Have you seen those weird KFC commercials with SNL star Darrell Hammond as Col. Harland Sanders? It’s not as weird as these true facts about the real Col. Sanders.
- Sanders left home—in Indiana, not Kentucky—at age 13 because he constantly fought with his father. At the age of 16, he joined the Army (he lied, saying he was 18.)
- He also worked on the railroad and as a lawyer. He was fired from both jobs for fighting, the latter in court with his own client.
- Sanders started selling fried chicken in 1930 in the back of the Corbin, Kentucky, gas station he managed. He was 40 years old at the time. He built his business into a 600-strong chain by 1964, when he sold his interest in the company for $2 million.
- The company retained him as its spokesman. He became a huge celebrity in the 1960s, appearing in commercials, at events, and even in movies. He appeared as himself in the 1967 B-movie The Blast-Off Girls. It had such a low budget that director Herschell Gordon Lewis talked Sanders into providing free fried chicken for the cast and crew.
- Another Col. Sanders cameo: in the 1970 movie The Phynx, an Albanian splinter group kidnaps several prominent Americans, including Joe Louis, Edgar Bergen, and Col. Sanders.
- Col. Sanders fought in the military, but that’s not where he attained the rank of colonel. The state of Kentucky uses it as an honorific. Sanders received the title in 1935 from Kentucky governor Ruby Laffoon.
- Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas started his career running a Kentucky Fried Chicken. (There’s even a rumor he designed the KFC red-and-white bucket.) When Sanders died in 1980, all flags outside Wendy’s flew at half-mast.