Every once in a while, I’ll come across something so bizarre that I stop whatever I’m doing and ask myself: “Is this a joke? This can’t really be true ... can it?”

More often than not, I research the discovery and learn that it is, in fact, true. I make a note of it on my phone so I can tell my friends later — and so I’m armed with something interesting to say whenever I experience an awkward lull in conversation.

Here are five weird, entertainment-based facts that have shocked me in recent years. And although I’m posting this story on April Fools’ Day, rest assured that all of these facts are very much not a joke.

Still don’t believe me? You’ll just have to look it up for yourself.


Jimmy Buffett is a distinguished author

A few years ago, I discovered that Jimmy Buffett, the Hawaiian shirt-wearing artist behind “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” had taken a stab at writing a mystery novel.

The premise of “Where is Joe Merchant?” was too compelling to ignore: Five years after his death by suicide, rock star Merchant “keeps popping back into the tabloid headlines like a piece of toast.”

“Could he actually be alive?” continues the description on the back of the book. “That’s what his sister, hemorrhoid-ointment heiress Trevor Kane, wants to know. Journalist Rudy Breno cares only that Merchant gets bigger headlines than Elvis. And for renegade seaplane pilot Frank Bama, the mystery is turning his life upside down.”

My husband, ever supportive of my interests, bought me this book for my birthday. I soon began the whimsical tale, and the first sentence threw me right into the action: “I was watching the Cubs game and eating a fried shrimp platter at Bobalou’s when Rudy Breno burst through the door like Geraldo Rivera on a drug raid.”

Tragically, I still don’t know where Joe Merchant is. Life got in the way, and the book currently sits on my shelf, unread after page 105 (it’s a 453-page mystery).

But the book found significant success: It hit No. 1 on The New York Times’ fiction bestseller list in September 1992. Coupled with the success of his 1998 memoir, “A Pirate Looks at Fifty” — which hit No. 1 on The New York Times’ nonfiction list — Buffett is part of a distinguished group of authors who have hit No. 1 on both the fiction and nonfiction lists, per Variety.

Joining Buffett on that list? Ernest Hemingway, Dr. Seuss, John Steinbeck, William Styron and Irving Wallace.


Kobe Bryant and Leonardo DiCaprio have the same number of Oscars

I was a huge fan of Kobe Bryant, and his death hit me hard. I have so many fond memories of staying up really late (I grew up on the East Coast) to watch Lakers games with my dad. Bryant lived a life dedicated to his craft, and showed people what working hard and never giving up looked like.

Those themes came to life in “Dear Basketball,” Bryant’s ode to the sport that made him a household name. Based on a 2015 poem the Los Angeles Lakers star wrote when he announced his retirement from the NBA, “Dear Basketball” won the Oscar for best animated short film in 2018.

Bryant became the first professional athlete to win an Academy Award, CBS Sports reported. And to my complete shock, winning an Oscar put him in the same category as Leonardo DiCaprio.

Although “Titanic” shares a three-way tie for the movie with the most Oscars, and DiCaprio has been in a slew of blockbusters, somehow, the actor has just one Oscar to his name, winning the best actor award for fighting a bear in the 2016 film “The Revenant.”


Garth Brooks once had an alter ego named Chris Gaines

I’m a big Garth Brooks fan. When my sister-in-law gave me a floor piano for Christmas a few years ago — think Tom Hanks in the movie “Big” — one of the first things I learned to pluck out with my feet was the chorus of “Friends in Low Places.”

I’ve seen Brooks in concert three times, and thought I knew everything there was to know about the country superstar.

Until another sister-in-law told me something so shocking that I had to look it up right away: Brooks once had an Australian rock star alter ego.

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In 1999, Brooks created the character of Chris Gaines. At one point, Brooks even brought Gaines along for a performance on “Saturday Night Live.”

There was an album, titled “Garth Brooks in ... the life of Chris Gaines.” It was supposed to be the soundtrack to a film that would reportedly star Brooks as a rocker reflecting on his life, per Countryfancast.com. Brooks wanted his fans to become familiar with the character through the album, but the film never materialized, and fans were simply left with a pop-rock album from Brooks, er, Gaines (although bizarre, it did earn Brooks his only Billboard Hot 100 Top 40 song, according to TheBoot.com).


Reba McEntire was briefly Kelly Clarkson’s stepmother-in-law

Country star Reba McEntire recently came through Salt Lake City for the first time in over a decade to perform her greatest hits. I’ve long been a fan of McEntire, and I jumped at the opportunity to review her show.

In preparation, I decided to learn more about her life and background. Like all good journalists, I turned to Wikipedia for my research. It was here, under the “personal life” section, where I discovered that McEntire had married her manager and former steel guitar player, Narvel Blackstock, in 1989.

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I paused after reading that. As a Kelly Clarkson fan, I was aware that Clarkson had also married a Blackstock. Could this possibly be the same family? Could the world really be that small?

Turns out it really could.

Again turning to Wikipedia, I discovered under Clarkson’s “personal life” section that Narvel Blackstock was her former manager. Clarkson married his son, Brandon Blackstock, in 2013. This means that McEntire was Clarkson’s stepmother-in-law, although that family relation only lasted for two years, as McEntire and Narvel Blackstock divorced in 2015.

Clarkson and Brandon Blackstock, meanwhile, finalized their divorce last year. It appears that Clarkson and McEntire still have a friendship — the two will be working together on “The Voice” this season.


Rage Against the Machine tore through a small Utah town

Several years ago, a friend of mine from grad school who grew up near the small town of Spanish Fork shared a piece of incredible Utah history with me that I still think about at least once a week.

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Rage Against the Machine, an alternative rock/punk/metal/rap band known for politically charged lyrics and killer guitar, headlined the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds in 1996. The band had recently released the album “Evil Empire,” and the booking, as the Deseret News reported at the time, was done in error.

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It led to a two-hour protest rally and a “hastily enacted policy change” to “avoid the booking of ‘questionable’ groups in the future without knowing more about them,” per the Deseret News.

The concert reportedly went for just an hour, due to an agreement with Spanish Fork to end by 10 p.m., The Daily Universe reported at the time. And despite some fears in the community, the show appears to have gone on without a hitch.

Rodger L. Hardy, a former Deseret News staff writer, immortalized the event with the following account:

It was a festive atmosphere, but some residents considered it more of a freak show.

R. Jenkins sat on her porch with her neighbors and watched as young people wearing long chains and bright red and green spiked hair streamed past. She compared the hairstyles to a rooster’s comb. Some were half-dressed, she said. A few sported multiple earrings, lip rings, nose rings, even tongue rings — fashion statements residents here don’t often see.

At least one concertgoer asked if he could use her bathroom. He couldn’t.

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