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Driving back to her apartment in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, last Monday afternoon, Rachel Gilliam weaved her way through smoke so thick she couldn't make out the mountains south of town.

Wildfires burn outside Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images.

"Everything had this brown and yellow haze to it, like there was a sepia filter over the world," Gilliam says.


When she arrived home, she called local police and emergency services, who told her that no evacuations were planned. Gilliam's wife, Jess, who had just finished her shift at the distillery where they both work, wasn't willing to wait for an update:

"We need to go," Jess said.

Gilliam grabbed the couple's dog, their two cats, some clothes, and a bag containing their birth certificates and marriage license and fled north to Jess' parents in Knoxville, where they watched the next part of the story unfold on television and through panicked calls and text messages from friends.

Gilliam's apartment complex, after the fires. Photo by Rachel Gilliam.

Wildfires blew into town, killing at least 14, injuring dozens, and destroying hundreds of homes, including the apartment complex where the couple had just moved two months prior.

"It was like a bad dream. It was completely heart-wrenching," Gilliam says.

Just a few miles away in Knoxville, Lacy Mellon and her husband Jonathan were following the same news reports with growing alarm.

A Tennessee native and real estate agent, Mellon regularly rents out two spare bedrooms in her home, and a bungalow listed on Airbnb as, "good for couples, solo adventurers, business travelers, families (w/ kids), big groups, & furry friends (pets)!"

With no guests on the horizon, she saw a better use for the empty space.

"This is my home and these are my people," Mellon says. Hoping to provide some relief to residents displaced by the fires, she sought out a friend who works at Sugarlands Distillery, the same Gatlinburg distillery that employs Rachel Gilliam and her wife.

"I immediately texted her and asked if she knew anyone directly needing housing and told her about our open home," Mellon explains. The friend referred her to Gilliam, who moved into Mellon's bungalow with her pets soon after.

Mellon's bungalow. Photo by Lacy Mellon.

"I have no words to describe how amazing it felt to have a safe place to live and for the animals to be at no charge," Gilliam says.

In the wake of the Gatlinburg fires, Airbnb has made it easier for its Tennessee hosts to offer their properties to evacuees free of charge.

According to a statement from the company's head of global disaster relief, the Disaster Response Tool will be available to hosts in the Knoxville and Gatlinburg areas through Dec. 13. Airbnb activated the function after Hurricane Matthew slammed the southeastern United States in October.

A review of the site on Monday morning showed dozens of listings available to evacuees in Knoxville, and several more in the surrounding areas.

"I want her to know she has people in Knoxville now, and we are here for whatever she needs." — Lacy Mellon

Amanda Lane, a nursing student at University of Tennessee, saw donating her space as an alternative to giving money or purchasing other needed items for evacuees, which she can't afford.

"I personally feel like I've lost part of my 'home,' but I can't imagine actually losing my house as well," Lane, who grew up camping and hiking near Gatlinburg, says. "I am devastated watching the news, seeing all of the damage, and I really just wanted to be able to help out in anyway that I can."

Others, like Liz Candlish, who operates the Glenwood Inn in Knoxville with her husband J.R., praised the company for making it easy to assist with relief efforts. "I really feel for all the people who lost everything in the fires and since we have the space, would love to offer it to help out," she explains. "We can't imagine what it would be like to have our house burn down, especially right before Christmas."

This is just one of many ways locals are coming together to provide relief to evacuees from the fires.

Other Knoxville businesses have been active in assisting the recovery effort, including local food truck Oishii Knox, which has been giving away free meals to first responders and Liberty Ink Tattoo, which created a special design, with all proceeds going to the Gatlinburg Relief Fund.

Last week, singer Dolly Parton, whose Dollywood amusement park sits right outside Gatlinburg, announced a fund to provide residents who lost their homes, like Gilliam, $1,000 per month for six months to help them re-establish themselves.

Mellon, who manages a Facebook group for Airbnb hosts in the local area, praised the Knoxville community for rallying to support their neighbors.

For her part, she said she plans to take Gilliam out for dinner and host her until she gets back on her feet.

Lacy Mellon and husband Jonathan. Photo by Lacy Mellon.

"I want her to know she has people in Knoxville now, and we are here for whatever she needs."

Gilliam said she's enormously grateful to Mellon for putting her and Jess up and to Sugarlands Distillery for its support.

According to Gilliam, the company has pledged to help her and Jess find permanent housing in Gatlinburg. The couple is committed to returning, and Gilliam hopes that visitors will continue seek the city out — as she and Jess did many times early in their relationship, before they lived there — despite the tragedy.

Gilliam (R) and wife Jess (L). Photo by Rachel Gilliam.

From time to time, Gilliam regrets what was lost in the fire — her grandfather's handkerchiefs, a collection of Disney and Star Wars memorabilia, and hundreds of movies. Still, she's thankful for what wasn't.

"Things are just things, but we are safe, and that's what matters."

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Marlon Brando on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1973.

Marlon Brando made one of the biggest Hollywood comebacks in 1972 after playing the iconic role of Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather.” The venerable actor's career had been on a decline for years after a series of flops and increasingly unruly behavior on set.

Brando was a shoo-in for Best Actor at the 1973 Academy Awards, so the actor decided to use the opportunity to make an important point about Native American representation in Hollywood.

Instead of attending the ceremony, he sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Yaqui and Apache actress and activist, dressed in traditional clothing, to talk about the injustices faced by Native Americans.

She explained that Brando "very regretfully cannot accept this generous award, the reasons for this being … the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee."

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