6 Iconic Things You Won't Believe Began as Publicity Stunts

#3. Guinness World Records Was Invented by the Beer Company to Sell in Bars

Since the 1950s, Guinness World Records has been the authoritative record keeper on the tallest, fastest, heaviest, highest and every other "-est" in the world. The book is updated every year, and thousands of people dedicate their lives to making it into the pages by way of shooting milk out of their eyes or owning the most ducks.

Guinness World Records
Congratulations, ma'am, you've won at life.

The Publicity Stunt That Started It:

Raise your hand if you thought that the "Guinness" in "Guinness World Records" had absolutely nothing to do with the makers of the Irish beer. Because you're wrong.

Getty
You'd be surprised how much of the modern world we owe to this beer.

In 1951, the managing director of Guinness Brewery took a bird-hunting trip in Ireland, and while it's not crucial to the story, we feel compelled to point out that his name was Sir Hugh Beaver.

St. Ibars N.S. Castlebridge
Somehow we pictured him with more facial hair.

He was hunting the golden plover, and after failing to shoot even one, he declared that the bird must be the fastest in Europe. Obviously. Beaver's friends called bullshit, but they had no reliable source to turn to for bird speeds, as no one had thought of the Internet yet.

So Sir Beaver had an idea. He decided the public needed an official book of records that could be used to settle bar bets.

Getty
"Just think of how close mankind came to losing all this knowledge."

In 1954, he hired a fact-finding agency to put together a definitive book of facts. A year later, a 198-page book with the Guinness name on the cover was printed and handed out in bars as a giveaway to increase the sales of Guinness. But it also brought temporary peace to the pubs, since drunks could look up answers to their disputes instead of punching each other until one person was right. The Guinness Book of Records was in such demand that Guinness immediately reprinted 50,000 copies and started selling them, and they've been in print ever since.

Amazon.com
Bathroom reading has never been the same.

#2. The Rose Bowl Was a Stunt to Promote Tourism to Pasadena

Of all the college football bowl games, the Rose Bowl is one of the most prestigious and definitely the oldest. It was first played in 1902 and is nicknamed "the granddaddy of them all" because it's so steeped in college tradition.


"Tradition" here means "cheap alcohol."

The only trouble is that the whole event began as one big advertisement for Southern California tourism.

The Publicity Stunt That Started It:

Back in 1890, the city of Pasadena wanted to showcase how their winter was soooo much better than yours. And in 1890, there were only two ways to accomplish that: by commissioning an artist to paint scenes of local wintertime fun and then just nonchalantly leaving the paintings all around the country, or by holding a festival. Pasadena went with the second one.

Getty
Subtlety not being California's strong suit.

The idea was to drive vacationers to the city by offering them a glimpse of this magical heaven where the skies shit sunshine on the blessed people who lived there 365 days a year. So Pasadena settled on hosting the Tournament of Roses, a parade that would not only show off blooming flowers in January (JANUARY!) but also rub the rest of the country's face in the idea of perpetual summer.

The spectacle became a point of interest, but not quite the rousing success the city was hoping for. In an attempt to draw a bigger crowd, they tried several novelty events over the next 10 years, such as an elephant/camel race and ostrich chariot races.

Experiencing L.A.
You heard us.

After the full parade was added to the lineup, the Tournament Council finally figured out what would be a big draw: a good old-fashioned football game. The first Rose Bowl Game, officially called Tournament East-West football game, was played on January 1, 1902. The University of Michigan beat the living shit out of Stanford 49-0 and forced Stanford to forfeit the game.

Michigan in Pictures
This sucks. Wanna bail?

Not surprisingly, football had nothing on ostriches pulling chariots, and the whole football thing was abandoned for 14 years. It wasn't until 1916 that Californians had their fill of novelty animal bullshit and were ready to give human sports another go. And by that time the audience had grown enough that they eventually needed a new, custom-built stadium -- the Tournament of Roses Bowl, or, as it was later known, the Rose Bowl.

Rose Bowl Stadium
And that's where the name comes from!

#1. The World's Most Famous Cemetery Got That Way by Moving Celebrity Corpses

If you think hanging out with the jet set will be just as important to your rotting corpse as it was to your living flesh, then French cemetery Pere Lachaise is the graveyard for you. It has provided dirt holes for some of the most famous musicians, artists, writers and war heroes from around the world. The remains of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Frederic Chopin, Gertrude Stein and literally handfuls of other celebrities have all turned an ordinary cemetery into a destination of reverence -- it's said to be the most-visited cemetery in the world.

Francois Trazzi, Wikipedia Commons
If you can think of a better spot for a blind date, we'd like to hear it.

The Publicity Stunt That Started It:

Back in the 19th century, Paris' church cemeteries were as full as a morning diaper, which is an apt analogy, stench-wise. So new cemeteries, including Pere Lachaise, were opened on the outskirts of Paris. The trouble was that Pere Lachaise was on the unfashionable east side and no one from the western side of Paris wanted to be buried there.

Getty
West Siiiiiiide!

Nicolas Frochot, the urban planner who designed Pere Lachaise, had to quickly come up with a way to attract more people who were insistent on being so damned French about everything. His solution: He convinced the government to let him dig up famous French luminaries, like the playwright Moliere, and rebury them in Pere Lachaise.

Frochot's ploy worked like a dream: Once rich Parisians heard they could be buried next to famous people, they started buying up plots, and Pere Lachaise quickly became the place to rot for eternity. As French songwriter Georges Brassens put it, "People had their hearts set to die higher than their asses."

Find A Grave
Pictured: Dignity.

Erik Germ is the owner of hugefrigginarms.com and would love for you to follow him on Twitter.

For more ridiculous publicity stunts, check out 6 Retarded Publicity Stunts (That Fooled Everyone) and The 6 Most Wildly Irresponsible Publicity Stunts in History.

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