15 Surprising Inventions of Unlikely Celebrities
Even among the talented, the formula for celebrity is mostly “money plus hot.” Family connections and a statistically improbable body shape will get you everywhere, but some of those pretty faces have actual brains behind them, even good enough ones to improve society in ways that have nothing to do with mugging for a camera.
Jamie Lee Curtis’s Futuristic Diaper
In 1988, Jamie Lee Curtis was in the thick of her parenting duties, all connotations intended, when she patented a disposable diaper with a waterproof pocket to stuff with wipes so you don’t have to carry them around separately. We don’t wanna know what incident led to that necessity.
Zooey Deschanel’s Gardening Stand
Ever since she started dating a Property Brother, Zooey Deschanel really seems to be leaning into the domestic sphere, even inventing a type of gardening stand and a whole business to sell them. It might not be as glamorous as a shapewear line, but it’s sufficiently quirky.
Charlie Sheen’s Capless Chapstick
In 2012, Charlie Sheen proudly unveiled his patent for a lip balm tube that twists up after spending one too many fractions of a second removing unnecessary caps. He even pitched it to Chapstick, but they explained that their design is actually a carefully thought-out strategy that weighs economic and consumer factors he couldn’t begin to comprehend, so now he just “bring it out at parties.”
Bill Nye’s Ballet Shoes
You wouldn’t think of Bill Nye as someone overly invested in the art of dance, but in 2002, he invented a ballet shoe that “features a more structured toe box to provide support from the inside out for dances en pointe.” He also participated in The Masked Dancer, and that’s more interest than we’ve ever shown in flailing our meat sacks to the beat.
Marlon Brando’s Drumhead Tightening Device
When you hear “Marlon Brando,” do you think “skilled musician”? Probably not, but he apparently knew enough about drums to not only identify a problem in how they’re maintained but also fix it. We can’t even confidently point to the head on a drum. It’s the top part, right?
Penn Jilette’s … Um … Hydrotherapy Device
In 1998, the magician/poor namer of things patented a hot tub with a “discharge nozzle located within the tub and connected to the outlet, mounted to the seat so that the discharged water from the circulation pump automatically aligns with and is directed to stimulation points (e.g., the clitoris) of the female user.” It’s a masturbation tub. He was apparently unaware that that’s just a tub.
Neil Young’s Model Trains
In addition to politics and gospel choirs, Neil Young is very into model trains, holding patents for remote controls, a system of essentially tiny train GoPros, and a sound system not for blasting sweet jams but for producing more realistic train sounds. Did you think Neil Young was messing around here? Don’t be ridiculous.
Christie Brinkley’s Educational Blocks
It’s not clear at what point Christie Brinkley stopped prancing in music videos long enough to get interested in education, but she invented a set of lettered blocks with magnets on them for helping children learn the alphabet. We can only assume they were for Billy Joel.
Howard Hughes’s Steel Bra
While filming 1943’s The Outlaw, Howard Hughes wanted to leave no room for the chance that audiences might not be uncomfortably aware of Jane Russel’s boobs, so he created a bra with steel rods that curved under the cups and attached to the straps. Russel said it was “uncomfortable and ridiculous” and quietly subbed in her own bra, which he apparently didn’t notice.
The Many Inventions of Mark Twain
Huck Finn’s white-suited daddy was also in the lingerie business, though he didn’t intend to be. His fastener was supposed to be used to tighten shirts at the waist, eliminating the need for suspenders, but everyone realized that looked stupid and it was used for bras instead. He also patented a self-pasting scrapbook and a history trivia game, presumably tired of losing at Trivial Pursuit.
Zeppo Marx’s Heart Attack Watch
After he left the His Last Name Brothers, Zeppo Marx went on to an arguably even more impressive career as an engineer, which including making the clamp that held the Fat Man nuclear bomb in its bay. In 1969, he teamed up with a doctor to create a watch that could detect your heart rate and sound an alarm if anything really funky was happening.
Jack Johnson’s Wrench
Before his name was co-opted by the dad rock industry, the first black heavyweight boxing champion patented one of the first wrenches. He actually developed it while he was in prison for traveling across state lines with his girlfriend for “immoral purposes,” which was a real crime in the Jim Crow era, because you’ve gotta pass the time somehow.
Lincoln’s Boat Thingie
Abraham Lincoln was the only president to hold a patent, which was for "adjustable buoyant air chambers” meant to lift boats over obstacles that came to him after he got stuck in boats twice. It turned out it wasn’t actually a practical device, but would you wanna break that news to the president?
Lawrence Welk Accordion-Themed Merchandise
Lawrence Welk was known for a bitchin’ accordion solo, so he made sure all his swag was uniquely accordion-like, from ashtrays to lunchboxes. Apparently, you can patent existing stuff just by making it look like other stuff, so we can’t wait to debut the BoomerWang.
Hedy Lamarr Invented WiFi
You’re probably only reading this because of a glamorous Golden Age movie star who also happened to be a technological genius. She developed a communication system that worked by “frequency hopping” and eventually formed the basis for GPS, Bluetooth, and WiFi, so blame her if you don’t like it.
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