December 11, 2017

“Greed is good!” – the famous movie misquote and it’s real life inspiration

Michael Douglas Greed is Good Wall Street (1987)


On December 11, 1987 Oliver Stone’s film Wall Street was released in U.S. theaters.

The movie stars Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, a mega-rich, ethically-challenged Wall Street investor who specializes in corporate takeover schemes.

Gekko has no pangs about taking over, gutting, and reselling companies regardless of the impacts on employees and local communities.

In fact, he’s proud of his takeover record, as he explains in the memorable speech he gives that includes the line usually misquoted as “Greed is good,” a shortened version of what Douglas actually says.

That now familiar saying is partly based on an actual speech given by the real-life Wall Street investor and money manipulator Ivan Boesky.

On May 18, 1986, Boesky gave the commencement address at the UC Berkeley’s School of Business Administration.

At the time, Boesky was a widely admired financial wizard who was riding high.

One of the things he told the students was this proto-Gekko quote.

     “Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”

Boesky was feeling a tad less good the following year, when he was convicted of filing false trading records and sentenced to three years in prison, after also paying a record $100 million to settle a conviction for insider trading.

Boesky’s rise and fall and his infamous Berkeley quote were part of Oliver Stone’s inspiration for Wall Street.

Gekko clearly echoes Boesky in the scene in which he calls greed good.

Ivan Boesky, Greed is all rightIn that scene, he’s speaking to a meeting of shareholders of the company Teldar Paper, which he wants to take over.

To encourage them to approve his takeover big, he tells them he has studied the company and found that the current management is wasting money and shortchanging shareholders.

Then he says:

“I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them. The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms – greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you.”

The Teldar shareholders like what Gekko says and give him a standing ovation.

And, despite the fact that Gekko is a slimy character who is ultimately goes to prison for insider trading involving another company, and despite the financial scandals and meltdowns that happened before and after Wall Street was released, there are many people who like and essentially agree with the philosophy he expresses in that speech.

It’s fits the Ayn Randian “enlightened self-interest” creed of hard core advocates of business and opponents of “over-regulation” – a subset of people who have increasingly dominated American politics.

The end of Wall Street is somewhat uplifting. Gekko goes to jail and Bud Fox, the young protégé who initially helped him in a crooked takeover scheme (played by Charlie Sheen), blows the whistle on Gordon and redeems himself.

If Gekko existed in real life, he’d probably view the current push to reduce the regulation of businesses and financial markets as uplifting.

Indeed, events of the past few years might remind many people of something else Gordon Gekko says in Wall Street

He explains to Charlie Sheen’s character:

“The richest one percent of this country owns half our country’s wealth, five trillion dollars...We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price per paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it. Now you’re not naive enough to think we’re living in a democracy, are you buddy?”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page or send me an email.

Related viewing and reading…

November 23, 2017

“He who destroys a good book kills reason itself.”


In the 1630s, England’s infamous “Star Chamber” (sort of a politically-oriented version of the Spanish Inquisition) banned the printing or sale of “any seditious, scismaticall, or offensive Bookes or Pamphlets.”

The Star Chamber was abolished in 1641.

But two years later, the British House of Commons passed a new censorship law.

Although it was called a book “licensing” law, it was more about limiting free speech and creating publishing monopolies for politically-connected publishers than it was about protecting the rights of authors (or readers).

Books deemed to be in violation of the “Licensing Order of 1643” were seized and destroyed. And, the writers, printers and publishers of those books faced prison sentences.

This angered England’s great poet John Milton and inspired him to write a “speech” urging more liberal publishing laws.

The full title of the printed version was Areopagitica; A Speech of Mr. John Milton For the Liberty of Unlicens’d Printing, To the Parlament of England. (The complete text is online here.)

Now generally referred to as Areopagitica for short, it was first published, in pamphlet form, on November 23, 1644.

Milton’s Areopagitica is among the most famous historical documents advocating freedom of the press ever written. (The title alludes to the ancient Greek judges of Areopagus.)

One line in it is still frequently quoted today and included in many books of quotations:

“As good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself.”

Milton’s eloquent words failed to persuade Parliament to change its book “licensing” and censorship regulations. They remained in effect until 1694, 20 years after Milton’s death.

Of course, in the centuries since then, censorship of books has significantly and steadily decreased, at least in the United Kingdom, the United States and other Western democracies.

But even in those countries efforts to ban books from public libraries has continued.

For example, during the first decade of the 21st Century, the American Library Association documented more than 4,000 attempts to have various book removed from local libraries here in the US.

Some modern self-appointed censors want to ban books that conflict with their religious or political views. Some want to block access to books they deem “pornographic.”

Other reasons given for requesting books to be banned from American libraries in recent years include things like sexism, “anti-family” content and uses of the N-word, one of the common complaints lodged against Mark Twain’s classic novel Huckleberry Finn.

In fact, the targets of people and groups who want to ban books at their local libraries include many major literary classics, such as: 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
1984 by George Orwell
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
The Call of the Wild by Jack London

You can read a longer list of examples on the “Banned & Challenged Classics” page of the ALA’s website.

If John Milton were still around to see that list, I’m pretty sure it he be angered again.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page or send me an email.

Related reading…

November 05, 2017

“Spare the rod and spoil the child”


It’s not surprising that many people think the quote “Spare the rod and spoil the child” comes from the Bible.

There are at least five verses in the Bible’s Book of Proverbs that talk about using a rod to beat a child — for his own good, of course.

The most famous is Proverbs 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

An even scarier piece of parenting advice is in Proverbs 23:13-14. It says: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. / Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”

However, although the saying “spare the rod and spoil the child” was clearly inspired by these Biblical verses, it does not appear in the Bible.

It comes from the epic-length 17th-century poem ”Hudibras”, written by Samuel Butler (1612-1680), a cheeky British poet who enjoyed mocking religious extremists and hypocrites.

Butler’s epic satire follows the trials and tribulations of a character named Sir Hudibras.

Initially, the poem describes Hudibras as a noble and pious knight.

But during the course of the story he is shown to be a buffoonish poseur and nitwit.

Butler published Hudibras in three parts, in 1663, 1664 and 1678. The famous “spare the rod” quote comes in Part II, which was entered into the Stationer’s Registry (Britain’s early version of a copyright office) on November 5, 1663.

At the end of Part I, Sir Hudibras is put in prison after getting into a fracas with a group of locals who were watching a bear baiting “entertainment.”

In Part Two, a widow Hudibras had been wooing comes to visit him in jail and says she’ll get him out if he’ll prove he truly loves her.

When he tries to profess his love, she quickly rejects flowery words as the kind of proof she wants:

       “Hold, hold, quoth she; no more of this,
       Sir Knight; you take your aim amiss:
       For you will find it a hard chapter                         
       To catch me with poetic rapture.”

The widow then suggests that Hudibras could prove his love by attempting suicide. For example, she says, if he tried to hang himself she would believe him and cut him down before he died.

Hudibras thinks that option sounds a bit “too harsh.”

So, the widow suggests that Hudibras could prove his love by whipping himself or by letting her whip him. She then explains the benefits of the “virtuous school of lashing.”

Near the end of her spiel on the joys of the whip, the widow utters the famous “spare the rod” quotation:

       “If matrimony and hanging go
       By dest’ny, why not whipping too?                           
       What med’cine else can cure the fits
       Of lovers when they lose their wits?
      
Love is a boy by poets stil’d;
       Then spare the rod and spoil the child.”

Hudibras promises to enroll in the “school of lashing” if the widow gets him released.

She does. But then Hudibras reneges on his promise, a betrayal that sets up the plot of Part III of the poem, in which Hudibras gets his final comeuppance.

Samuel Butler was almost certainly thinking of the Biblical verses about rods and children when he wrote his own famous line about them.

When read or heard out of context, it may seem like Butler’s “spare the rod and spoil the child” quote has a meaning similar to the Bible verses — i.e., parents should discipline their children with physical punishment if they want them to turn out “right” and keep them from becoming spoiled brats or worse.

But what Butler implied in between the lines of his satiric verse is a bit more bawdy than Biblical.

The obvious theory, given the scene it’s used, in is that it refers to sexual fetishes involving spanking, whipping and a dominatrix.

Another theory is that it’s a reference to an old bit of sexual folklore about how to “spoil” — and thus prevent — a woman from becoming pregnant.

One thing is certain: what Samuel Butler was talking about in that part of his poem Hudibras is a bit different than what the pious authors of the Book of Proverbs had in mind.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page or send me an email.

Related reading…

October 11, 2017

“Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” (and finger-eating wolverines)


On October 11, 1975, at 11:30pm Eastern Time, a new TV comedy show debuted on the NBC network.

It opened with a wacky skit featuring three comic actors who were virtually unknown at the time.

In the skit, a frumpy-looking East European immigrant with a heavy accent is being tutored on how to speak proper English by a well-dressed teacher.

They are sitting in comfortable chairs next to each other in a small room.

The teacher starts a repeat-after-me type lesson with an unusual language exercise about wolverines…

       TEACHER: “Let us begin. Repeat after me. I would like...”

       IMMIGRANT: (With a noticeable accent.) “I wude like...”

       TEACHER: “...to feed your fingertips...”

       IMMIGRANT: “...to feed yur fingerteeps...”

       TEACHER: “...to the wolverines.”

       IMMIGRANT: “...to de woolvur-eenes.”

After a couple more odd exercises about wolverines and badgers (or, “woolvur-eenes” and “bed-jurs” as the immigrant pronounces them), the teacher suddenly gasps, clutches his chest and falls to the floor, apparently dead from a heart attack.

The European immigrant looks confused for a moment.

Then he gasps, clutches his chest and falls to the floor, copying the professor.

Next, a Stage Manager walks into the scene, smiles into the camera and says, for the very first time, what would soon be a well-known line:

       “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”

The three not-yet-famous comedians in the skit were: John Belushi a former Second City improv performer who went on to become one of the most beloved comic actors in the world prior to his tragic death in 1982 from an apparent drug overdose; Michael O'Donoghue, a former National Lampoon magazine writer picked as head writer for the new show (who died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1994 at age 54); and, the fortunately still living comic legend, Chevy Chase, who was best known at the time as a cast member of the National Lampoon Radio Hour.

All three were among the amazingly talented group of original cast members of the show, which was officially titled NBC’s Saturday Night when it started airing in 1975, but soon came to be called Saturday Night Live, or SNL for short.

The revolving, evolving group of comic actors who performed comedy sketches on NBC’s new Saturday Night series were collectively dubbed the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players.”

The voice heard after Chevy Chase on the historic first episode was that of longtime television show announcer Don Pardo, reading the names of the performers who would be appearing (a function he continued on SNL until his death in August 2014). The first host was my favorite curmudgeon, the great George Carlin (1937-2008).

I was watching the premiere of SNL that night and watched the show almost every weekend for nearly 20 years. Nowadays, I record the show on DVR and watch the opening long enough to hear the famed line “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”

I check out who the guest host and musical guest will be. Then I usually fast forward a lot, though skits that rarely strike me as funny as anything done by the early “Not Ready for Prime Time Players.” I often have no idea who the guest hosts or musical performers are and don’t understand most of the jokes that include current pop culture references.

Yep, I’m nearly as old as John Belushi would have been if he’d survived his oversized lust for life and I’m nearly as much of a curmudgeon as George Carlin. I miss them both.

Of course, there are some things I do like about the modern world. For example, I can now rewatch old episodes of Saturday Night Live any time I want as streaming video on my iPad.

And whenever I get nostalgic and rewatch the opening skit that turned the lines “I would like to feed your fingertips to the wolverines” and “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night” into catchphrases, it still cracks me up.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Post them on my quotations Facebook group.

Related viewing, reading and listening…

October 07, 2017

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…”


Three years after Jack Kerouac coined the term “The Beat Generation” a group of Beat poets gathered at the Six Gallery on Fillmore Street in San Francisco for a poetry reading.

The date was October 7, 1955 and Kerouac was there.

So were local Beat celebrities Gary Snyder, Phil Lamantia, Michael McClure and a then virtually unknown poet named Allen Ginsberg.

In his novel, The Dharma Bums (published in 1958), Kerouac called it “the birth of the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance.” He then described this memorable scene:

“Everyone was there. It was a mad night. And I was the one who got things jumping by going around collecting dimes and quarters from the rather stiff audience standing around in the gallery and coming back with three huge gallon jugs of California Burgundy and getting them all piffed so that by eleven o'clock when Alvah Goldbook was reading his, wailing his poem ‘Wail’ drunk with arms outspread everybody was yelling ‘Go! Go! Go!’ (like a jam session).”

“Alvah Goldbook” was Kerouac’s humorous alias for the Ginsberg and “Wail” was the fictitious name he gave to Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” — which Ginsberg first read in public that October night.

“Howl” was a stylistically wild, groundbreaking poem that quickly became both famous and infamous.

The beginning of the long run-on sentence that makes up the first part of the poem is the most quoted bit:

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,
       starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
       looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
       to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking
       in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating
       across the tops of cities contemplating jazz..."

“Howl” was instantly revered by the Beat crowd and eventually gained worldwide fame. But it had a rocky start in printed form.

In the poem, Ginsberg writes graphically about heterosexual and homosexual sex and about the use of illegal drugs — forbidden subjects in the uptight society of the 1950s.

When “Howl” was printed by a British book publisher in 1955, copies were seized as “pornography” by Customs officials.

In 1956, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owner of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco and a popular beat poet in his own right, published “Howl” in the U.S., in a small collection of Ginsberg’s poems titled Howl and Other Poems.

Copies of the book were soon seized by the San Francisco police and Ferlinghetti was arrested for publishing and selling an “obscene and indecent” book.

At the trial, Ferlinghetti was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

During the course of the trial, Judge Clayton W. Horn listened to nine literary experts testify about the book’s literary merits. In October 1957, he issued a carefully thought out ruling in favor of the defense.

Horn concluded that Howl and Other Poems met the current legal test of having redeeming social importance and was not “obscene.”

Thus, Ferlinghetti was found not guilty — and “Howl” and Ginsberg moved on to wider and everlasting fame.

Here are some of the other famous quotes and phrases linked to October 7:

• Former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz’s infamous comment about blacks wanting “good sex, ‘loose shoes’ and ‘a warm place’ when they use the toilet” was published in the October 7, 1976 issue of Rolling Stone magazine.

“Here is America struck by God Almighty in one of its vital organs, so that its greatest buildings are destroyed. Grace and gratitude to God.” - You may not remember those words, but if you were watching the news in 2001 you remember when Osama Bin Laden delivered them. They were the opening words in the videotaped statement he released on October 7, 2001, gloating about Al-Quaeda’s September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon building in Arlington, Virginia.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page or send me an email.

 Related reading, listening and viewing…

Copyrights, Disclaimers & Privacy Policy


Copyright © Subtropic Productions LLC

All original text written for the This Day in Quotes quotations blog is copyrighted by the Subtropic Productions LLC and may not be used without permission, except for short "fair use" excerpts or quotes which, if used, must be attributed to ThisDayinQuotes.com and, if online, must include a link to http://www.ThisDayinQuotes.com/.

To the best of our knowledge, the non-original content posted here is used in a way that is allowed under the fair use doctrine. If you own the copyright to something posted here and believe we may have violated fair use standards, please let us know.

Subtropic Productions LLC and ThisDayinQuotes.com is committed to protecting your privacy. For more details, read this blog's full Privacy Policy.