Question: Is it true that Chef Boyardee is a fic tional name created from the names Boyd, Art and Dennis -- the men who created the company? -- J.G.L., Roseburg, Ore.

Answer: This is a popular urban legend that has been circulating for several years. It is not true.

Ettore "Hector" Boiardi was born in northern Italy in 1898. He worked in restaurants as a young boy and then immigrated to New York City at age 17, joining his brother. His brother worked at the Plaza Hotel, and he gave Boiardi a job in the kitchen, where he developed his culinary skills.

In 1929, Boiardi moved to Cleveland and opened his own restaurant. The chef and his spaghetti sauce became so popular that people began to ask for extra portions to take home. He expanded his production to an adjacent lot and sold his sauce, dry pasta and special cheeses in area stores. Boiardi Americanized his name to Boyardee, making it easier to spell and pronounce.

By 1938, he outgrew the Cleveland facility and moved to Pennsylvania. During World War II, the company prepared food rations for troops. American Home Products bought Chef Boyardee in 1946; ConAgra Foods purchased it in 2000. Hector Boiardi remained with the company as an adviser until his death in 1985. And, yes, that is his picture on the label.


Q: In a biography about Marilyn Monroe, I read that she was the model for Tinker Bell. For some reason it doesn't seem to me that Walt Disney would want Marilyn Monroe as a model. What's the story behind this? -- K.T.Y., Fort Smith, Ark.

A: The story about Marilyn Monroe is not true. Disney's hot-tempered pixie was modeled after 22-year-old actress Margaret Kerry. According to Kerry, back in those days she had the most beautiful legs in Hollywood -- she won a contest -- and admits that by today's standards, she was "a real babe."

In 1952, Kerry was given the part of Tink. For six months, she worked on an empty soundstage, wearing a tight bathing suit. The director would give her an emotion to act out, and animators would capture her tiniest nuance -- a raised eyebrow, a slight frown or a pouting lip. Kerry voiced one of the mermaids in "Peter Pan."

Now in her 70s, Kerry remains energetic and is still working. She hosts a weekly variety/magazine-format radio show in California and makes occasional public appearances.

Q: When did Mr. Otis invent the elevator? -- J.L.L., Elmira, N.Y.

A: This is a common misconception. Elisha Otis didn't invent the elevator; he invented something even more important -- brakes for the elevator. Elevators have been around since about 300 B.C., but they were used only for moving freight because they were unsafe for human passengers.

In the middle of the 19th century, Otis came up with a braking system that would automatically stop a runaway elevator if the cable broke. The first Otis passenger elevator was installed in New York City on March 23, 1857.

Q: Who was the first female telephone opera tor? -- K.N.T., Denton, Texas

A: Emma M. Nutt was the first female telephone operator.

Prior to Sept. 1, 1878, telephone companies hired young boys as operators, but many were unreliable in getting to work, and when they did show up, they were often rude to customers. In 1878, Nutt and her sister were hired by the New England Bell Co. in Boston (or the Telephone Dispatch Co. of Boston), and a women-only trend began. Nutt remained at her post for 33 years.

Q: What can you tell me about Q-Tips? Who invented them? When? What does the "Q" stand for? -- M.L., Youngstown, Ohio

A: In 1923, Poland-born American Leo Gerstenzang watched his wife wrap bits of cotton around the end of a toothpick to use on their newborn. Leo thought he could come up with a better idea. He spent several years working on his creation. When it was perfected, he opened the Leo Gerstenzang Infant Novelty Co. -- not a very imaginative company name. The name he chose for his product was even worse -- Baby Gays. Apparently the public didn't like it very much either, and the product didn't sell.

In 1926, Gerstenzang changed the name to Q-Tips Baby Gays. That was an improvement, but it still needed some work. In time, "Baby Gays" was dropped, and the rest is cotton swab history.

What does the "Q" stand for? According to the company, quality.

Q: Which former Beatle was the first to have a No. 1 single after the group's split? -- J.L., Dover, Md.

A: George Harrison was the first to have a post-Beatle No. 1 with "My Sweet Lord" in 1970.

Q: If I had a spanner in my toolbox, what would I have? -- E.N., Milford, Pa.

A: You'd have a wrench. That's what the British call it.

Q: I still enjoy watching Abbott and Costello. Which of these funny men died first? At what age did he die? -- B.L.R., Panama City, Fla.

A: Louis Francis Costello died March 3, 1959, at age 52. His comedy partner, William Alexander "Bud" Abbott, died April 24, 1974, at age 78.

Q: Who was the first musical guest on "Satur day Night Live"? -- E.W., Bar Harbor, Maine

A: The first show aired Oct. 11, 1975, with George Carlin as the first host of the show. Janis Ian and Billy Preston were the first musical guests. Ian and Preston each performed two songs.

Q: The TV show "Cheers" was based on a real pub in Boston. What is its name? -- J.W.L., Ankeny, Iowa

A: The Cheers bar is based off the Bull & Finch Pub located on Beacon Street in Boston. The pub has since been renamed Cheers Beacon Hill. It was founded in 1969 and became internationally known as the exterior of the bar in the sitcom, which ran from 1982 to 1993.

Q: Is there a name for a person who has a fear of being dirty? -- G.N., Globe, Ariz.

A: There is. A person who has a fear of being dirty has automysophobia. The fear of bathing is called ablutophobia. I can't find a name for someone who fears both.

Q: If you came back from the Civil War with Soldier's Disease, what did you have? -- Y.C., Stuart, Fla.

A: You'd have a morphine or opium addiction due to treatment of maladies suffered during battle.

Q: Who replaced Gen. Douglas MacArthur after Harry Truman removed him from military command? -- K.Y.N., Hannibal, Mo.

A: Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway replaced MacArthur in 1951. In 1952, Gen. Mark Clark replaced Ridgway. Clark took part in the signing of the armistice that ended fighting on the Korean peninsula in July 1953.

Q: What the heck are sugarplums, anyway? -- R.B., Brentwood, Tenn.

A: Sugarplums are a Victorian-era candy. One early version was sugarcoated coriander, a tart that ended in a spicy burst of flavor. Later recipes called for small bits of fruit and nuts, which became the confection we know today.

Q: Where in the Bible can I find the phrase, "Money is the root of all evil"? -- M.H., Chalfont, Pa.

A: You won't. The misquoted phrase is really, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." You'll find that at Timothy 6:10.

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