Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that simply believing you’re doing something positive to get over your ex can influence brain regions associated with emotional regulation and lessen the pain you’re feeling. In other words, remaining open to the possibility that what you’re doing could potentially make you feel better works like a placebo effect.
Researchers Leonie Koban and Tor Wager and their team at CU Boulder studied 40 young people who’d experienced an unwanted breakup in the past six months. The participants were asked to bring in two photos: one of their ex and one of a close friend.
Inside a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, the heartbroken parties were shown images of their exes and asked to reflect on the breakup. Then they saw the images of their friend (the control variable).
They were also given a jolt of physical pain (a hot stimulus on their left forearm).
As these stimuli were alternately repeated, the participants were asked how they felt on a scale of 1 (very bad) to 5 (very good). Meanwhile, the fMRI machine tracked activity in the brain.
The machine showed similar areas of the brain lit up during both emotional pain (reminiscing and looking at the ex pic) and physical pain — suggesting that the heartache you feel after a breakup is veryreal and not just in your head.
For part two of the study, the subjects were taken out of the machine and given a nasal spray. Half were told the spray was a “powerful analgesic effective in reducing emotional pain,” while the rest were told it was merely a saline solution.
The subjects then went back in the fMRI machine and experienced the same painful stimuli as before, but this time, the placebo group felt less physical and emotional pain.
When they were shown the photo of their ex, there was reduced activity in the areas of the brain associated with social rejection.
“The placebo nasal spray made people feel substantially better about viewing pictures of their ex-partners — on the brain as well as on people’s feelings,” said Wager, a senior author of the study.
If you’re nursing a broken heart, Wager said the takeaway of his study should be that your beliefs about the future matter more than you think.
“Your expectations are something you have some control over after a breakup,” he said. “When faced with rejection, there’s hope you can find a mental strategy to help deal with the event as best as possible. You have to be open to a better future.”
Given its abiding popularity and fun-loving sensibility, “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” seems like an easy movie to make. It was not. Creative differences dogged the project ― so much so that the director threatened to take his name off the film ― and mediocre box-office returns could have relegated it to the void of forgotten gems.
A decade after a well-reviewed play called “Ladies’ Room” introduced Romy and Michele prototypes as minor characters, “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” debuted at No. 2 on the weekend of April 25, 1997. It earned $29.2 million in total, a modest sum that today amounts to $44.4 million with inflation. Twenty years later, this little movie about two best friends grandstanding for their former classmates has gone from signature cult classic to universal favorite. Making it required a bout of studio panic, Quentin Tarantino’s endorsement, a nixed Will Ferrell cameo, post-production spats and a key vote of confidence from James L. Brooks and Carrie Fisher.
Settle in for a candid oral history of “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.” It’s a bit like high school frenemies revisiting the drama of yore. One thing they have going for them: Meryl Streep apparently loves their work.
Robin Schiff, writer: The play started as a sketch at the Groundlings. It was basically these two women who were talking about getting respect in the workplace while they were transforming into going-out clubwear. That took place in a women’s bathroom.
Lisa Kudrow, actress: I was a student at the Groundlings. They were holding auditions for “Ladies’ Room,” the play Robin had written. That was my first audition ever, and I got it.
Schiff: I went to this club called Carlos ’n Charlie’s, on the Sunset Strip, to do research. I go into the girls’ bathroom and I overhear these girls saying, “Oh my God, I love your hair.” “My hair? Your hair! I’d trade my hair for your hair in two seconds.” “Take it. Take my hair!” It was the most banal conversation, but it had a musicality to it. I went home and I just wrote this run. Then, they just took on lives of their own. They weren’t the leads in the play — they were like the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. And their first entrance, they got entrance applause.
Kudrow: I don’t even think the characters had names. It was just Airhead 1 and Airhead 2. These two characters were onstage a total of seven minutes. They would run in and out of the ladies’ room.
Schiff: They were wearing black because there used to be another bar on the Sunset Strip called Nicky Blair’s, and all the women who waited to get in looked alike because they were all wearing black. Kathy Griffin played either Romy or Michele [in the backer’s audition to raise funds for “Ladies’ Room”].
Kathy Griffin, actress/comedian: Rita Wilson had a role. Rita was in a Groundlings class with me, or she might have been one of my students. More importantly, she got Tom Hanks to play a really small role. That’s how I met Tom Hanks! Rita and Tom were dating. He was this guy who has to sit in the stall for a big part of the play and then he emerges. I remember thinking how amazing that that was Tom Hanks.
Schiff: Kathy kept adding words and I was like, “Fuck her” [laughs]. Kathy Griffin is so crazy talented, but I did not like that she was adding to it. She kept going, “Girlfriend!”
Griffin: That sounds totally true. I remember at the time the phrase “hey, girlfriend” was considered cool. This is even before “talk to the hand.” I can totally see me doing that in character, trying to add words here and there. It’s how I do my act. I’m a big improviser.
Schiff: You know that little exchange in the bar in the movie where Michele goes, “Remember that time I barfed from bad Mexican food”? Romy says, “I really hate throwing up in public.” And Michele says, “Me too!” I didn’t know how funny that was, and the way Lisa said “me too” in “Ladies’ Room,” which was “[gasp] me too!,” gave me the entire characters. In that one two-page scene in the play, their hearts expanded.
Kudrow: No matter the audience or the kind of night the play was having, these characters always got their laughs. I did it with Christie Mellor, who played Romy. Christie was like, “Well, we should try to look like we’re Robert Palmer girls,” with our hair slicked back, wearing black. She loaned me a black stretch skirt that was really tight, with some Madonna/Robert Palmer mixture happening, with red, red lips. It was a great look for the play.
Schiff: We were doing that in ’87 and ’88. We did that production and we did a TV pilot. In its first incarnation, it was at HBO. It was called “Just Temporary.” They worked at a temp agency. Lenny Kravitz wrote the theme song. The pilot didn’t go, so it just fell into limbo. Years later, I was hired to work with Barry Kemp, who created “Coach” and “Newhart.” He read the play and loved it. We ended up doing a second production in San Francisco.
Kudrow: It was fun to spend a summer in San Francisco. That’s how I saw it. It was during that time that Disney talked to Robin about a movie.
Schiff: My agents were sending out the play as a writing sample, and these two female executives at Disney read it and felt like it could be a “Wayne’s World” type. Every so often, people realize the female ticket buyer has some power.
Alex Schwartz, Touchstone Pictures executive: I flew up to San Francisco with one of my colleagues. We go to the play, and Romy and Michele were clearly the fun characters. We came out of that all agreeing that they should be the characters for the movie.
Kudrow: I remember a dinner in San Francisco talking about the movie and going, “OK, well, that’s nice.” Why we would ever get to play it was a big roll of the dice. It’s just like, “Well, if it works out, that’s great for Robin.” This was before “Friends” had premiered.
Schiff: I wasn’t sure if we could do a movie because the characters were so shallow. I kept trying to think of ideas for them. I thought of “Romy and Michele Go to Japan” and “Romy and Michele Go to College.” I got this idea — it literally just popped into my head — where they were going to their high school reunion and it’s the first time they realize their lives are not good enough, that they haven’t amounted to anything. It made me laugh, this idea that 10 years have gone by and you just didn’t notice.
Donald De Line, Touchstone Pictures executive: Robin Schiff pitched a story. We bought it and developed the screenplay to be a great female-driven buddy comedy with themes of sisterhood and friendship through the prism of something funny and ironic.
Vincent Ventresca, actor: I think we knew we were doing something kind of special. The script was amazing. I had never seen anything like it.
Schwartz: Amy Heckerling was attached for a while. We did all these table reads with Amy and we developed it with Amy. It was very disappointing, needless to say, when Amy went and did “Clueless” instead.
Schiff: After Amy Heckerling, we offered it to Penny Marshall, who was big at the time, and Betty Thomas, who directed the Howard Stern movie “Private Parts.” They passed, and then we went after David Mirkin, who I worshiped off of “The Simpsons.” It seemed like a very big get to get this “Simpsons” director.
David Mirkin, director: I did a show called ”The Edge” with Jennifer Aniston and Julie Brown. I had been executive producing and show-running “The Simpsons” for about three years, and I’d been sent scripts to direct. Nothing was particularly jumping out at me, and I was thinking I wanted to do a movie that involves strong, funny women because I always felt there was not enough of those. The script came and I reacted to it immediately. It needed work, but I instantly saw this amazing potential and this incredible relationship between these two girls. It was also exciting to look at high school not in a sweet way as so many of these movies did, but in a truly beautiful, nasty way.
De Line: Everyone loved the script and we put the movie together in a way that you probably couldn’t do now so much because it was a small movie for the studio at the time. It was a character comedy and we cast it with young, funny up-and-comers.
Schiff: The movie was in development for five years, including a year where I was replaced and then came back and refused to use the other guy’s work. At one point, they wanted a more conventional story, because, look, I have a 20-minute dream sequence that absolutely affects nothing. It was unconventionally structured and works against all odds.
Mirkin: When I came on, they asked me to fire Robin about five times. It’s not a reflection on her ― it’s a very natural thing for a studio to do.
Schiff: The studio wanted it to be more like “Night at the Roxbury,” and I didn’t want it to be more like “Night at the Roxbury.” I never saw them as losers like that. That’s why I didn’t make them the bottom of the barrel at high school. They were not part of any group, but they were still mean to [Sandy Frink, Alan Cumming’s character], so one of their realizations is that other people have feelings. Some guy came in and did a major rewrite, and Lisa and Janeane Garofalo wouldn’t do it afterward. One of the things that I had going from the whole time was an executive-producer credit. They couldn’t really fuck with me too much because of my relationship with Lisa.
Mirkin: When a studio has been with someone for a long time, their answer is always to find somebody new. They would have been happy for me to just do the writing on my own, but I liked Robin’s voice.
Schiff: When the movie started in development, I said I wanted [Lisa Kudrow and Christie Mellor], and they’d never really done anything. Five years later, Lisa was on “Friends” and she was on the cover of Rolling Stone and People in a week. I’m like, “Now can she star in this movie?” But they were afraid to only have a TV person, so they wanted a feature person.
Schwartz: In the early days, we had Janeane Garofalo playing Romy, but she didn’t really want to play Romy ― she wanted to play Heather Mooney.
Marcia Ross, casting director: We had to find a marquee name for the other part or else the movie was going to be stalled. Mira Sorvino was really hot coming off of her Academy Award nomination.
Mikin: The other person who we explored early on for Romy was Toni Collette, who I had adored from “Muriel’s Wedding.” She’s a lovely person, but I think she was concerned at that point about exactly how to hit a Valley-girl vibe and accent.
Mira Sorvino, actress: I think at the time I was doing “Norma Jean and Marilyn.” It was the winter that I was up for the Oscar for “Mighty Aphrodite.” I read it and just thought it was absolutely hilarious.
Mirkin: I had lunch with Mira. I knew she could do different voices and I knew we would get there.
Sorvino: My agents questioned whether it was high-brow enough to accompany an Oscar nod, and I was like, “You don’t understand. This is so laugh-out-loud funny on every page. I’m laughing in public as I read it.” I also felt like I super identified with it because I had been a nerd in high school. Kids were quite mean to me for a while, so I really resonated with the storyline of two best friends who were pitted against the world. Even though they’re idiots who think they’re smart, there’s also a universal struggle about a teenage antihero underdog.
Ross: We offered it to her and she wasn’t really interested at first. But she was dating Quentin Tarantino at the time, and we heard that Quentin Tarantino liked the script and therefore she was open to considering it.
Sorvino: It was more my agents who were on the fence. I just wanted validation, so I had Quentin read it. He loved it.
De Line: It helped to elevate the whole thing. It was like, “Wow, Mira Sorvino!” She wasn’t known as a comedic actress. That definitely gave it a certain cachet.
Kudrow: I remember being away with Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston one weekend, and when we were driving back I got a call saying Mira Sorvino’s going to do it. She had just won an Oscar, and I said, “Oh my God, you guys! This movie is going to happen! Mira Sorvino’s going to do it!” The girls went, “Whoa! Wow! That’s fantastic!”
Ventresca: Lisa and Mira were super supportive. I’d worked with Lisa on a couple episodes of “Friends” [playing Fun Bobby]. I’m married, but I fell in love with Mira. When you’re in that movie bubble, it’s already your job to connect with that person. It was really easy. I loved her. She was so cool and open and so fucking funny. We were two peas in a pod. We didn’t hang out off the set, but when we were there we hung out a lot.
Schwartz: Mira didn’t have as easy a time, perhaps, as Lisa. She wasn’t quite as seasoned. She was more emotional. I don’t know if it affected the movie, but she was a little more difficult than Lisa.
Mirkin: Lisa and Mira had a great time with each other. It’s a stress-filled situation, and virtually any actor at any time can be under pressure in that situation. I wouldn’t single anyone out for anything that’s different than all the actors I’ve worked with. It’s a matter of creating a situation where they can do their best work. Everybody works differently.
Mona May, costume designer: I was kind of the it girl with the success of “Clueless.” When you really look at some of the ‘90s stuff, there’s the iconic Madonna look and the flower dresses and plaid skirts. But this was a fun project for me because they were grown-ups — they were no longer teenage girls in high school.
Kudrow: If you can believe it, Romy and Michele were more cartoonish in the play because there was less of them and you just got this snippet of complete idiocy. So now they had to be people with feelings.
May: They used their sexuality to get things. It was different set of circumstances and a different type of girls.
Sorvino: A couple of the dresses I wore were actually in my own wardrobe, like the silver dress in the scene where I say, “Will you excuse me? I cut my foot before and my shoe is filling up with blood.” And the Madonna prom dress was a Betsey Johnson dress I had bought in New York City with my waitress tip money.
May: It was a middle-budgeted comedy, so I had to be very inventive. I had to be able to reach out for the designer clothes, mixed with some things I found at a thrift store or on Melrose Avenue. Mira had great legs, so we gave her shorter skirts. Lisa always wanted to have big cleavage, and everything was very, very tight on her.
Sorvino: I based Romy’s speech on my sister’s way of talking when we were teenagers. We lived in New Jersey, but somehow she and her friends adopted this Valley-girl speech. But I made the voice lower because I always felt like there was something slightly masculine about Romy. What I wanted for her visually was to look like a linebacker in drag. She was always wearing these hyper-sexual clothes, but she wasn’t really comfortable in any of it. I honestly feel like Michele is the trendsetter of the two of them and Romy dressed to emulate Michele.
Mirkin: I said it’s going to be wall-to-wall music, and a lot of it I wanted to look like a music video because that’s what these girls live in. The studio liked that idea, but when they saw all these shots I was doing and all these crane shots, they got kind of nervous. I did get a visit where they said, “We’re a little concerned your shots are too interesting.” That was the beginning of the rumble.
Ventresca: I knew David was taking a big swing. I liked him as a director.
Kudrow: The camera was always moving. It was never just on sticks shooting something and then they moved the sticks to get another angle. That was smart of David because all the scenes are basically just two people talking. There’s not a lot of action or activity, and then there were always 4,000 extras because we were always in heavily populated places. On that movie, there were a lot of takes, just to get everyone moving at the right time in the background.
Mirkin: If Robin and [producer Barry Kemp] were kind of uncomfortable with the movie, that happened early on. They both came from a point of view of sitcoms, and that was the absolute opposite of what I wanted to do. Robin was on the set early on, and then it became clear it was going to be better if she wasn’t. She kind of went away and I didn’t see her again until we started to screen the film.
Schiff: I was doing a show at the time and I couldn’t come. When you’re working in television, you go up to the director and you say, “You’re missing this.” In features, it’s not that way. David and I had gotten along really well in pre-production. I loved his notes on the script. But the second production started, it was like this wall fell down where I felt shut out.
De Line: He was a first-time director and studios are always a little nervous. You don’t really know what’s going to happen until you’re out there on the floor. He did his thing but had strong points of view, which is a good thing for a director. There were occasions where we differed and had disagreements about it, which is not an uncommon thing.
Schwartz: David did things that were a little broader and stranger, I think, that might have made the senior execs who were not in touch with the project nervous. When I worked at Touchstone, we checked on everyone. We would have checked on Martin Scorsese. The way I was taught to be an executive was to be very hands-on. I’m sure we had all kinds of cautionary notes trying to keep things from going too far out because that would have been the tone of the whole studio at that point. I’m thinking it could have been the whole dream sequence where Romy and Michele become old.
Mirkin: In the original script, the dream was not originally very different from the main reunion.
Schiff: David had an idea, which was they get into a fight in the dream so that by the time Michele wakes up she’s pissed again.
Mirkin: I knew the structure was bizarre, and it’s one of the things I was excited about. But I also said what would be really fun about this dream sequence is you just make it much more surreal than it is in the script.
Schiff: Because they make up so quickly in quote-unquote real life, the only time they experience life without each other is in that dream sequence. So it’s for the audience, too. Even though people know it’s a dream sequence, you still get that scene where they’re looking at each other from the back of the limos when they’re leaving the reunion. One of the things I think David did so well is balancing emotion with humor.
Mirkin: I wanted to keep having more and more strange things happen. Originally, Lisa is just walking around and she runs into Sandy Frink. This guy is kind of a nerd in school, so he’s become incredibly successful and the first thing he does is he buys a new face. That’s where the prosthetic makeup came from. I always thought Sandy’s entrance should be more impactful, so I thought it would be hilarious to see Lisa get hit by his limousine and fly over the top of the car in a way that you would only survive in a dream. It’s the same thing with [Toby Walters, played by Camryn Manheim] floating over the sunroof saying, “Come on in.” All those things were adding up to give you this other level besides just the information of what a perfect reunion could be.
Kudrow: I thought it would be funny, as Michele is rolling along the top of the limo for way too long, to say, “Oh, come on!” after I fall. It was ridiculous. It made us laugh, so David let me say it.
Mirkin: [Outside of the dream sequence], this really needed to be something where the entire reunion would be impressed by Romy and Michele and the woman working at Vogue complimenting their clothing. It gives you something you desperately need in that scene.
Kudrow: I have no sense of style or fashion or tailoring or any of that, but I think Mira had a definite idea what her dress should be for the reunion. Mona May showed me and I said, “That looks great, except she’s wearing it. What can I do?” And Mona’s fantastic. She said, “You’d look better in an A-line and we could make yours pink and just do the Michele version of that so it could be a similar material.” And I said, “Well, I would really appreciate that. Thanks!”
Sorvino: Mona put in a “Star Trek” insignia on the blue dress because I was an original “Star Trek” fan.
Mirkin: That was always the thing: to have a really fun, stupid, silly story that also went very emotionally deep in the places that it needed to. Michele coming to save Romy when she’s getting humiliated in front of the three girls when they find out that she didn’t invent Post-its didn’t happen [in the original script]. It was really important to deepen that relationship.
Kudrow: I was really thrilled that I got it all out. I was really thrilled that I could memorize [the monologue about creating Post-its].
Mirkin: Back then, to have a cellphone was a big deal. There was a waiter that I added who Mira makes a deal with to call her so she gets to answer the cellphone at the reunion when she’s standing there talking to the three pregnant women.
Ross: I had just met Will Ferrell. He had just come out of the Groundlings and had gotten cast on the next season of “Saturday Night Live.” At the reunion, he played this waiter. But he was cut out of the movie.
Mirkin:I knew Will was going to be a huge star. I was so thrilled that he was coming out to do this little part in the film. He was brilliant as this waiter trying to hide behind a curtain even when he gets caught. That call comes after Romy has already been outed about the Post-its, so she’s very humiliated and upset. Mira is such a powerful actress that it totally, totally devastated the audience to see that happen to her. So when Will calls her, it extended this humiliation so far and for so long that the audience could not recover from her sadness. Even though Will got big laughs, the audience was still so heartbroken for Mira that the fun was sucked out of the movie for too long after that. I had to cut Will out of it. I thought, “Will’s career is going so great, he’s not going to care at all.” I called him up and I said, “Man, you were so brilliant. I’m the idiot who put it in the wrong place. I’ve got this fantastic cameo and we can’t use it.” He was very quiet. He was sad that he was cut, and that made me feel even worse.
Ventresca: I watched them shoot the incredible dance sequence. I was on sensory overload. I thought it was the greatest, most interesting night of my life.
Mirkin: In the original script, there was a dance sequence, but it wasn’t an emotional dance sequence. It was kind of a parody of “Stayin’ Alive,” a John Travolta parody. I didn’t understand what the meaning was — I assume it was a celebration of the ‘80s in general. But I realized that this dance sequence needed to be something that’s more emotional. So instead of it being a disco song, it’s “Time After Time.”
Schiff: That was just a line. I said, “They do a weird ballet with Sandy.” But I could not have imagined that.
Sorvino: We rehearsed it for two or three weeks.
Schiff: I had “Time After Time” because I wanted something that would be emotional for the prom but funnier at the reunion. That song cost us $240,000, and our original music budget was maybe $1 million or $1.5 million. They gave us more money for music. We couldn’t replace it.
Mirkin: The choreographer from “The Edge,” Smith Wordes, would come up with suggestions for moves. I would pick and choose and we would decide where to put them. She was brilliant at that. She worked with Madonna for a while, so that was one of the great things, to have someone with that level of skill.
Sorvino: The choreographer tried to incorporate what we could do. I had taken ballet for seven years as a kid, so we threw in some pique turns for me. But I still wanted her to have that ungainly aspect, so there’s a moment where I’m doing the Snoopy dance from the Christmas special. There’s a certain point where I come out of a move and I put my arm up in victory, like I’m a gymnast mounting something. There’s always that slight ungracefulness to her.
Kudrow: I don’t dance, so Smith kept trying to introduce these interesting things. I was like, “I can’t do it, but I think it’s funny anyway that Michele just tries, and maybe has some arm gestures.” She laughed and said, “Yep, that’s funny.” It was great. She had me catching Alan, which is so funny.
Mirkin: It was tough because that was the one where it was really hard for the ladies not to laugh. I needed them to be deadly, deadly serious, even though the dance was ridiculous. Alan, coming from the British sensibility, completely understood that. He had the perfect attitude. We rehearsed it so much that by the time it came to shooting it shot very quickly.
Kudrow: We had to do these things so many times. Just us going in a circle, I think we did that 400 times. Not literally, but that stuff wasn’t easy. It was one of the most difficult shoots I’ve ever had.
Schiff: I saw the movie for the first time in LA. I was sitting next to a woman during the dance and she says, “This is going on forever!” And I was like, “Oh fuck, what have we done?”
Mirkin: Originally, the girls just fly off in a helicopter with Sandy and that’s the end of it. You never discovered their value. Part of the story that was so important to me that I wanted to tell was that people who are outsiders, misfits and weirdos who don’t fit in can have this amazing value and this amazing talent that’s not apparent.
Schiff: The original end of the movie was so cynical. I wanted them to basically have learned nothing. It was a horrible idea. They’d be watching a nicer television, but still watching “Pretty Woman.” They had a line that I’m glad wasn’t in the movie ― one of them said, “If I was a prostitute, I would be the exact opposite kind of hooker, like kissing is fine but no sex.” And then the other one is like, “Yeah, but I guess it wouldn’t have been as romantic if they built to the big blow job.”
Mirkin: I wanted to add the idea that they get their own boutique. That was an important ending to me, to show this whole trip was to discover the value of what they’ve been doing, which is making their own clothes. I think they really have an eye for it.
Schwartz: The movie did not test very well.
Mirkin: That’s a badge of honor. There are so many gigantic hits that tested poorly. Testing can work on some films that are sweet and happy and give the audience everything they want. This kind of movie I never expected to have high test scores.
De Line: That happens all the time. Movies can have very rough and difficult tests to start with and go through huge transformations in the post-production process.
Schiff: It’s interesting because everybody sees it from different points of view. What happened in post-production really was creative differences, and I don’t know if that could have been avoided.
Schwarz: The director gets [10 weeks to assemble the movie, per Directors Guild regulations]. But I know that when we first saw David’s version of the movie, we felt like the comedy wasn’t being cut to the best effects. He tended to drift into every scene. The camera would start up on a corner and move down and find the actors. It was throwing the pacing off.
Schiff: There was a difference of opinion, and Barry Kemp and I were asked to go into the editing room by the studio and make some changes to the first reel. David was really unhappy with this and chose not to participate. And then there was some additional work done that he also chose not to participate in.
Mirkin: In terms of what was finally released, I have no knowledge of the movie needing to have any pace picked up or anything like that. It was the studio that insisted on three changes. To my knowledge, that’s it. That’s the cut that I signed off on, and that’s the cut we released.
Schiff: It wasn’t like we were trying to take the movie away from David — we were trying to pitch in and fix the movie. Some of us felt it was broken and some of us didn’t. The studio happened to side with us, basically.
Mirkin: The biggest, most upsetting [change] to me was the first time Michele goes into the ballroom and discusses the Post-its glue, you never saw that that was a two-story room. The second time she goes in, when Sandy floats out of the car, it’s a giant, two-story room with giant pictures of [Christy Masters, the prom queen] everywhere. It was much more surreal. The reveal of that was a very cool crane shot. For some reason, they said, “Oh no, that slows everything down.” I kept explaining it was a visual reveal. It wasn’t life or death, but it was incredibly annoying because we worked hard to get that crane shot.
Schwartz: We also had a real dispute over his music choices, which made a pretty huge impact on the tone. He really liked much heavier rock ‘n’ roll. I remember him using a lot of Iggy Pop. We were like, “No, these are girly girls.” For me, that No Doubt song over the opening shot is so the essence of the movie. We fought about that.
Mirkin: I had Iggy Pop in temporarily, but I was never planing on keeping Iggy Pop. I was trying to make a deal with No Doubt. I had chosen all music that was representative of the girls, which was a bit edgy, a bit different, sort of cutting edge for the time. The studio was nervous about No Doubt. No Doubt had not broken out yet. By the time the movie was finished, they called me and they said, “Can you get more music from No Doubt? They’re huge!” I was like, “Well, they’re too big now. If we even call them, they’ll take away the rights that we have. We can’t change the deal.”
Schiff: There’s a scene in the high school flashback where Romy is looking at Billy and going, “Oh my God, he’s so cute.” She’s looking at him in that high school way, and David had put that R.E.M. song “The One I Love.”
Mirkin: They considered that to be too dark and too alternative. I said, “Well, these girls are alternative,” and we compromised.
Schiff: Barry and I replaced it with “I Want Candy.” To play “I Want Candy,” set against that look of vulnerability and longing on her face, seemed like high school to me.
Schwartz: We handled those disputes with relentless badgering and meetings.
Schiff: We were able to reshape the movie in three weeks, but the majority of the movie is how David cut it. This is just my opinion, but David cut for what he felt were jokes, and when Barry and I went back in, we cut for story. One example of a scene that wasn’t in his cut that I put back was when they’re getting dressed to go to the club. Romy’s looking at herself and she says, “I can’t believe how cute I look.” Michele says, “I know, this is the cutest we’ve ever looked. Don’t you love how we can say that to each other and we’re not being conceited?” He didn’t have that scene in. For me, we always see women running themselves down, saying they feel disgusting. But what you really do with your real best friend is you brag. And David said, “Well, you’re going to hate them because they’re so beautiful.” And I’m thinking, “They look like drag queens. The girls are beautiful, but Mira’s got her weird voice and they’ve got that hair. It’s not really hot girls looking like hot girls.” That’s an example.
Mirkin: As far as I was aware, the studio — and this is very normal — was fooling around with the movie, and whether Robin and Barry also fooled around with the movie, that’s a normal thing to happen.
Schiff: Notes were flying around. It wasn’t working, so everyone was pitching in documents: “What if we do this, what if we do that?” We all wanted the same thing, which was for the movie to work. It was at this point that David shut down. He really didn’t want anybody else’s suggestions.
Schwartz: David saw the recut movie and wanted to take his name off. He wanted the credit to read “Eddy Otts,” like “Idiots.” We were like, “Really? If you want to talk your name off the movie, I guess we can’t really stop you.”
Mirkin: That had been my pseudonym that had been registered to me. It wasn’t that I was choosing it for that film. You have an opportunity with the Writers Guild where, if there’s ever going to be a situation, that’s the name you’re going to use. I didn’t really talk to them so much about that as my representatives did. Honestly, I don’t know what it was that my agents were saying at that time, or if they explored it that far, but I never felt that it was going to come to that.
Ventresca: I didn’t know there was any kind of trouble with the cuts, but I remember there was [a studio session to record dialogue] that they had me come to out of nowhere. I showed up and David wasn’t there. I was like, “Wow, where’s David?” Nobody answered me. I never dug into it too deep, but all of a sudden there was a new version and I was looping scenes because they’d been re-edited.
Schiff: In David’s cut, at the end of the scene with the argument on the way to the reunion, when Romy and Michele get back into the car to drive away, David just had them driving away. I don’t know how we found out about it, but there was a take where Lisa pulled her seat belt really hard and it jammed and Mira accidentally hit the windshield wipers. You have their relationship going haywire, and coincidentally something happened in the moment with both of them and they stayed in character. How much better can you get than that? That was something that Barry and I put in because we loved the messiness of it.
Schwartz: Effectively, Robin and Barry shifted the tone of the movie and made it into what I thought the movie was going to be. There’s stuff in it, of course, that never would have been that way if it weren’t for David Mirkin, like when Lisa Kudrow flies up in the air off that car. A million things never would have been that way if it weren’t for David because only David would think that way. But he was going for something that I think was tonally less fun. It was less feminine. He definitely wanted an edgier vibe.
Mirkin: You have a moment where you’re just like, “Oh no.” So to make sure ― this was so sweet of them ― I arranged a screening at Disney of what was going to be the final thing, to make sure that nothing horrible happened from these changes. It was so sweet. I brought Carrie Fisher and Garry Shandling and James L. Brooks in and played the movie for them, and they were so supportive and so complimentary that it was one of the things that really calmed me down from the entire process.
Schwartz: The feedback that we got was Jim Brooks saying, “You’re crazy if you want to take your name off this movie. Why would you take your name off this movie?” We were waiting to hear what was going to happen after that screening.
De Line: I don’t think it affected the studio’s ability to market the movie at all. If one thing was clear, the studio knew how to market that movie from the go. Everything from the poster to the trailer to the TV spots was great.
Kudrow: It was funny doing press for this. Certain men, especially the ones who had talk shows, would say, “I liked this movie because it wasn’t bashing men.” And I thought, “Well, that’s great, except no one was talking about men. They didn’t even get into the conversation. It’s about two girls. How did you insert yourself into this? We weren’t talking about men.”
Sorvino: I think the biggest mistake, which I was attuned to at the time, was that they rated it R because of the F-expletives by Janeane Garofalo’s character. You could kill a person on screen and get a PG-13, but you can’t use an F-word in a sexual capacity. They said, “Well, this is for people who are going to their 10-year reunion.”
Mirkin: I loved “Clueless,” but it’s a sweet movie. I was never pretending that I was going to do this as a sweet movie. It was going to have brutal things in it. Part of the brutality of high school is to be able to have the language of high school. I had been working with Janeaneon “The Larry Sanders Show” and I loved her. If you took that language away from her character, Heather would not be Heather. You just can’t have that character without all those “fucks.” The studio was so distracted, probably by all the other things, that the idea of changing it from an R-rating was never mentioned to me. Instead, I was fighting about music and the length and some of the more interesting shots.
Sorvino: I said, “Well, I also think it’s for teenage girls. Really it would be better if we had a more audience-friendly rating.” I made my opinions known to the marketing team and the powers that be, but they did not change their minds.
De Line: It was made for young women, not necessarily teenagers, because these were characters getting a start in life and going back to their reunion. Their friendship was aspirational for young women. For teenage girls, it was cool to go to an R-rated movie, and those were the days when they would absolutely get in if they wanted it. I think they cracked down on that in subsequent years.
Sorvino: We lost so much repeat business because the way that things become hits in the teenage sector is that kids go back to see the same movie. If it’s rated R, that requires that the parent go in and watch it with them. I think that really, really hurt our numbers up front because we didn’t have that capacity for kids to go back on their own to see the movie again and again with their friends. That was, I think, a very, very big mistake, but over time it doesn’t matter.
Schwartz: There were probably 600 people at a La Quinta in the desert at some terrible Disney corporate retreat when the movie came out. And then it did OK. It actually was profitable because it was such an inexpensive movie. I remember just feeling like, “OK, I’m not fired.” It definitely performed better than the studio thought it would.
Ventresca: I was doing a show called “Boston Common.” It was Max Mutchnick and David Kohan’s first show before they did “Will & Grace.” The movie was about to come out and an agent came up to me and she goes, “I saw your movie.” You feel really vulnerable before a movie comes out because you don’t know how you came across, and I said, “So what did you think?” She was like, “It was good. You play a good dick.” It just crushed me, to be honest. Here’s the truth: I kind of was Billy Christensen in high school. As far as my career goes, I think some people thought I was that guy, a very surface-level idiot.
Schiff: I was going to go out of town the weekend it opened because I thought I was going to get a public spanking. There was another movie that had been made at the studio that also had a reunion in it called “Grosse Point Blank.” But I wound up in town the weekend it opened. Everybody was shocked we got a great review from Siskel and Ebert ― we got two thumbs up; they loved it. We got a great review in The New York Times from Janet Maslin. Nobody could believe it, because this was after it had tested so horribly.
Ventresca: I have a sister who lives in San Diego, and it was my birthday the week it came out. My wife and I drove down, and my parents surprised me. They showed up and said, “We want to see your first big movie.” I didn’t say anything because there was a little uncertainty about how the movie was going to be received. We sat down and the movie started playing. It was a full house and the audience ate it up. They were dying. They were laughing, they were crying, they were singing along with the soundtrack. They were on the “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” Express. All of a sudden, I was like, “Wow, this is really, really cool.” It was one of the greatest times of my life.
Mirkin: It was not a giant hit, but it didn’t cost anybody anything. The budget was probably about $16 to $18 million. And then when it came out in home video, it went through the roof.
Schwartz: It was a good thing, from my perspective.
Schiff: Lisa and I discussed a sequel, and Disney wasn’t interested. Lionsgate was kind of interested, but they wanted to do it for so little money we couldn’t really do it.
Kudrow: It just seemed like the next logical step for them was to get married.
Schiff: The idea was kind of funny, that Romy and Michele forget to get married. And then this woman that they’re super competitive with is getting married, so they say they’re getting married but they don’t have husbands, so the whole movie would have been them planning their wedding almost as if they’re marrying each other while they’re looking for men. The men are completely beside the point.
Kudrow: We thought, “Wow, then it could be ‘Romy and Michele Get Divorced,’” which would mean they have a huge falling out.
Laurence Mark, Touchstone/Disney producer: If it had made $75 million at first blush, perhaps they might have talked about a sequel. But just looking at the hard numbers, it’s not crying out for a sequel. It’s only crying out for a sequel in retrospect.
Schiff: The studio just didn’t get it. To some degree, I think they still don’t get it.
Mark: I pitched an animated version of the movie with Lisa and Mira doing the voices. I didn’t have any specific approach. It was a comment-at-lunch kind of thing. It’s incredibly colorful; it almost feels animated, in its own way.
Sorvino: At the time, I was offered a bunch more dumb-blonde comedies. I kind of steered away from them because I thought I was going to get stuck in them. Practically speaking, I probably should have taken a few more just to solidify that commercial success. I wanted to explore other genres and I wanted to go darker. That wasn’t a status thing; it was just something that I wanted to do. I never was very strategic at that point in my career. I followed my passions and my heart, and sometimes that wasn’t necessarily the best decision, but it is what it is. I do wish that over the years I had done more comedies. I did what I did. The only thing I regret maybe is that I was originally offered “The Good Girl.” I didn’t feel like I could do it for some reason. I didn’t feel like I could make it work. We did a staged reading and I just didn’t have confidence in myself with it, but I feel like I should have pushed myself and figured out how to make it work. It was obviously a great movie with Jennifer Aniston.
Kudrow: That same summer, I did an independent film called “Clockwatchers,” and that went to Sundance. “Romy and Michele” was a favorite of director/writer Don Roos. He saw “Friends,” of course, and he saw “Romy and Michele” and thought, “Oh, she can play this part in ‘Opposite of Sex.’ How you get from those two roles to Lucia in “Opposite of Sex,” I don’t know. But who cares because he really thought I could do it, and thank God. For independent films, I was never asked to play an idiot or a ditz.
Mirkin: Periodically, people had approached me with ideas about sequels and whatnot, but there was nothing firm in there. There was that prequel, “Romy and Michele: In the Beginning,” and that’s a completely different sensibility. I think it represents more of what this film maybe started out to be.
Schiff: There was a woman named Susan Lyne who was head of ABC briefly, and because they own the property they decided they wanted to do a sequel. I said, “You can’t do a sequel without Lisa and Mira, but maybe you could do a prequel without Lisa and Mira.” I said I’d do it if I get to direct it and they said OK. I had fun writing the movie, but I learned a lot ― let me put it that way. There were certain things I let the girls get away with that I wish I hadn’t. They talked too fast, and I was also going through a period of my life where I was doing a whole bunch of spiritual stuff, so I had them say a couple of spiritual things. It did not please the fans. Katherine Heigl and Alexandra Breckenridge were in it. It was Katherine’s first comedy role. She’s a tough cookie, but I got along with her just fine.
Sorvino: I think the enduring fandom of it became apparent to me in the mid-2000s when I was in France at the Louvre Museum with my family. A girl tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around and she said, “I’m the Mary.” I was like, “Wow! Someone’s doing lines from ‘Romy and Michele’ to me in another country.” On Instagram, I’m seeing people posting pictures of themselves in Romy and Michele costumes. I knew that people dressed up as us in the West Hollywood gay Halloween parade, and I knew there were drag shows and this cult following within the gay community, but I was not aware how widespread it was with so many different people. I think a year and a half ago Jessica Alba dressed up as me!
Schiff: I’ve been working on a musical for 10-plus years. I got a call from Larry Mark, and he’d gotten a spec song from two guys. They were horrible. I said, “I would make it sound like the Go-Gos and it would not just be like a regular Broadway musical.” Larry said he loved that. When the original play was happening, Romy and Michele were such a big presence. I was very attached to their personalities. It had to evolve for them to be in the movie, and now they’re having to evolve again to be in the musical. There’s going to be a ton of stuff that is exactly from the movie and then other stuff that will be a little different.
Schwartz: I have some general awareness of the musical they’re developing, which I think is fantastic. For me, it’s that one crystalline moment of silliness that’s perfect.
Kudrow: I remember hearing from Janeane, “Have you met the guy who played the cowboy who smokes and flings cigarettes at me? He’s fucking fantastic. He’s so funny and he’s a writer. He’s the coolest guy I ever met.” And I was like, “No, I haven’t met him, what’s his name?” “Justin Theroux.” “Well, great!” We didn’t have any scenes together, but I met him when he was engaged to my friend, [Jennifer Aniston]. It took a few encounters for me to remember, “Oh my God, you were in ‘Romy and Michele.’ That’s right!”
Mirkin: Meryl Streep is one of the great people I directed on “The Simpsons.” I would see her periodically and I ran into her not long after the movie. She said, “You know, I’ve seen that movie 21 times.” She loved it because she watched it with her daughter, but she also loved the movie in and of herself.
Schiff: I think platonic love is not often a topic, certainly not among women. Usually they’re competing against each other. Most buddy movies end up being about platonic love, whether they want to say it or not. So many women, the most important relationships in their lives are with their female friends.
Mirkin: One of my big influences was Mike Nichols. When I met him, he raved to me about “Romy and Michele.” Again, all those shots that I had to fight with the studio to keep in, and that tone, that’s exactly what Mike responded to. That’s why you really do have to fight for what you believe in. And then my hero said how much he liked it. And of course I told Mike, “So much of this comes from ‘The Graduate,’” which totally inspired me. He laughed and said it’s all a big circle. And it was. In fact, that whole final reunion is shot at the Ambassador Hotel, and that’s the hotel from “The Graduate.”
Sorvino: It’s arguably the most popular film I’ve ever been in. It has an enduring following and has stood the test of time. Somehow, it’s not dated. I mean, there’s a retro aspect to it, but it has universal themes.
Mark: Maybe part of why it’s had such a long, celebrated life is because it’s edgy and because it works today. As you know, edgy happens to be going on today, in a bigger way than ever, in all kinds of movies. It almost seems like it could have been released yesterday.
Sorvino: If you happen to watch the movie with a crowd of people, literally every line of the movie, and many unscripted and wordless moments, are just hilarious. There’s a laugh every few seconds. I credit that to Robin Schiff. She wrote such a great, great script. David Mirkin directed it in such a funny way. And the colors! And Mona May doing the costumes, which are so appealing. I’m very happy I did it. I continue to love the movie and love the people associated with it. I’m really proud of it.
The above quotes have been edited, condensed and arranged based on individual interviews.
Want to read the inner thoughts of a beloved U.S. president? Then be prepared to cough up a pretty penny.
A diary penned by John F. Kennedy was bought Wednesday by a Massachusetts-based collector for $718,750 during a live auction, according to Boston-based auction house RR Auction. Only 12 of the diary’s 61 pages were handwritten — the rest were typed — and the artifact was bound in black leather cowhide. “This exceptional diary sheds light on a side of John F. Kennedy seldom explored and confirms America’s enduring sense that he was one of the most qualified, intelligent, and insightful commanders-in-chief in American history,” Bobby Livingston, executive vice president at RR Auction, said in a news release.
The diary was written during Kennedy’s short stint as a journalist in the wake of World War II. In it, the would-be president details his views on everything from liberalism and President Franklin Roosevelt to the creation of the United Nations. He also wrote about attending the Pottsdam Conference in Germany, which was attended by the likes of President Harry Truman, Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill, and about his decision to run for Congress. Entries and photos of the diary are available on RR Auction’s website.
Deirdre Henderson, who worked at Hearst with JFK and eventually helped coordinate one of his campaign advisory committees, was given the diary by the future president. In 1995, she published its contents in the book “Prelude to Leadership.” It included this entry, written on July 1, 1945, during Kennedy’s tour of an annihilated Berlin:
“The devastation is complete. The streets are relatively clear, but there is not a single building which is not gutted. On some of the streets, the stench — sweet and sickish from dead bodies — is overwhelming. People all have completely colorless faces — a yellow tinge with pale tan lips. They are all carrying bundles. Where they are going, no one seems to know. I wonder whether they do.”
Diet soda is getting more bad publicity. A new study comes to some alarming conclusions about these beverages
Artificially sweetened beverages may be linked to an increased risk of stroke and dementia, according to a study released this week by the American Heart Association’s peer-reviewed journal Stroke. The researchers looked at 2,888 people over the age of 45 (with a median age of 62) for stroke risks and 1,484 people over the age of 60 (with a median age of 69) for risk of dementia. After adjustments were made for age, sex, education, caloric intake, diet, exercise, and smoking, they found that diet soda drinks “were associated with an increased risk of ischemic stroke, all-cause dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease dementia.” (The study cites correlation rather than causation.)
Diet soda sales have tumbled as consumers, turned off by studies on artificial sweeteners, have switched to bottled water, teas and energy drinks, instead. And this not the first study that has made a connection between diet soda to other serious medical issues. Several recent studies have linked diet soda and cardiovascular disease and showed a correlation (if not a causation) between cancer and aspartame. The beverage industry says people who are overweight and already at risk for heart disease may consume more diet drinks in an attempt to control their weight and the Food and Drug Administration has ruled that artificial sweeteners are safe.
The beverage industry highlights the safety of artificial sweeteners. “Low-calorie sweeteners have been proven safe by worldwide government safety authorities as well as hundreds of scientific studies,” Lauren Kane, a spokeswoman for the American Beverage Association, told MarketWatch, on behalf of industry, including Coca-Cola KO, -0.05% and PepsiCo PEP, -0.14%Research shows that diet soda can be a useful tool as part of a weight management plan, she added. “According to the National Institutes of Health, the likelihood of developing stroke and dementia are related to age, hypertension, diabetes and genetics,” she said.
Americans now drink more bottled water than diet soda or traditional soda. Bottled-water consumption in the U.S. hit 39.3 gallons per capita last year, while carbonated soft drinks fell to 38.5 gallons, marking the first time that soda was knocked off the top spot, according to data from industry tracker Beverage Marketing Corp. But soda is still more expensive, racking up $39.5 billion in retail sales versus $21.3 billion for water, industry research group Euromonitor found. “In 2016, bottled water overtook carbonates to become the leading soft drinks category in off-trade volume terms, an astonishing milestone a decade in the making,” Euromonitor concluded.
There has also been a backlash against sugary drinks. Soda and sugary drinks may lead to an estimated 184,000 deaths among adults every year, a 2015 study by researchers at Tufts University published in the American Heart Association’s peer-reviewed journal Circulation. The study analyzed consumption patterns from 611,971 individuals between 1980 and 2010 across 51 countries. Sugar-sweetened beverages consumption may have been responsible for approximately 133,000 deaths from diabetes 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease 6,450 deaths from cancer, it concluded. (The American Beverage Association published a lengthy rebuttal.)
U.S. consumers spent $21 billion on bottled water last year
Americans now drink more bottled water than soda but, with Earth Day on April 22, some environmentalists say it’s worth highlighting there’s a hidden cost to buying all those plastic bottles.
Bottled-water consumption in the U.S. hit 39.3 gallons per capita last year, while carbonated soft drinks fell to 38.5 gallons, marking the first time that soda was knocked off the top spot, according to data from industry tracker Beverage Marketing Corp. But soda is still more expensive, racking up $39.5 billion in retail sales versus $21.3 billion for water, industry research group Euromonitor found. “In 2016, bottled water overtook carbonates to become the leading soft drinks category in off-trade volume terms, an astonishing milestone a decade in the making,” it said.
While the fizzy soda category has experienced an annual volume sales decline since 2003, bottled water grew every year over the last two decades, except 2009 during the depths of the Great Recession, driven by consumer concerns about the effects of artificial sweeteners and sugar.
While the fizzy soda category has experienced an annual volume sales decline since 2003, bottled water grew every year over the last two decades, except 2009 during the depths of the Great Recession, driven by consumer concerns about the effects of artificial sweeteners and sugar. Bottled water also had another unexpected boost aside from skittishness over sodas. Scares over possible water contamination have helped boost demand for bottled water over the last few decades, experts say.
More than one-quarter of bottled water revenue last year was shared by the soda giants Coca-Cola Co. KO, -0.05% and PepsiCo PEP, -0.14% which sell Dasani and Aquafina respectively. In the four decades since the launch of Perrier water in the U.S., consumption of bottled water surged 2,700%, from 354 million gallons in 1976 to 11.7 billion gallons in 2015, according to the International Bottled Water Association.
And not all European bottled water is always free of chemicals, according to studies of European bottled waters carried out in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France — one published in 2011 and the other in 2013 — by the Goethe University Frankfurt’s Department of Aquatic Ecotoxicology. Among the main compounds Wagner found: Endocrine disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, which can act like hormones in the body and have been linked to diabetes, breast cancer and cardiovascular disease. (Representatives from the bottled water industry contend that the origin of these EDCs were likely environmental rather than from a packaging material.)
Plastic soda and water bottles are also clogging up landfills and floating as vast vortices on the world’s oceans. What’s more, consumers can purify their own tap water for a fraction of the cost of a $2 bottle of water or soda.
Plastic soda and water bottles are also clogging up landfills and floating as vast vortices on the world’s oceans, studies suggest. Americans discard around 33.6 million tons of plastic each year, but only 6.5% of that recycled and 7.7% is combusted in waste-to-energy facilities, according to Columbia University’s Earth Center. The U.S. was recently ranked 20th among 192 countries that could have contributed to plastic waste in the oceans, according to a 2015 study led by Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer at the University of Georgia and published in the academic journal Science.
The industry disagrees. Bottled water containers are 100% recyclable, an International Bottled Water Association spokeswoman said. “The most recent recycling rate for bottled water containers is 35.4% and, of all the drink packaging that is mismanaged, bottled water containers make up just 3.3%,” she said. (Glass containers make up over 66%, soda containers make up more than 13%, and aluminum cans make up nearly 8%, she said. Read more here.)
What’s more, polyethylene terephthalate or PET, plastic bottled water bottles already use less plastic than any other packaged beverage, the International Bottled Water Association spokeswoman added. Between 2000 and 2014, the average weight of a 16.9-ounce (half-liter) PET plastic bottled water container declined 51%, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation. Another 2015 study estimated that the accumulated number of “microplastic” particles in 2014 weighed between 93,000 and 236,000 metric tons, which is only 1% of global plastic waste estimated to enter the ocean in one year. (Consumers can also purify their own tap water for a fraction of the cost of a $2 bottle of water or soda. Prices start at $5.)
But there is some irony for people who believe bottled water is spring water, sourced from some Alpine mountain peak or green meadow: Some 45% of bottled water brands are sourced from the municipal water supply — the same source as what comes out of the tap, according to Peter Gleick, a scientist and author of “Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water.”
Those within the industry, however, say that does not mean it’s the same as tap water. The spokeswoman for the International Bottled Water Association says purified and spring water must meet Food & Drug Administration quality standards. “When a public water system is used as a source for making purified bottled water, several processes are employed to ensure that it meets comprehensive U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations,” she says. “These treatments can include ozonation, filtration, reverse osmosis, distillation or de-ionization. The finished water product is then placed in a bottle under sanitary conditions and sold to the consumer.”
(Dasani and Aquafina use a public water source, but both companies say the water is filtered for purity using a “state-of-the-art” process.) And, as the industry expands, more bottled waters are available with different flavors, carbonation and vitamins.
And the alternative seems far worse. Soda and sugary drinks may lead to an estimated 184,000 deaths each year among adults from diabetes, heart disease and other obesity-related illnesses, according to a landmark 2015 study by researchers at Tufts University published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. The study analyzed consumption patterns from 611,971 individuals between 1980 and 2010 across 51 countries, along with data on national availability of sugar in 187 countries. (The American Beverage Association published a lengthy rebuttal: “The authors themselves acknowledge that they are at best estimating effects of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption.”)
But sugar-shy consumers are shying away from diet soda too. Several recent studies have linked diet soda and cardiovascular disease and showed a correlation (if not a causation) between cancer and aspartame and, on last week, another study argued that diet soda is correlated to dementia and strokes in older people. The American Beverage Association also rejects those studies, highlighting the difference between “correlation” and “causation,” and says people who are overweight and already at risk for heart disease may consume more diet drinks in an attempt to control their weight and the Food and Drug Administration has ruled that artificial sweeteners are safe.
Last year, Pepsi announced that it will sell Diet Pepsi with both aspartame, the diet sweetener typically used in sweeteners like Equal, and sucralose, used in Splenda. Unlike bottled water, however, they’re both artificial.
What’s better than a group of women coming together to celebrate their bodies? A group of women coming together to celebrate their bodies by dousing themselves in glitter and having a super fun photoshoot.
Fifteen body-positive, Australia-based women held their third annual “Glitter Extravaganza” in rural Queensland earlier this month. The group, comprised of women ages 19 to 36, met on Instagram over a shared interest in lingerie.
Bonnie V., one of the participants who writes lingerie reviews, told The Huffington Post that the group’s goal is to shatter the pressure put on women to look a certain way. “We’ve had enough,” she said. “Our focus is encouraging women everywhere to embrace the bodies they have, regardless of what they have been told is acceptable by mass media.”
It might seem odd for a group of people who bonded over a love of lingerie to make a statement by stripping their clothes off altogether, but then, the lingerie isn’t really the point.
“We are showcasing that none of us look like stereotypical models, we are all different shapes and sizes,” Bonnie V. said. “Yet we can (and will) model our lingerie collections and celebrate the bodies we have.”
Plus, glitter just makes everything better, doesn’t it? Check out more photos from the shoot below.
Brennan Agranoff is a 17-year-old with a lot on his plate.
The high-school junior balances homework with another full-time job he’s had since he was 13: He’s founder and CEO of HoopSwagg, a custom socks startup.
HoopSwagg isn’t just a little project on the side for this teenager. In four years, Agranoff has grown his idea to make custom-design athletic socks into a profitable online-only business with annual sales of more than $1 million.
Agranoff’s lightbulb moment came in 2013 at a high-school basketball game, where he noticed most kids were wearing the same plain Nike athletic socks. If these simple socks started such a craze, he wondered: What would happen if he kicked things up a notch and printed custom designs on them?
Fast forward four years, and HoopSwagg now offers more than 200 original designs created by Agranoff himself: a mix of goofy (a melting ice cream cone), funky (a spoof of the infamous Portland International Airport carpet) and tongue-in-cheek (“goat farm,” a family inside joke scattered with photos of the real animals on the family’s property). Agranoff also wants to allow customers to create their own designs in the future.
The company is now shipping 70 to 100 orders a day, with each pair of socks priced at $14.99. And this week, HoopSwagg announced its first acquisition: It bought competitor TheSockGame.com, which will add over 300 designs to the portfolio and help expand HoopSwagg’s customer base.
But HoopSwagg started small. After Agranoff’s initial idea at the school basketball game, he spent six months researching logistics like machinery and technology needed for custom digital printing on fabric.
He then made the case to two potential investors: his parents. “They thought the concept was a little out there,” Agranoff said. But he was persistent and ultimately received a $3,000 loan.
In true startup fashion, HoopSwagg launched in the family garage in Sherwood, Oregon, just outside of Portland. Agranoff set up the design printing and heat presser machines with his family’s help. He enlisted his parents to buy “as many white athletic socks as they could get from Dick’s Sporting Goods.”
Hoopswagg’s first year was slow. But momentum grew quickly after the socks — which Agranoff said are “for everyone from 6-year-olds to 80-year-olds” — took off on social media.
Agranoff leveraged his own social network and targeted a group of social influencers to help spread the word. In particular, the sock design inspired by the Portland airport’s former teal-and-geometric-shape pattern went viral, bringing more attention to the brand.
As sales soared, the company quickly outgrew the garage. The Agranoff family built a 1,500-square-foot building on their property to accommodate production, warehousing and shipping.
His mother joined the business full-time, and Agranoff also has 17 other part-time employees. But self-sufficiency is key to his success, he said. Agranoff also taught himself to code, so he could better set up and manage his business’ website, and how to use graphic design tools to develop the designs. He remains the company’s only graphic designer, though he is colorblind.
For now, the socks are primarily sold through HoopSwagg’s website and via Amazon (AMZN, Tech30), eBay (EBAY) and Etsy. The next three years are pivotal for HoopSwagg, said Agranoff, who wants the brand to be in retail stores,” said Agranoff. He’s also expanding customization to other products like shoelaces, arm sleeves and ties.
Meanwhile, Agranoff is set to graduate high school six months early. While college is in the plan at some point, he’s slated to focus on HoopSwagg full-time after high school graduation. He currently spends about six hours per day on the business, after putting in a day of school and finishing his homework.
While Agranoff has never taken a business class, he learned a lot by buying items at garage sales and selling them on eBay — a pursuit he began when he was eight.
“So really, I’ve been learning how to do this for a while,” said Agranoff. “Especially today, with all the information available on the internet, you can’t be too young to learn how to be an entrepreneur.”