News of the Week: Chestnut’s Hot Dogs, Crystal Pepsi, and the Comforts of Classic TV

Joey Chestnut Is Back!

Vintage hot dog adNathan’s Famous held its annual hot dog eating contest on July 4, and an old champion regained his crown — or should I say the official Mustard Yellow International Belt. Joey Chestnut, who won the contest eight years in a row until he was beaten last year, ate 70 hot dogs (with buns) in 10 minutes. Chestnut, whose nickname is Jaws, beat the person who stole his crown last year, Matt Stonie, whose nickname is The Megatoad.

I don’t think I’ve eaten 70 hot dogs in my life.

Crystal Pepsi Is Back Too!

Maybe Joey can wash down those hot dogs with Crystal Pepsi next year, though that might be against the rules. PepsiCo has announced that the ’90’s clear soda will be coming back this summer. This comes on the heels of Ecto Cooler returning because of the new Ghostbusters movie. Please note that both of these sodas are back “for a limited time only,” so stock up this summer so you can serve them during the holidays.

Hey, if Donald Trump picks Newt Gingrich as his running mate, the ’90s comeback will be complete.

RIP Elie Wiesel, Noel Neill, and J.P. Warwick

Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and 1986 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, passed away last Sunday at the age of 87. He was also known for his 1958 memoir Night, about his family being sent to concentration camps, a book which is now on the curriculum of many high schools and colleges.

You’ll remember Noel Neill from her role as Lois Lane on the 1950s series The Adventures of Superman (though she was in many other movies and TV shows too). There’s an interesting story about that role. Neill played Lane in the first Superman serial, 1948’s Superman. She played the role again in the 1950 serial Atom Man vs. Superman (Kirk Alyn played Superman in both). But when the TV show debuted in 1952, with George Reeves donning the cape, it was Phyllis Coates in the role of the Daily Planet reporter. She only lasted for one season, and Neill took over the role in season two. She made an appearance in the 1978 Superman film, too, playing Lois Lane’s mom, and in an episode of the TV series Superboy in 1991. She can also be seen in 2006’s Superman Returns.

Neill passed away last Sunday at the age of 95.

John Petersen Warwick has also died, at the age of 90. His agency came up with the classic Timex “It Takes a Licking and Keeps On Ticking” ads. Here’s the first commercial for that campaign, performed live on television with John Cameron Swayze. It doesn’t go as planned:

Serena Williams Fined $10,000

I get a little ill when I hear ESPN tennis announcers like Chris Evert either defend Serena Williams when she does something awful on the court or simply shrug off those actions. Serena doesn’t deserve anything more than any other player just because she’s one of the greatest tennis players in history. Remember a few years ago at the U.S. Open when she threatened to shove a ball down a linesperson’s throat?

It happened again last week when Serena, angry at how a match was going, smashed her racket while sitting down during a changeover. She then threw the racket behind her, without looking, and it landed softly in the lap of a photographer. Now, I smashed a racket or two when I played tennis, but I never threw it at anyone. Besides, there weren’t any ball kids or people photographing me, so even if I had thrown a racket, it wouldn’t have mattered. Serena had no idea who was behind her when she threw it. What if a ball boy was behind her, or an official? Or what if that photographer had been hurt? It was a dumb thing to do, and she was fined $10,000, which she can probably find between her couch cushions. It’s not a lot of money, and you know something similar is going to happen again. But Serena said she did it because she was “really, really, really angry” and she was “in warrior mode,” so I guess that makes it okay.

Are You Addicted to Classic TV?

It’s an interesting question, and I would answer it with another question: Can you be addicted to oxygen? That’s how I feel. I can’t imagine living on a TV diet of just current shows and news. That’s why you’ll find my television tuned to channels like MeTV, COZI TV, and Turner Classic Movies. It’s like comfort food to me.

The New York Post’s Michael Starr has a piece on why he’s addicted to classic television, and I agree with a lot of what he has to say. As I’ve mentioned here before in my writing about classic game shows like What’s My Line? and To Tell The Truth, I like seeing the people and places and products of the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s. And let’s face it, a lot of the shows from decades ago are better than what you’ll find on TV today. The Dick Van Dyke Show and Leave It to Beaver aren’t fantastic just because they’re “classic” or “retro”; they’re fantastic, quality shows, period.

One thing I hate, though, is how the shows on these channels are edited. I love The Andy Griffith Show, but both MeTV and TV Land chop them up, either because that’s how they got them for syndication or they’re editing them more to fit in more commercials. If you’ve ever watched the shows uncut (for example, on DVD), then you know how they’ve been edited. But I don’t know what’s worse, having episodes edited like that or having them sped up, like channels do with ’90s shows like Friends and Seinfeld, to fit in more ads.

Pasta Is Good for You Again

If you’re trying to lose weight but you love pasta, here’s some good news: According to scientists in Italy, it doesn’t make you gain weight. The researchers studied 23,000 people in Italy and found out that eating pasta has no bearing on weight gain or overall health. This contradicts earlier research that said eating too much pasta and other carbs was bad for you, which contradicted other research that said carbs were okay in moderation, which followed another study that said carbs were okay, but only the “right” kind of carbs. Got that?

Please note the headline on that CNBC story: “Pasta Doesn’t Make You Fat, Say Italian Scientists.” Italian Scientists. The next study will be from beer companies who will say that more beer consumption will solve our national debt problems.

Monday is National Blueberry Muffin Day

When you have a good blueberry muffin — a really good blueberry muffin and not a packaged thing you can tell came off a conveyor belt somewhere six months ago — there’s nothing better. Well, there are plenty of things better. But in the world of muffins, it’s pretty hard to beat.

Here’s a recipe for The Best Blueberry Muffin from I don’t know who voted them “the best,” but I don’t think there are any laws that govern these things.

Some of the truly best blueberry muffins were served at Jordan Marsh, the New England department store chain. The New York Times has the recipe for them, along with the interesting story from 1987 that tells of a battle between these muffins and those from another department store, Gilchrist’s.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

John Quincy Adams born (July 11, 1767)

The son of John and Abigail Adams was the sixth President of the United States.

Hollywood Bowl opens (July 11, 1922)

Last Friday, Garrison Keillor recorded his last Prairie Home Companion at the famed amphitheater.

Skylab falls to Earth (July 11, 1979)

It was big news when the first U.S. space station crashed to Earth. I remember the sub shop around the corner from my house sold a sub called “The Skylab.” I don’t remember what was in it.

Major League Baseball All-Star Game (July 12)

The annual game, played this year at Petco Field in San Diego, airs on Fox at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Henry David Thoreau born (July 12, 1817)

The writer and philosopher “sought freedom not from government or capital, but from human nature.” He also had a beard a lot of hipsters today would die to have.

Apollo 11 takes off (July 16, 1969)

The flight, with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins aboard, landed on the moon four days later.