Q. I recently watched a documentary about Dana Brown, the well-known St. Louis coffee magnate, but it did not mention what became of his Safari coffee. Is it still sold? — C.J., of Cahokia
A. Through his charitable trust, the late adventurer has been perking up worthy local causes to the tune of $62 million since his death in 1994 at age 89.
But those who came to love their jolt from Brown’s coffee in the morning no doubt were saddened to see the brand eventually go to the grave with him. Daniel Watt, who handles the Brown trust at U.S. Bank in Clayton, Mo., couldn’t find exactly when, only that it seemed to disappear from shelves as commercials that featured Brown’s adventures faded from your television screen.
Remember the one in which he showed off the ostrich egg that was “bigger than a 1-pound can of my Safari coffee”? Or how about the one in which he showed off a roly-poly lion cub, “so fat he can hardly walk.” And, of course, there was that time when Brown found himself the target of a charging black rhinoceros.
“We just wanted pictures of the rhino’s baby,” he told viewers. “Unfortunately, nobody explained that to the rhino.”
The commercial then showed the incensed animal chasing down Brown’s hunting car and ramming its horn through the radiator.
“It wasn’t really a fair race,” Brown said. “She hit us before we got into second gear. We did a little better on foot.”
It’s all even more remarkable when you consider the humble beginnings of this self-made multimillionaire. One of 12 children born into a dirt-poor West Virginia family, Brown left home at 15 to work as a lumberjack and cowboy and, at times, simply to ride the rails as a hobo, according to a biography put together by Jim Kirchherr on KETC-TV.
At 18, he took a job as a Fuller Brush salesman, for which he didn’t just walk from door to door — he ran, he said. That’s when a stroke of luck hit. A fellow Fuller salesman took him home for a meal, during which Brown met his friend’s father — an executive for the Manhattan Coffee Co. Finding his life’s calling, Brown moved to St. Louis in 1944 and eventually did so well selling coffee, he bought and became president of the Manhattan brand.
By 1950, his success allowed him to take his first African safari. Soon, he was flying off to India or Africa almost every spring and fall. When Nestle bought Manhattan and frowned on Brown’s gallivanting, Brown quit to start Dana Brown Private Brands in 1966 when he was 61 years old. Soon, Brown started brewing up the first Safari commercials.
For the next 20 years, Brown would added to the more than 400 canisters of films that documented his travels to the wildest areas of Asia and Africa. Even when a poacher’s snare nearly forced the amputation of his left leg in the mid-1980s, Brown, then 84 and unable to walk, went on a final safari in 1989, wheelchair and all. His movies are now part of the film and media archive at Washington University in St. Louis.
Just months after his death, the Dana Brown Charitable Trust was created to benefit disadvantaged children and promote local cultural and zoological causes. In the past 20 years, the trust, with assets in excess of $50 million, has distributed $62 million, including a $3 million grant to endow the chair of St. Louis Zoo’s chief executive officer and $1 million to renovate the St. Louis Central Library’s children’s section in addition to helping St. Louis Children’s Hospital, KETC, the Humane Society of Missouri and a host of others.
Now, however, the only Safari coffee I can find is a company started by Marc Jennett in October 1990 and which still serves the San Diego area but has no links to Brown (safaricoffee.com). Those who remember Brown can relive his thrilling adventures and colorful commercials in two video biographies available at www.danabrowncharitabletrust.org. And, while you’re there, don’t forget that qualifying organizations in St. Clair and Madison counties are eligible to apply for grants.
Q. Does anyone still buy and sell LP records? The two that I had bought from either moved or went out of business. — Steve Ruhmann, of Waterloo
A. You’ll probably have to go to St. Louis, but I’m betting several stores may be seeing increased traffic now that annual LP sales quadrupled from 2007 to 2011, when nearly 4 million were sold.
Here are three of my favorites: Euclid Records at 19 N. Gore Ave. (www.euclidrecords.com); the Record Exchange since 1977 at 5320 Hampton Ave. (www.recordexchangestl.com); and, of course, Vintage Vinyl, which closed its Granite City store in 2007 but is still going strong at 6610 Delmar in the University City Loop. For more, try searching for “LP vinyl records St. Louis.” If anyone knows of a metro-east outlet, let me know.
Who created the Rolling Stones’ famous tongue-and-lip logo?
Answer to Wednesday’s trivia: Most people probably have heard of the A-B-AB-O blood types because they are crucial for transfusions. Many also have heard of the Rh-positive and Rh-negative types because they, too, can affect blood donations. However, many other blood types have been discovered, including the Duffy type, which can indicate your susceptibility to malaria. There is also a Lewis type, which affects your ability to fight off a bacterium that causes stomach ulcers. And, Native Americans and East Asians appear to have a Diego factor in their blood, which helped prove that “Native” Americans originally came from Asia by crossing the Alaskan land bridge thousands of years ago.