Our Odd Heroes

By the Editorial Department

We all have our heroes.

Some are popular throughout our societies, with their bodies reconstructed as monuments, their faces printed on currency, or names posted on the street signs throughout our cities: presidents, explorers, pioneers, and so on.

Others, meanwhile, are less known to mainstream audiences and even for the figures who are well known, they might be idolized for differing reasons than you’d expect (did you know Kesha rescues cats, or that Nicola Tesla was asexual but may have been in love with a pigeon?).

Here at BTR, we look up to a wide array of idols: cat actors, activist authors, surrealist artists, female freedom fighters, cult classic directors, and so on.

For your daily dose of inspiration, keep reading on about our odd heroes.

Orangey (courtesy of Tanya Silverman, Managing Editor, Director BTR column Life & Times)

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The world’s most famous twelve-pound, four-legged actor, Orangey, played flakey Holly Golighty’s unnamed pet in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He was apparently picked for the role for being a “real New York type Cat.” Prior to that classic, the ginger tabby actor starred in the 1951 film, Rhubarb, as the title character–a havoc-breaking feline who, to the dismay of many humans, inherits millions of dollars from his owner. Producers of The Incredible Shrinking Man and Diary of Anne Frank cast him, too. Orangey was the only cat in history to win two PATSY awards, which are the animal equivalent of the Oscar.

Toyen (courtesy of Tanya Silverman)

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Czech artist Toyen was a founder of the Prague surrealist movement in the 1930s. Born Marie Cerminova, Toyen went by the chosen pseudonym to reject gender norms, and is also noted for dressing in both male and female clothing, and speaking in the masculine form. Her thought-provoking illustrations and paintings–which represent all sorts of erotic themes from orgies to animalistic women–were banned during Nazi occupation as Degenerate, and she fled Prague for Paris after the war. In more recent times, Toyen’s art is some of the most valuable on the market coming from Czech culture.

Tommy Wiseau (courtesy of Jordan Reisman, Staff Writer, host of The Discovery Corner podcast on BTR)

Photo courtesy of Pat Loika.

He wrote, directed, financed, and produced the infectiously awful feature-length film, The Room. The movie’s initial run in Hollywood grossed only $1,800. Nevertheless, The Room went on to become a cult classic. The details of Wiseau’s personal life, however, are extremely hazy. While he claims he’s a “true Cajun from New Orleans,” most believe he hails from somewhere in Eastern Europe, citing his mangled accent. Through all of his faults and megalomaniacal tendencies, I believe Tommy Wiseau embodies a twisted representation of the American Dream: you can achieve fame and glory through hard work and steadfast determination–albeit not in the way you anticipate.

Johnny Carson (courtesy of Matthew DeMello, Editorial Director, co-host of the Third Eye Weekly podcast on BTR)

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

You (or your parents, or their parents) may remember Jonny Carson as capital-T The “Mr. Personality” on television for more than a quarter of a century. However, to his family and even close show-biz friends, Carson often came off as an intensely manipulative, aloof, and shrewd operator when it came to keeping his public at arm’s length. Netflix just put out this awesome biopic about Johnny from the PBS American Masters series that digs deep into the intensively private, isolationist side of his personality that’s bound to come across as absolutely fascinating to anyone who works in media or loves entertainment.

Victoria Woodhull (courtesy of Lisa Autz, Staff Writer, Research Assistant)

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The first American woman presidential candidate who ran in 1872, Victoria Woodhull promoted freethinking for women. She created Woodhull and Clafin’s Weekly, a radical publication that expressed ideas far beyond her time on issues of birth control, women’s suffrage, and free love. She paved the way for women’s rights to marry, divorce, and have children without government interference. Though the legality of her candidacy has been contested, she was a renowned visionary during an era when women were not allowed to vote.

Emma Orczy (courtesy of Molly Freeman, Managing Editor, co-host of The Hash podcast on BTR)

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Baroness Orczy was a novelist, playwright, and artist who is predominantly known for writing The Scarlet Pimpernel. Her novel featured a man, Sir Percy Blakeney, who is a British baronet by day, but by night he poses as the Scarlet Pimpernel, a masked man who saves people from the guillotine during the French Revolution. Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel is the first written instance of a “hero with a secret identity,” and because of this, she is often credited with pioneering the first modern superhero (though it is a point of contention).

Arundhati Roy (courtesy of Lisa Autz)

Photo courtesy of Vikramjit Kakati.

Arundhati Roy is India’s famous novelist and political activist who won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her first novel, The God of Small Things. She was also awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in 2004. Her writing is known to address global and national political issues such as India’s nuclear weapons and America’s growing global power. Also an orator, Roy was awarded the Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize in 2002 and gave her most famous speech in Santa Fe, NM called “Come September.”

You can watch the speech to learn a new perspective on the US’s involvement in foreign affairs, plus hear her insight about the continuous global war of the powerful versus the powerless.

Orson Welles (courtesy of Matthew DeMello)

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Blah, blah, blah, youth prodigy, Citizen Kane, wine commercials

That all aside, have you seen this bonkers Sunday afternoon History Channel documentary about Nostradamus he “hosted” in 1981? In the words of Jay and Kanye, that shit cray. Parts 7-9 of the film that can be found on YouTube are about the “future” (again, as of 1981) and ultimately speak for themselves.

Here’s Episode 7 in full on YouTube:

(As Orson says around four minutes in, the opinions expressed in the video above do not reflect those of BTR, or the makers of the film for that matter.)