Stories and insight in the world of showbiz and beyond.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


On April 11, 2003 Donald Rumsfeld, when ask about the widespread looting in Baghdad, said, “STUFF HAPPENS. It’s untidy, and freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.”

But, did you ever ask yourself what inspired Donald Rumsfeld to use the phrase, “Stuff happens” in the first place? I must make the point that the book “STUFF HAPPENS,” written by motivational speaker John Alston and myself was published and released to book stores February 14, 2003 almost two months before Rumsfeld made his “Stuff happens” remark.

Consequently, we like to think that he made the remark because he had read our book. We did send him a copy. Maybe if he hadn’t read the book, he would have said, “Shit happens” instead. We all know “Shit happens” is what he meant. And, you have to admit, at the time it would have been much more effective. Our book gave him a better idea. You think?

John and I actually finished writing the book just before 9/11 happened. Our literary agents didn’t want to take it to New York and present it to the many publishing houses at that time because they didn’t want to give the impression we had written it BECAUSE of 9/11. We held it back for almost a year. Perhaps if the title had been “SHIT HAPPENS” it would have been more apropos for what was actually happening.

Rumsfeld's comment also inspired David Hare to write his hit play about the war in Iraq. He named it “STUFF HAPPENS.” It stars Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and, yes, Donald Rumsfeld.

So, why did we name our book “STUFF HAPPENS” when everyone knew we meant “SHIT HAPPENS?”

Fact: at first we did name it “SHIT HAPPENS.” But people laughed every time we mentioned the title and we started to lose our nerve. Someone said that it sounded like a bumper sticker. After all, this is a serious “self-help” book. “STUFF HAPPENS” gives the reader 9 reality rules to live by in order to prepare them for bad stuff happening in their lives so they will be able to “Fix it.”

Reluctantly, we changed the title to “$#&@* Happens,” thinking the use of cartoon symbols for the objectionable S-word would soften the blow and convey the same message. Our first cover design also used a fertilizer bag with the suggestion, “Use It To Grow.”

The idea here was that $#&@* makes things grow. So if $#&@* happens to you, take advantage of it. Use it to make yourself grow and rid yourself of all that bad $#&@*. Very clever - if I do say so myself.

However, we ran into a snag right away (shit happened). Our publisher, the prestigious John Wiley and Sons in New York, had a problem with that approach. Matt Holt, our editor and wonderful mentor at Wiley, posed the question “How is a book store going to sell your book if the salesperson can’t even say the title, “$#&@* Happens?” How will you be able to promote it on radio using Asterisks? You can’t use the word “SHIT.” The station could possibly be fined.” Good points all around.

Even though lists thousands of books with “Shit” in the title, i.e., “How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art,” by Kathleen Meyer, and “Up Shit Creek: A Collection of Horrifyingly True Wilderness Toilet Misadventures” by Joe Lindsay, we decided that Matt was right and we finally agreed to, “STUFF HAPPENS – and then you fix it.” After all, everybody knew exactly what we were saying anyway. Their design department came up with a winning cover and we were off and running.

Good stuff was happening. Jack Canfield, coauthor of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” (over 70 million copies sold) wrote the introduction in which he said “Every once in a while a book comes along that is both simple in its presentation and profound in its impact. This is such a book.”

“STUFF HAPPENS – and then you fix it” was indorsed by Jerry Lewis, Dick Clark, Film Director John Badham (Saturday Night Fever), James Brown (The Godfather of Soul), Mark Victor Hansen (“Chicken Soup for the Soul” and “The One Minute Millionaire”), and many other prominent and thoughtful people. They most likely would not have done the same for some little book titled “SHIT HAPPENS.”

Right after publication, and shortly after the war on terror began; we sent a first edition of “STUFF HAPPENS – and then you fix it” to George W. Bush. I don’t think he read it. At least, not the “and then you fix it” part. If he had, who knows what might have happened?

"STUFF HAPPENS - and then you fix it" is a damn (sorry) darn good book. According to testimonials, it has changed many lives for the better.

However, I can’t help but think that it might have changed history if we had not changed our original title.

With Rumsfeld now out, we will probably never know.

History, as always, will be the judge.

Stay tuned.


Blogger Mike Barer said...

I'm glad it is "Stuff Happens" I think you broadened the audience. I think it was a very inspirational book.

7:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Lloyd,

YEAH!!!! You both should have been more honest.

Maybe Rumsfeld would have kept his job.

And you might have sold more books!!!!!!!


Love ya, Pal.

Billy Strange


9:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


I love the pic....
Mary Weiss

9:39 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lloyd ; The story of how your book got its title reminded me of a funny skit by George Carlin in which he talks about people who yell " SHOOT ! ".......and then adds we all know what they "really" meant to say ..They meant to say " Shit " .....and further added " Shoot is just Shit with two O's "......LOL..... It's late.I think I'm ready for bed..... Anyway......LOVED YOUR BOOK...........And its title !


12:03 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Lloyd,

Can You Please tell us about your Game show "Everybody's Talking" ?
I really loved the show and used to skip school to watch it.

Thanks, Arthur

10:07 AM

Blogger Lloyd Thaxton said...

Hi Arthur:

"Everybody's Talking" was on ABC-TV about a year. It got very good ratings. You were not alone in liking it. So, why did it go off?

This was the late 60s and the show was still broadcasting in black and white. After a year, ABC went to 100% color. That meant they would have to, not only shoot the clips of everybody talking in color, they would have to buy a new screening system to display the clips for the contestants to view. That screening system itself would cost over $50,000. Adding that to the cost of shooting and editing the clips, ABC decided to replace the show with one that wasn't so expensive to produce.

Stuff happens!


12:57 PM

Blogger Gary said...

*$%@#%*&@%$# and if you don't believe that #%@*&$@&!


6:36 PM

Blogger Chuck Hinson said...

Ummm, Chief ... there, er, is ONE difference here: Y'see, you can change stuff -- but ya can't change "shit".
You can clean it up, shovel it up, sop it up, mop it up, and stop it up ... but you can't change it.
It can be flushed, hushed, brushed, shushed, but never re-tushed ...
Now, Stuff -- that's a different story. It can be modified, amplified, testified, satisfied, rectified (no reference here to the other. I know there's a joke in that word ...), and sanctified.
The book "Stuff Happens" is golden (not to be confused with the Golden Books ya see on grocery shelves). You and John give the readers some dynamic insight and motivation toward changing the "stuff" that drags them down or perplexes them.
And it uses far less toilet paper ...
I'd recommend this book to everyone (and I have, and gladly continue to do so ...)


9:45 AM

Blogger Mike Barer said...

Everybody's talking was the show, I loved it. I was already a fan of your's from the LT show.

12:19 PM

Blogger bobby g said...

LLOYD - listening to you Dave the Rave's show on I hope the guy fixes the audio. What a kick to hear your voice. Yes, I will say it: "I grew up with you", watching you in L.A. You were the "anti-Dick Clark" and that's a good thing. Robert

8:19 PM


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