Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Personal Asides: And There are Those Who Say Topinka Never Cared for Me!…The Return of the Trivia Contest Thanks to Frank Nofsinger (Without Search Engines).


There are several things to be said about this old picture. First is, as lawyer John Curry once pointed out to me over lunch, Judy Baar Topinka was a real looker. Looking at this picture, I also think so. This photo was taken while she was a state senator and pro-lifer at her fund-raising dinner where I was a speaker…oh, sometime in the `80s. The kids were eager young Republicans who worked for the party. Notice her inscription, would you please? It says: To Tom Roeser—the best of the Republican Party. Sen. Judy Baar Topinka. If she sees this photo, she will be gnawing at her knuckles: how could I have ever--?

I reproduce this only to say that there were times when we were allies. Now, having said that she was a looker, how about me? Am I not a looker as well, fit for “Gentleman’s Quarterly”? What? You say I was then stocky, fat-faced, grey-haired and double-chinned? All of which proves I haven’t changed a bit. But the picture gives me pause and brings to me perhaps the deserved criticism of those who say I have been most uncharitable to Ms. Topinka. I have less an unbridled tongue than scathing pen; on reflection, lack of charity to her has been a failing where I must say I have been conspicuous. In this New Year perhaps I shall be a pussy-cat.

Return of Trivia.

Gentlemen and ladies, adopt the honor code and pledge to me you won’t use your search engines. At the request and in honor of Frank Nofsinger, we’re back—and I’ve stored up a lot of questions. With the no-search engine pledge in effect, here’s one: Recall that there have been two United States presidents who reached adulthood with other than their birth names. That said, who are they and what were their birth names?

In this second one, you can use any standard old-media source if you wish because the questions are very tough.

In the film “Becket,”[1964] with Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, John Gielgud, Martita Hunt and Pamela Brown, Thomas Becket, a libertine until his conversion, is killed by nobles following the order of the Norman oppressor Henry II to kill him. Two errors are contained in the previous sentence and one is a seeming error but is not: Can you definitively correct the two without engine research? Obviously any old-media…books, magazine articles…sources can be used.

And another: Cecil B. DeMille’s film “Union Pacific” [1939] with Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea and Robert Preston winds up with Leland Stanford driving the golden spike home making every other type of transcontinental travel obsolescent. In the film, Stanford fails to hit the spike on the first go-round, sparking a round of spectator laughter. Was that accurate or not? (I’ll give you the source of the movie history when you complete the quiz). First one who gets the answers wins. But these are so tough, anybody who gets the answers gets a cheer. On the “Becket” question, we need some kind of annotation not a guess.


  1. William J Clinton = William J. Blyth III

    Gerald R. Ford = Leslie L. King, Jr.

  2. Awelcome return to the brain teasers - I think that the two Presidents would be Gerry Ford ( can't remmeber his birth name) and Bubba Clinton ( ditto - both Presidents assumed the names of the guys their Moms remaried) as for Becket - among the female actresses wasn't Peter O'Toole's old lady one of the leads? She was a Welsh actress with a Celtic name, as I recall the other two named were too Anglo-Saxon - perfidious Albion and all.

  3. gerald king ford and bill blythe clinton

  4. Tom- After consulting Wikipedia, I would say that Thomas Becket became a "libertine" for political reasons, but well AFTER his conversion (as he was as you may say a Deacon or higher). The second error is that he was killed WITH the duplicity of nobles, but not BY NOBLES. Executioners were commoners.

    Finally, I doubt that the great Stanford had the youth and health to drive any stake. In fact, he may have been deceased by the time of the completion of the UP-

  5. Tom,

    There have been times I thought you'd been hard on others, but don't get too mellow on us!

  6. I think the golden spike incident is true. I've read several places that a track laying foreman had to be brought in to do the honors when one or both of the great barons failed to drive the final spike linking East and West.


    I'd just be guessing on this one so I'll pass. Here's another one though:

    Name the hit stage play that was based on the story of Becket's martyrdom and name its unlikely author and the unusual thing about the actors' lines in it.