Feetlebaum wins by a nose over Beetlebaum

News-DemocratJune 13, 2014 

Q. I was wondering whether you may have made a small mistake. In your recent column about the Triple Crown horse races, you refer to the horse in the Spike Jones' "William Tell" overture parody as "Feetlebaum." I always thought it was "Beetlebaum."

-- Don Cooper

A. Can you keep a secret? Until this week, so did I.

I think I first heard the funny routine ("It's Banana moving up through the bunch!") on the Dr. Demento show, which I used to faithfully tape-record in the wee hours of Sunday morning off the old KADI-FM (I think). Ever since, I, too, have always said "and Beetlebaum" in that dry singsong which makes the name an obvious loser.

In fact, I typed in "Beetlebaum" almost without thinking in my initial draft of Tuesday's column. But since I try hard to double-check all my facts, I decided to look up "Beetlebaum." Much to my astonishment, I found I apparently have been mishearing it for 40 years.

Here's the scoop: Winstead Sheffield Glenndenning Dixon Weaver was well-loved at Stanford University for his pranks and practical jokes. Adopting the nickname "Doodles," he used that unofficial master of comedy degree as a stepping stone to radio, nightclubs and movies, specializing in manic comic sports narrations. For example, he narrated the Disney cartoon ""Hockey Homicide" with Goofy and several others.

In 1946, he joined the Spike Jones Radio Show. There, he invented the character Professor Feitlebaum (or Feetlebaum), who was known for his spoonerisms. So in many of his biographies, you'll find it mentioned that he was adamant that the horse is Feetlebaum, not Beetlebaum.

Personally, I think the double "b" sounds funnier, but it was his routine. You are correct, however, that Doodles, who at age 71 committed suicide in 1983 over his failing health, is the uncle of "Alien" actress Sigourney Weaver.

Feeling their oats

I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but Sam Catalano may have found another reason why Steve Coburn, the owner of California Chrome, was out of line after losing the Belmont Stakes.

Coburn complained that his horse finished fourth because other horses had not competed in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness and were fresher. In my column, I pointed out that other Triple Crown winners also faced fresh horses in the Belmont.

But Catalano took that one step further: Not only had past champions faced fresh horses in the Belmont, but at least five had raced between the Preakness and Belmont. Sir Barton, Omaha and Count Fleet won the Withers Stakes, Citation took the Jersey Stakes and Whirlaway swept a $2,500 allowance race.

You apparently have good horse sense, Sam. Thanks.

Bugging you again

A tip of the Answer Man brain to Lisa Schott Rhodes for suggesting a local supply of helpful garden predators.

In the St. Louis area, people have found Mother Nature's answer to pest problems at the Worm's Way store at 1225 N. Watson since 1989. There, you can buy nematodes, lacewing eggs and many other natural remedies. Call them at 314-994-3900 or order online at www.wormsway.com.

"I compost myself for worms, and my garden is looking great!" she wrote. "You won't find any pesticides in their shop."

From little acorns...

... grow the lost story of how the Blackjack area between O'Fallon and Troy was named?

Could be, suggests both reader Richard Davis and Brian Keller, president of the O'Fallon Historical Society whose additional digging found this tidbit from the Troy Historical Society:

"At first the settlement was known as Black Hawk. Some claimed it was named after the chief of a tribe of Indians who were driven back by early settlers. Why the name was changed to Black Jack is obscure history."

One guess is that it may have been due to a prevalent kind of tree which "cast a dark shadow and deep pall over the land." "The Gazetteer of Madison County (1866)" said this tree was the "Quercus nigra -- Black Jack." But the Quercus nigra is actually the water oak, so perhaps the writer meant Quercus marilandica, which is the true blackjack oak, Keller speculates.

Slick coin

One last note on Creotina Oil, the cure-all potion that J. Edward Yoch brought to Belleville for a short time in the 1930s.

Reader B.J. Schulte was kind enough to send photos of a gold-colored coin that the Creotina folks apparently handed out for publicity.

On one side, the words "Death Judgment Heaven Hell" surround an inner circle that reads "Remember, Sin Not." On the flipside is "Worth More Than Gold -- So Are Creotina Remedies, Belleville, Ill." with, of course, "Money Back Guarantee."

Today's trivia

What local native was in two famous "Bridge" movies?

Answer to Thursday's trivia: The most recent trivia question was my attempt to pay homage to pitching star Bob Welch, who died Monday at a young 57. His career high of 27 wins for Oakland in 1990 remains the last time anyone has won at least 25 games in a season. Then, during the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, he served as a pitching coach for the Netherlands. His 23-year-old son Riley, who pitched in the Dodger organization in 2012, became a pitching coach this spring at Presentation College in Aberdeen, S.D.

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 618-239-2465.

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