We Asked the Inventor of Post-its About 'Romy & Michele's High School Reunion'
Scientist Art Fry told us what it was like to see Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow lay claim to his iconic invention in the cult classic movie.
In the age of Facebook, when it's de rigueur to hate-stalk our old classmates' shitty lives, high school reunions have become an increasingly antiquated artifact. Fortunately, on April 25 1997, just at the tail end of their relevancy, they were given a fitting homage in the form of Romy & Michele's High School Reunion.
The film follows Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow as the respective titular characters while they attempt to fabricate interesting lives for themselves in order to impress former classmates at their ten-year reunion. They settle on claiming responsibility for the invention of the ubiquitous, but humble Post-it Note. As we learn in the film, when the girls are called out on their lie, the product was actually developed by scientist Art Fry 20 years earlier.
I got in touch with Art to ask him his thoughts on the cult movie and high school drama.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
VICE: Describe what it was like to hear that a major plot point of a big movie hinged on the characters claiming credit for your invention.
Art Fry: It was no surprise. As kids, we all pretended to be different sorts of people. Anytime there is a success, there are a lot of people who will step up later to claim part of it. Actually, there are many people who will have the same new idea almost simultaneously, but few have the ability or stamina to carry through on their idea. It is a lucky thing to live in a point of time and have the resources and skills to make those ideas happen.
Have you seen the movie? What'd you think?
I have seen the movie several times and really enjoyed it! I don't have a copy of it, but people are always asking me if I've seen the movie. I think it has become one of those cult favorites.
In the movie, Michelle says, "Ordinarily when you make glue, first you need to thermoset your resin and then, after it cools, you have to mix in an epoxide, which is really just a fancy-schmancy name for any simple oxygenated adhesive, right? And then I thought maybe, just maybe, you could raise the viscosity by adding a complex glucose derivative during the emulsification process, and, it turns out, I was right." How close is this to accurate when it comes to making Post-its?
It was completely bogus, and I claim credit for it. When they were putting together the film, they contacted 3M (the multinational conglomerate corporation that makes Post-its) to see if we would have any objection to it and to ask for some technical sounding description they could use for the show. I wrote out a bunch of stuff that had nothing to do with Post-it Notes, and they used it. It sounds more like something you would use to repair your broken dining room chair than the adhesive required for Post-it Notes.
Would you say you're more of a brainy worrywart Romy or an easygoing, roll-with-the-punches Michele?
I would say that I am a composite of the two but not as pretty as either of them. Probably a lot duller, too. You might call me brainy but easygoing and able to roll with the punches. I'm not a worrywart because I know there are many alternate paths to take in any situation where you are stymied. There is a good future out there; you just need to find it.
Are you a fan of any of Mira Sorvino or Lisa Kudrow's other work?
I have seen Lisa on other TV shows and think she is a great actress. I was on a TV show with Mira Sorvino via Skype just last year. The producer wanted her to apologize to me for claiming credit for Post-it Notes. It was fun, and no apologies were required.
What's the most surprising, beautiful, or interesting use of Post-its that you've seen to date?
The most surprising thing for me is how Post-it Notes unlock the creativity of so many people. After all, it is just a slip of paper that allows you to communicate with others or store your thoughts. Yet people use them in all sorts of ways. As a movable sunshade in cars, as digits to make pictures on the windows of buildings, or as origami flowers where the adhesive assists in their crafting. Elderly folks have told me that they can still function as wives, mothers, and grandmothers because they use little notes to remind them as their own short-term memory fails them.
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