Q: In the 1950s, my mother was given a recipe for red velvet cake. The story was that a friend of a friend was in a New York City restaurant and enjoyed the unusual cake so much she asked the waiter for the recipe. It was later mailed to her along with a large bill. She sought legal help, but was told she had to pay. She was so infuriated, she made copies of the recipe and handed it out for free to anyone who wanted it. By any chance, do you know anything about this and what restaurant was involved? -- G.H., Pensa cola, Fla.

A: Supposedly it was the Waldorf Astoria hotel. According to researchers of urban legends, this was a popular rumor that spread through much of the country. Similar stories involving recipes for cookies, entrees and cakes from all kinds of establishments have been around for the past 50 years. These researchers contacted many of the hotels or restaurants that were supposedly involved, but the management denied that such a thing ever happened.

The Waldorf Astoria published a cookbook in 2006, and the hotel included the recipe for its famous red velvet cake.

Q: How many ways can you make change for a dollar? -- P.H., Stowe, Vt.

A: There are 293 ways to make change for a dollar.


Q: There is an opening line to a poem: "Laugh, and the world laughs with you;/Weep, and you weep alone." What is the com plete 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: The school color for Harvard is crimson. Is there a story behind this one-color selection? -- H.L., Brick, N.J.

A: Yes, and an old one. During a rowing regatta in 1858, Charles W. Eliot and Benjamin W. Crowninshield provided crimson scarves to their teammates so spectators could easily identify Harvard's crew team from others.

Harvard undergraduates held an unofficial vote on May 6, 1875, to decide the university's color -- magenta or crimson. Crimson won by a wide margin. The school's newspaper, The Harvard Magenta, changed its name to the Harvard Crimson by the next edition. Officially, however, Harvard's color was not voted on and approved by the school officials until 1910.

Q: When was the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile in troduced 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 parti cipant 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: 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., Hemp stead, 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.

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: In the movie "The Caine Mutiny," what was Capt. Queeg's first name? Did he hold the rank of a captain? -- T.S.S., Osceola, Tenn.

A: Humphrey Bogart played the role of Lt. Cmdr. Philip Francis Queeg, the ship's captain. The 1954 film also starred Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, E.G. Marshall and Lee Marvin.

Q: I read someone described as "not one who said funny things, but one who said things funny" many years ago. Unfortunately, I have no idea who this was referring to. Do you? -- K.V.L., Anniston, Ala.

A: You're remembering a phrase that was used to describe comedian Jack Benny. Jack Benny was originally a violinist for vaudeville companies and only stumbled across his comedic abilities during U.S. Navy shows during World War I. After the war, he became a regular on radio, and eventually made the successful transition to the new medium of television.

Q: I came across a book written by Gypsy Rose Lee. Is this the same person as the famous striptease performer? -- O.B.L., Emporia, Kan.

A: The famous burlesque dancer wrote the mysteries "The G-String Murders" and "Mother Finds a Body." Critics call the books entertaining and enjoyable, but not great.

Lee also wrote her autobiography, "Gypsy: A Memoir," in 1957. It was made into a stage play written by Arthur Laurents, Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim. In 1962, a film version was made, starring Rosalind Russell, Natalie Wood and Karl Malden.

Q: Do you have an idea who was "the Unknown Comic" on "The Gong Show"? -- W.B., Ontario

A: Murray Langston, who was a regular on "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour," played the Unknown Comic. Langston was born in 1945 in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. He occasionally does stand-up comedy shows in Las Vegas, and he is active in charitable work.

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).

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