7 Facts About Garth Brooks

Cooper Neill/Getty Images for dcp
Cooper Neill/Getty Images for dcp

Everyone has a friend who claims that he or she hates country music but loves Garth Brooks. With legendary live performances and songs that boast sing-in-the-shower catchiness, Brooks has captivated fans to the tune of more than 148 million records sold, making him the top-selling solo artist in U.S. history (sorry, Elvis).

Since bursting onto the scene almost 30 years ago with his self-titled 1989 debut album, Troyal Garth Brooks has slowed down a little in more recent years. A little. And while he now lists eating and napping as two of his favorite hobbies and claims he uses his guitar more to “hide my gut” than anything else, make no mistake about it: Brooks is far from done. Here are seven things you might not have known about the iconic musician, who turns 56 years old today.

1. HE MET HIS FIRST WIFE WHEN HE THREW HER OUT OF A BAR.

While working as a bouncer during his senior year of college, Brooks was required to toss an unruly woman. Little did he know that that woman, Sandy Mahl, would become his wife just a couple of years later.

“My job was to escort people out that caused disturbances,” Brooks recalled. “She beat me about nine times close to hell that night, too. I finally got her outside and I just kept noticing how cute she was … I asked her out. She told me to drop dead.”

The couple married in 1986 and divorced 15 years later. In 2005, Brooks married fellow country superstar Trisha Yearwood.

2. HE SANG WITH KISS.

It’s no secret that Brooks is a huge rock ‘n’ roll fan. In fact, his live shows during the 1990s were heavily influenced by acts like Queen and KISS. Fortunately for Brooks, KISS decided to produce a tribute album, Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved, in 1994 and asked him to contribute. Brooks played with the band and sang lead vocals on the track “Hard Luck Woman.”

Brooks later sang the tune on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (which you can see in the clip above).

3. KEEPING UP HIS CHRIS GAINES ALTER EGO WAS TOO MUCH WORK.

In 1999 the album “Garth Brooks in… The Life of Chris Gaines” was released in an attempt to generate enthusiasm for a potential movie about Brooks’s fictional alter ego, Chris Gaines. Little enthusiasm occurred, however, and the movie was shelved. But Brooks has no regrets about the Chris Gaines experiment and would not be averse to revisiting it if it weren’t for the problem of weight and long hours.

“I love the music, and that’s what it’s all about,” Brooks said earlier this year. “Would I love to do a second one? Sure. Would I ever drop that much weight again? I don’t think I could.”

Brooks believes that his appearance was partly to blame for the failure of Chris Gaines:

“There is a ton of Garth in Chris, once you start to get familiar with Chris’s music. But one of the things that still will never settle easy with a lot of people, including my dad still doesn’t get it, is how this kind of face, that looks like this and has for a decade, sings a song that goes [sings in falsetto] ‘There’s no more waiting.’ It’s very strange to see that coming out of this face.”

“I got the sh*t kicked out of me for doing that,” Brooks told Larry King of his time as Chris Gaines. “That was fun to do though. Those guys work too hard for me. The guys in the pop world. We were up ‘til three or four every morning. Country music we’re at home eating dinner at six.”

4. HE TURNED DOWN A ROLE IN SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.

At least allegedly. In 2013, a former business partner filed a lawsuit against Brooks in which she claimed, among other things, that Brooks was approached to play the role of Private Jackson (the part that eventually went to Barry Pepper) in Saving Private Ryan, but that Brooks did not want to be cast under Hanks’s shadow. The suit also claimed that Brooks turned down a role in Twister because “the star of the film was the tornado and Brooks wanted to be the star.”

5. HE WAS SIGNED TO A MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL CONTRACT.

MIKE FIALA/AFP/Getty Images

Brooks has always been a solid athlete; he earned a track and field scholarship to Oklahoma State University, where he threw the javelin. In 1999 the San Diego Padres signed him to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training. Brooks played mostly left field and finished the spring with one hit in 22 tries for a .045 batting average. After getting his first (and only) hit, Brooks was met at first base with a hug from future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. The next year, he signed with the New York Mets and took one more shot at the big leagues with the Kansas City Royals in 2004.

6. HE TRIED TO DONATE PART OF HIS LIVER.

When longtime friend and fellow country music artist Chris LeDoux was diagnosed with a disease of the bile ducts, Brooks graciously offered him a portion of his own liver. Although Brooks’s liver was incompatible, LeDoux was able to undergo a transplant in 2000 and release two more albums before being diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct in 2004. He passed away the following year.

7. HE HAS AN MBA.

Brooks has great business acumen (it would be hard to sell 148 million albums without it). In 2011 he was able to make it official, however, when he received his Master of Business Administration from Oklahoma State University. And not an honorary one, either—this one was legit.

Orson Welles's Former Hollywood Hills Estate Is Taking Vacation Reservations

Fred Mott, Getty Images
Fred Mott, Getty Images

Orson Welles's former Hollywood Hills estate is a perfect place to get away from society, grow a bushy beard, and brood over a bottle of whiskey.

Interested? The late Hollywood icon's 3000-square-foot home is available to rent for about $755 a night through HomeAway. The house, which sits on its own private 15,000-square-foot knoll, was home to Welles at the very beginning of his career and is where he wrote the screenplay for 1941's Citizen Kane. Bring along your typewriter and try to channel some of his greatness.

Quite a few other celebrities have inhabited the house as well, including Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and David Bowie. Features of the grand four-bedroom mansion—built in 1928—include a lagoon pool, Jacuzzi, deck, and both canyon and city views.

There's never been a better time to rent Welles's abode: his final film, The Other Side of the Wind, is set to premiere at this month's Venice Film Festival before arriving on Netflix. The unfinished flick, which was shot intermittently between 1970 and 1976, has been completed and restored for its much-anticipated release. (Of course the mansion has plenty of TVs for your viewing pleasure.)

The property has a three- to five-night stay minimum, depending on the season. For more pictures, see below or head to HomeAway. And since you're already in vacation-planning mode, another creative celebrity abode to consider is F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's Montgomery, Alabama home, which is available to rent via Airbnb.

Orson Welles' house
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles mansion
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

10 Things You Might Not Know About Robert De Niro

RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images
RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images

Robert De Niro is part of the pantheon of independent-minded filmmakers who cut through Hollywood noise in the 1970s with edgier fare to create what became known as “The New Hollywood.” Following stints with Brian De Palma and Roger Corman, De Niro teamed up with Martin Scorsese for the first time with 1973's Mean Streets, which launched a fruitful artistic collaboration that has produced some of the best movies of the past half-century.

Even after his shift into commercial comedies like Meet the Parents, “dedication” has remained De Niro’s watchword. The two-time Oscar winner has earned Hollywood legend status with panache and bone-deep portrayals. Here are 10 facts about the filmmaker on his 75th birthday. (Yes, we’re talkin’ to you.)

1. HIS FIRST ROLE WAS IN A STAGING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ—AT AGE 10.

Robert De Niro got bit by the acting bug early. He threatened to thrash a hippopotamus from top to bottom-us as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the tender age of 10. (This is the remake and casting the world needs right now.)

2. HE DROPPED OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL TO PURSUE ACTING.

Robert De Niro arrives at the UK premiere of epic war drama film 'The Deer Hunter', UK, 28th February 1979
John Minihan, Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

De Niro’s mother, Virginia Admiral, was a painter whose work was part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and his father, Robert De Niro, Sr., was a celebrated abstract expressionist painter. So the apple falling into drama school instead of the art studio still isn’t that far from the tree. Having already gotten a youthful dose of stage life, De Niro quit his private high school to try to become an actor. He first went to the nonprofit HB Studio before studying under Stella Adler and, later, The Actors Studio.

3. HE’S A DUAL CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND ITALY.

De Niro is American, Italian-American, and, as of 2004, Italian. The country bestowed honorary citizenship upon De Niro as an honor in recognition of his career, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing to the passport office. A group called the Order of the Sons of Italy in America strongly protested the Italian government’s plan due to De Niro’s frequent portrayal of negative Italian-American stereotypes.

4. HE GAINED 60 POUNDS FOR RAGING BULL.

Preparing to play the misfortune-laden boxing champ Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull required two major things from De Niro: training and gaining. For the latter, De Niro ate his way through Europe during a four-month binge of ice cream and pasta. His 60-pound-gain was dramatic enough that it concerned Martin Scorsese. It was one way to show dedication to a role, but the training element was even more impressive. De Niro got so good at boxing that when LaMotta set up several professional-level sparring bouts for the actor, De Niro won two of them.

5. HE AND MARLON BRANDO ARE THE ONLY ACTORS TO WIN OSCARS FOR PLAYING THE SAME CHARACTER.

De Niro won his first Oscar in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II, for portraying the younger version of Vito Corleone—the wizened capo played by Marlon Brando, who also won an Oscar for the role (Brando’s came in 1973, for The Godfather). No other pair of actors has managed the feat, although Jeff Bridges came close in 2010 when he was nominated for playing Rooster Cogburn in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit (a role originated by John Wayne in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 movie of the same name). Oddly enough, Bridges was in contention for the role of Travis Bickle, the role that earned De Niro his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

6. HE DROVE A CAB TO PREPARE FOR TAXI DRIVER.

If you’re looking for commitment to a role, ask Hack #265216. De Niro got a taxicab driver’s license to study up to play Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and spent several weekends cruising around New York City picking up fares. It’s possible that having his teeth filed down for Cape Fear is the most intense transformation he’s undergone for a role, but picking up a part-time job to live the lonely life of Bickle is more humane.

7. ONE OF HIS FILMS POSTPONED ONE OF HIS OSCAR WINS.

The 53rd Academy Awards—where De Niro won for playing Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull—were originally scheduled for March 30, 1981 but were postponed until the following day because of an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr., claimed the attack was intended to impress Jodie Foster, who Hinckley grew obsessed with after watching Taxi Driver.

8. HE LAUNCHED THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL IN THE WAKE OF 9/11.

Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal speak onstage at the 'Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives' Premiere during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City
Theo Wargo, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Producer Jane Rosenthal, philanthropist Craig M. Hatkoff, and De Niro founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2001 as a showcase for independent films that would hopefully “spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan” after the devastation of the 9/11 terror attacks. With its empire state of mind, the inaugural festival in 2002 featured a “Best of New York Series” handpicked by Martin Scorsese and drew an astonishing 150,000 attendees.

9. HE WAS ONCE INTERROGATED BY FRENCH POLICE CONCERNING A PROSTITUTION RING.

One of the most bizarre chapters in De Niro’s life came when he was publicly named in the investigation of a prostitution ring in Paris. The 1998 incident included a lengthy interrogation session (De Niro filed an official complaint) and a pile of paparazzi waiting for him when he left the prosecutor’s office. De Niro railed against the entire country, vowing to return his Legion of Honour and telling Le Monde newspaper that, "I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France.” (He had cooled off enough by 2011 to act as the Cannes Film Festival’s jury president.)

10. HE LOVED THE CAT(S) IN MEET THE PARENTS.

Meet the Parents’s Mr. Jinx (Jinxy!) was played by two Himalayans named Bailey and Misha, and De Niro fell in love with them. He played with them between scenes, kept kibble in his pocket for them, and asked director Jay Roach to have Mr. Jinx in as many scenes as possible.

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