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February 20, 2024 9 mins

Popularity often takes the world by storm, and in its wake we are left with some pretty curious stories.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:04):
Welcome to Aaron Menke's Cabinet of Curiosities, a production of
iHeartRadio and Grimm and Mild. Our world is full of
the unexplainable, and if history is an open book, all
of these amazing tales are right there on display, just
waiting for us to explore. Welcome to the Cabinet of Curiosities.

There are many different kinds of beauty. There's the internal
beauty of a person's heart and character, and the beauty
of a singer's voice. Someone might have deep blue eyes
or a pearly white smile. Beauty is not limited to
someone's look or style. As the old saying goes, it's
in the eye of the beholder. But some people might
be the total package. At least that's what two men

thought of the girl they saw on the beach one day.
Her name was Alo Pinero, and she was something of
a fixture on the sandy shores of Brazil, well one
particular shore. She was born in Rio de Janeiro in
nineteen forty three. As a teen, she would hang out
on the beach in her neighborhood, walking up and down
the sand. She kept to herself as she passed the
shops and restaurants along the way. Little did she know, however,

she would become the obsession of two men lurking nearby.
Their names were Antonio and Venicius. Alo would often stroll
past the Valso Bar cafe, where the two men often
drank and talked. At the time, Antonio was thirty five
and married, while Vensius was fifty and already had a
few marriages under his belt. So this wasn't some schoolyard

crush among teenagers. It was actually kind of creepy. To
make matters worse, Elyo had to deal with them every
time she came into the bar to buy cigarettes for
her mother. These grown men, with their bellies full of alcohol,
would cat call and whistle at her, and she just
kept going, not paying them any attention. But then something
strange happened. Alo spoke to them. Eventually the three became friends,

and Antonio wanted more. He even promised to leave his
wife for her and asked a Loo for her hand
in marriage, and she did not accept, but that didn't
quell his desire for her, so he partnered with Vnisius
to immortalize her the only way he knew how. In song,
the pair had been collaborators for several years already. In
nineteen fifty six, their musical play Orpheus of the Conception

premiered on the Brazilian stage, with songs by Antonio and
lyrics by Vnisius. In fact, Vnicius was already working on
lyrics for an upcoming musical and was in need of
a song for the show, and Antonio had been tinkering
with a new tune on his piano, which he titled
Menina Capasa. The words were different at first, until Vnsius

changed them to honor Alo's Beauty and Charm the BASSA
nova song he came up with was then released in
nineteen sixty two and was sung by Brazilian artist Perry Rebbeo.
Two years later, though, it found new life in America
when jazz saxophonist Stan Getz decided to include it on
a new album of his. He was in a New
York City recording studio working on the song with Brazilian

guitarist Jauel Gilberto. That was when someone suggested putting out
an English version. Lyricist Norman Gimble reworked the lyrics for
an English speaking audience, but they still needed a singer
Gilberto's wife, Ostrud stepped up to the mic. She spoke
English well enough and had a clean, clear voice that
seemed perfect for the song's simple melody, and their last

minute idea paid off. The song became a massive hit
in America, landing at number one on the Billboard Adult
Contemporary Charts and number fifty one on the Hot one
hundred for nineteen sixty four. Since then, it has become
one of the most recorded pop songs in history, second
only to Yesterday by the Beatles. Alo Pinero, despite being

the song's inspiration, did not see any financial gain from
its success. She did, however, go on to become a
model and a businesswoman and did quite well for herself.
In fact, she had no idea that she had been
the muse for the song until after its release. To
her friends and family, she was a low but to
the rest of the world she would forever be known

as the girl from Ipanema. When people reach a certain
level of celebrity, everything changes. Travel becomes more complicated. Simply

eating out or going for a walk can be difficult.
So much of day to day life is affected, So
it makes sense why many celebrities find that they relate
best to other famous people. This has spawned some unusual friendships,
like Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart or Elton John and Eminem.
But one of the most unlikely celebrity pairings in history

was between two men who couldn't have had less in common,
Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. One was a
famous illusionist who made elephants disappear, and the other was
the creator of the great literary detective Sherlock Holmes. Houdini
was a Hungarian immigrant to America who grew up living
hand to mouth and started working as a vaudeville performer

when he was just a kid. Doyle went to a
private school and had careers as a medical doctor and
a botanist before becoming an author. But for all their differences,
they had at least one thing in common, a fascination
with the parent normal. Of course, they weren't the only ones.
After the mass death caused by World War One, people
all around the world were hungry for answers about the afterlife.

Many turned to spiritualism, a movement that believed that the
souls of the dead could contact the living, usually through
seances performed by psychic mediums. Houdini and Doyle were both
fascinated by spiritualism before they met at one of Houdini's
performances in nineteen twenty, they were already two of the
most notable speakers on the top, and their shared interest

sparked in immediate friendship. But it wasn't all rose colored glasses,
because while they were both fascinated by the possibility of
an afterlife, they held sharply different perspectives. Doyle was a
passionate believer. Since the death of his son, he had
made it his mission to spread spiritualism to the public.
His wife, Jean, was even a medium who performed automatic writing,

summoning spirits to guide her in writing out messages to
their loved ones. Houdini, on the other hand, grew up
working in vaudeville acts, where fake psychics were a dime
a dozen. He had peeked behind the curtain and had
come to see most mediums as Charlatan's. So his goal
wasn't to spread the message of spiritualism, but to debunk it,
and this led to some healthy, heated debates that first,

the conversations were friendly, then in nineteen twenty two, Doyle
invited the illusionists to participate in a seance at his home.
During the experience, Doyle's wife claimed to have been contacted
by the spirits of Houdini's mother, who then proceeded to
transcribe a long letter from the dead woman to her son.
Houdini seemed shaken when he left, and Doyle thought that

his friend was finally convinced, But soon after Houdini published
an account of the experience in which he claimed he
did not believe the seance had been successful. His reasoning
his mother's English had never been very good, so he
couldn't see how she would manage a fifteen page letter
in that language. Also, she had failed to mention that
it was her birthday that day. Harry Houdini and Sir

Arthur Conan Doyle's friendship was never the same after that.
In the coming years, they only became more entrenched in
their points of view. They remained rivals until Halloween of
nineteen twenty six, when Houdini died of a ruptured appendix,
and that should have put an end to their feud,
But in nineteen thirty Doyle published his belief that Houdini
had possessed psychic powers all along. If true, that would

make the illusionist a special kind of fraud, one who
denied the benefits of spiritualism in order to profit from them.
It was quite the accusation and difficult for Houdini to
deny now that he was dead right, and yet still
he managed a small rebuttal as a sort of final
test of spiritualism. Before his death, Houdini and his wife
created a secret code that only they knew. For years afterwards,

she held seances trying to contact him. If he reached
out and gave her the code, they'd have proof of
an afterlife. But he never did, and the meaning of
it all is a matter of perspective. This was either
evidence against spiritualism and psychic mediums, or that Houdini's ghost
didn't want to admit that he was wrong. Either way,
he got the last word from beyond the grave. I

hope you've enjoyed today's guided tour of the Cabinet of Curiosities.
Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, or learn more about
the show by visiting Curiosities podcast dot com. The show
was created by me Aaron Mankey in partnership with how
Stuff Works. I make another award winning show called Lore,
which is a podcast, book series, and television show and

you can learn all about it over at Theworldoflore dot com.
And until next time, stay curious.

Aaron Mahnke's Cabinet of Curiosities News

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