Thursday, June 28, 2012

Best known for something else

Lots of people have heard of the Tommy John Surgery. Done primarily on baseball pitchers, it’s a procedure where they take a tendon from your knee or hip and use it to replace a ligament in your elbow that’s shot.

Today it’s very common, and like I said well known. But how many people know who Tommy John is? My guess is most think he’s the surgeon who invented the procedure. Wrong. He was a major league pitcher who was the very first to undergo this operation. At the time, it was very experimental and risky. It’s not something you can try first with hamsters. And even if you could, how would you even know if the surgery was a success since hamsters can’t grip a baseball? The real inventor of the surgery was Dr. Frank Jobe in 1974.

Still, Tommy John will forever be linked to the surgery, long after his playing career is forgotten (which, to many is already).

But it brings to mind the question (at least to me) of how many other public figures will be remembered for something other than what they did to originally achieve notoriety?

Prime example: Arnold Palmer. Once the Tiger Woods of golf (minus twenty mistresses), his name is now identified, almost exclusively, with that refreshing drink that is half ice tea/half lemonade. I would imagine there is more than one reader who is saying, “Arnold Palmer was a golfer too?”

Quick aside:  When Arnold Palmer orders one of those drinks does he say, "I'll have a me?" 

Shirley Temple was a major Hollywood child star in the ‘30s. She even won a little Oscar. But most folks only the know the name because of the Shirley Temple cocktail – a non-alcoholic drink of ginger ale and a little grenadine.

A variation is a Roy Rogers cocktail. It’s made with cola and grenadine. Roy Rogers was a cowboy movie and TV star.   You didn't mess with Roy.  How scared would horse thieves and bank robbers be if Roy sidled up the bar and ordered cola and grenadine?  "And don't forget that maraschino cherry, podner."   

George Foreman was a heavyweight boxing champ. You might only know him as the grill you bought off the TV.

Mae West was a bawdy movie actress in the ‘20s-‘40s (a Tallulah Morehead wannabe). Now her legacy is a personal flotation device. Sidenote: My favorite Mae West quote -- I'm the lady who works at Paramount all day... and Fox all night.

John Hancock was a great American patriot and statesman.  But to most he owns an insurance company.  And for that matter, Abe Lincoln is remembered as a U.S. President not a vampire killer.


This extends to comic book characters too. Andy Gump was this loveable Sunday funnies schmoe who wound up being the name for portable outdoor toilets. What a tribute!

I’m sure there are others. Can you think of them?


48 comments:

Matthew E said...

Definitely Tim Horton. Was a Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman; known for the insanely successful chain of donut stores he founded.

pumpkinhead said...

Fun post, but not sure I agree. I'm no teenager, but I'm not exactly ancient either, and I remember all those people for what they were originally known for, including Tommy John. Loved the Mae West quote though.

Eric said...

I've been wondering when the Shirley Temple and Roy Rogers would be renamed for someone the kids (or, likely, their parents) have heard of.

unkystan said...

This is true. My friend's kid saw "Pride of the Yankees" for the first time a few years back and asked why his parents would name their kid Lou Gehrig after the disease! Obviously we set him straight.

Anonymous said...

I remember when John Handcock was the guy who signed everything, "Put you John Handcock right here, kid..."

JT Anthony said...

Or the "Roger Clemens," mix equal parts HGH, pathological lying and hubris.

Andy Winneris said...

Irving Thalberg is a little golden man you give to someone on death's door... which actually is pretty apt, if you knew Thalberg.

Roger Owen Green said...

Joe DiMaggio sold Mr. Coffee, Orson Welles would sell no wine before its time.

But I remember Tommy John as a pitcher for the White Sox and the Dodgers, without looking it up (and the Yankees and others as well, I see.)

danrydell said...

Not many people know that the Kansas City Royals were named after pre-Depression appliance store owner Fred Royal.

ESPN did a cool SportsCenter commercial where Palmer mixed his own "Arnold Palmer" in the cafeteria.

Kirk said...

Roy Rogers is also, or used to be as I think they've gone out of business, a fast-food chain specializing in roast beef sandwiches. Upon Roger's death, a local columnist here in Cleveland wrote that a young co-worker only knew him for that reason.

More fast-food. Arthur Treacher, at least back in the 1970s when I was growing up, was better known for fish and chips than acting.

Growing up, I only knew Jimmy Dean for the sausages. Later on, I found out he was a country singer (as well as actor in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER)

The Milner Coupe said...

Nice post, but I think that's a Hollywood thing. Thinking That they're in on the joke and everyone else in America is too dumb to get it. Me thinks it might be the opposite on this topic.

Rob said...

Betsy Palmer is Jason's mother.

June Allyson was the Depends lady.

Wilford Brimley sells oatmeal or diabetes supplies.

NewMexiKen said...

What makes you think Arnold Palmer had fewer mistresses than Tiger Woods?

hst said...

This brings up a question that I've had, that maybe you can get to some Friday: How do you come up with character names for TV/movies? To continue on with your blog from today, think of how many people talk about "pulling a Costanza" or some variant (yeah, these are my friends...I gotta get new friends). What if the "Seinfeld" writers had called the character something else...would we still be caught up in the melody of *that* name? So, for example, when the name "Niles" came up, was it a long, thoughtful process, or did someone just have a friend from high school who had that name and was the connection? Thanks!

The Mutt said...

And who remembers that outstanding quarterback Bob Kleenex?

Mark said...

Shouldn't it be called "Frank Jobe surgery"? Aren't most medical procedures/advancements/discoveries named after the doctor and not the patient? Why are baseball players the exceptions (Tommy John surgery, "Lou Gehrig's Disease")? There's no "Brian Piccolo Disease" or "Chuck Hughes Disease" or "Willis McGahee surgery," is there? Frank Jobe got a raw deal.

Barry in Portland said...

"...Bob Kleenex".

coffee coming out of my nose.

Max Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RCP said...

That's a great West quote - and she delivered it (and pulled it off) at age 84 in Sextette.

Don't Bogart that joint was popular for a while.

Mathilda Buttersworth was a bit player in the early 20s, but her popularity was short-lived as audiences grew tired of her syrupy personality.

the same chris said...

Ken Levine. Former TV writer, now only remembered as that blogger.

Ken Levine said...

Chris,

Now there's the PERFECT example of what I'm talking about!

scottmc said...

Paul Newman is the name that first came to mind. My daughter knows the voice of 'Doc Hudson' from CARS and the face from Newman's Own products. While channel surfing we came across COOL HAND LUKE and she recognized him from the popcorn label.

Cap'n Bob said...

Don't feel like the Lone Ranger, Ken. I remember all of them. I watched Tommy John pitch for the Yankees in the World series last century, and he was great.

Another one: Bozo. DO today's callow youth know he was a clown?

Tim W. said...

I thought a Tommy John was penis enlargement surgery. I should have known a doctor I found over the internet was a hack.

Tallulah Morehead said...

I have had the same problem. When people say "Morehead" today, fewer of them are reffering to my 90 utterly-legendary movies than are requesting additional oral sex. And I just mean people speaking to me in person!

Tallulah Morehead said...

PS. The only Shirley Temple I know of is Shirley Temple Black, which is a "Shirley Temple" made with Russian vodka. It's not so much a temple as a saloon.

DBenson said...

On one of his TV episodes Jack Benny, in a sophisticated restaurant, asks for his usual. The waiter nods. "One Shirley Temple."

A few moments later, Jack sips his drink and gags. "There's gin in my Shirley Temple!" Waiter replies, "Shirley's a big girl now."

Paul Duca said...

Paul Revere also served the new country..but now, in the words of that Emmy-winning ingenue June Foray "I've got all the pots and pans I need, sweetie".

Dolly Madison said...

Rube Goldberg

William Gatevackes said...

Buster Brown. Once a comic strip,now children's shoes.

DBenson said...

Buster Brown, a wildly popular newspaper cartoon about a century ago, was known to baby boomers solely as a brand of kids' shoes.

Skippy Peanut Butter was allegedly an unauthorized spinoff of a once-huge comic strip of the same name. According to a lawsuit brought by heirs (Charles Schulz was one of their expert witnesses), the type face and fence backdrop were modeled on iconic graphics from the comic to create the illusion of an "official" Skippy product. They lost, and Skippy Peanut Butter is still around. The comic strip is long forgotten.

Today Betty Boop is heavily merchandised and widely recognized, but I suspect fairly few people realize she was an animated star in the 30s (a lot of her merchandise is 50s themed for some reason). Sadly, very few of her cartoons are available lately. I suspect it's a case of one entity owning the films and another owning the character.

chalmers said...

Only aware of their use in marshmallow treats, my young son was flabbergasted when I offered to serve him a bowl of Rice Krispies for breakfast.

Ryan Paige said...

I knew of Robert Plant as a member of the Honeydrippers before I knew him as a member of Led Zeppelin.

Where this sort of thing seems to come up more often for me, though, is bridges, highways and public buildings.

"Dealey" is the place Kennedy got shot not a newspaper publisher (and Kennedy may someday be just an airport rather than a former president to many). "Earle Cabell" is a building where people go to court, not a former mayor. Stemmons is a freeway, not a prominent Dallas businessman.

How many people who fly out of LaGuardia every day could tell you who Fiorello LaGuardia was?

And so on.

Ref said...

A touching story I heard about Paul Newman was that, upon his death, some of the kids who'd been beneficiaries of his Summer camp were bewildered by all the acclaim. They thought he was just "Paul" the old guy who mowed the lawns and hung out with them at lunch telling jokes.

Jim said...

The example that first came to my mind was Jimmy Dean, country singer ("Big Bad John") and variety show host (whose show featured Jim Henson as Rowlf the Dog long before the Muppet Show).

He is now primarily known as a brand of sausage.

HourOfLead said...

MTV.
Before they became the all Teen Pregnancy Channel, they actually played music. I know, holy shit.

Hey Ken, can you make this happen?
http://soulsuckingapathy.blogspot.com/2012/06/movies-they-should-make-cheers-scorsese.html

Rishi Mutalik said...

Hi Ken. I have a question for Friday. What are your thoughts on the death of Nora Ephron? I always found her writing for romantic comedies to be genius. I always saw similarities between Harry and Sally and early Sam and Diane. Anyway her films have become like Fraiser and Cheers for me. Perfect for slow and dull days.

Anonymous said...

Dolly Madison: 19th century First Lady and stylish White House hostess. Now corporate baker of tasy tidbits in competition with Hostess.

Breadbaker said...

Paul McCartney, lead singer for Wings.

cadavra said...

Going way, way back: Jumping from a high place, usually to commit suicide, was known as "doing a Brodie" (sometimes spelled "Brody"), after Steve Brodie, a 19th century fellow who claimed to have jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and (obviously) survived. Few people believed he actually did it, but it was never disproven.

Cap'n Bob said...

I must be ancient. I knew Buster Brown was a comic strip. He and Tige used to be in commercials for the shoes. Remember Andy Devine in ANDY'S GANG? I also watched the Jimmy Dean show before he became the hog butcher of the world.

SgtBailey said...

Guillotine.

imjtaylor79 said...

Ken, next time you are calling an M's game, (god their offense is dreadful) you need to try to build up steam to rename irritable bowel syndrome for it's most famous afflicted mlb player, Franklin Gutierrez. I like Guti Booty. It's so much gentler on the ears. I think it's a winner.

Wayne said...

Candy eaters might be shocked to learn Baby Ruth also was a ball player.

Oh Henry also wrote short stories.

And Three Musketeers was a book by Alexander Dumas.

Kirk said...

There seems to be a bit of controversy as to whom the Baby Ruth candy was actually named after. This from Wikipedia:

"Although the name of the candy bar sounds like the name of the famous baseball player Babe Ruth, the Curtiss Candy Company traditionally claimed that it was named after President Grover Cleveland's daughter, Ruth Cleveland. The candy maker, located on the same street as Wrigley Field, named the bar "Baby Ruth" in 1921, as Babe Ruth's fame was on the rise, over 30 years after Cleveland had left the White House, and 17 years after his daughter, Ruth, had died. The company did not negotiate an endorsement deal with Ruth, and many[who?] saw the company's story about the origin of the name to be a devious way to avoid having to pay the baseball player any royalties. Curtiss successfully shut down a rival bar that was approved by, and named for, Ruth, on the grounds that the names were too similar."

Liggie said...

Elliot Gould. One generation knows him for appearing in many landmark movies of the 1970s; another knows him as Ross and Monica's father.

roger said...

Wasn't Will Rogers named after a turnpike?

Dan Jenkin said...

Hey, Ken, it's an open secret in golf circles that Arnold was a world class womanizer who probably made Tiger look like an adultery piker. It was a different era, though, and the press still respected privacy (especially for guys they loved, like Arnold.) A golfer hearing that Arnold got around would be about as surprised as journalists are that Anderson Cooper is gay.

By the way, those privacy norms only changed three years ago, when a strange car accident declared open season on Tiger's private life. What other public figure, absent abuse of power or legal issues, has ever been treated that way?

Of course, Tiger certainly was (is?) a pig. Who among his peers is, too, but the press has chosen not to report?