Irrepressible Imogene Coca

Wacky Imogene Coca (1908-2001) may be best remembered for playing opposite Sid Caesar in Your Show of Shows, which ran Saturday nights on NBC from 1950 to 1954. However, folks under 60 may remember her as Aunt Jenny on The Brady Bunch or the patently annoying Aunt Edna on the cinematic triumph, National Lampoon’s Vacation.

edna

Originally deemed Emogeane, she was born in Philadelphia to José Fernandez de Coca, a violinist and vaudeville band leader, and Sadie Brady Coca, a dancer who also performed in a magician’s act. SADIE BRADY COCA. Awesome.

“I began as one of those horrible little children who sing with no voice,” Coca said of her early training. By the time she was 13, however, she found herself tap dancing, somersaulting, and dancing ballet. She got her first job in the chorus of the Broadway musical When You Smile, and later went on to win the second-ever Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1951 for Your Show of Shows. She continued to appear on comedy and variety series throughout the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.

The name Imogene was first recorded as the name of the heroine in Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline, based on legends concerning the early Celtic British King Cunobeline. Until a few months ago, I was not aware that any other Imogene existed on the face of the earth. Then, while flipping through a copy of Southern Living, I noticed the Nashville store, Imogene & Willie.

In fact, the mid-year tally of the most popular baby names of 2014 puts Imogen (sans e) in the number one spot, according to the baby naming website Nameberry.com. Any of your pregnant friends considering Imogen? Why not consider King as well? Here is Imogene with her second husband, King Donovan, and their poodle named Ford. Imogene_Coca_and_King_Donovan_1968

On a foggy night in 1973, while driving to their dinner theater performance in Florida, she and Donovan collided with another car. Donovan sustained a slight leg injury, but the rear-view mirror entered Coca’s right eye, smashing her cheekbone. Plastic surgery and a cosmetic lens covered her now-blind eye for the rest of her career, which resumed with her long stint in Broadway’s On the Twentieth Century beginning in 1978.

A devoted animal lover, she once bought a crippled duck for 60 cents while vacationing in California. Per www.imdb.com, she nursed the bird back to health on the terrace of her Manhattan penthouse. (By the way, when Jimmy Fallon accepted Stephen Colbert’s Emmy two nights ago, he said, “If you don’t know who you are, go to imdb.com; it’s very comprehensive.”)

Coca died from natural causes at the age of 92, twice-widowed and childless, but her legacy lives on. Performers including Carol Burnett, Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg and Tracey Ullman all cite Coca as an influence. Carl Reiner, pictured below, admitted, “She worked harder than any of us.”

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Cat Cora, Chic Chef

Successful, smart, pretty, AND a good cook: Cat Cora is a quadruple threat.

Successful, smart, gorgeous, AND a good cook: Cat Cora is a quadruple threat.

Food Network junkies already know Cat Cora. For the rest of us (despite my addiction to all things food, I haven’t watched a cooking show since canning cable a few years back), let’s look more closely at Miss Catherine Ann “Cat” Cora.

Cora made history in 2005 as the first female to win the title of Iron Chef America. But her hard work in the culinary field started long before that.

Born in 1967 in Jackson, Mississippi, Cora was introduced to the food world as daughter and granddaughter of restauranteurs. Her father Sprio’s Greek heritage and her own southern roots are reflected in much of what Cora does in the kitchen even today.

A decision to enroll at Culinary Institute of America came only after receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Physiology and Biology at the University of Southern Mississippi. Her television debut came later (1999) with Food Network’s Melting Pot. In 2004, she co-hosted Food Network’s reality show, Kitchen Accomplished. That next year was especially busy: Besides her Iron Chef win, Cora co-founded Chefs For Humanity, “a grassroots coalition of chefs and culinary professionals guided by a mission to quickly be able to raise funds and provide resources for important emergency and humanitarian aid, nutritional education, and hunger-related initiatives out in the world.”

She continued to balance her food persona with that of humanitarian when named Executive Chef at Bon Appetit magazine as well as spokesperson for UNICEF in 2006. In 2008, she ventured into gaming territory by voicing a role for the video game Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine. (That there is such a thing blows my mind.)

Inducted into the Culinary Hall of Fame in 2012, Cora has an amazing resume of which we’ve hardly touched on. It would take far too long to go over it all, so let me instead send you here for her restaurants and here for cooking shows. As well, she has a cookware line, cookbooks, and specialty ingredients, all found on her website.

Personal note: My family was lucky enough to enjoy a meal at Cora’s Kouzzina on Disney’s Boardwalk in Orlando, Florida. There, my oldest daughter enjoyed her first Greek lasagna and I had a cocktail I’ll never forget. The Smoked Turkey blended whiskey (Wild Turkey, of course), black cherry bourbon, grenadine, lemonade, hickory smoke (just a hint), and a garnish of Luxardo gourmet maraschino cherries. It was amazing. Sadly, Kouzzina–Greek for “kitchen”–will close its doors on September 30.

Unable to leave my food blogginess behind, I'll add a big ol' photo of our food at Kouzzina.

Unable to leave my food blogginess behind, I’ll add a big ol’ photo of our food at Kouzzina.

Busy professionally, Cora is also busy at home with her four kiddos: Zoran, Caje, Thatcher, and Nash–each a contender for future BoFN posts. While parenting is never straightforward or easy, Cora and her wife went the extra mile by each carrying at least one of their babies. Which underscores a quote attributed to her at BrainyQuotes.com:

Even when you have doubts, take that step. Take chances. Mistakes are never a failure – they can be turned into wisdom.

Through her work as a chef, restauranteur, culinary entrepreneur, television personality, humanitarian, mom, and wife, Cora has repeatedly been willing to take huge risks. And without these risks, the culinary world would be that much poorer. Go, Cat Go!

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Special Sunday Edition: Moniker Madness Time!

“Every time I sign a ball I thank my lucky stars I wasn’t born Covelski or Wambgnass or Peckingpaugh”–Mel Ott

Mel Ott,  looking as if he just tried to sign his name "Wambgnass."

Mel Ott, looking as if he just tried to sign his name “Wambgnass.”

Ol’ Mr. Ott may be happy for not being any of the names above,  but he never would have won the annual minor league baseball Moniker Madness competition with his name.  He may be a 500-home run Hall-of-Famer, but we at The Blog of Funny Names march to a different drummer.  We’d sooner idolize the likes of past Moniker Madness winners, like Rock Shoulders, Will Startup and Sicnarf Loospstok, the latter of whom was aided by some late ballot-stuffing by the BOFN staff to win last year’s contest.  This year, another 75 amazing and ridiculous names are in the running–you can cast your official vote HERE through midday Thursday.

But the poll that really counts is the one we run, where we let our readers select their favorites.   Five of the current top 10 in the standings are profiled below–you can vote for your choice at the bottom of the page.

But first, something completely different.  I can’t help but mention that some of this year’s names seem to fall into some distinct categories–divisions, if you will.  These divisions are:

The “Have Baseballs, Will Travel” division,  including Tommy Toledo, Montana DuRapau and Montreal Robertson;  The “What’s on the Menu” division, starring Mark Hamburger, Joey Pankake and Renzo Martini;  the “I’m Masquerading as a Celebrity” division, with Burt Reynolds and Joan Baez;  and the “With a Name Like This, I Should Have Been a Porn Star,” division comprised of  Steel Russell,  Brock Dyxhoorn and Kieran Lovegrove.

OK, that’s out of my system.  Now, here are the five BOFN nominees you can vote for on this page–all of them are in the top 10 in the Moniker Madness standings as of this writing.  As per last year, I’ll play my favorite name game,  which is speculating what these names sound like their owners should have been if they weren’t baseball players.

Brooks Pounders–Who he is: a journeyman minor league pitcher in the KC Royals organization.  With a name like that, you’d figure he’d be pounding the strike zone, and he has averaged slightly less than 3 walks per nine innings in his 6 year career.  Unfortunately, he’s still in A ball, three levels below MLB.  Who I think his name sounds like?  The IBO Cruiserweight boxing champion of the world.

Venn Biter–Who his is: a 2013 outfield draft choice by the Phillies, currently laboring in the Gulf Coast Rookie League.  Who I think his name sounds like? Count Dracula’s nephew.

Tommy Toledo–Who he is:  a pitcher in The Milwaukee Brewers organization.  Who I think his name sounds like?  President of the Longshoremen,  local #4127.

Damien Magnifico–Who he is:  another Brewers pitcher–an embarrassment of funny names for the Brew Crew.  Who I think his name sounds like?  The Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

No, this is not Joey Pankake

No, this is not Joey Pankake

Joey Pankake–Who he is: a 2014 7th round draft choice of the Detroit Tigers,  playing right here in Connecticut in the NY-Penn League.  Who I think his name sounds like?  A less than successful mafia hit man from Brooklyn,  played by Joe Pesci.

This is.

This is.

 

With 75 names to chose from, we’ll allow write in votes.  Heck, vote for your own kid in little league if his–or her–name is funny.

 

 

 

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Mo’ne Davis and Jyoti Amge – Little Leaguers and Little People Headline Funny Names in the News 92

Howdy doody my friends! It’s time for another rip-roarin’ edition of Funny Names in the News, and I must say, it’s good to be FNITNin’ again!!

This Friday has me following a pretty breakneck schedule with anatomy lab in the morning, followed by MCAT class and an advisor meeting in the afternoon, so let’s work through FNITN in similarly breakneck fashion! Whoop dee doo!

Starting us off this week is Amazing! Astounding! Extraordinary! correspondent AMB! who describes herself as pocket-sized (in name only), brings us a pint-sized update on a tiny little lady:

Jyoti Lange. Bigger than a breadbox?

Jyoti Amge. Bigger than a breadbox?

Jyoti Amge, the “world’s smallest woman” according to the Guinness Book of World Records, will be on American Horror Story next season. Amazing picture of her and co-star Jessica Lange [over there ---->] – Jyoti is truly pocket-sized!

Thank you Amb!

Movin on to the great world of sports, where People Whacking Things Over A Net correspondent, Marvelous Mark Sackler, makes my life easy by writing his own brilliant update for this funny-named nugget from the world of tennis:

“Giving the lie to the notion that tennis is a funny-name challenged sport, the US Open qualifying tournament kicked off with some great names on both sides of the draw.   Among the men, standouts include the mellifluously named Thanasi Kokkinakis, the backwardly named Taylor Fritz and the unfairly named Tennys Sandgren.  (How could anyone ever hope to win a tennis match against somebody named Tennys?)  Over on the women’s side, notable names include the over-r’ed Lara Arruabarrena (try saying that five times fast with proper Spanish rolled “rr’s”), the quintessentially  American-named Tornado Black and adjective defyingly- named  Luksiaka Kumkhum.  One can only hope that they all make it into the main draw just to see how the TV commentators handle these handles.”  – Mark “The Shark” Sackler

In other hard-hitting news, our old pal Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin recently beat Daniel “Real Deal” Geale by 3rd round knockout. Given Golovkin’s recent history, a knockout victory isn’t surprising, but over a top 3 middleweight… that’s darn impressive. Perhaps Triple G’s fists were flying at 3G speeds!

A pretty fancy photo array. And in case "Fancy" isn't your summer earworm of choice, maybe Iggy is telling Barack to "Call Me Maybe." Whatever happened to Carly Rae Jepsen anyway?

A pretty fancy photo array. And in case “Fancy” isn’t your summer earworm of choice, maybe Iggy is telling Barack to “Call Me Maybe.” Whatever happened to Carly Rae Jepsen anyway?

Heading over to important international diplomacy matters, Being Myself correspondent Dave is thrilled to announce that a funny-named person (Barack Obama) sang the song “Fancy” by FNITN mainstay Iggy Azalea, who was most recently seen having a bucket of ice dumped over her head (but for a good cause, of course!)

Spotted elsewhere: Angel Haze and Ireland Baldwin doing things.

Mo'ne Davis on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Only slightly cooler than my team's picture going on my mom's fridge when I was 13.

Mo’ne Davis on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Only slightly cooler than my team’s picture going on my mom’s fridge when I was 13.

Circling back to small things and sports things, the Little League World Series has brought an impressive young lady named Mo’Ne Davis into the public eye. So much so that she’s landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Not only that, but the Happy Hurler is the first Little Leaguer ever to grace the cover of that esteemed publication.

And lastly, in earth-shatteringly random news, Jimmy Kimmel’s “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” segment has let us know that just in case Cookie Monster kicks the cookie jar and needs a replacement, we’ve got BoFN legend (and world-saver) Dikembe Mutombo Mplondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo ready to pick up the slack and fill in for the poor blue fella! Just check out 1:54 of the video below, and hear the resemblance for yourelf!

Alright, that’s it for now. I have an important appointment with a bunch of formaldehyde in the morning. Enjoy your Fridays everyone!

 

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A Special Field Dispatch – Piippa Tandefelt!

Hey ho, Funny Names Fans! A ‘special’ report here from the field in lovely Finland, where on a wander around the scenic Suomenlinna island fortress yesterday we ran into a lovely name – Piippa Tandefelt.

Piippa is the creator of the Suomenlinna Toy Museum, a beautiful house showcasing the history of toys, including some rarities, weird little things, and toy monkeys from as far back as the early 19th century. It’s full of all sorts of toys and dolls and things – they weren’t playing around when gathering up the collection!

But more importantly for the audience of this blog, it was founded by Piippa Tandefelt. She was born in 1939 and bought her first toys for her daughter in the early 1960s. She eventually worked as a ceramic artist, getting an inside look at the sometimes elaborate methods of toymaking that yielded some of the more splendid items in her collection.

Leslie posing in front of the toy museum, next to a blue penguin and a steady stream of German tourists.

Leslie posing in front of the toy museum, next to a blue penguin and a steady stream of German tourists.

She started collecting antiques in the 70s, partially as a response to the single-use craze of the time, of plastic furniture and buying everything new. The toy museum was founded in 1985 in the cellar of the family’s house and it’s been there in the spot ever since, attracting tourists from all over the world, particularly Germany if yesterday’s sample was in any way representative (then again, from my experience there’s no place you can go in the world where a group of German tourists isn’t already there waiting for you).

If you’ve ever wanted to see some really old teddy bears on a historical island fortress, stop by there when you’re in the neighborhood. I don’t know if there’s any other place you can.

Also, the cinnamon buns in the cafe are pretty damn tasty. Grab one of those too. And get me one if you can. Mmhmm.

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