Looks can be deceiving. Just ask the woman you woke up next to who may or may not have a venereal disease, a very short-tempered pimp, or a penis. Likewise, some of the world's most daring and dangerous people often looked less threatening than an unarmed Girl Scout.
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By Danny Gallagher
10. Chef Julia Child
Saturday Night Love once poked fun of TV’s “Queen of the Kitchen” by portraying her as a high-pitched kitchen klutz whose veins and arteries turned into a blood geyser at the mere sight of a sharp knife. Believe it or not, she actually has a thicker skin than you might think.
The famed TV chef once worked for the Office of Strategic Services, the U.S. covert agency that later became the CIA. She oversaw the filing and transfer of covert documents and devised coding systems for espionage agents in the field, and also developed and tested a highly successful shark repellent that the military used to keep the underwater ankle biters from bumping into explosives during World War II. Just imagine, thanks to her dual training in undercover intelligence and culinary techniques, she probably knows more ways to kill a man with a spatula than any human being who ever lived.
9. Microsoft founder Bill Gates
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Bill Gates may look like the kind of kid from high school who had more face time with the toilets in the boys room than the entire student body's asses combined, but he’s done some things that even the biggest mouth-breathing jocks wouldn’t do.
After founding Microsoft and moving the entire operation to a rundown office in Albuquerque, Gates spent his spare time turning his driving record into a checkered history of traffic violations and unnecessary accidents. His craziest exploits involved breaking into construction sites in the dead of night and racing bulldozers, one of which he almost crashed into his newly purchased Porsche. These days, he spends his billions on Porsches that have been converted into living room ottomans.
8. Author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Writers always seem to be stereotyped as lazy, shiftless do-nothings who spend all day in front of their typewriters pounding out ridiculous stories as they shove bottomless bowls of munchies down their overrated throats. Believe me, I know what that’s like (I use a computer, not a typewriter, dumbass).
Doyle, however, lived a life that most writers don't have the talent to dream up for their stories. He was an avid sportsman who traded fists by boxing and playing hockey. He was such an avid skier that he helped popularize the sport in Switzerland. He tried to enlist in the military when World War I broke out, even though he was well over 50 and when the military turned him down, he joined in the effort by forming civilian defense brigades and rallying public support to provide Naval soldiers with life jackets. He even spent months at a time on whaling ships as the crew’s doctor and surgeon, an experience he sometimes described as “boring.” It’s too bad Doyle won’t be around when “lion rodeos” become popular, an experience he’d certainly describe as “mildly arousing.”
7. White House Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel
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A lot of people, myself included, like to paint former vice president Dick Cheney as a heartless demon whose raw evil and gruff exterior could draw an apology out of the guy he accidentally shot in the face on a hunting trip. I’m man enough to admit that those are just exaggerated observations made solely for comedic effect. However, no amount of imagination could top the unrelenting craziness of Obama’s current “Cheney equivalent.”
Emanuel has a long, sordid history of crazy, self-destructive behavior, even by the standards of most D.C. politicians. His insanity goes well beyond his tough-as-nails attitude towards the political machine, a resume that includes getting back at an angry pollster by mailing the bastard a dead fish. As a teenager, he worked as a meat slicer at Arby’s and he accidentally cut off one of his fingers, a feat that’s even more impressive since he kept on working and even went swimming in a dirty lake before seeking medical attention. Then again, that may not be because of sheer will over pain. Arby’s customers probably wouldn’t even notice the gamey taste of a severed finger in one of their sandwiches.
6. Actor and comedian Kevin James
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Most people try to improve their golf game by going to the driving range and whacking away at tees until the bar closes or the endless pitchers of beer causes them to pass out. “Paul Blart,” however, tries to improve his handicap by sparring with MMA fighters.
Even though he’s playing a UFC fighter for an upcoming sure-to-be slapstick comedy, he regularly trains and even spars with professional fighters and karate experts in his spare time to improve his golf game. He even straps on the padded gloves and goes toe-to-toe with heavyweights like his close personal friend Randy Couture. I say they are close because even my best friend wouldn't let me pound on their skulls with my fist, even if it was my birthday.
5. Sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer
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If the thought of a tiny, wrinkly Jewish lady who doles out advice to ladies who want to know how to keep their man’s attention without setting themselves on fire makes you laugh, just imagine that same person pointing a high-powered, semi-automatic M89 at your skull.
The therapist and author grew up in the thick of World War II when her mother and grandmother helped her escape from Nazi-infested Germany, shortly before they died in concentration camps. She joined the Israeli Army after the war and trained as a sniper and sharpshooter. Her tour of duty ended when she was struck by an exploding shell in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, an injury that almost crippled her for life. Of course, millions of men across the nation thank God it didn’t every time their girlfriends and wives show them new and exciting uses for ripened cantaloupes in the bedroom.
4. Author George Orwell
It takes a lot of guts to stand up to the oppressive forces of tyranny and destruction the way that the 1984 and Animal Farm author did with his immortal words of rebellious warnings. He developed his fearlessness for the threat of death by staring it in the eyes until it cried like a little girl and made his momma kiss his boo-boos.
The Bengali-born writer had a lifelong distrust of the privileged and powerful and signed up for the Spanish Civil War as an infantryman with a military militia in 1937. During a heavy and heated battle, a sniper shot him in the neck and narrowly missed his carotid artery. When World War II broke out, he tried to sign up again as a soldier but the military turned him down.
3. Actor and director Mel Brooks
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Some of Brooks’ most memorable movie moments are dedicated to turning Adolph Hitler into a giant punchline. His harrowing stint in the military, however, prepared him well for that.
Brooks worked as a combat engineer in World War II where he spent most of his tour defusing destructive land mines. He escaped serious injury during the 40 operations he went out on, but came very close to setting off a German S mine known as a “Bouncing Betty,” which shot lethal shrapnel in a horizontal pattern and could cut a man clean in half.
2. Scientist Marie Curie
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Being a toughie doesn’t require a set of testicles. It takes stamina, passion, and a willingness to face danger and devastation in the face of unrelenting opposition. Marie Curie, however, has a bigger pair of fuzzy dice than most men on the planet.
Her undying devotion to the study of physics and furtherance of education lead her to lead an underground equality revolution by educating and increasing literacy among female factory workers long before the Suffragists would take to the streets. She also tried to further her research into radioactivity and medicine by applying her theories on wounded soldiers in the battlefield during World War I, helping to develop the first set of X-rays that could help doctors locate bullets and shrapnel in a wounded soldier’s body. She spent so much time around radiating materials in her scientific life that it is believed to have been a major contributor to her passing.
Then again, all that exposure to radiation might explain how she grew such a huge set of balls.
1. Actor and comedian Graham Chapman
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He might seem like a foppish British gentleman with a penchant for wearing ladies’ dresses and pretending to be a high-pitched pepper pot, but he has been through more dangerous and harrowing situations than the brashest of Americans...and he did it for fun.
The late member of Monty Python had the kind of reckless rap sheet most hardcore punk bands can only dream of achieving without scoring a disorderly conduct charge. He was a fairly heavy drinker who had to have a drink or two a day just to face the world, an addiction that eventually became a big problem on the set of the Pythons' Holy Grail movie since he couldn't remember most of his lines. He was also a very close friend of Keith Moon, the drummer for The Who, who had a penchant for trashing hotel rooms long before trashing hotel rooms became a prerequisite for rock stardom (along with heavy drug use, public hallucinations, and issuing press releases about how you've sobered up and found Jesus).
The most impressive part of his resume, however, was his longtime membership with the Dangerous Sports Club, a group of rugged individualists who spent their free time finding new and unique ways to laugh in the face of danger. The group made bungee jumping a regular activity long before it became popular among drunken college students and Travel Channel segment producers. They also invented their own brand of athletic competitions to indulge in like “Human Catapulting,” swimming the English Channel in kangaroo outfits, and sliding down huge snowy mountains in Venetian gondolas and double-decker buses.
Attention Winter Olympics committee, I think we've found out a way to get your groove back (up next on NBC Sports, it's the Gondola Long Jump! O sole mio!).