News of the Week: Barnes & Noble, Restaurant Robots, and Would You Love to Be an Oscar Mayer Wiener (Driver)?

In the news for the week ending January 20, 2023, are a hot dog car, a digital fry cook, a new pizza box, some great news for book lovers, and more.


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The Comeback

I knew that Barnes & Noble were doing better than they were just a few years ago, when it looked like they could be yet another bookstore chain to go out of business (I still miss Borders). But I didn’t realize they were doing so well that they’re opening up 30 new stores in 2023.

And as a bonus, they’re opening up these new stores in the former locations of Amazon bookstores. (Yes, Amazon tried to open physical bookstores.)

How did they do it in a world of Amazon and ebooks and a pandemic? First, they hired the guy who turned around the British bookstore chain Waterstones, and he decided to have the stores be more independent, get rid of a lot of the frills, and (gasp!) concentrate on books.

That Is What I’d Truly Like to Be-ee-ee

Are you a college senior? Can you drive? Do you like hot dogs? If you answered “yes” to all three questions, then do I have the perfect job for you!

Oscar Mayer is looking for people to drive their Wienermobile. You’ll visit 20 states and be a spokesperson at 200 different events.

I don’t think I could do it. The spokesperson part would be fine, but I’d be nervous driving that thing. I mean, it’s a part of American pop culture, and I’d be constantly thinking about scratching it or worse. Also, I’ve never driven a food-shaped vehicle.

Now that I’ve read this story, I’m going to have the jingle stuck in my head all day. And now so will you.


Apparently humans flipping burgers isn’t as efficient or fast enough. White Castle is now employing robots to do that chore at many of their locations.

And of course, the robots are named “Flippy.”

Actually, do you really “employ” a robot? It’s not like they have to go through an interview process or get paid and get benefits.

Maybe a Robot Can Design Them?

I never have any problems with them if I’m careful (or the delivery driver is), but apparently it’s time for a new kind of pizza box.

Headline of the Week

“Chelsea Handler Thought the Sun and the Moon Were the Same Until Age 40”

RIP David Crosby, Gina Lollobrigida, Robbie Knievel, Gerrie Coetzee, Carole Cook, Charles White, Dennis Budimir, Robbie Bachman, Arthur Duncan, Hector Ramirez, C. Michael Curtis, Ben Masters, and Michael Levin

David Crosby was a founding member of both the Byrds, known for such songs as “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and sometimes Young), known for such songs as “Teach Your Children” and “Southern Cross.” He died Wednesday at the age of 81.

Gina Lollabrigida appeared in such movies as Beat the Devil, Trapeze, Solomon and Sheba, Come September, and Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell. She died Monday at the age of 95.

Like his father Evel, Robbie Knievel was an expert motorcycle stunt artist and daredevil. He died last week at the age of 60.

Gerrie Coetzee defeated Michael Dokes to become the WBA heavyweight boxing champion in 1983. He died last week at the age of 67.

Carole Cook was a character actress who appeared in such films as Sixteen Candles, The Incredible Mr. Limpit, and American Gigolo; played Dolly Levi in the musical Hello, Dolly!; and appeared on TV shows like Kojak, Maude, and Cagney & Lacey as well as on her good friend Lucille Ball’s sitcoms. She died last week at the age of 98.

Charles White won the Heisman Trophy in 1979. He died last week at the age of 64.

Dennis Budimir was a session guitarist and part of the famous group of musicians known as “The Wrecking Crew.” He played on an astonishing number of albums by many famous artists (including 900 movie and TV soundtracks!). He died recently at the age of 84.

Robbie Bachman was the drummer for Bachman-Turner Overdrive, known for such songs as “Taking Care of Business.” He died last week at the age of 69.

Arthur Duncan fought in World War II, was a regular dancer on The Lawrence Welk Show, appeared in the movie Tap, and was the subject of a controversy on the 1950s series The Betty White Show when viewers complained that a Black man was dancing on the show. (White said, “He stays. Live with it.”) He died earlier this month at the age of 89.

Hector Ramirez won more than 20 Emmys for his camera work. He worked on such shows as All in the Family, Dancing with the Stars, and American Idol; the 2001 Super Bowl halftime show; the Academy Awards/Emmys/Grammys; specials and concerts starring Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Barbra Streisand; and the movie This Is Spinal Tap. He died last week at the age of 78.

C. Michael Curtis was an editor at The Atlantic for 57 years. He died last week at the age of 88.

Ben Masters played Julian Crane on the soap Passions and appeared in many films and on Broadway. He died last week at the age of 75.

Michael Levin was best known for playing Jack Fenelli for the entire run of Ryan’s Hope. He died last week at the age of 90.

This Week in History

Andy Rooney Born (January 14, 1919)

The Post spent 60 minutes with Rooney at his CBS office in 1984, and he also wrote for us. His 1987 piece “Sugar City Goes Sour” examined the plight of small farms; another article from 1987, “To Kill a Maple Tree,” talked about the sadness of seeing his neighbor cut down a tree; and in 1988 his “Hip, Hip But No Hooray” piece listed the ways that fat sneaks up on you. (Articles available to subscribers.)

Ronald Reagan Becomes President (January 20, 1981)

At age 69 he was at the time the oldest person to be elected president. He served for two terms.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: “Benjamin Franklin” (January 20, 1951)

From 1943 to 1961, this week’s issue of the Post featured a picture of Franklin on the cover alongside a quote. He was born on January 17, 1706, and played a major role in the formation of this very magazine.

Burgers and Hot Dogs and Pizza, Oh My!

I didn’t intend for this week’s column to have a fast food theme, but here we are. So how about some related recipes?

For the burgers, try these Sweet Hawaiian Mini Burgers from They’re topped with pineapple. For the hot dogs, how about this Cowboy Stew from Taste of Home? It has hamburger and beans in it too. And for the pizza, try the Cozy Bacon, Apple, and Squash Pizza from the Thursday Night Pizza site.

It’s a “Winter Pizza,” which is a term I hadn’t heard before but really like.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

National Handwriting Day (January 23)

When was the last time you practiced your handwriting? I don’t mean just writing your signature, I mean writing an entire letter to someone that way? Maybe this is the day to do it, so the person you send the letter to will be shocked in two ways. One, that they got a handwritten letter, and two, that they got something in the mail besides a bill or flyer.

Winter X Games (January 27-29)

They’ll be held in Aspen and air on ESPN and ABC. And don’t worry, you don’t have to know what happened in Winter Games I through IX.

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  1. Beth: If you’re a subscriber, you can access the latest issue by clicking Latest Issue at the top (or Archive if it’s an older issue).

    Bob: That cover is by John Atherton.

  2. The openings of 30 new Barnes & Noble bookstores in 2023 is incredibly good news in a time of so little otherwise. You may go in for a particular book, but then discover many others you never knew existed on other topics of interest because of the physicality. Can’t do that online with Amazon. Hopefully enough people now realize that, and the two can complement one another for mutual success.

    Oscar Mayer is smart to bring back the iconic Weinermobile! It came to my school’s playground in the 4th grade; April or May of ’67 right before or after I turned 10. Lovable and delightful Billy Barty was there, and drove it around the available space a bit. He gave out little hot dog whistles and coupons to ‘give to your parents’.

    The ’65 commercial is part of my collective memory. Thanks for the link. Don’t mind it being stuck in my head at all! (The “my dog is better than your dog” Ken-L-Ration dog food ad from around the same time is another). Ads targeting children. It may not be completely ethical, but they sure worked!

    Sounds like ‘Flippy’ is doing a great job at White Castle, Bob. Chelsea Handler thinking the sun and the moon were the same until age 40 doesn’t surprise me. Gina Lollobrigida was a great Italian-American actress with a figure to match her talents. Carole Cook was another favorite of mine. Nobody could party quite like Carol, especially at Lucille Ball’s BH home in the late 80’s. Oh Carol!!

    So Tuesday is National Handwriting Day? Do I get credit for my December Christmas cards? They were all mainly in cursive. Hopefully that helped disguise the kind of un-jolly mood I was in. That was then though, this is now.

    I like the Ben Franklin covers the magazine ran annually decades ago. Not sure if different illustrators did those over that 18 year period or not. I don’t see a signature on this one, but know it’s not Rockwell. John Falter, perhaps.

  3. I tore the recipe for winter soup from my new issues of SEP and then gave the magazine away
    I don’t have the instruction page!
    Can you help?


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