1. Edie Adams, model and actress
In 1963 the widow of television comic Ernie Kovacs invented, and later patented, a cigar-holder ring. It was the one she used in her famous Muriel Cigar commercials, in which she said, “Why don’t you pick one up and smoke it sometime?”
2. John Dos Passos, author
Best known for such works as The Manhattan Transfer and U.S.A., Dos Passos is listed as the coinventor of the soap-bubble gun in 1959.
3. Zeppo Marx, comic actor
In the 1940s, bombardiers depended on coupling devices built by a company founded by Herbert “Zeppo” Marx to release atomic bombs over Japan. Zeppo, of the Marx Brothers, later invented and patented an alarm system worn on the wrist to measure the heartbeat.
4. Yakov Smirnoff, comedian
Among the hot-selling items at gift shows in 1989 were Shower Notes, invented by the Russian-born comic and his wife. The invention consists of a pad with waterproof paper for jotting down notes in the shower.
5. Mark Twain, author
Under his real name, Samuel Clemens, the writer held three patents. One was a pegboard game—Mark Twain’s Memory-Builder—to help palyers learn world history. The others were a scrapbook with pre-glued pages and an adjustable strap for the back of a vest. Throughout his life, Twain lost money on patent schemes. On one occasion, when he had lost $42,000 on a patent, he wrote “I gave it away to a man whom I had long detested and whose family I desired to ruin.”
6. Julie Newmar, actress and dancer
In 1975 Newmar invented a new design for pantyhose. She said it created a “balloon look for the buttocks,” instead of flattening and lowering them like other brands. They were called Cheeky Derriere pantyhose.
7. Vaslav Nijinsky, dancer
Nijinksy invented a windshield wiper, and “eversharp” pencil, and a system of notation for dance.
8. Danny Kaye, comedian
In 1952 Kaye patented a party favor called a blowout—a noisemaker that unrolls in three directions when a person blows into the mouthpiece.
9. Donna Douglas, actress
Douglas, known for years as Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies, invented Critter Country Classics pet cologne. The line consisted of Miss Tabby, for cats and Timber Wolf, for dogs.
10-11. Hedy Lamarr, actress, and George Antheil, concert pianist and composer
During World War II, the sultry film star worked on her idea for a device to direct remote craft such as torpedoes. The machine, consisting of two synchronized transmitting and receiving player-piano rolls, would allow a technicician to switch control frequencies so a torpedo could escape enemy tracking. Lararr’s friend Antheil assisted her, and they received a patent in 1942. They were shocked when the War Department declined to use it. Years later, when their patent had expired, Sylvania adapated the invention for use in satellite communications without crediting or thanking Lamarr.
Originally published in The Book of Lists, 1990s Edition by David Wallechinskey and Amy Wallace
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