Ask Mr. Know It All

Q. Who was the voice of Alice in the 1951 Walt Disney classic animated film “Alice in Wonderland”?

H.U., Shenandoah, Pa.

A. Kathryn Beaumont voiced Alice. Beaumont was born in England in 1938, and she lived in Wales before being discovered by an MGM scout who signed her to a contract.

After the signing, she and her family moved to Southern California, where she appeared in several uncredited movie roles before Walt Disney saw her and offered her the role of Alice. Beaumont was 11 years old at the time.

After the release of “Alice in Wonderland” in 1951, Beaumont went on an extensive promotional tour. After that, Disney picked her for the role of Wendy Darling in the studio’s next animated feature, “Peter Pan.”

She continued to work for Disney while she went to college at the University of Southern California. She worked as a teacher for the next 36 years. Beaumont was named a Disney Legend in 1998. The 74-year-old still does occasional voice-over work.

Q. Why does blues singer B.B. King name his guitars Lucille?

Y.L.F., Ashland, Ore.

A. In 1949, King was performing at a dance hall in Arkansas when two men got into a fight. The brawlers knocked over a kerosene heater, which engulfed the hall in flames, forcing an evacuation.

Once outside, King realized he forgot his guitar on stage. He returned to the fiery building to retrieve his instrument, a black Gibson guitar.

Two people died in the fire. The next day, King learned the two men were fighting over a woman named Lucille. He chose that name for every one of his guitars as a reminder of the event and to never do anything as stupid as running into a burning building again.

Q. The Big Apple is the popular nickname for New York City. Where is the Big Apricot? I’ve looked through long lists of city nicknames, and I cannot find it.

I.L.T., San Mateo, Calif.

A. The Big Apricot is the nickname for Superman’s fictional home, Metropolis.

Q. While traveling a number of years ago, I came across the home of President Calvin Coolidge and his wife, Grace. I can’t recall where the home was. I think they bought it after his presidency.

W.K.L., Irvine, Calif.

A. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States, held the office from 1923-29. Shortly after his term ended, the Coolidges bought a large house with spacious and private grounds in Northampton, Mass. The name of the estate was “The Beeches.” Calvin Coolidge died in 1933; Grace Coolidge died in 1957.

Calvin Coolidge’s boyhood home is available to tour in Plymouth, Vt.

Q. During the 1920s, there was an exotic dancer and silent film actress named Sally Rand. What can you tell me about her? What about her name?

L.F., Cape Coral, Fla.

A. Sally Rand was born Helen Gould Beck (though more than one biography claims her birth name was Harriet Helen Gould Beck) in Hickory County, Mo., on April 3, 1904. She became famous for her fan and bubble dances. Cecil B. DeMille suggested her stage name, inspired by a Rand McNally atlas.

Rand’s movie career stalled when “talkies” came of age due to her pronounced lisp. She continued to develop her dance routines, which she continued to perform through 1978, a year before her death at 75. She was married at least four times and had one son.

Q. What type of cow is Elsie, the Borden mascot?

B.D., Portage, Mich.

A. Elsie is a Jersey. She was born — well, created — in the early 1930s. By the end of the decade, she was so popular she was receiving fan mail.

At the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City, one of the most popular questions at the Borden display was which of the 150 cows on display was Elsie. The best-looking cow was chosen and given the name Elsie.

In 1940, she and her love, Elmer the Bull, were married. Shortly after that, Beulah was born. Elmer’s popularity began to rise, and he was put in charge of Borden’s glue line.

In 1947, Elsie and Elmer had a son, Beauregard. In 1957, Elsie had twins. A nationwide naming contest was held, and Larabee and Lobelia were the winning names. In 2000, Elsie was named one of the top 10 advertising icons of all time by Advertising Age.

By the end of the 1940s, a study indicated that more people recognized Elsie the Cow than President Harry Truman.

Q. Where is Big Whiskey, Wyo.? It’s not on any state map, so I’m figuring it was made up for a movie. Which one?

S.M.P., Centralia, Wash.

A. Big Whiskey, Wyo., was the setting for the 1992 Western “Unforgiven,” starring Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman and Richard Harris. The movie was set around 1880. The film was shot in Alberta, Canada, and Sonora, Calif.

Send questions to Mr. Know-It-All at or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

2013 Gary Clothier

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