Question: I have many fond memories of my childhood. I always think of Mom in her kitchen. She loved to cook and bake. Mom didn't often need a cookbook, but when she did, she used her "Fannie Farmer's Cookbook." Was there really such a person as Fannie Farmer? -- H.W., Pearland, Texas
Answer: Yes, Fannie Merritt Farmer was a real person. She was born in Boston in March 1857. Her parents had unusual plans for their daughter: They wanted her to get a solid education and attend college. After she graduated from high school, she had a stroke that left her paralyzed. Her doctor discouraged further schooling.
In time, Farmer gained some mobility and was able to walk again. During her rehabilitation, she developed a passion for cooking. She studied at the Boston Cooking School until 1889. After that, she became an assistant director; in 1894, she was appointed director.
Farmer's first book, "The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book" (1896), was so popular it became known simply as "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook." It went through more than 20 editions. Her book was significant in that she provided an exact list of ingredients and precise measurements, making the results more dependable. In 1902, she established her own school and named it Miss Farmer's School of Cookery. The school continued to operate until 1944. She died in 1915; she never married.
Q: I grew up in South ern California in the 1960s; radio was a big part of my life. On one station, a young girl would shout out, "Tina Delgado is alive! Alive!" Who is this Tina Delgado? -- A.Z., Torrance, Calif.
A: On Los Angeles radio in the late 1950s and early '60s, disc jockey Don Steele -- also known as "The Real Don Steele" -- would play a recording of a woman shouting, "Tina Delgado is alive! Alive!" between top 40 hits. Steele died of lung cancer in 1997; he never divulged the meaning. Steele was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1995.
Q: One of my daughters used to sing a song that started, "Dilliki Dolliki Dinah, Empress of China." That is all I can remem ber. I thought it was about an empress or someone of nobility in China; how ever, a friend says she thinks it is a ship. Can you clarify this for me? -- M.C.W., Peoria, Ill.
A: The song your daughter used to sing is a children's ballad written by Laura E. Richards called "A Ballad of China." Richards was a noted author of children's books. She lived from 1850 to 1943. Richards and her sister won a Pulitzer Prize in 1917 for a biography of their mother, Julia Ward Howe, the writer of the lyrics to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
Although there was a ship called Empress of China built in 1783, this ballad is not about that ship or any other. "A Ballad of China" is about a Chinese princess who is kidnapped by a man accompanied by a panther. Here is the first stanza of "A Ballad of China":
Her name was Dilliki Dolliki Dinah;
Niece she was to the Empress of China;
Fair she was as a morning of May,
When Hy Kokolorum stole her away.
Q: I am fond of British actor Bob Hoskins. I've seen him in numerous British and American films. Who is he? Has he been acknowledged as the fine actor that he is? -- J.M., Sinking Spring, Pa.
A: Bob Hoskins was born in 1949 in Suffolk, England. In the 1960s, while having a drink in a local pub, he was urged by a friend to go upstairs where auditions were being held for a play. He did, and he got the part -- thus the beginning of his acting career. He has been involved in the industry ever since.
Hoskins has been nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe, and he won a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award for best actor in 1986 for "Mona Lisa." He has the wide approval of critics.
Hoskins is married to his second wife. He has four children -- two from his first marriage and two from his second.
Q: I seem to remember that Christiane Amanpour married a fellow news anchor. Am I correct, and, if so, what is his name? -- G.T., Gadsden, Ala.
A: Christiane Amanpour is the global affairs anchor of ABC News and the chief international correspondent for CNN. She married James Rubin in 1998. Rubin was assistant secretary of state and a spokesman for the U.S. State Department during the Clinton administration. He is a political adviser, a journalist and an adjunct professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. The couple has one son, Darius, who was born in 2000.
Q: I have been watch ing "Gunsmoke" all my life, and I'm still the big gest fan. When the actors are at the saloon drinking "beer," what are they ac tually drinking? -- S.S., Hawthorne, Calif.
A: I checked many different sources and called several local thespians, and they all said the same thing: Years ago, the drink was known as "near beer," but it's just called nonalcoholic beer these days.
Q: Recently, I heard a reading by David Birney. I remember him from ear lier TV days. What was the name of his TV show, and can you provide any other information? -- M.E., Whittier, Calif.
A: David Birney was born in 1939 in Washington, D.C. He starred in the TV series "Bridget Loves Bernie" in the early 1970s. He also played the part of Officer Frank Serpico in the series "Serpico" in the late '70s. He has been a guest actor on numerous TV shows over the years, and he had recurring roles in "St. Elsewhere," "The Love Boat," "Glitter" and others. Birney was married to Meredith Baxter from 1974 to 1989. They had three children together.
Q: I have a true or false question concerning the actor Jamie Foxx. Is he the grandson of the late Redd Foxx? -- R.D.E., Fort Smith, Ark.
A: False. Jamie Foxx's real name is Eric Marlon Bishop. His stage surname is a tribute to Redd Foxx.
Q: Did George Clooney play Jackie's no-good boyfriend, Booker, on "Roseanne"? -- M.T., Owensboro, Ky.
A: You are absolutely correct. Clooney played Booker Brooks in 11 episodes from 1988 to 1991.
Q: Many years ago I saw a movie on TV called "Billy Jack." Sometime later, there was suppos edly a sequel, "The Trial of Billy Jack." Can you tell me if there is any way I could get a copy? -- M.R., Lamar, Colo.
A: The movie "Billy Jack" was released in 1971. It starred Tom Laughlin and Dorothy Taylor. It was actually the second in a series of four movies. The first movie, released in 1967, was called "Born Losers." The third in the series was "The Trial of Billy Jack," which was released in 1974. The fourth movie, "Billy Jack Goes to Washington," was released in 1977. These movies are available on DVD individually or as a set.
Q: Years ago I used to enjoy watching Benny Hill on TV. Since Hill's death, there have been no reruns that I know of. Is his work gone forever? -- E.D., Fort Smith, Ark.
A: "The Benny Hill Show" does not appear to be very popular in the world of reruns. If you have access to a computer, you can buy DVDs of the show on Amazon.com.
Send your questions to Mr. Know-It-All at AskMrKIA@gmail.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.