---- — Q: What was television’s biggest flop? -- S.G.L., Pueblo, Colo.
A: Most students of television history would probably say it was “Turn-On,” a show created by the producers of “Laugh-In.” It aired on Feb. 5, 1969. Before the half-hour show was over, most ABC affiliates had been swamped with complaint calls, and a few had even stopped airing it. The show was considered overly risque. NBC and CBS rejected the show early on, but ABC picked it up.
“Turn-On” featured Tim Conway in a series of skits. Some sources say it was canceled the same day it aired, while others say it took two or three days before the program was dropped officially.
Q: Who was Jethro Tull of the band Jethro Tull? -- R.L., Levelland, Texas
A: One of the co-founders of the band, Ian Anderson, explains that in the early days, the band was not very good. In order to get rebooked at clubs, it changed its name every week. The band was finally asked to return after playing a gig with the name Jethro Tull. Anderson says he is not really fond of the name and is embarrassed about it because it’s not an original name. The original Jethro Tull was an 18th-century agriculturalist and inventor.
Q: What was movie detective Dirty Harry’s badge number? -- W.D., Reno, Nev.
A: Harry Callahan had badge No. 2211. “Dirty Harry,” starring Clint Eastwood as the titular character, was released in 1971 and had four sequels.
Q: Has the Oscar changed much since it was originally designed? -- L.O., Roseville, Calif.
A: MGM’s art director, Cedric Gibbons, designed the Oscar statuette in 1928. The only change that has been made since then is a higher pedestal, which happened in the 1940s.
Q: When I was a kid, I got my first ant farm. Not too long ago I bought one for my son. What is the name for the study of ants? -- J.R., Hopkinsville, Ky.
A: The study of ants is called “myrmecology.”
Q: Is William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” based on a true story? -- B.L., New York City
A: It is. In 1040, Macbeth killed Duncan I, the Scottish king, and became ruler of Scotland. He ruled peacefully for 14 years. In 1054, he was challenged by Siward, Earl of Northumbria, who wanted his nephew -- Duncan’s son -- to rule the country. Malcolm Canmore killed Macbeth in 1057 to become king. Six hundred years later, Shakespeare made the incident famous.
Q: To me, Basil Rathbone was Sherlock Holmes -- just as Fess Parker was the “real” Davy Crockett. In how many Sherlock Holmes films did Rathbone appear? -- C.K., Rolla, Mo.
A: I agree with you on both comments. Basil Rathbone appeared in 14 Sherlock Holmes movies made between 1939 and 1946, and also in hundreds of radio broadcasts.
Q: I’ve often wondered where the first drive-in service station was located in the United States. -- B.R.T., Bedford, Ind.
A: Gulf Refining Co. opened the first drive-in filling station along Baum Boulevard in Pittsburgh on Dec. 1, 1913. In addition to gas, the Gulf station offered free air and water, and it sold the first commercial road maps in the United States.
Q: When my grandmother used to say she cleaned every nook and cranny in the house, she meant she did a thorough job of cleaning. What exactly is a “nook and cranny”? -- R.L., Kentwood, Mich.
A: A nook is a corner, while a cranny is a crack. So when your grandmother said she was cleaning every nook and cranny, it meant she was cleaning down to the corners and cracks of the house.
Q: Stuart Sutcliffe was one of the original Beatles. What happened to him? -- L.I.J., Madison, Wis.
A: In 1960, John Lennon suggested that his art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe buy a bass guitar and join his band with Paul McCartney and drummer Pete Best. They played local clubs and later toured Scotland and Germany. After a tour in Germany in 1961, Sutcliffe decided to remain with his girlfriend to pursue his career as an artist, effectively leaving the band.
On April 10, 1962, two days before the Beatles were to arrive back in Hamburg, Sutcliffe died of a brain aneurysm at age 21.
Q: Who was the voice of adult Kevin Arnold on “The Wonder Years”? -- S.P., Salisbury, Md.
A: Daniel Stern voiced adult Kevin on “The Wonder Years.” The sitcom, which aired from 1988 to 1993, starred Fred Savage as Kevin, with Stern providing narration. Stern is well known for his roles in “City Slickers” (1991) with Billy Crystal, and as the robber Marv in “Home Alone” (1990) and “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” (1992).
Q: There is an opening line to a poem: “Laugh, and the world laughs with you;/Weep, and you weep alone.” What is the complete poem? Who wrote it? -- P.Z., Peachtree City, Ga.
A: Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote the poem “Solitude” in 1883, and it is considered her most famous work. The poem was first published in the New York Sun and was later part of her book, “Poems of Passion.” If you enjoy poetry, I highly recommend it.
Here’s the first stanza of “Solitude”:
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air.
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.
Q: When was the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile introduced to the public? -- K.N., Clearwater, Fla.
A: Carl Mayer, the nephew of lunch meat mogul Oscar Mayer, came up with the advertising gimmick in 1936. The first Wienermobile rolled out the front door of General Body Co.’s factory in Chicago that July.
There are eight active Wienermobiles traveling the country today.
Q: What is the name of the sport in which a participant ascends the point of highest elevation within a given area? That area could be a county, state, country or continent. -- J.T.L., Bedford, Ind.
A: The sport you’re thinking of is called “highpointing.” One example of someone highpointing is climbing the highest point of each U.S. state -- some of which are not very tall.
Of course, the most ambitious activity is taking on the Seven Summits, which requires the climber to reach the top of the tallest mountain on each continent.
Q: Several years ago, I heard a comment during a TV show that has puzzled me ever since. It went something like, “A famous author gave acknowledgment to the person who killed him.” I’m not sure I have the wording right, but is this enough information for you find out who it was? -- O.M., Bethel Park, Pa.
A: You are probably referring to Dr. Herman Tarnower, author of the best-selling “The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet.” A lifelong bachelor, Tarnower had an on-again-off-again relationship with Jean Harris. In 1979, he began having an affair with Lynne Tryforos. When Harris found out, she murdered him.
In his book, published in 1978, he acknowledges Harris: “We are grateful to Jean Harris for her splendid assistance in the research and writing of this book.” Two paragraphs later, he thanks Tryforos.
Q: Where is Blackpool in Ireland? I know there is one in England, but I can’t locate the Irish namesake. -- L.R., Waynesboro, Va.
A: I don’t know of any such place in Ireland, but I suspect you might be referring to Dublin. “Dublin” is Gaelic for “black pool.” The city got its name for the black-colored waters of the Liffey River.
Q: Where was the movie “On Golden Pond” filmed? Is there such a place? -- K.I.B., Hempstead, N.Y.
A: Golden Pond exists only in our hearts and imaginations. The 1981 movie was filmed at Squam Lake, New Hampshire’s second largest lake, near the town of Holderness. Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda and Katharine Hepburn starred in the film.
(Send your questions to Mr. Know-It-All at AskMrKIA@gmail.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)