Top 10 Worst Oil Spills in the World

Oil spills have occurred ever since we began to harvest it for various uses, as a result of human error, laziness, or pure ignorance. Most recently, the devastating Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been all over the news- oil was pouring out of the blown rig for almost 100 days- so you probably won’t be surprised to find it on this list. More surprising: there have been worse spills in history.

Remember 1989’s Exxon Valdez oil spill? It was heavily referred to during the recent Deep Water Horizon oil spill, yet this oil spill doesn’t even make the list. Sadly, the Exxon Valdez spill seems miniscule compared to the other spills on this list. Below are the 10 worst oil spills ever recorded in history determined by the amount of oil that was leaked during the disaster:

10. The MT Haven, Italy, 1991 – 45 million gallons

The MT Haven was launched in 1973 after its sister ship sank earlier in the decade. The main purpose of the ship was to carry crude oil from the Middle East gulf regions to various other countries. In 1987 during the Iran-Iraq war, the ship was hit by a missile and was sent to Singapore for repair. There, after it was fixed, the ship was sold to brokers. After being sold, the ship ran from Kharg Island (located off Iran) into the Mediterranean. For years the ship successfully ran its course back and forth through the waters. Until April 11, 1991. On this day, the ship was, as usual, unloading oil (about 230,000 tons) at a platform a few miles from Genoa, Italy. After unloading about 80,000 tons, everything went wrong during a routine internal operation and there was an explosion.

A fire broke out immediately and flames were as high as 100 meters. More explosions occurred as millions of gallons of oil dispersed into the water. Six people were killed because of the disaster. Officials attempted to tow the ship to the land, but this failed as the keel was broken. A day after the explosion the ship sank, and for 12 years continued to leak oil. In the end the new owners of the ship were blamed due to repair of the ship after it was hit by a missile and put back into operation. (Image: underwater ship wreck of the MT Haven.)

9. ABT Summer, Angola, 1991 – 51 million gallons

On May 28, 1991, the oil tanker ABT Summer was on its way from Iran to Rotterdam. It was carrying about 260,000 tons of oil. Near the end of its journey, the ABT Summer suddenly burst into flames. The ship was about 900 miles away from Angola. Once the flames began, the oil also started to leak from the tanker. The oil eventually began to form a slick that spread out to be about 80 square miles. The oil itself also burned too. The tanker was on fire for 3 whole days until it sank on June 1. After sinking, officials attempted to recover and locate the wreckage, but their efforts proved to be unsuccessful.

There is no clear evidence of exactly how much oil was burned or how much sank during the disaster. Out of the 32 crew-members on the ship, 5 of them died because of the explosion. While 51 million gallons of oil spilled into the water, there was nothing ever professionally done to fix it. It wasn’t too close to the coastline, so many believed that the high movement of the seas would eventually break up the oil slick and carry it away from the shore, reducing or completely eliminating any type of environmental impact.

8. The Amoco Cadiz, France, 1978 – 69 million gallons

In 1978, the Amoco Cadiz, a very large crude carrier, was on its way from the Persian Gulf to Rotterdam with a stop in Great Britain. During this stop the ship experienced very unsettled water due to unstable weather conditions. The morning of the stop, a very heavy wave crashed into the ship’s rudder. The rudder was damaged and efforts to repair it failed. The ship sent out messages stating that it was unable to move, but no one on the ship called for assistance from a tug until hours later. A German tug eventually responded to the call but the high seas made assistance difficult. A tow line was eventually attached, but it broke, and a successful line was not put on until 8:55 that night. In efforts to stop the drifting, the Amoco Cadiz dropped its anchor, but the strong winds and mass of the tanker were too strong. At about 9:00PM, the ship ran aground, which then caused the engines to flood, which then ripped the hull and allowed oil to escape.

The next morning, the ship split in half and 69 million gallons of oil washed into the English Channel. Thankfully, everyone was rescued by French Naval Aviation troops, so no one died during the incident. Eventually the French Navy would sink the ship. None of the oil was able to be pumped out of the tanker due to the horrible weather. The oil eventually reached beaches, 76 in total, and spread 200 miles along the coastline.

7. Castillo de Bellver, South Africa, 1983 – 79 million gallons

The Castillo de Bellver was carrying 252,000 tons of crude oil to South Africa on August 6, 1983. Once the ship was about 70 miles off of Cape Town, it suddenly caught fire, which caused the ship to drift and then break into two separate pieces. The stern, which may have been carrying about 100,000 tons of oil, was capsized about 24 miles from the South African coast. Once the flames died down and no more explosions were expected, the ship’s bow was towed away from the coast and then explosive charges were used to sink it. 50,000-60,000 tons of the oil may have sank into the sea or burned during the fire.

Thankfully, the oil never reached the coastline. It was headed towards the coast but a wind shift changed the direction of the oil back away from the coast. There wasn’t much clean up with this oil spill though dispersants were used. The impact wasn’t as serious as it could have been and wildlife seemed to be able to cope.

6. Nowruz Oil Field, Persian Gulf, 1983 – 80 million gallons

The year of 1983 really proved to be a horrible year at the Nowruz Oil Field. There were several different incidents that resulted in oil being spilled into the Persian Gulf. All of these incidents occurred during the height of the Iran-Iraq War. During the war, an oil tanker collided into an oil platform in the Persian Gulf. The power and force of the collision caused the platform to fall into a 45 degree angle-position. Waves and daily corrosion eventually caused the riser to fall into the wellhead. This of course caused heavy damage and for months, the well leaked 1,500 barrels of oil each day. Even though many planned efforts to stop the leakage were put into place, capping the well was seen as too dangerous because Iraqi planes were constantly attacking the platform.

Before this first incident was resolved, there were more oil spills. For example, in March 1983, Iraqi helicopters attacked a platform in the Nowruz Oil Field. During this incident alone, over 733,000 barrels of oil were spilled. The spill was finally stopped and capped in May 1983, but only after 9 people died in the attempt to cap the well. The first Nowruz incident was not solved until September 1983- 11 men had died during attempts to stop the leak.

5. Fergana Valley/Mingbulak, Russia, 1992 – 88 million gallons

When you think about an oil spill you probably picture a capsized tanker or drilling platform issue; however, the Fergana Valley oil spill didn’t involve either. This case of the Fergana Valley oil spill is definitely one of ignorant thinking. It stands as one of the largest inland oil spills ever recorded. The Fergana Valley is located between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan which was a densely populated area with highly fertile land for agriculture. Vast oil deposits were discovered under the land- of course with this type of finding, drilling would happen, and it did.

On March 2, 1992, an oil well located in the area experienced a mechanical breakdown which then caused an oil blow out. This well was one of the most active in the location, resulting in the spilling of 88 million gallons of oil. The oil quickly flowed out of the well and into the valley. The oil from the well had been leaking for 8 months, but dikes were used to hold it back. Eventually the dikes failed and oil was sent into the Russian Arctic. The oil somehow stopped flowing on its own. The oil field was abandoned soon after.

4. Atlantic Empress/Aegean Captain, Trinidad and Tobago, 1979 – 90 million gallons

On July 19, 1979, there was a very strong tropical storm in the Caribbean Sea near the Venezuelan coast very close to Tobago. Two ships, the Atlantic Empress and the Aegean Captain, were out on the sea trying to battle through the storm. The storm was extremely severe and weather conditions were horrible and the two ships collided. The Atlantic Empress, a fully loaded supertanker, carrying millions of gallons of oil, exploded into flames. Along with the explosion came the rushing of oil into the water, which wasn’t stopped until August 3, 1979.

A lot of the oil that was leaked burned in the fire; however, by the end of it all, 90 million gallons had seeped into the water near Tobago. The Atlantic Empress eventually sank, which brought an end to this oil disaster. Today it stands as the largest ship oil spill today.

3. Ixtoc I, Mexico, 1979 – 138 million gallons

The Ixtoc I incident in Mexico is one that did not involve a tanker. Instead, the spill of 138 million gallons of oil was caused by a faulty offshore oil well. Pemex, a Mexican petroleum company, was attempting to drill an oil well when an unexpected blowout occurred on June 3, 1979. In no time the oil ignited, the drilling rig collapsed and oil began to freely flow into the Gulf of Mexico. Officials predicted that 10,000-30,000 barrels of oil a day were going into the Gulf. The horrible part is that it took almost a year to stop the leak. It was successfully capped in 1980, only after millions of gallons of oil had polluted waters.

Thankfully, Mother Nature helped with the Ixtoc I oil spill. Westerly winds and storms were able to keep the oil away and off of beaches near southeastern Texas and eastern Mexico, although some of the oil did reach South Padre Island. Beaches were soiled, but the outcome could have been much worse if the weather did not cooperate.

2. Deepwater Horizon, Gulf of Mexico, 2010 – 172 million gallons

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill located in the Gulf of Mexico occurred on April 20, 2010 after methane gas was somehow put under extremely high pressure, which then caused it to travel up the drill column and eventually ignite. The ignition then prompted an explosion that killed 11 workers (presumed dead as bodies were never found) and injured 17. The ship burned for about 36 hours, after efforts to calm the fire failed, and sank on April 22, 2010. The well continued to leak for over 100 days after various efforts and plans to stop the leak failed. Oil dispersants were widely spread throughout the waters, which helped some. A final fix came about on August 3, 2010 when mud was pumped into the well to stop the flow of oil.

The disturbing part of this spill is that it could have been avoided. Several workers on the platform spoke of their concerns regarding the well months before, but no action was ever really taken. The effects of this oil spill have been truly horrible. Animals have suffered, including pelicans, turtles, birds, and various others. Also, many people are out of plenty of money, jobs, and- in many cases- hope.

(Note: The amount of oil listed for the Deep Water Horizon oil spill was confirmed on August 2, 2010. Of course, the amount may change.)

1. Gulf War, Kuwait, 1991 – 520 million gallons

The Gulf War oil spill was not an accident; the oil was spilled purposefully during wartime. During the Gulf War in 1991, Iraqi forces, in hopes of thwarting the arrival of American Marine soldiers as well as lessening American oil supplies, unsealed and opened the valves located at an offshore oil terminal named Sea Island. They also dumped oil from many different tankers into the Persian Gulf. The media first reported that airstrikes from the Americans had blown up two oil tankers. In the end this wasn’t the case, though the Americans did eventually destroy the pipelines to avert more oil spilling into the Gulf.

By the end of it all, about 172 million gallons of oil poured into the Gulf. The oil covered over 4000 square miles and some of it was 5-inches thick. A study conducted after the oil spill found that the spill probably did very little damage in the long-term due to the fact that most of the oil evaporated and millions of barrels were able to be recovered. In the short-term, the impact on wildlife living in Kuwait and Iraq was devastating.



Top 10 Witches of All Times

Witches and witchcraft are among us since thousands of years. Times came and went; many of them were killed, but the amount of women who died as witches while actually innocent is overwhelming. Witches exist in all folklores around the world. They are fascinating ladies, sometimes seductive, sometimes as ugly as the Devil himself. Even though today we have some clues about the lives of the most famous witches in the world, we may never know for sure who had real occult powers and who was merely an ordinarily lady. Take a look and decide for yourself:

1. The Witch of Endor

In The Old Testament, the Witch of Endor is mentioned in chapter 28, verses 3-25. Apparently, she owned a talisman which helped her make contact with the prophet Samuel (who, at that time, had just died). The Biblical verses which mention the Witch of Endor are very intriguing and caused much controversy especially in the Middle Ages, when theologians could not accept as true the fact that it was possible to call the ghost of saints by means of magic. They were rather eager to believe that he who the Witch of Endor had summoned was actually a demon taking the shape of Samuel.

2. Cassandra

Cassandra is a renowned character from the Greek mythology. She was the daughter of king Priam of Troy and was apparently both blessed and cursed by Apollo who loved her but was not loved by Cassandra in return: blessed with the gift of clairvoyance and cursed so that her prophecies would never be believed. She had a sad fate as she was raped and became the concubine of the victorious Agamemnon. Upon their arrival in Athens, the king and Cassandra were both killed by Clytemnenstra, Agamemnon’s wife, and her secret lover.

3. Morgan Le Fay

She is among the most famous witches in the world. Always portrayed as the enemy of King Arthur, Morgan is an important figure of the Arthurian tale. She was a powerful sorceress, Arthur’s half sister (from their mother’s side) and a student of Merlin’s in the art of witchcraft. The first mention of her name comes from the 12 century when Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote the story called “Vita Merlini”. Here, we encounter Morgan (called Morgen) as the leader of the 9 magical sisters from the Island of Apples who took care of Merlin who had been badly wounded.

4. Angéle de la Barthe (1230-1275)

A wealthy and noble woman of Toulouse, Angéle lived in the 13th century. She was an adept of Catharism, a sect which was considered heretic by the church. Angéle de la Barthe is supposedly the first to ever been executed for witchcraft as part of the Medieval Witch Hunt. She was accused of having sex with the Devil and she supposedly gave birth to his son, a baby eating monster. This accusation came after many babies had disappeared in the area that same period. In order to “encourage” her to confess these sins, she was severely tortured by the Inquisition. Later, de la Barthe was found guilty of being a witch and executed. No record of her trial exists however and many people doubt that she ever existed.

5. Alice Kyteler (1280-1325)

Alice Kyteler was a wealthy woman who lived in Ireland. At her husband’s death, she was accused of having poisoned him (and that she sacrificed animals to the Devil) by her step children who were after her money. Many of the accusations against her were rather curious and strangely detailed, such as the magical rituals she performed using some awkward ingredients as hairs from buttocks and clothing items taken from unbaptized babies. It is said that mysterious items, such as incantations and magical powders were also found at her home. As a result, she was condemned to death but she somehow escaped one night before the execution and was never seen again.

6. Mother Shipton (1488-1561)

This is one of the greatest (possibly real) witches of all times. On her real name Ursula Southeil, she was predestined for the life of an outcast. Not only was Ursula born of a teenage mother who was herself suspected of witchcraft, but she was also severely deformed and extremely ugly, with ill twisted legs, a large head and sunken cheeks . She also had a whole set of teeth from birth. All the villagers believed that she was the child of the Devil, especially since the name of her father was unknown. Although many strange things happened around her in childhood (flying objects and other such sorceries) she remained in history for another talent, namely, as an amazing seer. Her reputation matched the one of Nostradamus. Apparently, she predicted many historic events of the century and of the faraway future (“around the world thoughts shall fly in the twinkling of an eye” may be the description of the Internet). Although not many of these original prophecies were kept, and most are known to have been invented, she remains England’s most famous seer.

7. Moll Dyer (?-1697)

Moll Dyer’s whole existence is a myth. However, most of the stories surrounding her describe a noble woman of Irish origin who found refuge in Maryland from her troubled past. Soon, her isolation, combined with her dubious herbal knowledge transformed her in a witch in the eyes of the locals. They chased her out of the town in a frosty winter night. She froze to death in the nearby forest, not before throwing a curse on the town and its inhabitants who had acted with such cruelty. It is said that the rock(image) she stood on bears the marks of her knee and hand, as a reminder of the curse. If you still doubt, then find out that many people reported strange sensations when finding themselves in that location and even cameras were told to malfunction in the area.

8. Marie Laveau (1801-1881)

This lady is the most representative voodoo practitioner in the world. She lived in Louisiana, the state where the first voodoo dolls appeared and managed to become an icon of this religion. This Voodoo queen was famous for her talent in performing voodoo rituals, as well as for her kindness. It is said that she was once approached by a New Orleans gentleman who asked her to help his son (trialed for murder), to escape from prison. She apparently asked in return the house that the family owned in the city. Even though the young man was almost sure to be convicted, Marie Laveau’s charms functioned and he was set free.

9. Silver Ravenwolf (1956- )

Silver Ravenwolf is a contemporary witch. She is the American leader- as well as an elder -of Wicca, a modern Neopagan religion which is believed to be one of the fastest growing on Earth today. Among Wicca practices are magical rituals and witchcraft. A very reputed author of Wicca and Paganism, she is also the director of Black Forest Circle and Seminary, an organization which includes many Wicca clans in America and Canada. This modern witch is without a doubt, much more fortunate then her predecessors as she lives in a world that is ready to accept anything, as long as this ‘anything’ does no harm to anybody.

10. Maggie Wall (?-1657)

She is the most mysterious witch in the world. Maggie was one of the 4,000 women that were executed as witches in Scotland. However, she alone has a stone monument to be remembered by. All we know for sure is Maggie’s name and the year of her death, both mentioned on the monument: “Burnt here – as a witch – 1657″. This cryptic message does not enlighten us but rather, raises even more questions: Who was Maggie Wall? Why was she burnt alive and why is it that this large stone monument was built on the place where she died? No one knows. No local tale mentions her, no legend or piece of information was ever discovered regarding Maggie Wall. However, there is someone who knows about her: Every year, a mysterious person leaves a garland at the cairn, with an anonymous message stating ‘In memory of Maggie Wall, Burnt by the Church in the Name of Christianity’. Another mystery surrounding the monument is the inscription itself. No one knows who writes it. It just appears to be repainted on a regularly basis, and this does not happen since yesterday, but probably since the time of her death.



Top 13 Exquisite Orchids

The orchid family, Orchidaceae, is probably the largest family of flowering plant in the world. With over 20,000 species in over 700 genera, orchids can be found on every continent except Antarctica; some even grow inside the Arctic Circle. Related to plants such as lilies, most orchids are epiphytic, which means they grow on other plants.

Other types of orchids are called terrestrial orchids; these grow on the ground. A few can grow on rocks too, known as lithophyte orchids. In the wild, it is not uncommon to see one kind growing on a tree, and nearby another type flourishing on a rock. Let's view a gallery of some exquisite orchids from around the world.

13. Cymbidium

Cymbidium is an evergreen genus of more than 50 species, which occur in Asia and Australia. Easy to grow, they do well as houseplants and look lovely as corsages. Beautiful flowers with a thick waxy texture and five pointed petals, they come in a variety of colors – green, white, cream, brown, pink and red. Best suited to cool conditions and high elevation, some Dwarf Cymbidium species have been grown for centuries in China and Japan.

12. Anguloa

Anguloas are also known as tulip orchids, as they produce upright-cupped flowers on an erect stem. They occur in wide range of colors, from dark orange to bright yellow and white. The flowers of this orchid have a strong scent just like cinnamon. Originally from South and Central America, these orchids have been widely cultivated by all lovers of this exceptional genus. Though they are not popular as pot plants outside their home countries, they can seen growing in window boxes and on patios.

11. Cattleya

Cattleyas have thick creeping rhizomes sending up the stems, and the flowers of this beautiful orchid expand until they burst out of their mitten-like sheath. One can easily recognize them as each plant produces highly fragrant flowers with a sparkling crystalline texture, in a variety of colors. Cattleyas have been held in high esteem by orchid fanciers since Victorian times. Distributed throughout tropical Central and South America, Cattleya hybrids also produce the biggest orchid flowers.

10. Vanda

Vandas are totally tropical orchids and are widely cultivated in Asia (mostly Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore) and in Florida in the U.S. These are high-light orchids with big roots that prefer to splay out in the air. The flower spikes of these orchids arch out from the stem and then grow upright, lined with striking waxy flowers with spoon-shaped sepals.

9. Laelia

You will find the petals, sepals and lip of a Laelia flower very much similar to Cattleya. Laelia species are easy to recognize, as their typical flamboyant flowers are rarely single and form a magnificent frilled lip. Some 50 or more species are found over a wide area from Central to South America. Able to grow on trees and rocks, these species are very famous for their tolerance of temperature extremes.

8. Dendrobium

Dendrobiums comprise the second largest member of the orchid family, after Bulbophyllums, with more than 1000 species, widely distributed in Australia, Asia, the southwest Pacific islands and even New Zealand. Because of their large geographical range, it is difficult to generalize about their floral structure. One of the common features is their ‘cucumber’-like appearance, with swollen leaves. The plant requires less water in winter and should be kept quite dry during winter season.

7. Phalaenopsis

Also known as the Moth orchid, Phalaenopsis is the most popular orchid choice for the home. It not only relishes the warmth of a centrally-heated room, but also thrives in an average living room. It is easy to cultivate, and its perfumed flowers comes in all colors except blue and a diversity of patterns. Usually its branched flower stem can carry up to 100 flowers.

6. Brassia

Brassias are bizarre-looking plants that include more than 30 species, originating from tropical zones at high altitudes in the Americas. Easy to cultivate, these are often called ‘spider orchids’, due to the very long, thin petals and sepals. Each flowering stem carries from six to twelve large, long-lasting, star-shaped flowers.

5. Stanhopea

Very few orchids have more eye-catching properties than well-grown Stanhopeas, which are marvels of evolutionary design. These are tightly clustered large plants that bear very fragrant and extremely bizarre blooms in summer. The truly remarkable Stanhopea flowers are very short-lived and are perfumed strongly enough to attract bees.

4. Oncidium

Closely related to Brassia, Oncidium species and their hybrids are perfectly suited to intermediate and warmer climates. Commonly known as ‘dancing lady’, it is a large and highly varied genus with over 400 species worldwide. Oncidiums enjoy open compost that holds moisture rather than water.

3. Miltonia

Miltonias are known as quite adaptable plants. Sometimes Miltonia species are recommended as windowsill plants for the beginner. They are leafy, medium-sized orchids with pointy petals and sepals and an oversized lip. Suitable for pot and basket culture, flowers of this plant are star-shaped and come in various shades of purple, pink, white and pale-yellow.

2. Zygopetalum

Zygopetalums are robust, leafy plants with strap-like light green, narrow leaves. They flower year round and their fragrant flowers come in shades of deep purple and rich olive green. Other intergeneric hybrids come in shades of brown, pink, violet and khaki too. Zygopetalums originated in tropical South America. They can be grown with Cymbidiums, in the same potting mix.

1. Bulbophyllum

The largest member of the orchid family, the genus Bulbophyllum contains one of the most remarkable assemblages of weird and wonderful flower forms and shapes found in nature. They are widely dispersed in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. Some species are pollinated by flies and have the scent of rotting flesh. Also, the plant smells putrid when fully open.

Orchid flowers come in wide array of shapes, sizes, colors and fragrances. Some are delicately-striped, lightly dappled or maybe boldly spotted. Every species exhibits magnificently intricate patterns. In recent years, climate change, habitat destruction and human interference have contributed a lot to the decline of orchids. With the extinction of certain species we must learn not to disturb their natural habitat because orchids truly are different



10 Hollywood Dynasties

Family dynasties are a grand tradition in Hollywood. Below are a list of clans of famous actors, directors, writers, and producers who were related to each other. The criteria for this list is how much talent the combined members of the family had and how many generations the dynasty spanned.

10. The Reitman Dynasty

Members: Ivan, son Jason, daughter Catherine

Rather than go with the Kirk/Michael combo or the Judy/Vincente/Liza triumvate, I’ll start with something a little more current. Jason Reitman, the talented writer/director of poignant comic films as diverse as Thank You for Smoking, Juno and now Young Adult, followed in the foot steps of father Ivan Reitman who’s film credits include Ghostbusters, Meatballs, Twins as well as production credits on Space Jam and Kindergarten Cop.

When Jason got his first Oscar nomination for Juno in 2008, he recounted to the press a story about him and his dad when he was 12:

“I said, ‘Why don’t you go to the Oscars?’ And he said, ‘You know, if I’m ever fortunate enough to be nominated, I’ll go.’ I was like 12-years-old. I don’t know why I asked this. And I had the chutzpah to go, ‘Yeah, but what if I get nominated, will you go?’”

Any bitterness was erased by the fact that Jason got his father nominated as well with a co-producing credit on Up in the Air.

In addition, Jason’s sister Catherine is a budding actress.

9. The Fairbanks-Pickford Dynasty

Members: Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, son Douglas Jr.

This dynasty begins with the two of the three people (Charlie Chaplin would be the third) who are arguably most responsible for inventing the concept of movie stardom. It doesn’t rank very high, however, because it fizzles out after a generation.

Swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks and America’s first sweetheart Mary Pickford were Hollywood’s first It couple when they fell and love and married. They later divorced but not before being half of the team of the founders behind United Artists Studios. The studio was co-founded with silent comedian Charlie Chaplin and director D.W. Griffith because the four of them had gotten so popular and successful that no one could pay their salaries. Fairbanks’ son through another marriage, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., was a gifted and athletic actor also suited for action films and starred in Gunga Din and Sinbad the Sailor. He later married screen star Joan Crawford (at the tender age of 20) which might have continued this dynasty into a three-generation machine except for the fact that within a year Crawford caught the eye of Clark Gable and left Douglas Jr. Douglas had three daughters with his second wife, none of whom had any imdb credits.

8. The Curtis/Leigh Dynasty

Members: Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, daughter Kelly Curtis, daughter Jamie Lee Curtis, son-in-law Christopher Guest

Neither Curtis nor Leigh was a child of Hollywood royalty as they both came from working class backgrounds. Curtis had the fortune of growing up in New York City where he enrolled in acting courses following his service in the Navy while Leigh was discovered by Norma Shearer at a ski resort where her dad worked.

Nonetheless, their marriage was one of Hollywood royalty and while the intensity of the spotlight led to the crumbling of their marriage, they produced a very special daughter who would later become a star in the form of Jamie Lee Curtis. Also joining forces with this clan is Jamie Lee Curtis’ husband Christopher Guest. Guest, a former SNL cast member, is writer and director of the popular mockumentaries Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. Jamie Lee’s sister Kelly landed the role of “Muffy” in the film Trading Places. She retired from acting in 1999 and became Jamie Lee’s assistant on set.

7. The Ladd Dynasty

Members: Alan Ladd Sr., son Alan Ladd Jr, granddaughters Kelliann, Chelsea and Amanda Ladd

Everyone knows Alan Ladd is best-known as the heroic gunslinger in Shane. Fewer people know his other indirect contribution to film by having a son who would go on to be one of the most unsung heroes in Hollywood history. Starting his career as a Hollywood agent, Ladd went on to become head of creative affairs and eventually president of Fox studios. He’s the person responsible for green lighting George Lucas’ Star Wars when no one else would. He also was behind other commercial smash hits as Alien, The Towering Inferno, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Breaking Away, and All That Jazz. He also gave director Ron Howard his start. As far whether the Ladd Dynasty goes beyond Alan and Alan Jr., three of Alan Jr.’s four children have credits on imdb with daughter Kelliann having producer’s credits on three films.

6. The Mankiewicz Family

Members: Brothers Joseph and Herman, son Tom, grandson Ben

Joseph Mankiewicz was a two-time Oscar winning writer and director. His film All About Eve is one of the greatest satires Hollywood has ever made. His brother Herman Mankiewicz was a top-tier screenwriter highlighted by a co-writing credit on Citizen Kane with Orson Welles. This is a very interesting distinction in Hollywood history because a) Citizen Kane routinely tops polls as the best film ever made 2) Orson Welles was nominated for Oscars in acting and directing as well but writing was the only Oscar he ever won AND 3) Some sources claim that Orson Welles didn’t write the script at all but delegated it all to Mankiewicz.

With the exception of Joseph’s son Tom who directed some TV films and wrote a couple scripts in the James Bond series, none of the Mankewicz brothers’ offspring continued their reputation as great filmmakers of films. However, Herman’s grandson Ben is one of the faces most associated with classic film as one of the two permanent hosts of Turner Classic Movies. The Mankewicz family is also home to a number of political luminaries with Ben’s father being a speechwriter for the Kennedy administration.

5. The Richardson/Redgrave Dynasty

Members: Michael, daughter Vanessa, daughter Lynn, son-in-law Tony, granddaughter Natasha

This dynasty begins with Sir Michael Redgrave who became one of Britain’s premiere stage and screen actors in the 1940’s. His two daughters, Vanessa and Lynn, followed in their fathers’ footsteps and both have had even more successful careers.

Both actresses broke out with Academy Award nominations for best actress in the same year: In 1966, Lynn was nominated as the titular character in Georgy Girl while Vanessa was nominated in A Man for All Seasons. Since then, the two sisters have had incredibly lengthy careers that has earned them ranks within the British empire (Vanessa is a Commander of the British Empire while Lynn was awarded an Officer of the British Empire). Lynn passed away last year (her last film was the acclaimed My Dog Tulip) while Vanessa stands to earn her 7th Oscar nomination for her role in Corlianis. Vanessa was married to Oscar-winning Director Tony Richardson for five years (a bisexual, he died of AIDS in 1991), and their union produced stage and screen star Natasha Richardson who tragically died in a skiing accident in 2009.

4. The Hustons

Members: Walter, son John, grandson Danny, granddaughter Anjelica

The Hustons are one of two families to win Oscars among three generations. Writer and director Walter Huston directed both father, Walter, and daughter, Anjelica to Oscars in Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) and Prizzi’s Honor (1985) respectively. Walter Huston was a character actor who disappeared into roles. In contrast, John was a Hollywood personality so outlandish Clint Eastwood made the movie White Hunter, Black Heart based on his larger-than-life exploits. In addition to being a director, John was a painter, boxer, cavalry officer in the Mexican army, gamesman, writer, explorer, and couldn’t resist an occasional acting role on screen. His daughter Anjelica is best known to popular audiences in the role of “Morticia” from The Addams Family movies and son Danny Huston has acted in films such as The Constant Gardener and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

3. The Coppolas

Members: Frances, father Carmine, daughter Sofia, nephew Nicolas Cage, nephew Jason Schwartzman, nephew Roman Coppola, ex son-in-law Spike Jonze, sister Talia Shire

The other of two families to win Oscars through three generations, the Coppolas have a very high success rate per family member. Frances’s father, Carmine, was the principal flutist for the NBC Symphony Orchestra when it was conducted by the legendary Arturo Toscanini in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Carmine would go on to write music for 16 films including his son’s Oscar-winning masterpiece The Godfather: Part II, which would win him an Oscar for the score. Francis’s daughter Sofia, whose biggest acting role was her father’s third installment of her father’s Godfather trilogy, followed in her father’s footsteps of filmmaking and won a screenwriting Oscar for Lost in Translation (2003).

The family has had success in nearly every branch of the tree with Francis’s sister, Talia, becoming a great actor and Talia’s son Jason Schwartzman following along the same path. One family member who wanted to make it big but not rely on the family name was nephew Nicholas Kim Coppola who changed his name early in his career to Nicolas Cage (borrowing from comic book character “Luke Cage”).

2. The Barrymores

Members: John Barrymore, brother Lionel, sister Ethel, son John Drew Barrymore, granddaughter Drew, mother Georgie Drew, father Herbert Blythe, uncle Maurice Drew, son John Drew

Considered the first family of Hollywood for good reason. Bubbly starlet Drew Barrymore’s grandfather John (nicknamed “The Great Profile” for his matinee good looks) and siblings Ethel and Lionel were three of Hollywood’s highest paid stars from their arrival in Hollywood in 1914 through the 1940’s. What most people might not be aware of isthat the Barrymore clan’s history of performing goes all the way back to the mid-1800’s on the stage when the parents of John, Lionel, and Ethel were both stage stars. Ironically, their mother was named Georgie Drew which is where Drew’s first name came from.

As to whether the acting bug skipped a generation, it didn’t entirely. Drew’s father John Drew acted in various film and television projects and his sister Diana did the same but neither succeeded and Diana died of a drug overdose at the age of 38. Steering Drew on the right path was godfather Steven Spielberg who gave her a leading role in E.T.

1. The Fondas

Members: Henry Fonda; daughter Jane, son Peter, granddaughter Bridget

Through roles in films such as Grapes of Wrath, Young Mr. Lincoln, and 12 Angry Men, My Darling Clementine, Henry not only established himself as one of the most iconic actor of his day but established a screen persona that made him synonymous with the upright good guy.

Peter Fonda said of his dad, “In many of his roles, you could see this steady tension, this rock solid stillness that stood for justice, democratic ideals and honest character. When Henry Fonda said something on screen, you were right to believe it.”

Ironically, children Peter and Jane had great acting careers but in a different mold. Peter wrote and produced the seminal counter-culture film Easy Rider (1969) which ushered in an edgier era of filmmaking. Jane became one of the premiere actors of her generation with seven Oscar nominations and two Oscar wins and became a counter-culture spokeswoman with her role in subversive films like Coming Home and China Syndrome and her controversial two-week tour of North Vietnam (which got her the nickname “Hanoi Jane”).

Despite tension from differing political viewpoints, the Fondas have always remained close and Jane’s recounted several times that making On Golden Pond with her father in 1981 (his last film and therole that won him an Oscar) was one of her most special filmmaking experiences ever.



10 Wizards in Literature

In the last century, entertainment has taken huge leaps forward with the advent of first radio, then television, movies and the Internet. However, one form of entertainment has evolved – writing, specifically novels and the long form of fiction. Funny thing about that evolution is that the fiction genre of fantasy has only just started growing in popularity over the last 30 years or so, despite the best efforts of authors like J.R.R. Tolkien. The history and fascination with fantasy has been around for centuries (think fairy tales and the Brothers Grimm), but only with modern publication and the acceptance of the geek culture has fantasy really surged in popularity. In that time, there have been at least 10 really excellent wizards and sorcerers to strut their stuff across the literary landscape – and here they are in no particular order.

10. Merlin
He has been written about since the 12th century as first a prophet and madman to eventually be fleshed out as the first full-fledged fictional wizard in the Arthurian court. One of the most famous wizards, he has been written about or featured in novels by dozens of authors including Marion Zimmer Bradley, Stephen R. Lawhead and T.H. White. Generally portrayed as a trickster with mystical powers, he usually helps Arthur, whether Arthur has the wisdom to ask for help on the right path of life or not. And not only has he been written about, often, but he has been portrayed many times on the big and little screens on both sides of the pond.

9. Raistlin Majere

One of Tracy Hickman & Margaret Weis’ characters in the Heroes of the Dragonlance and Dragonlance Legends trilogies, he is a magic-user whose entire existence is about garnering more power. Golden skin, hourglass eyes and an all-powerful staff add to his colorful personality. Unfortunately, a blazing intellect and immense powers eventually corrupt him and drives him to become a god. Not necessarily successful, he is nonetheless an impactful character in the further Dragonlance series.

8. Harry Dresden

The main character in the Dresden Files has been shot, stabbed, broken and killed – all in the worst days of his life – as told by Jim Butcher. Throughout the series (at 13 books and counting), Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is the only Wizard PI in the Chicago phone book. Like Harry Potter, Harry lives in our world that is blissfully unaware of the magical counterpoint. However, in Dresden’s case, most of the magical brew-ha-ha (yes, I went there) can give you a magical wedgie, or worse, and make you think you were just had the greatest day of your life.

7. Allanon

Terry Brooks first introduced readers to his brooding Druid in The Sword of Shannara, which spawned a trilogy and many other subsequent novels in the World of Shannara. A tall man whose life has been elongated due to the Druid sleep, he knows more than he will ever tell anyone – you only need to know what you need to complete the task at hand. While not one of his strongest druid/mages of the world, Allanon was the most enigmatic and helped launch Brooks’ writing career.

6. Dr. Strange

Sorcerer Supreme of the Marvel comic universe, Dr. Strange likely has more source material than just about any wizard – with the possible exception of Merlin – as he first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1963. Once a leading surgeon, Stephen lost the delicate control of his hands after a car accident. After years of wandering and trying to find a way to fix his hands, he finally agrees to learn the sorcerous arts becoming one of the most powerful humans. Dr. Strange has also been seen on TV in a number of Marvel animated series as well as one eponymous direct-to-DVD release.

5. Pug

Raymond E. Feist has been in the Fantasy genre for about as long as Brooks and has a much more enduring character, known primarily as Pug. Starting in the Rift War quartet, we are introduced to a young man, who is reluctantly chosen by the court wizard for an apprenticeship. However, he struggles to learn eventually being captured by other world insurgents. This begins his journey across worlds and magical disciplines – eventually becoming one of the most powerful wizards in Midkemia and beyond. Though his journey started in the Rift War Saga, it has continued through numerous series, making him one of the wizard characters with the most longevity in this list.

4. Elminster Aumar

Dungeons & Dragons has helped launch a number of fantasy writers including Ed Greenwood under the Forgotten Realms landscape. As Salvatore’s Drow elf Drizzt Do’Urden is the quintessential fighter of the Forgotten Realms, Elminster is the quintessential wizard of the realms. Featured in more than half a dozen novels, numerous games and just a few magazine articles, the wizened old man has powers learned through the various tutelage and opportunities presented by Mystra, the goddess of magic. As her chosen, he has been through many quests and trials earning the wrath and envy of many kings, sorcerers and general baddies.

3. The Crimson King

Only in the last novel of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series does the Gunslinger actually come face to face with his nemesis, the sorcerous Crimson King. However, King’s series spans his literary universe using villains from many of his books including The Stand, Salem’s Lot and The Eyes of the Dragon. However, the Crimson King is the ultimate villain controlling most of the other minor and major villains of King’s other books. It is only in Marvel’s spin-off comic series The Gunslinger do we get to see the Crimson King’s true evilness.

2. Gandalf

J.R.R. Tolkien is likely the most well-known fantasy author having almost single-handedly launched the genre in novel format. Gandalf the Grey, as he is known through most of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, is the epitome of a wizened old wizard – possibly owing to Merlin’s influence and possibly influencing Elminster’s appearance as well. Like Allanon, Gandalf is a bit of a schemer and acts like a guide by only giving out as much information as needed to move the characters along the path needed. Tolkien described his wizard as an angelic being and was featured in many of his books beyond the famous trilogy.

1. Harry Potter

J.K. Rowling’s boy wonder wizard was the titular character in the best-selling books of all time (until recently). While Harry Potter was not the most powerful wizard in Hogwarts, or the smartest, he definitely had the most gusto. Known as the Boy Who Lived, Harry was the only wizard who had the cajones to go up against He Who Must Be Named, Lord Voldemort. He helped launch a generation into reading again and many of those kids will eventually go into the Fantasy section – so that’s maybe not so bad!