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Do you remember Popeye the Sailor Man?
Posted by Colin in Oz on January 15, 2023, 12:00:30
POPEYE THE SAILOR MAN
His real name was Frank "Rocky" Fiegel, born1868 Poland and, as a child, emmigrated to the United States with his parents, who settled in a small town in Illinois. As a young man, Rocky went to sea and after a 20 year career in the Merchant Marines he retired. He was later hired by ‘Wiebusch's Tavern’ in the city of Chester, Illinois as a ‘Bouncer’ to maintain order. He quickly developed a reputation for always being involved in fights, usually winning). As a result, he ended up with a deformed "Pop-eye". He always smoked a pipe and spoke out of the side of his mouth. In spare time as a Bouncer, he entertained the customers by telling exciting stories of adventures he claimed to have had as a sailor crossing the ‘Seven Seas. The creator of ‘Popeye’ was Elzie Crisler Segar who grew up in Chester and, as a young man he met Rocky at the Tavern so would sit listening to the old sailor’s amazing ‘sea stories.’ Years later, Segar became a cartoonist and developed a comic stripcalled ‘Thimble Theater.’ He honoured Rocky Fiegel by asking if he could model his new comic strip character, ‘Popeye the Sailor Man’. Naturally Rocky was flattered and agreed. Segar claimed ‘Olive Oyl,’ along with other characters, was also loosely based on an actual person. She was Dora Paskel, owner of a small grocery store in Chester.
Dora apparently actually looked a lot like the Olive Oyl character in his comics. He said Dora even dressed the same way. Through the years, Segar kept in touch with Rocky and always helped him with money; giving him a small percentage of what he earned from his ‘Popeye’ illustrations. I wonder if kids these days have seen Popeye. Who knew he was a real man?
Popeye's enemy Bluto was based on a character that Tyrone Power sr played called Red Flack in the 1930s Western The Big Trail. Popeye first appeared in a cartoon called 'Popeye the Sailor Man' which despite its title was actually a Betty Boop cartoon. Betty was based on singer Helen Kane and one of the ladies who voiced her was Bonnie Poe who also voiced Olive Oyl, another actress who lent Betty her voice was Mae Qestel who also voiced Betty in Who framed Roger Rabbit ' and she also portrayed Aunt Bethany in the 1989 film National Lampoons Christmas Vacation' which was also her final role.
You certainly do! I had no idea that Popeye was based on a real person.
There's more information about Rocky Fiegel here including the also interesting fact that the photo usually claimed to be Fiegel is actually a British sailor from 1940 who was nicknamed Popeye because of his resemblance to the character. There's a link to a newspaper article with a photo of the real Rocky Fiegel on the Snopes page.