The Backstory with Patty Steele

The Backstory with Patty Steele

Love a good, juicy story that goes beyond what we already know? We're talking scandalous presidential family members, a mass murder at a world-famous architect's home, stolen inventions, nude athletes at the first Olympics, compulsive liars, the arrival of the bikini, and so much more. History fanatic Patty Steele tells you the inside backstories you didn’t know you needed to know.

Episodes

June 25, 2024 9 mins

He was an Academy Award-winning mega movie star. He had scores of affairs with women and men, 11 children by a variety of women, and a family story dominated by illness, mental illness, addiction…and murder. 

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Belle Cora went from minister’s daughter, to prostitute, to San Francisco’s richest madam, to wife of a man hung for the murder of someone who insulted her—all that before her death at 34.  

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An angry mob vandalizes a new home and then burns it to the ground. A young family barely escapes. Now 85 years later, after a lifetime of public service, the oldest daughter, now 97, moves back to that same piece of land, where another new home has been built as a gift from the community. It’s the full-circle life story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth, America’s second Independence Day. 

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We all have to regularly be somewhere on time. But what did people do before cell phone alarms or even alarm clocks? Animals, body cues, and knocker-uppers were just a few of the methods.

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Did you know that as recently as the Victorian era, somebody could have you committed to an insane asylum just because you disobeyed a husband, were too opinionated, were caught masturbating, and so much more? The treatment ranged from being chained to a wall, beaten...and more. And no one had to prove your insanity! This is the story of how one woman, post-lock-up, changed the status quo.

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Hamilton the musical tells us the story of Alexander Hamilton, a brilliant guy who had a fiery temperament and a cheating heart. Imagine being his wife and raising eight fatherless kids, resurrecting her dead husband’s reputation, and being a tireless champion of widows and orphans. Plus, before her death at 97, Eliza Hamilton also became the toast of NYC and Washington. What a life!

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Politics is a nasty business. But it always has been. And it may have played a role in the death of a literary genius. You know the Edgar Allan Poe story called The Tell-Tale Heart, about the heart of a murder victim that never stops beating? Maybe Poe is still trying to tell us something 175 years after his mysterious death.

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We all love to laugh, no matter when, where, or how we’ve lived. Amazingly, there are a handful of topics that have given us the giggles for at least 5,000 years. And a lot of them involve 6th-grade humor.

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James Brown, the godfather of soul, had some anger issues. In fact, he went to prison after threatening agents at an insurance seminar with a gun because he thought they used his private bathroom. 

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May 24, 2024 7 mins

Think politics today are the most angry and violent they’ve ever been? What about the days when senators and congressmen came to work armed with guns and knives? Or the murder of one congressman by another just because they had an ideological disagreement? That’s when politics were bloody.

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We think the world just keeps evolving. But what happens when a civilization like Rome collapses and all that technology disappears? 

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Imagine meeting your children…and they're way older than you! But you've been obsessed since your earliest memory with the idea that you were the mother of eight kids. But you died, leaving them orphaned. And your guilt was palpable, even as a three-year-old! You may not believe in reincarnation, but it’s hard to ignore Jenny Cockell’s story.

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We use words and phrases every day, and usually never question why we say what we say. Why do we say “she’s on a wild goose chase” or “we laughed our heads off”? The surprising origin of ordinary phrases. 

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May 10, 2024 7 mins

You’d think being a princess (and ultimately the queen) of the Hawaiian islands would be an uncomplicated dream life. But the last queen of the kingdom of Hawaii dealt with an unfaithful husband, racism, death threats, and being placed under house arrest for over a year as her kingdom was overthrown by a coup and annexed to America. 

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Swearing, cursing, cussing, giving somebody the finger…they’re kind of ubiquitous these days, but they’ve been around for thousands of years. And now researchers say that yelling out your favorite four-letter word can even lower your blood pressure. But where in the &^%* did it all start and how has it evolved?

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Born into complete poverty and now, by some accounts, the richest man in the world, Vladimir Putin has also become an enemy of most of the world. Here's where he came from, how he got a stranglehold on power, and what he’s doing with it.

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Being successful at what you do in business doesn’t seem to guarantee you’ll be a successful spouse or parent. Thomas Edison is a clear example of a genius businessman who was a bit of a failure as a father. Most of his children shared stories of their difficult relationship with the Wizard of Menlo Park.

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Thousands of young people, dreaming of stardom, head to Hollywood. A few make it, but so many more are victimized by predators who specifically prey on the most vulnerable types. This is the story of the Digital Entertainment Network, aka DEN, among the first companies with plans to stream digital content to young adults. That blew up because of its owner's lust for young boys.

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Seemingly strait-laced Washington, D.C. in the 19th century was actually filled with illicit affairs. One of them involved some powerful players (and a very young wife). It also involved the son of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner and it led to a murder that was the talk of pre-Civil War Washington…and beyond.

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The lord of bhang, Reefer Madness…weed has a checkered past. But for thousands of years it was used and celebrated by most cultures. It wasn’t until one pivotal moment in the early 20th century that it became demonized. Now its benefits have been rediscovered and its reputation somewhat salvaged.

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