Ask Mr. Know It All

Q. What was the name of the character played by Joan Van Ark on the series “Knots Landing”?

T.L., Chattanooga, Tenn.

A. In 1978, Joan Van Ark played Valene Ewing, the wife of Gary Ewing (who was played by Ted Shackelford), on “Dallas.” Writers carried Valene over to a new series, “Knots Landing,” in 1979. In episode 139, Valene Ewing became Valene Gibson. In episode 263, she became Valene Waleska. Finally, in episode 300, she changed her name back to Ewing.

Van Ark remained with “Knots Landing” for 13 of its 14 seasons. The show aired from 1979 to 1993, while “Dallas” ran from 1978 to 1991. During her 13 seasons with “Knots Landing,” Van Ark earned two Soap Opera Digest Awards for best actress. She also directed two episodes.

Q. John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln while the president was watching a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. As I recall, there was another couple in the box with the Lincolns, and one other person was shot. Who was the other victim? When was Booth captured?

M.L., Hickory, N.C.

A. On April 14, 1865, the president and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, attended the evening performance of “Our American Cousin.” Joining the first family were Maj. Henry Reed Rathbone and his fiancee, Clara Harris. Halfway through the third act, Booth entered the president’s box and shot Lincoln at point blank, using a single-shot derringer pistol. As Booth was about to flee, Rathbone interceded, but he was severely wounded when Booth stabbed him. Booth fled the theater and made his way to a farm in rural Virginia. He was tracked down and killed by Union soldiers April 26.

Rathbone recovered from his injuries and married Harris on July 11, 1867.

Mrs. Lincoln had invited several people to attend the play that fateful night, including Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, but all were unable to attend.

Q. I know what the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing is, but what I don’t know is how many horses won this crown. How many of these winners are still alive?

D.F.P., Winslow, Ariz.

A. The Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing is a title that consists of three races for 3-year-old thoroughbred horses. In the U.S., the three races are the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. The races take place over five weeks.

Only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown. The most recent was Affirmed, in 1978. Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown winner and the last one alive, died in May 2002.

Q. I watched a documentary several years ago about a group of desert inhabitants who wore traditional veils. Their name incorporated the word “veil,” as I recall. I would like to read more about these people, but I can’t remember what they’re called.

C.V., Rochester, N.Y.

A. You watched a documentary about the Tuareg, “the people of the veil.” Traditionally, the Tuareg wear a blue veil — the source of their nicknames the “blue people” or “blue men.” These nicknames are not related to the color of the veils, but came about because the indigo pigments in the cloth stained the wearer’s skin dark blue.

Today, the Tuareg wear clothing and turbans in a variety of colors. Only men wear veils, and it is a rite of passage upon entering manhood to don one. Veils are worn to protect them from evil spirits that enter through the nose and mouth. The Tuareg are found mostly in North and West Africa, with many having settled into agriculture, shunning the nomadic life.


Sylvester Stallone’s father, Frank, was a hairdresser. His mother, Jackie Labofish Stallone, sought fame as an astrologer and women’s wrestling promoter.

Q. While vacationing at the shore with the family many years ago, I came across some old newspapers. One of the stories was about a ship that was involved in an accident. The incident was referred to as an “allision.” I chuckled at the typo and read on. I keep thinking about this, and I wonder if it was a typo.

Y.L., Buffalo, Okla.

A. No, it was not a typo. A collision is when two objects strike each other, as when one ship strikes another. An allision is similar, but refers to a collision where one of the two objects is stationary. For instance, a ship could allide with the pier.

Q. I recently watched “Star Wars” on TV. What happened to Mark Hamill, the actor who played Luke Skywalker? I haven’t heard of him since the “Star Wars” movies.

D.C., Milford, Del.

A. Mark Hamill was born Sept. 25, 1951. He’s remained active in the entertainment field since the “Star Wars” trilogy.

He’s appeared in movies and TV shows, but he has mostly done voice work in cartoon features. He is noted for being the voice of the Joker in “Batman: The Animated Series.”

According to Hamill, Disney has approached him to appear in the new “Star Wars” films.

Q. This has bugged me for a long time. Why is a person who makes or repairs a stringed instrument called a luthier? I don’t get it.

N.N.K., Lakeside, Fla.

A. “Luthier” comes from the French word “luth,” which means “lute.” According to my Merriam-Webster dictionary, a lute is a “stringed instrument having a large pear-shaped body, a vaulted back, a fretted fingerboard and a head with tuning pegs, which is often angled backward from the neck.”

In the United States, luthier is used to describe anyone who works on a specialty type of stringed instrument, such as a violin or guitar maker.

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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