4 Insane Pop Culture Obsessions People Got Rich Pursuing
"Do what you love, love what you do." According to the Pollyannas parroting that bit of tripe, it is just that easy. However, if success was just a matter of doing what you love, we'd have an overabundance of professional doughnut-tasters and mattress-testers. While it may not be possible for the rest us, the following fortunate souls did find a way. Their interest in pop culture minutiae led them down a path that few would have predicted before their journey began, when everyone was probably telling them to stop wasting their time and find a real job. Good thing they didn't listen, because the people on this list took their passions and hobbies and turned them into viable businesses, while the rest of us are only able to look on, shake our heads, and say, "Why didn't I think of that?"
Jim McBride Turns His Film Nudity Fetish Into an Empire
As a teen, Jim McBride's keen interest in nude celebrities went beyond run-of-the-mill hormonal-infused fascination. A self-proclaimed "Rainman of Porn," he prided himself on having an encyclopedic knowledge of every nude scene of every known actress and would impress/creep out his friends by not only spouting off what movies their favorite stars had a topless scene in but also the precise moment they flashed their cans on-screen. Before figuring out how to exploit this particular skill, McBride worked as a clerk at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where he spent his downtime letting co-workers know where they could see celebrities in the buff.
"I need 50 shares of pork belly futures and a Phoebe Cates scene that
isn't Fast Times at Ridgemont High."
This was back before the Internet as we know it made finding such things as simple as typing into the Google search box, so when McBride initially posted a list of easily indexed nudes to the World Wide Web back in 1999, it was the perfect storm of timing, technology, and savant-like perversion.
Back then visitors to Mr. Skin had access to 1,000 actresses in various states of undress; today, the site boasts a comprehensive collection of over 23,000 actresses, featuring "every female nude scene in the history of film." Posts on the site include "Top 10 Simpsons Guest Stars," "Top 10 Stars Phoning From the Tub," and "Top 10 Nudes With a Clown," as well as clips and pics, available for a monthly subscription fee, of what the site describes as the "good scenes." McBride has managed to repackage and monetize nudity that people have already paid to see once.
"To be fair, I'm also striking when customers are suffering from a sudden drop in blood flow to the brain."
There's a fine line between successful entrepreneur and "weird guy obsessing over every nip-slip and fleeting crotch-shot," and McBride has straddled that line for over 15 years. His predilection for celebrity nudity has turned Mr. Skin into a multimillion-dollar business, with two published books and a website that gets over 10 million unique visitors every month.
McBride claims, "We wanted a fun vibe. We don't run a porn site; we're an R to NC-17 rated site." But he's not taking into account that the level of gratuitousness isn't the only aspect that might ruin the fun. There's a certain creepiness when you consider some screenshots come from rape scenes and movies like 12 Years a Slave, where the nudity is happening in the midst of truly horrible situations.
Also, Mr. Skin's official slogan, "Fast-Forwarding to the Good Parts," reeks of distilling women down to body parts and actresses' careers down to what body part they've exposed and how often. Perhaps in an effort to combat that perception, Mr. Skin launched a new site, Mr. Man ...
Your one-stop shop for all your hot Donald Sutherland needs.
... in 2013. Way to be an equal opportunity creeper! Stay sleazy, Mr. Skin.
Brendan Powell Smith Reenacts History With LEGOs
Who wouldn't want to get paid to play with LEGOs all day? For Brendan Powell Smith, that pie-in-the-sky fantasy is a reality. Smith, who like everyone else played with LEGOs as a kid, put the blocks away when he hit puberty, only to return to them in his 20s. His renewed interest began about 15 years ago when he combined his love of LEGO with his scholarly biblical and historical knowledge.
And the secret sexual thrill of crippling foot danger at any possible moment.
Smith, who studied ancient Christianity and Judaism at Boston University, was struck by the fact that, in spite of its popularity, most people haven't actually read the entire Bible:
I don't think people actually read this book! There was so much in there -- the vast bulk of it, really -- that was stuff it seemed never got talked about in church and never made it into Sunday Schools or storybooks. So from that point on, I had the idea that it would be a good and worthwhile thing for people to have a better knowledge of what makes up The Bible, whether they are themselves religious or not.
After completing the Garden of Eden using LEGOs, it occurred to him that the toy blocks could be a great way to exhibit Biblical content in an engaging way, and in October of 2001, The Brick Testament website was launched. It took nearly 10 years to complete, and today it contains over 4,900 illustrations, making it the world's largest, most comprehensive illustrated Bible. Soon after, The Brick Testament book was published.
But not everyone's a fan. In 2011, The Brick Testament was banned from the retail giant Sam's Club after outraged customers complained about its "mature content." The Amazon reviews of his books are decidedly mixed. With a strong divide between detractors and fans, the books usually receive reviews of 1 or 5 stars and rarely anything in between. Smith depicts the Bible exactly as it's written, without avoiding the sexual, violent, or disturbing storylines that are often watered down or ignored completely. Thanks to this meticulous retelling, most of the poor reviews come from parents who hadn't taken the time to preview the books before handing them over to their kids, so many reviews look similar to this one:
This book is graphic! Yes, the Bible has stories about circumcisions and be-headings, but this book shows graphic and bloody images of Lego ppl circumcising himself, etc.
Moving over to less controversial territory, Smith has expanded his brand beyond the biblical to include world history. The Brick Chronicle is an illustrated book series that begins with Assassination! a visual retelling of infamous attempts on the lives of 12 U.S. presidents ...
... and continues with Revolution! ...
... which focuses on the American and French revolutions.
Smith, a history buff who doesn't shy away from the more sordid details in either of these two new books, credits LEGO with making the "dramatic, gory parts of history more palatable."
Your Family Photos Make Mike Bender and Doug Chernack Rich
An old family vacation photo hanging in his parents' home struck Mike Bender as particularly goofy, and after mentioning it to his best bud, Doug Chernack, they came up with a novel idea. The pair started amassing images that highlighted the bizarre and truly cringe-worthy in family memorabilia, and Awkward Family Photos was born. With the tagline "Spreading the Awkwardness," the site became a clearinghouse for kitschy images of loved ones.
Pictured: The big F-word. Family.
"Save that shit for YouTube, where it belongs."
All this free content has led to a ridiculously huge product line. There are three published books with a fourth coming out soon. On the site you can purchase everything from the Awkward Family Photos board game to a T-shirt with your favorite awkward family emblazoned across it. The collection has become so popular, there's an exhibition currently touring museums around the country. The show includes over 200 photos with "behind the scenes" stories from the actual families and an interactive portrait studio where visitors can leave with an awkward photo of their own. Curated and designed by Bender and Chernack, the show will be on the road through the next year, hitting major cities, including San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Denver. Bender and Chernack explain that they hope this exhibition will "bring all our families a little closer together as we acknowledge those special times when we wished we were a lot farther apart." Or, in layman's terms, "Thanks for making us wealthy with your stupid pictures!"
Erika Mitchell's Twilight Fanfic Becomes Fifty Shades of Grey
What are the odds of becoming a world-renowned, best-selling author? If you said slim to none, you'd probably be in the ballpark. But that didn't stop Erika Mitchell from quickly achieving that elusive goal, and she did it in a pretty unorthodox manner. After reading the the tween porn Twilight series, Mitchell dove into the world of fan-fiction and started writing her own version of the popular "vampires and werewolves humping humans" saga. For those not familiar, fan-fiction is when amateur writers pen their own fantasies using pre-existing characters and universes. Popular themes explored include "What if Kirk and Spock had sex?" and "What if Harry Potter and Dumbledore had sex?" and basically every other variation of "What if this character banged that character?" Seriously ...
Mitchell's homage to Twilight was originally titled Master of the Universe and published on fan-fiction sites under the byline Snowqueen's Icedragon. For Master of the Universe, Mitchell chose two characters who were already getting it on in their official canon, so to make it her own, she spiced it up with a bit of bondage. The story about the impossibly handsome, kinky billionaire and his mousy, boring conquest resonated with the fanfic crowd. Mitchell, who has said she never attempted to write anything prior to this work, eventually changed Masters to Fifty Shades of Grey with Bella and Edward becoming Anastasia and Christian. Today, Mitchell, who published the Fifty Shades series under the pen name E.L. James, has sold over 100 million books, and in 2012 she was named one of "The World's 100 Most Influential People" by Time magazine.
The books have been widely panned for being poorly written. Thanks to phrases like "Her curiosity oozes through the phone" and "Mentally girding my loins, I head into the hotel," reading them is a bit unwieldy. The dialogue has also been criticized for being decidedly unsexy for an erotic novel, as when Anastasia, cuffed to the bed, exclaims, "Holy cow, I cannot move my arms." So hot!
The criticism hasn't stopped Fifty Shades of Grey from being made into a major motion picture. Universal paid $5 million for the rights to bring the dopey love story to the big screen. And if that isn't impressive enough, Mitchell wields so much power, she reportedly overruled the director's choice of ending. I'm assuming a series of erotic novels about that one moment in time won't be too far behind.
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