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Monday lost and found: The bizarre story behind Billy Idol's 'Sweet Sixteen'

Published Jun. 2, 2014

With his whiplash smile, few singers captured the raw post punk energy of the '80s better than Billy Idol, but while you always hear Rebel Yell and Mony Mony, you might have to send Leonard Nimoy out to search for lost hits like Sweet Sixteen.

I was always under the impression that Sweet Sixteen was just another lust song by Idol, until a recent replay of AT40 featured the story origins of the song that hit No. 20 in 1987. The story of Sweet Sixteen was inspired by the tale of Edward Leedskalnin and his Coral Castle in Florida. Besides Casey Kasem's account, the Coral Castle was also featured on the syndicated program "In Search Of" hosted by Leonard Nimoy and it was that episode in 1981 that fascinated Idol and inspired Sweet Sixteen.

Edward Leedskalnin was a Latvian millionaire who was jilted by his 16-year fiancée one day before their wedding day in 1913. After his rejection, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and moved to the warmer climate of Florida City, Florida and decided to build a castle for his lost love. He pronounced himself cured from disease after discovering the secret properties of magnets and over the next 28 years he constructed his castle, made mostly of corral reef, in secret. The marvel is how Leedskalnin, a meek man who was five foot tall and weighed only 100 lbs, was able build by himself The Coral Castle with of over 1,000 tons of stone/reef (some stones weighed 30 tons individually). The nine-ton gate to the castle was so precisely calibrated that even a child could open the gate with the touch of a finger.

The partially built castle was moved from Florida City to Homestead in 1931 and is still a popular tourist attraction in south Florida. Leedskalnin took his secret to his grave in 1951 and made claims he knew the secrets of how the pyramids were built and the secrets of Atlantis.

Idol will release his autobiography "Dancing With Myself" this fall and kicks off his European concert tour this month.


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