Q. I’ve always been a fan of those William Shatner commercials for Priceline.com. In the really old ones, he used his friendship with Leonard Nimoy. I’m wondering if the actress portraying his daughter in the recent commercials is actually his daughter.
— Michael Dohm, of Belleville
A.It seems pretty safe to say you’re not a nerd or a wonk because you apparently have never watched “The Big Bang Theory.”
Shatner does have three daughters from the first of his four marriages, but they were born on stardates well in the past —Melanie in 1964, Lisabeth in 1960 and Leslie in 1958. The young blonde who started helping the 84-year-old Enterprise captain hawk Priceline is none other than the super-popular 29-year-old Kaley Cuoco, who earned the 2013 Critics’ Choice and 2014 People’s Choice awards for her role as Penny on “Big Bang.”
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If you saw the first one, you’ll remember that she popped up in the commercials for the first time in January 2013. It showed Shatner dropping off a young girl at a Far East monastery and then returning to pick her up 20 years later after she had learned the secrets of deal-making.
“You’re a master of monkey-style Kung Fu!” Shatner says just before Cuoco complains that her childhood has been wasted because Priceline has changed its online system to make it much quicker and easier for users. Before the first ad aired, Cuoco (now Cuoco-Sweeting) called it a perfect match.
“The nerdy factor, the Trekkie stuff, it goes with ‘Big Bang’ and it all worked together,” she told the Associated Press. “It’s definitely exciting working with Bill. And who wouldn’t want to be William Shatner’s daughter?”
You can relive the commercials and a funny behind-the-scenes video on YouTube.com. Try searching for “Cuoco Shatner Priceline.”
Q. While growing up in southeast Missouri, I came to love the locally produced Milde Cream Soda. When was it discontinued or could I still find it?
— C.W., of Cahokia
A. Ever hear the expression “as happy as a kid in a candy store”? Well, imagine Frank Miller’s joy growing up in a family that ran a soda factory.
“It was so much fun to grow up around, “ Miller, now 35, told me. “Now being a parent myself, I know that’s probably not the greatest thing, but my brother (Trentis) and I would just have unlimited soda. It was great. I’d tell all my friends, and they were like ‘Whoa!’ They couldn’t understand.
“We always had a fridge full of Coke and Milde Cream Soda and Sunkist and Sprite. I guess my brother would get too wired up on it, so my parents convinced him to like Sprite because it doesn’t have caffeine.”
Frank and Trentis are the great-great-grandsons of Emanuel Milde (MILL-dee), who opened a soda-water company in 1894 in Jackson, Mo. He died six years later, but his sons Alvin and Emanuel Jr. kept the business going and growing. It apparently caught on first with the cream soda you remember so well. Just a cursory search on the Internet will tell you how much people loved it.
“It was really good,” said Miller, who says he has the recipe filed away somewhere, but it will remain a family secret. “I think it was developed by just trial and error by my great-great-grandfather. He eventually just came upon it.”
Over the next century, the company bubbled over. In 1925, for example, it acquired the Coca-Cola franchise in Cape Girardeau as they expanded their market into towns like Poplar Bluff, Sikeston and Kennett. Even now, people remember Frank and Tristen, the company’s last two direct descendants in southeast Missouri, as “the Coke folks.”
But the business began to lose its fizz in the 1980s. Unable to expand its territory, the company found costs outpacing revenue growth. The last bottle of cream soda came off the production line sometime in the late ’80s. The family sold its last bottling plant to an Arkansas company in the summer of 1990.
Now, oddly enough, Frank works in the Jackson courthouse, across the street from where a Cape Girardeau County building and parking lot have replaced his family’s bottling plant. He and his brother now are in the lawyering business. He jokes that as an assistant county prosecutor, he books ’em while his brother, a defense lawyer in Chillicothe, “gets ’em off.’”
Still, the sweet memories remain, and empty Milde bottles can be found for sale on the Internet.
“I remember when I was a kid everybody would ask my dad for some Milde Cream Soda, and he’d hand ’em a case,” Miller said. “So they had some of it around for a while. I have some, but obviously it’s 25 years old, so I don’t think it would be particularly great to drink anymore even though it was really tasty. But I still have crates of it.”
On what show did “Star Trek’s” William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy first appear together? Bonus: As a result of a special effects accident on “Star Trek,” Shatner and Nimoy started to suffer from what common health problem?
Answer to Sunday’s trivia: In 1860, the Lorillard Tobacco Co. celebrated its 100th anniversary by adding $100 bills to random packages of its Century tobacco. According to a table from Hofstra University, that would be akin to finding $2,830 today.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 618-239-2465.