Quentin Tarantino is a walking encyclopedia of pop culture. The former video store clerk turned cinema auteur has spent thirty years riffing on kung-fu, blaxploitation, grindhouse, revenge flicks, and more. No matter the project, he always brings a singular vision—one that’s spawned a host of imitators and birthed the adjective “Tarantinoesque.”

Tarantino wasn’t always a critical darling, though. Years ago, before he became an acclaimed screenwriter and director, he told Jimmy Fallon, things were not looking good. “Before I did Reservoir Dogs, I had a very unsuccessful acting career,” he says. He didn’t get many jobs, maybe because, as he explains, he spent much of the 1980’s looking like an Elvis impersonator.

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That look landed him a role on a pop-culture institution—that’s right, Quentin Tarantino appeared as an Elvis impersonator on an episode of The Golden Girls. He got paid $650 for the gig, appearing with a host of Elvises at Sophia’s wedding. The story was turned into a two-parter, earning him residuals on both episodes. Then it proved so popular it was included on a best-of compilation, earning him more residuals.

Suddenly, a chance sitcom appearance was adding up to real money. As Tarantino figures it, he made about $3000 over the next three years, thanks to those reruns of The Golden Girls. And that cash kept him going while he completed pre-production on his first feature, Reservoir Dogs. It went on to become an indie smash, launching his directorial career.

To get the full story straight from Tarantino (and see him genuinely contrite about dropping an f-bomb on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon) check out the video below:

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