Answer Man: Beautiful bridge stars in some famous films

News-DemocratMay 14, 2013 

On a recent "Wheel of Fortune," they showed a Crestor ad that had a beautiful bridge in the background. Where is that bridge located? -- G.W., of Belleville

Sounds like you need to treat yourself to a walk through Central Park in New York City to arguably the most romantic spot in the Big Apple: the Bow Bridge.

"Like a Victorian confection reflected in the waters of Central Park's lake, the Bow Bridge gracefully gathers lovers in real life," they wax poetic at www.centralpark.com.

And, as you've seen, the bridge is a key figure in reel life as well. A popular background for movies, TV and ads, it has provided a memorable setting in such films as "Manhattan," "The Way We Were" and "Keeping the Faith."

Crafted of cast iron, it was designed with Classical Greek refinement during the mid-1800s. When the park was first planned, the commissioners wanted a suspension bridge, but agreed to this low-lying span instead.

Found mid-park at 74th Street, it stretches some 87 feet with a walkway of ipe, a South American hardwood that turns a deep red when wet. It links Cherry Hill with its popular pink, springtime blossoms on one side with the always changing hues of the Ramble woodland on the other.

And just a few years ago, the bridge was further restored to its original grandeur. When first built, the bridge was adorned with eight large, cast-iron urns, which disappeared by the early 1920s. In 2008, craftsmen from the Central Park Conservancy used historic images and what they thought was a model of the original to fashion replicas that now grace the span again.

Of course if you're in Central Park, you'll want to visit the dozen other bridges including the Gapstow Bridge at 59th Street with one of the best views of the New York skyline and the Bank Rock Bridge.

Where can I find those letters and numbers that you can iron onto clothes? -- N.W. of Belleville

Whether you want to hop in your car or let your fingers do the walking, you can make your T-shirts and other apparel letter-perfect in a flash.

If you're an old-fashioned brick-and-mortar shopper, you'll find those decorative items at many area craft stores. I randomly called Ben's in Belleville and Hobby Lobby in Fairview Heights and both immediately assured me that they carried them.

But if you first want to see what's available, you might be amazed by the wealth of possibilities on the Internet. If you search hobbylobby.com for "iron-on letters," you'll find more than 750 products popping up, including Greek letters, hot-pink-and-zebra-striped letters, sports letters, Old English-style letters, sequined letters, etc., etc., etc.

You also can make a bold statement at www.spot98.net, which deserves a letter for variety with 25 fonts, 47 colors, various textures and sizes from a half-inch to a foot tall.

There was a story recently about the fee St. Louis charges street performers -- or "buskers." Where did they come up with that word? -- P.V., of O'Fallon

St. Louis buskers may not like this answer any more than the $100 fee the city now charges them.

First used in the late 1850s, "busker" likely came from the Spanish "buskar," meaning to "seek or wander" just as traveling minstrels did in the Middle Ages.

In Italian, it evolved to buscare, which meant to "procure or gain" just as street performers hope to gain a few euros with their talents. (Today in Rome they're called buscarsi.) In France, it turned into "busquer" for "seek or prowl" -- and was often used to describe prostitutes.

Now, it's a particularly popular British term for anyone who entertains in public for donations. For a complete history, see www.buskerworld.com.

Today's trivia

In what classic movie can you see the actual co-inventor of the polygraph (lie-detector) machine administering a test on a convicted murderer?

Answer to Tuesday's trivia: When American women competed in Olympics gymnastics for the first time in 1936, you can bet a lot of folks in Belleville were rooting, says local historian Bob Brunkow. Coaching the team was Belleville native Gustav "Gus" Heinemann, son of Julius Heinemann, who ran a successful butcher shop for years in the second block of what is now North 11th Street. Gustav became a Turnverein (Turner) instructor, eventually moving to Philadelphia, where he served as director of physical education at Temple University. He trained Roberta Ranck, who became the first Amateur Athletic Union AA-level champion. His 1936 Olympics team didn't medal, but it is said that many of his top gymnasts had to stay home because they couldn't afford traveling to Berlin. In 1959, Heinemann was a member of the first group inducted into the U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 239-2465.

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