Ask Mr. Know It All

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 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’s 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 Northum- bria, 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 Sut-cliffe 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.

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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