"Panic is the sudden realization that everything around you is alive."
William S. Burroughs

What is Lieutenant Columbo's first name?
posted by Richard Green on 14/12/2018

Freeze frame Columbo flashing his badge and there's your answer, or is it?

In a series where the main character habitually refers to his spouse only as ‘my wife’ and who’s Basset Hound is called ‘dog’, it’s hardly surprising that Columbo was coy about his name too. 

He regularly name checks cousins and relatives, but he only ever introduces himself as ‘Lieutenant Columbo’. In ‘Undercover’ (Season 12, episode 3) he jokingly gives his first name as ‘Lieutenant’ to Major General Martin J Hollister, played by Eddie Albert.

As reticent as Morse: a similar ruse was employed by the popular British detective character of Inspector Morse, who was also shy when it came to his Christian name, and Morse himself – played by John Thaw – similarly joshed that his first name was ‘Inspector’. In fact the riddle was revealed by author Colin Dexter at the end of the 1996 Morse story - Death is Now My Neighbour - to be 'Endeavour'.

Frank Cannon (played by William Conrad) and Endeavour Morse (John Thaw)

Philip, surely not? Anyone who played Trivial Pursuit back in the 80s may remember that the answer to Columbo’s first name question was Philip. Philip? This alleged fact was the one deliberate mistake among the question cards, inserted by Fred L Worth who wrote a book called ‘The Trivia Encyclopaedia’. He used this false fact as a trap for would be plagiarists, much in the same way that map makers have done in the past by inserting fictitious lakes or lanes in remote places to catch out potential copy cats.

Worth found that around a third of the questions in the blockbusting game of Trivial Pursuit were pinched from his encyclopaedia - including the rogue Columbo question. He threatened to take the manufacturers to court, but the case never came to trial; the Trivial Pursuit people didn't deny that they had culled Worth's book, but they and the judge reasoned that facts cannot be copyrighted.   

The prank ran and ran though, and Peugeot claimed in an advert that 'Lt Philip Columbo' as the world's most famous Peugeot convertible driver, and the 1997 Cop Cookbook includes a recipe from Peter Falk for pumpkin lasagne and a reference to his TV character, Philip Columbo. 

Writer's block: the creators of Columbo were Richard Levinson and William Link, who said that he was never given a first name. However, there is on screen evidence at odds with this. Columbo flashes his L.A.P.D. badge several times over the course of Columbo's run on TV, first in the ‘Dead Weight’ episode (Season 1, Episode 3). The first name 'Frank' is clearly visible on this ID.

Columbo in his clapped out Peugeot 403

To be Frank: given that there were 69 episodes that didn’t mention or refer to his first name, it seems likely that this was put on the ID for expediency by a prop person. This was in the days before being able to stop the film stably with a pause button was possible, so it’s likely that nobody would have thought it a blunder.

It doesn’t seem an inspired or even likely name really, running as it did at the same time as ‘Cannon’ – a successful TV detective that ran from 1971-1976. The portly detective's first name really was Frank. The role was played by William Conrad: and due respect to him for narrating The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle as a by the by.

And also contemporary to the crumpled detective was an Italian bodybuilder and actor, Francu Columbo. It would seem a little strange for the shabbiest of TV detective's name to so strongly echo a famous bodybuilder of the day.

Francu Columbo (upside down) with Arnold Schwarzenegger and friends

One more thing...If it was an oversight/accident to use the name Frank, it had consequences if you happen to be watching the series in Cologne or Klagenfurt, as in the German language dubbed Columbo’s he is occasionally referred to as Frank by other police officers.

You need bucket loads of cash and two weeks off to go cruising right? Nope, here are six great mini cruises, from just £99pp...
posted by Richard Green on 06/12/2018

The QE2 parked up by Sydney's Circular Quay. Photo My Bathroom Wall

If you already love cruising, a mini cruise is a great way of sneaking in another voyage onto your holiday calendar. You can take a short no-fly sea break on a fine liner, enjoy an overnight ferry crossing, or build a short cruise your next big holiday by sailing from Miami to the Bahamas, from Sydney to Melbourne, or from Durban to Cape town. And it won’t break the bank either, with two-night full board cruises with a cabin from £happened. 

If you have yet to be convinced about a life on the ocean waves, with it’s tons of shipboard activities, fantastic food, and all aboard bonhomie, then the mini cruise is an ideal taster. You can find your sea legs without fear of cabin fever, and with a small outlay in time and money, suss to see if a longer cruise might just float your boat.

Here is my selection of the six best mini cruises around. All of the prices are based on two people sharing an inside cabin and don’t include international flights.

Weekend Cruise from the UK to Honfleur: the venerable Marco Polo is a small 22,000 tonne ocean liner built in 1965 and refitted since to carry around 800 passengers in comfort, but in a distinctly old world and somewhat worn style. But it is great value, is 'child free', has restaurants and a bar spread across five lounge areas. Anyone with a certain type of brain - like me - will be curious to know that the ship was built in East Germany and operated cheap cruises for largely Western passengers, before a British entrepreneur bought what was then the Alexander Pushkin and refitted it along neo-Art Deco lines.

The MV Marco Polo, still going strong after 53 years. Photo Cruise & Maritime

As an example of one of the short cruises, she leaves Cardiff, Wales at 7.30pm on the 1st of June and steams overnight to the 17th-century harbour town of Honfleur for a day sightseeing, before returning to Harwich for disembarkation at 7am. There is 70% off right now and so it's a steal at just £129pp, with Cruise & Maritime.

Cruise the coasts of Australia: think of Princess Cruises and you’ll probably conjure big luxury ships on grand multi-port journeys, but there are several overnight positioning cruises along the coasts of Australia. For example, with four swimming pools, eight restaurants, and carrying almost 2,000 passengers, the Golden Princess glides overnight from Sydney to Melbourne, from £179pp, or the Majestic Princess sails from Sydney to Melbourne in three nights, stopping in Hobart on the way, from £319pp.

Sample a huge Princess vessel from just £179pp (plastic paraphanelia not included). Photo Princess Cruises

There are several overnight cruises from Seattle to Vancouver too (from £90pp), a two night Pacific Coast sail from Los Angeles to Vancouver (from £230pp), and two night sails between Tokyo and Taipei (from £260pp). See Princess Cruises

Sample Cunard’s classic liners: here’s your chance to experience a life of luxury under the iconic red and black funnels of Cunard’s iconic liners. The Queen Mary 2 is the largest passenger ship ever built, carry around 3,000 passengers and 148,500 tonnes, while the newest ship on the line, the Queen Elizabeth carries around 2,000 passengers and was launched last year.

There are two-night Southampton to Hamburg short break sailings in 2018, aboard the Queen Victoria or the Queen May 2, from £319pp, a two-night sailing from Southampton to Bruges on the Queen Elizabeth from £273pp, and a three-night Kiel to Southampton (via Gothenburg), from £387pp. Cunard has other short cruises from Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney. See Cunard.

Down Mexico Way: how about a break from driving with a glorious little three nights cruise to Baja California? The 70,000 ton Carnival Inspiration pull out of Long Beach, Los Angeles in the early evening and steam south past San Diego and into Mexican waters off Baja, with nine-hour calls at Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico. Catalina Island is a pretty little playground off the coast of California, while Ensenada is a popular beach resort centred on the country’s best wine region.

An outdoor sunset screening. Photo Carnival Cruises

Optional shore excursions include La Bufadora (a nearby marine geyser), a winery tour, the Baja Bandidos horse riding trail, or some salsa and tequila tasting, You’ll be back in LA at 8am on day five. Cruise only prices are from £194pp. See Carnival Cruises.

This could be Rotterdam or anywhere, Liverpool or Rome: well nearly, but Fred Olsen Cruise Lines had 31 mini cruises scheduled for 2018, departing from several UK ports. The 34,000 tonne MV Balmoral has one-night cruises from Newcastle, Rosyth (for Edinburgh) from 99pp.

The MV Balmoral. Photo Fred Olsen Cruise Lines

Or there’s a three-night trip from Southampton calling at Amsterdam and Rotterdam, from £299pp, and a 'Cruise to Nowhere' on the MV Black Watch, which takes two nights to cruise from Southampton to - it turns out rather unflatteringly - Liverpool. See Fred Olsen Cruises.

Florida to Bahamas: this is mini cruise central , as many cruise companies cater the Floridian's and foreigner's demand for a short spell on board ship to visit the Bahamas. As an example, Norwegian Cruise Line’s vessel Norwegian Sky makes several three-night sailings a year from Miami and Port Canaveral (for Orlando) to the Bahamas.

Big enough for you? Norwegian's huge vessels run many short trips from Miami/Orlando. Photo Norwegian Cruise Lines

This luxurious brightly coloured ship has two pools, large decking, and an eight-story atrium, and berths for nine hours off miniscule Great Stirrup Cay, and nine hours at the bustling capital of Nassau, from £419pp. See Norwegian Cruise Line. Or Royal Caribbean has four night year round sailings from Miami to Nassau, Coco Cay, Key West, and Miami.

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