As if being one of the world’s most successful and prolific writers wasn’t already reason enough to celebrate, Stephen King is ringing in his birthday as the toast of Hollywood. As It continues to break box office records, we’re digging into the horror master’s past. Here are 10 things you might not have known about Stephen King, who turns 70 years old today.
1. STEPHEN KING AND HIS WIFE, TABITHA, OWN A RADIO STATION.
Stephen and Tabitha King own Zone Radio, a company that serves to head their three radio stations in Maine. One of them, WKIT, is a classic rock station that goes by the tagline “Stephen King’s Rock Station.”Â
2. HE’S A HARDCORE RED SOX FAN.
Not only did he write a story about the Boston Red Soxâ€”The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (who was a former Red Sox pitcher)â€”he also had a cameo in the Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore movie Fever Pitch, which is about a crazed Sox fan. He plays himself and throws out the first pitch at a game.
In 2004, King and Stewart O’Nan, another novelist, chronicled their reactions to the season that finally brought the World Series title back to Beantown. It’s appropriately titled Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season.
3. HE WAS HIT BY A CAR, THEN BOUGHT THE CAR THAT HIT HIM.
You probably remember that King was hit by a van not far from his summer home in Maine in 1999. The incident left King with a collapsed lung, multiple fractures to his hip and leg, and a gash to the head. Afterward, King and his lawyer bought the van for $1500 with King announcing that, “Yes, we’ve got the van, and I’m going to take a sledgehammer and beat it!”
4. AS A KID, HIS FRIEND WAS STRUCK AND KILLED BY A TRAIN.
King’s brain seems to be able to create chilling stories at such an amazing clip, yet he’s seen his fair share of horror in real life. In addition to the aforementioned car accident, when King was just a kid his friend was struck and killed by a train (a plot line that made it into his story “The Body,” which was adapted into Stand By Me). While it would be easy to assume that this incident informed much of King’s writing, the author claims to have no memory of the event:
“According to Mom, I had gone off to play at a neighborâ€™s houseâ€”a house that was near a railroad line. About an hour after I left I came back (she said), as white as a ghost. I would not speak for the rest of the day; I would not tell her why Iâ€™d not waited to be picked up or phoned that I wanted to come home; I would not tell her why my chumâ€™s mom hadnâ€™t walked me back but had allowed me to come alone.
“It turned out that the kid I had been playing with had been run over by a freight train while playing on or crossing the tracks (years later, my mother told me they had picked up the pieces in a wicker basket). My mom never knew if I had been near him when it happened, if it had occurred before I even arrived, or if I had wandered away after it happened. Perhaps she had her own ideas on the subject. But as Iâ€™ve said, I have no memory of the incident at all; only of having been told about it some years after the fact.”
5. HE WROTE A MUSICAL WITH JOHN MELLENCAMP.
King, John Mellencamp, and T Bone Burnett collaborated on a musical, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which made its debut in 2012. The story is based on a house that Mellencamp bought in Indiana that came complete with a ghost story. Legend has it that three siblings were messing around in the woods and one of the brothers accidentally got shot. The surviving brother and sister jumped in the car to go get help, and in their panic, swerved off the road right into a tree and were killed instantly. Of course, the three now haunt the woods by Mellencamp’s house.
6. HE PLAYED IN A BAND WITH OTHER SUCCESSFUL AUTHORS.
King played rhythm guitar for a band made up of successful writers called The Rock Bottom Remainders. From 1992 to 2012, the band “toured”Â about once a year. In addition to King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Barbara Kingsolver, Matt Groening and Ridley Pearson were just some of its other members.
7. HE’S A NATIVE MAINER.
King writes about Maine a lot because he knows and loves The Pine Tree State: he was born there, grew up there, and still lives there (in Bangor). Castle Rock, Derry, and Jerusalem’s Lotâ€”the fictional towns he has written about in his booksâ€”are just products of King’s imagination, but he can tell you exactly where in the state they would be if they were real.
8. HE HAS BATTLED DRUG AND ALCOHOL PROBLEMS.
Throughout much of the 1980s, King struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. In discussing this time, he admitted that, “There’s one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing at all. I don’t say that with pride or shame, only with a vague sense of sorrow and loss. I like that book. I wish I could remember enjoying the good parts as I put them down on the page.”
It came to a head when his family members staged an intervention and confronted him with drug paraphernalia they had collected from his trash can. It was the eye-opener King needed; he got help and has been sober ever since.
9. THERE WAS A RUMOR THAT HE WROTE AÂ LOST TIE-IN NOVEL.
King was an avid Lost fan and sometimes wrote about the show in his Entertainment Weekly column, “The Pop of King.”Â The admiration was mutual. Lost‘s writers mentioned that King was a major influence in their work. There was a lot of speculation that he was the man behind Bad Twin, a Lost tie-in mystery, but he debunked that rumor.
10. HE IS SURROUNDED BY WRITERS.
Stephen isn’t the only writer in the King family: His wife, Tabitha King, has published several novels. Joe, their oldest son, followed in his dad’s footsteps and is a bestselling horror writer (he writes under the pen name Joe Hill). Youngest child Owen has written a collection of short stories and one novella and he and his dad co-wrote Sleeping Beauties, which will be released later this month (Owen also married a writer). Naomi, the only King daughter, is a minister and gay activist.