A golden death
The myth here wasn’t so much that the Goldfinger actress (Shirley Eaton) had died but that it was possible to die as her character Jill Masterson had: skin asphyxiation. After Masterson defected from her boss, Auric Goldfinger, to be with Bond, 007 found her covered in gold leaf on his bed. At the time, it was believed that we breathed through our skin and so while filming the scene, a patch of skin on Eaton’s body was left uncovered so her skin could ”breathe.” We now know that Pluto isn’t a planet, there’s good and bad cholesterol, and the body does not breathe through the skin.
That deathly scream
The blood-curdling scream on the Ohio Players’ ”Love Rollercoaster” was so chilling that many believed it was really the sound of a woman in distress. There were a variety of outrageous scenarios floating around, but the most commonly believed myth was that it was the model from the album cover being stabbed to death in the studio: She’d been disgruntled about damage done to her skin by the honey. Truth is, the scream came from keyboardist Billy Beck. No harm, no foul play.
From geek to glam
Maybe because we love a good makeover story, poor Josh Saviano (The Wonder Years) supposedly grew up to be Marilyn Manson (real name: Brian Hugh Warner). In fact, Saviano would go from being nerdy Paul Pfeiffer to Yale, and is now a lawyer. But he didn’t mind being mistaken for Manson, telling People magazine: ”What would you rather have, people thinking you’re a dorky kid from The Wonder Years or a satanic rock star? It’s way cooler for me.”
Mikey and those Pop Rocks
When Pop Rocks came out in the 1970s, parents worried their kids would choke on the fizzy candy. For kids, the extra gross-out, fear factor came from the worry that combined with Coke, the candies could make your stomach explode. Little Mikey from the popular Life cereal commercials became the go-to example of just such a death. Maybe it was because Mikey would eat anything or maybe he was just a popular character. But the story has been debunked repeatedly (Coke and Pop Rocks don’t produce nearly enough carbonation for that as the pilot episode of Mythbusters showed) and commercial actor John Gilchrist — a.k.a., Mikey — lives on.
Felled by food?
When the Mamas and the Papas singer Mama Cass died on July 29, 1974, she was upwards of 220 pounds and found in bed with a ham sandwich by her side. Despite the autopsy reports that would later indicate a heart attack as the cause of death, rumors would persist that the great singer had choked on her food, as if the tragic death needed an extra bit of macabre.
It's a bird! It's a...munchkin?
About the time that the 50th Anniversary DVD of the classic movie The Wizard of Oz appeared, so did the rumors that one scene contained a lovelorn munchkin’s suicide by hanging accidentally caught on camera. The prevailing explanation by experts and those involved in the production is that it’s actually a large bird (one of many placed in scenes throughout the movie) spreading its wings. Not as titillating a story, though, is it?
Frozen in time?
The rich and powerful can do just about anything, so why couldn’t Walt Disney cheat death by having his body frozen for later rejuvenation? True, the first-known cryogenics preservaton took place shortly after Disney’s death, but he was actually cremated upon his death in 1966 and interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in California.
The ghost in the window?
It could be the makings of a science class lesson on perspective. The same cardboard cutout of actor Ted Danson that is seen later in Three Men and a Baby looks like a small boy when seen from a distance behind a sheer curtain. Rumors swirled that it was the ghost of a boy who had died on the set. No such thing occurred.
And the winner is (supposed to be)...
Things got a little nasty for actress Marisa Tomei after her 1994 Best Supporting Actress win for My Cousin Vinny. Soon afterward, the rumor began that presenter Jack Palance accidentally read the wrong name and that Tomei was not the actual winner. (Some say it was Judy Davis for Husbands and Wives, while others went with Vanessa Redgrave for Howards End.) An Academy spokesperson made it clear that there had been no error: ”It’s the policy of the Academy that should wrong information be given, a Price Waterhouse rep is empowered to go on stage and make the correction.” And Tomei’s camp decided to leave well enough alone and not address it.
The legend on this one has it that the iconic dueling banjos scene in Deliverance was not planned, but happened when a boy standing off to the side during filming of the 1972 movie couldn’t help himself from joining in on the banjo playing while watching. Truth is that it was all quite planned. Local boy Billie Redden was cast specifically for his look (though he is not inbred, autistic, or mentally retarded as was implied in the movie). Redden couldn’t play the banjo so another boy fingered the strings, reaching from behind him in a bit of clever camera play. The scene left such an indelible mark on viewers that when director Tim Burton was filming Big Fish in Georgia in 2003, he just had to have Redden in his movie.