Hallelujah!” Cohen seemingly plays on both meanings.

 

Cohen’s 1984 recording ends with a verse that begins, “I did my best / It wasn’t much.” It’s the humble shrug of a mortal man and the sly admission of an ambitious songwriter trying to capture the essence of humanity in a pop song. By the final lines, Cohen concedes “it all went wrong,” but promises to have nothing but gratitude and joy for everything he has experienced.

Putting aside all the biblical allusions and poetic language, “Hallelujah” is a pretty simple song about loving life despite—or because of—its harshness and disappointments. That message is even clearer in Cale’s five-verse rendition, the guidepost for all subsequent covers, which features the line, “Love is not a victory march.” Cale also adds in Cohen’s verse about sex, and how every breath can be a Hallelujah. Buckley, in particular, realized the carnal aspect of the song, calling his version “a Hallelujah to the orgasm.”

“Hallelujah” can be applied to virtually any situation. It’s great for weddings, funerals, TV talent shows, and cartoons about ogres. Although Cohen’s lyrics don’t exactly profess religious devotion, “Hallelujah” has become a popular Christmas song that’s sometimes rewritten with more pious lyrics. Agnostics and atheists can also find plenty to love about “Hallelujah.” It’s been covered more than 300 times because it’s a song for everyone.

When Cohen died on November 7, 2016, at the age of 82, renewed interest in “Hallelujah” vaulted Cohen's version of the song onto the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time. Despite its decades of pop culture ubiquity, it took more than 30 years and Cohen's passing for “Hallelujah”—the very essence of which is about finding beauty amid immense sadness and resolving to move forward—to officially become a hit song.

“There’s no solution to this mess,” Cohen once said, describing the human comedy at the heart of “Hallelujah. “The only moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment when you embrace it all and you say 'Look, I don't understand a f***ing thing at all—Hallelujah! That's the only moment that we live here fully as human beings.”

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