5 Things You Didn't Know About Howard Hughes

On November 2, 1947, Howard Hughes piloted his huge wooden airplane, the Spruce Goose, over Long Beach Harbor in California. Here are 5 strange and surprising facts about eccentric business tycoon Howard Hughes. 

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He Purchased A Hotel In Las Vegas For An Odd Reason In 1968, the eccentric billionaire purchased the Silver Slipper casino in Las Vegas for $5.4 million. At the time, Hughes was a recluse living at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas. He had invested heavily in Las Vegas over the years, but his purchase of the Silver Slipper had nothing to do with business. After buying the casino, he had its sign – a giant, brightly-lit high-heeled shoe – turned off, and sealed up the entire casino so no one could gain entrance. At the time of the purchase, the reason offered was that the Silver Slipper’s sign was shining in his penthouse at the Desert Inn and he wanted it shut off so it wouldn’t irritate him. Years later, those who knew Hughes said the real reason was that he was convinced that a photographer was hiding inside of it, taking pictures of him. 

Howard Hughes Had an Obsession With Ice Cream At one point in his life, Hughes became obsessed with a specific kind of ice cream: Baskin-Robbins's banana nut flavor. When the company discontinued the flavor, Hughes convinced them to send him 350 gallons of it. He ordered an entire refrigeration system in Vegas's Desert Inn to be cleared out and reconfigured to store the ice cream, but by the time it arrived, Hughes had grown tired of banana nut ice cream. He switched to French vanilla, and Desert Inn announced a new promotion: free banana nut ice cream for every customer.

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Howard Hughes Inspired Stan Lee If you're a fan of the Marvel cinematic universe, you may notice some similarities between Tony Stark/Iron Man and Howard Hughes. That's because Stan Lee based Stark's character on the real-life eccentric billionaire. Both are genius inventors and businessmen who inherited a vast fortune from their equally brilliant fathers, then built on that fortune with their own brand of innovative inventions. Just in case Hughes missed the reference by the popular cartoonist, Iron Man’s father was named Howard.

Howard Hughes Survived Four Plane Crashes They didn't call him The Aviator for nothing.  Hughes was not only a pilot that designed his own planes, but he also made a fortune as the owner of several aviation-related businesses. He also survived four plane crashes that left him in constant pain throughout the rest of his life. Doctors prescribed him codeine with aspirin, caffeine, and phenacetin, and Hughes quickly became hooked on the pills. He remained addicted to them for the rest of his life. 

The Spruce Goose Only Flew Once Hughes was contracted by the U.S. government in 1942 to build a plane that could transport 700 troops or 60 tons of equipment over the Atlantic. Because there were restrictions on steel and aluminum during World War II, Howard Hughes designed and built the Spruce Goose, which was made completely out of wood. Unfortunately, Hughes did not make the deadline for the plane, and it wasn’t completed until about two years after the war ended. The plane was flown only one time, with Hughes as the pilot. The flight lasted for about one minute, and the Spruce Goose’s only flight covered about one mile. Even such a short flight showed that the mammoth plane could fly. Hughes preserved and maintained the Spruce Goose in a hanger until he died in 1976.