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Sharon Gurney shies from the spotlight

Q: What happened to the beautiful British actress Sharon Gurney? — R.S., Youngstown, Ohio

A: Sharon Gurney Rhodes was born in 1950. She began her acting career in the late 1960s on the London stage and later moved on to television; she also appeared in a few films. In 1970, she married Simon Gough, with whom she later co-starred in “The Corpse.” By the mid-’70s, she retired from acting. Although I could not find any official reason for her retirement, the fact that she had four children early on in her marriage makes me believe she preferred to stay at home and take care of her family. The last I heard, she was living in Norfolk, England.

Q: Why is calamari called calamari? It’s squid. Why not call it that? Have you ever tried it? — D.A., San Francisco

A: “Calamari” is the plural form of “squid” in Italian (singular: calamaro). The word comes from the Latin “calamarium.” As for why it is called calamari and not squid, I suppose someone once decided that calamari sounded more appetizing than squid, and others apparently agreed.

I am told the meat is firm and white with a mild, slightly sweet and almost nutty flavor. No, I have never tried calamari; I don’t eat seafood or meat.

Q: My favorite show as a child was “Captain Kangaroo.” Is Bob Keeshan still alive? — G.L.

A: Robert James “Bob” Keeshan was a TV producer and actor born in 1927. He is, of course, best known as the title character of the children’s program “Captain Kangaroo,” which aired from 1955 to 1984. One role Keeshan is not as well known for is the original Clarabell the Clown on “Howdy Doody.”

Keeshan and his wife were married for 45 years, until her death in 1996; they had three children together. He died in 2004.

Q: I recently saw a 25th anniversary production of “The Phantom of the Opera,” which was staged at the Royal Albert Hall in London and broadcast on PBS. After the production, many former cast members performed excerpts from the show.

Michael Crawford, the original Phantom, was introduced with great fanfare, but he was the only Phantom who did not sing. I am concerned about him. He was, by far, the greatest Phantom. Can you find out why he did not sing? — G.D., Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

A: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” first opened in 1986 at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. On Oct. 2, 2011, a silver anniversary performance of the show was staged. Although reunited with his original Christine, Sarah Brightman, Crawford did not sing. He had just finished performing a matinee of “The Wizard of Oz” at the London Palladium.

Q: My wife and I went to our favorite watering hole, where she said she was going to have a highball. I haven’t heard that term in many years. What is its origin? — Anonymous

A: A highball is a drink that is generally made in an ice-filled tall glass with a shot of a base spirit and topped with a mixer. The term and drink originated in the 1890s. As for the origin of the name “highball,” no one agrees. More than one source says that bartenders called whiskey drinks “balls” during this era. As I mentioned earlier, tall — or “high” — glasses were used for the drink. It is a possibility.

A few common highballs include Cuba Libre, scotch and soda, Seven and Seven, the Moscow Mule and gin and tonic.

Q: What type of cherry tree grows in Washington, D.C.? — F.L., Chestertown, Md.

A: There are at least a dozen different varieties of cherry trees growing in Washington, D.C. The most common is the Yoshino cherry. The tree is described as being fragrant, with white-pink flowers; it has glossy bark and dark green leaves. The tree likes full sun, well-drained soil and grows to be 40 to 50 feet tall. If your local nursery does not have any in stock, I’m sure it can order one for you.

The cherry trees were a gift from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo. Every spring, Washington, D.C., celebrates the National Cherry Blossom Festival to commemorate the gift. This year is the 100th anniversary of the delivery of the 3,000 trees.

Send your questions to Mr. Know-It-All at or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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