Q: Was the original Howdy Doody puppet replaced by a different one?

-- R.T.L., Saint Cloud, Minn.

A: He was. Puppeteer Frank Paris created the first Howdy Doody in 1947, but he walked off the show -- with the doll -- in 1948, after a dispute over royalties. That puppet version is now known as "Ugly Doody." NBC, in a frantic search for a replacement, hired puppeteer Velma Dawson to create the more famous version of Howdy Doody in just over a week. Dawson received $300 for her puppet and no residuals. There have been a few duplicate Howdy Doody puppets: One was called "Double Doody" and the other "Photo Doody," a puppet without strings that was used for photographs.

Q: Was Rudolph Valentino the birth name of the silent film star?

-- S.B., Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

A:No, Rudolph Valentino was born Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaelo Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina D'Antonguolla in Castellaneta, Italy, on May 6, 1895. He was the second of three children. Valentino died in New York City on Aug. 23, 1926 at age 31. Approximately 100,000 mourners lined the streets on the day of his funeral.

Q: What was the first name of former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop? -- J.K., Atlantic City, N.J.


Q: How long have bananas been around? Is the banana most commonly seen in a grocery store a special variety?

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-- N.D., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

A: Banana experts say the fruit has been around for more than a million years and originated in the jungles of Southeast Asia. It wasn't until the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition that the banana was introduced to the Americas. At the exhibition, the fruit was wrapped in foil and sold for 10 cents each. That doesn't sound like a lot of money now, but it would be equivalent to nearly $2 per banana today. Although there are many types of bananas in the world (about 300), Dole Food Company tells me the most popular in this country is the cavendish variety.

Q: Where is the "Cathedral of Commerce"?

-- D.R., Gloucester City, N.J.

A:The Cathedral of Commerce, located at 233 Broadway in New York City, is better known as the Woolworth Building. Frank W. Woolworth originally intended the building to be home for a bank and offices for his company; however, as the project went on, so did the size. It became a 60-story, 792-foot neo-gothic high-rise that was, at one point, the tallest building in the world. It opened in 1913. The land on which the skyscraper was built cost half of the $13.5 million he paid -- in cash -- for the entire project.

The name "Cathedral of Commerce" first appeared in The New York Times on April 27, 1913, when an English visitor was quoted about his impression of the new building.

The Woolworth Building was sold in 1998 for $155 million.

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