|The following reprinted from Uncle John's Giant 10th Anniversary Bathroom Reader.
Got an idea but no paper to write it down? Don't worry, just do what
these people did and grab whatever's in front of you and start scribbling:
Written on: A cocktail napkin
By: Rollin King and Herb Kelleher
The Story: Kelleher was a lawyer. King was a banker and
pilot who ran a small charter airline. In 1966, they had a drink at a
San Antonio bar. Conversation led to an idea for an airline that would
provide short intrastate flights at a low cost. They mapped out routes
and a business strategy on a cocktail napkin. Looking at the notes on
the napkin, Kelleher said, "Rollin, you're crazy, let's do it,"
and Southwest Airline was born.
[editor's note: This issue of the Bathroom Reader was printed in 1997.
In 2007, in an interview with The
Dallas Morning News, Rollin King admitted that the napkin story was
"a hell of a story" but not true]
Written on: Toilet paper
By: Richard Berry
The Story: Berry, an R&B performer, was at a club
in 1957 when he heard a song with a Latin beat that he liked. He went
into the men's room, pulled off some toilet paper, and wrote down the
lyrics to "Louie, Louie."
Written on: The back of a grocery bill
By: W.C. Fields
The Story: In 1940 Fields needed money quickly. He scribbled
down a plot idea on some paper he found in his pocket, and sold it to
Universal Studios for $25,000. Ironically, the plot was about Fields trying
to sell an outrageous script to a movie studio. It became his last film,
Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941). Fields received screenplay
credit as Otis Criblecoblis.
Written on: The back of a letter
By: Francis Scott Key
The Story: In 1814 Key, a lawyer, went out to the British
fleet in Chesapeake Bay to plead for the release of a prisoner. The British
agreed, but since Key had arrived as they were preparing to attack, they
detained him and his party until the battle was over. From this vantage
point Key watched the bombardment, and "by the dawn's early light"
saw that "our flag was still there." He was so inspired that
he wrote the lyrics to "The Star Spangled Banner" on the only
paper he had, a letter he'd stuck in his pocket.
Written on: A cocktail napkin
By: Arthur Laffer
The Story: In Sept 1974, Arthur Laffer (professor of
business economics at USC) had a drink at a Washington, D.C. restaurant
with his friend Donald Rumsfeld (then an advisor to President Gerald Ford).
The conversation was about the economy, taxes, and what to do about recession.
Laffer moved his wine glass, took the cocktail napkin, and drew a simple
graph to illustrate his idea that at some point, increased taxes result
in decreased revenues. The graph, known as the "Laffer Curve,"
later became the basis for President Reagan's "trickle-down"
Written on: A napkin
By: Roger Christian and Jan Berry
The Story: In the early 1960s Roger Christian, one of
the top DJs in Los Angeles, co-wrote many of Jan and Dean's hits with
Jan Berry. One night he and Jan were at an all-night diner and Christian
began scribbling the lyrics to a new song, "Honolulu Lulu,"
on a napkin. When they left the restaurant, Jan said, "Give me the
napkin ... I'll go to the studio and work out the arrangements."
"I don't have it," Christian replied. Then they realized they'd
left the napkin on the table. They rushed back in ... but the waitress
had already thrown it away. They tried to reconstruct the song but couldn't.
So the two tired collaborators went behind the diner and sorted through
garbage in the dumpster until 4 a.m., when they finally found their song.
It was worth the search. "Honolulu Lulu" made it to #11 on the
Written on: The back of an envelope
By: Abraham Lincoln
The Story: On his way to Gettysburg to commemorate the
battle there, Lincoln jotted down his most famous speech - the Gettysburg
Address - on an envelope. Actually, that was just a myth. Several drafts
of the speech have been discovered - one of which was written in the White
House on executive stationery.