What's In a Name? Ask Mr. Leotard

Meet Jules Leotard, Harry Shrapnel, Belinda Blurb and Other Famous Namesakes

By Buck Wolf

March 1, 2001 — You could call the first man to put a slice of beef between two pieces of toast a genius. You could also call him a Sandwich — the fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu.

Naturally, Lord Sandwich was from the British upper crust, and now his family aspires to be fast-food kings.

Two of the earl's descendants — the 11th Earl of Sandwich, also John Montagu, and his son, Orlando — are cashing in on the family's noble name, opening a lunchtime delivery service for London's business district with $2 million in backing from Planet Hollywood honcho Robert Earl.

Gastronomic Immortality

The 18th-century earl gained gastronomic immortality during a nonstop 24-hour gambling session, when he refused to leave the gaming table. "He ordered his servants to bring him this concoction," says Laura Lee, author of The Name's Familiar II (Pelican Publishing).

"It was certainly strange in Sandwich's time to eat with your hands. But for his day, he was like one of those computer geeks of today who have made millions and can afford to be a nonconformist."

Lee certainly documents the lives of nonconformists in her book, which offers biographies of the real-life folks such as Chef Boyardee and Barbie Handler, the daughter of a Matell executive whose name was immortalized by a boob-heavy doll.

Sometimes being an innovator isn't as rewarding as it sounds. Henry Shrapnel, an 18th-century British officer who invented a type of shell that would explode upon impact into deadly metal fragments, might have wanted a different claim at fame.

If You've Got It, Flaunt It

And then there's the story of a decidedly vain French acrobat who was really proud of how he looked in tight, tight tights. His name was Jules Leotard.

Leotard was a trapeze artist in the mid-1800s, the first to turn a somersault in midair. But he knew what people really wanted to see. And he was happy to give them everything but the Full Monty.

Talk about daring: According to his memoirs, the man who inspired the song "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze" gave his protégés this advice: "Put on a more natural garb that does not hide your best features."