This Modern Family Star Posed With A Fan. And When He Found Out Her Identity, The Internet Went Wild

When an attractive blonde woman asked Modern Family and Married… with Children star Ed O’Neill for a photograph at the airport, he said yes. It was something he was pretty used to, after all. So the woman posed with him excitedly, got her photograph taken and went on her way. And O’Neill thought nothing more about it until the woman posted the shot on her Twitter account. Then he was told what had happened to him, and it was pretty damn funny.

It’s unsurprising that the female megastar recognized O’Neill. After all, when he started acting in the TV series Married… with Children, he immediately shot to fame. He played the main character, Al Bundy, a one-time high school football star-turned-husband and shoe salesman. And the show was a big success, with both O’Neill and his character going down in American sitcom history. By the time Married eventually ended in 1997, in fact, it had run for an impressive 11 seasons.

But Ed O’Neill wasn’t a one-hit wonder. During and after Married… with Children,  he appeared in plenty of high-profile movies and TV shows. He showed up in cult hit Wayne’s World, for example, played Relish the Troll King in The 10th Kingdom and was later cast as recurring character Eric Baker in The West Wing. He also did plenty of commercials, meaning that he was rarely off screens.

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Furthermore, when he returned to sitcoms in 2009 with the ABC show Modern Family, he was the star of another huge hit. That show has so far earned O’Neill three Emmy nominations and reintroduced him to a whole new generation. So when the young-looking woman spotted him at the airport in March 2015 and asked for a photograph, he likely assumed that she was just another one of his army of recent fans.

But O’Neill doesn’t necessarily like taking pictures with fans. Like a lot of celebrities, he prefers to keep himself to himself, and he doesn’t have a Twitter account or an active online presence. There’s even a 2012 YouTube video, posted by Wowcelebrity, titled “Ed O’Neill Does Not Like Taking Photos With Fans.” It shows the actor walking away from people who want to take photos and get autographs from him.

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To be fair, that’s an attitude that a lot of people would probably have if they were celebrities. Though the requirement has long seemed to be that if you’re lucky enough to be famous then you should stop and pose with anyone who wants a photograph, there’s now something of a backlash against that idea. After all, celebrities are people, too, and they generally want to go about their days like normal folks do without being stopped every five seconds.

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So the blonde-haired girl caught O’Neill on a good day, perhaps. When the actor was waiting for a flight to Hawaii to board – and also wearing a Modern Family hat – she ran up to him. She told him that she loved Modern Family and that he was her favorite on the show. She even respectfully referred to him as “Mr. O’Neill.” So the picture was snapped, and although O’Neill didn’t actually smile, it was still a pretty good photo. Then they parted ways.

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The next thing the actor knew, though, the woman had posted the picture to Twitter and received thousands upon thousands of likes from her followers for it. That’s because O’Neill had just casually run into one of the biggest and most beloved pop stars on the planet, had a picture taken with her and never even realized who she was. Oops.

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“Fancy running into this guy! Such a sweetheart!!” the singer gushed on Twitter. But O’Neill, not being remotely familiar with Twitter, didn’t see it. In fact, it took a text message from his manager, who had to explain to him who the star-struck woman had been, for O’Neill to realize what had happened.

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Perhaps if the singer had been going through the airport with a huge entourage, like some megastars do, then he might have been able to identify her as somebody famous. However, this particular icon is one of the more down-to-earth celebrities: she doesn’t always travel with security, and she’s generally very nice to people, fans or not. Plus, when she ran into O’Neill she was dressed like a regular person, with no outrageous outfit to mark her out as someone special.

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Now, if you hadn’t already guessed, the star was, of course, Britney Spears. And perhaps the megastar greeted O’Neill politely because she understands the difficult side of being a celebrity. In fact, she might well appreciate it better than most famous people. At the height of her career, when she was on every magazine cover, the pressures of the music industry and being a megastar became too much for her. So it was that she had a nervous breakdown, during which she was again plastered across magazine covers.

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Moreover, after her breakdown, Spears had to fight hard just to return to a normal life. Eventually she succeeded, though, and got the help that she needed. She also regained custody of her children and started performing sell-out shows in Las Vegas.

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In the age of the internet, where every move a celebrity makes is scrutinized and analyzed, Britney Spears’ comeback was downright remarkable. And just seeing her excited and happy in a photograph with another celebrity, regardless of whether he knew her name or not, serves as a reminder to fans that things could so easily have gone a different way.

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Meanwhile, when Ed O’Neill appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in June 2016 to promote Finding Dory – a film in which both he and DeGeneres have voice roles – the talk show host couldn’t wait to ask him about the incident. It had taken place a year before, but some celebrity encounters are quite simply priceless, no matter how old they are.

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And if there’s one thing that the interview proved, it was that O’Neill isn’t necessarily always quick on the uptake. It had apparently only been after “months and months” of recording that he’d realized that his part in Finding Dory was a large one. Then came the discussion of the Spears story. “Let’s show the picture of you and Britney. And, so, you don’t seem thrilled,” DeGeneres said to him teasingly.

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O’Neill said that Britney Spears “couldn’t have been nicer,” so he agreed to pose for a picture with her. “So she sat there and we took it, and I said, ‘Have a nice trip, I’m going,’ and I left. So the next day my manager texts me and he said, ‘What is this? It’s 53,000 likes. It’s Britney Spears.’ [And] no, I didn’t know it was her!” At this point, the studio audience burst out laughing.

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“I mean, look at the look on my face,” O’Neill continued. “Do I look like I’m sitting with Britney Spears?” More laughter. “You know my daughter Sophia, [she said,] ‘You. Are. A. Moron.’ So I had to tell my little story, [say] I’m sorry, I apologize.” “I love that, though,” Ellen replied gleefully. “No one else taking a picture with Britney Spears would have that look on their face.”

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Indeed, the internet was absolutely delighted to have witnessed an awkward moment between two celebrities. It was an amusing reminder that famous people don’t necessarily know each other. But the comments posted beneath the photograph on Spears’ Twitter feed featured yet another twist: not everybody knew who Ed O’Neill is, either.

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“Who is he?” one person asked Spears. “He’s from Modern Family and some other show from years ago,” another commenter replied. Who knows what Ed O’Neill would have made of the realization that the younger generation has no memory of Married… with Children? Luckily, he’s still not on Twitter, so he’ll likely never see it.

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What’s more, rumor has it that Britney Spears might one day make an appearance on Modern Family. And there’s still a chance for that to happen, as the show was renewed for two more seasons in 2017. But even if O’Neill and Spears never run into each other again, their airport encounter still serves as a funny reminder that celebrities are people, too.

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Now, if you love Ed O’Neill, you’re probably a fan of Married… with Children, too. But given that the show ran for a whopping ten years, it’s unlikely that you’ll have heard every behind-the-scenes detail there is to know about the much-loved sitcom. From banned episodes to off-screen feuds, these facts may surprise even the biggest aficionados.

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Married… with Children was not only the first ever prime-time series to run on the Fox network, but it also remains one with a fiercely loyal fanbase. And the Bundy family’s adventures over 11 seasons from 1987 to 1997 made stars out of Ed O’Neill, Katey Sagal and Christina Applegate and set the benchmark for the modern family sitcom. Here, though, are 30 things that you may not know about the show even if you watched from the start.

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30. The opening credits borrowed from National Lampoon’s Vacation

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Eagle-eyed viewers of early ’80s screwball comedies may well have noticed that Married… with Children’s opening credits weren’t entirely original. In fact, the shot featuring cars on the interstate was lifted from the Chevy Chase classic National Lampoon’s Vacation, with the Griswolds’ station wagon itself also in full view.

29. The pilot had a different Kelly and Bud

Christina Applegate and David Faustino shot to fame as Bundy kids Kelly and Bud, respectively, but they weren’t the first choice for the roles. No, Tina Caspary and Hunter Carson portrayed the characters in the pilot before being replaced in time for the first aired episode.

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28. Sam Kinison and Roseanne Barr were offered the lead roles

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Al and Peggy Bundy could have also looked completely different had producers managed to get their first choices on board. In fact, comedians Sam Kinison and Roseanne Barr were initially offered the parts of the Bundy parents. The pair both turned them down, however, in favor of pursuing their respective film careers.

27. It has two Cosby Show connections

It’s a little-known fact that the Bundy family’s next door neighbor Marcy D’Arcy – played by Amanda Bearse – was named after The Cosby Show executive producer Marcy Carsey. However, that isn’t Married… with Children’s only connection with the Huxtables: the sitcom was originally titled Not the Cosbys.

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26. Ed O’Neill was given the job on the spot

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Ed O’Neill was given his first recurring role as the famously misanthropic Al Bundy without uttering a single word during his audition. In fact, the way that O’Neill walked through the front door of the Bundy family home, with a slump of the shoulders and a defeated sigh, was enough to win him the part.

25. Michael Richards auditioned to play Al

O’Neill’s perfect portrayal of downtrodden Bundy saw him triumph over a future sitcom favorite in the casting process. Yes, Michael Richards, who two years later would land the memorable role of Kramer on Seinfeld, was just one of many actors who unsuccessfully auditioned to play the Bundy family patriarch.

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24. The show briefly ruined Ed O’Neill’s film career

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However, O’Neill may have started to rue the day he won the part after being dropped from a film because of it. In fact, the actor had became so synonymous with Al Bundy that test audiences of war movie Flight of the Intruder erupted into laughter whenever he appeared on screen.

23. Ted McGinley begged producers to make his character more macho

The man responsible for giving Marcy her rhyming surname, second husband Jefferson D’Arcy, arrived in the third season. However, Ted McGinley – the man who played the show’s resident dimwit – complained to producers about how much of a “wuss” his character was. Later, then, references were dropped in to Jefferson’s macho secret agent past.

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22. David Garrison quit the show to act on Broadway

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After playing Marcy’s first husband, Steve Rhoades, for four seasons, David Garrison bought his way out of his Married… with Children contract in order to resurrect his theater career. However, Garrison did return to the show on four separate occasions, with his character appearing in a different profession each time.

21. Ed O’Neill and Amanda Bearse didn’t get along

Marcy and Al were arch nemeses on the show, and the two actors who played them were just as unfriendly once the cameras stopped rolling. Yes, in an interview following the show’s 1997 cancelation, Ed O’Neill revealed that he and Amanda Bearse’s relationship was often strained.

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20. Katey Sagal fell pregnant three times during the show

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Producers had to get creative when Katey Sagal fell pregnant on three occasions during Married… with Children’s run. Her first pregnancy, for instance, was actually written into the storyline – before being envisioned as a dream when the actress’ baby was tragically stillborn in real life. Thankfully, her next two pregnancies, the signs of which were obscured in the show, each resulted in a healthy baby.

19. It was a family affair

Each one of the four main cast members invited one of their family members to appear on the show at various points throughout its 11-season run. The guest stars in question were Ed O’Neill’s wife Catherine Rusoff, Christina Applegate’s mother Nancy Priddy, Katey Sagal’s brother Joey and David Faustino’s brother Michael.

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18. David Faustino was a rapper in real life

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Art started to imitate life when producers found out that David Faustino – who played Bud Bundy – had a real-life rap alias, D’Lil. In fact, the actor released an album titled Balistyx in 1992 and was subsequently given the chance to showcase his lyrical flow in front of millions of viewers through his on-screen rap alter ego, Grandmaster B.

17. Ed O’Neill would call fans while pretending to be Al

Some Married… with Children fans were lucky enough to receive a birthday or holiday phone call from Ed O’Neill while in character as Al Bundy. However, in typical tight-fisted Bundy fashion, O’Neill only did so by using call collect.

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16. The cast weren’t told when the show was canceled

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Despite helping Fox score its first prime-time hit, the cast weren’t given the courtesy of a phone call when the show was canceled. In fact, Ed O’Neill only found out that the sitcom had been axed when he overheard a couple discussing it while on vacation.

15. Ed O’Neill wanted to end the show in dramatic style

After eventually coming to grips with the show’s demise, O’Neill gave producers a rather dramatic pitch as to how the Bundys should exit the screen. Strangely, the actor suggested that the family should win the lottery, only to be immediately hit by a tornado during their celebrations.

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14. Fox refused to air one particular episode

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A 1989 episode of the show was considered so risque that Fox banned it from airing until 2002. “I’ll See You in Court” saw both the Bundys and the Rhoades sue the owners of an inn after learning that the establishment had secretly taped each couple in their bedrooms.

13. There were numerous failed spinoffs

The “Radio Free Trumaine” and “Enemies” episodes were both pitched as pilots for brand new spinoff shows that were ultimately rejected by Fox. Nevertheless, Kelly’s one-time boyfriend Vinnie Verducci – played by Matt LeBlanc – later landed two spinoffs; both Top of the Heap and Vinnie & Bobby failed to make it past seven episodes, however.

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12. A U.K. remake lasted just seven weeks

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The show was given the international remake treatment, but it didn’t always translate particularly well. For example, a U.K. version starring comedian Russ Abbott called Married for Life was launched in 1996. However, thanks to a mixture of scathing reviews and low ratings, it was canned after just seven episodes.

11. Not everyone was a fan

Surprisingly for a show that lasted 11 seasons, Married… with Children’s ratings were never particularly high. This was largely due to the fact that Fox was a relatively new network back then. However, incurring the wrath of the Parents Television Council did little to attract viewers; the conservative organization labeled it the “crudest comedy on primetime TV.”

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10. Peggy’s maiden name is very rude across the pond

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It’s a good thing that Peggy’s maiden name of Wanker was hardly mentioned during the show’s run, as it might have proved problematic in selling the show to Britain. Why? Well, although the word is often considered to simply mean an idiot in the States, over in the U.K. it’s actually both a fairly strong curse word and slang for someone who masturbates. Yikes.

9. David Faustino used embarrassing measures to be recognized in public

A young David Faustino so desperately wanted to be recognized when the show first started airing that he did something both bold and a little foolhardy. Specifically, he wore a shirt emblazoned with the Married… with Children logo during a trip to a crowded mall. Rather humiliatingly, though, not one person showed that they had a clue who he was.

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8. The Bundy family were named after a wrestler

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Despite rumors to the contrary, Married… with Children’s main family weren’t named for notorious murderer Ted Bundy. Instead, inspiration came from professional wrestler King Kong Bundy. And to repay the favor, the sportsman also known as Chris Pallies actually turned up in the show twice: once playing himself, and the other time portraying Peggy’s Uncle Irwin.

7. The Bundys have two different addresses

Eagle-eyed viewers may have spotted that the Bundy family’s home address changes ever so slightly from episode to episode. In some, it’s listed as 9764 Jeopardy Lane, Chicago, Illinois, while in others the house number appears instead as 9674. We pity the poor mailman who serves their street.

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6. Divine could have appeared in the show

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Believe it or not, but Harris Glenn Milstead, a.k.a. world-famous drag queen Divine, was actually cast to play Uncle Otto in the final episode of the show’s second season. Tragically, though, the flamboyant star passed away from a heart condition shortly before he was due to make his first appearance on set.

5. The show’s early budget was tiny

The Married… with Children team had to be resourceful during the show’s early days due to its extremely limited budget. In fact, for one storyline, the cast and crew were forced to bring items in from their very own homes. If you’re the nosy type, then, watch season two episode “Master the Possibilities” and see what things the family buy after receiving a credit card addressed to their dog Buck.

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4. Al’s shoe store was the travel agent set from One Day at a Time

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And along with making spending sprees work on a shoestring, Married… with Children’s producers were similarly shrewd when it came to the show’s locations. In particular, fans of One Day at a Time may well have spotted that Al’s beloved shoe store was the same set used for Barbara and Max’s travel agency in the final season of the CBS sitcom.

3. Ed O’Neill took his inspiration from close to home

Youngstown, Ohio, couldn’t pick up the Fox network during Married… with Children’s early days. And it’s probably a good job, too, since some of its residents may have recognized themselves somewhat in hometown boy Ed O’Neill’s portrayal of Al Bundy. Yes, the actor based his grouchy central character on several of his uncles and a high school friend he has described as “crude.”

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2. We could have seen more of Kelly Bundy

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Unfortunately for some, Christina Applegate turned down the chance to appear in a spin-off based on her Married… with Children character Kelly Bundy. But she did so in order to broaden her career horizons. And as she’s since starred in numerous hit Hollywood comedies over the past two decades, her gamble well and truly paid off.

1. Christina Applegate didn’t always sport her real hair

Christina Applegate did pursue some outside ventures when filming the sitcom – in particular, Gregg Araki’s indie movie Nowhere. Somewhat trickily, though, the role required that Applegate color her hair red. And as a result, when she returned to the Married… with Children set in the fall of 1995, the star was forced to wear a blonde wig in order to hide her brightly hued real locks.

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