Bay Curious Lightning Round: Inspiration for AT-ATs, the 'Tenderloin' and Popeye's Voice

15 min
A photoshopped image of an AT-AT created by a desktop wallpaper website.  (

This week the Bay Curious podcast is celebrating our one-year anniversary with a lightning round of questions and answers!

Is it true that George Lucas was inspired to create the AT-AT because of the cranes at the Port of Oakland?

No. Sadly, this is not true.

George Lucas told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Peter Hartlaub, “That’s a myth. That is definitely a myth.”

Hartlaub also followed up with Phil Tippett, the stop-motion animator who oversaw production of the AT-AT sequence. Tippett allows for a small chance that somewhere in the process someone looked at the cranes, but added that the original vehicles actually looked nothing like container cranes, and more like garbage trucks.

Sidenote on Phil Tippett: He was credited as "Dinosaur Supervisor" at the end of "Jurassic Park" and has been the topic of several popular internet memes. Poor guy has spent years now explaining what the "supervision" element of his job actually was.


Question submitted by Bay Curious listener Matteen Mokalla.

How did the Tenderloin get its name?

In the mid-1800s the Tenderloin was a great spot to spend a night out on the town, but by the late 1800s, crime had crept into the neighborhood. It was around this time that people began calling the area the Tenderloin.

So how did it get the name? Was it a reference to the “tender loins” of prostitutes who did business there? Or maybe something to do with the shape of the neighborhood?

No. According to the Tenderloin Museum, the name came from a New York City police captain named Alexander Williams who supposedly called vice-heavy areas the “tenderloin”, in reference to all the bribes he would get for turning a blind eye to illegal activities. Williams was quoted as saying, "I’ve had nothing but chuck steak for a long time, and now I’m going to get a little of the tenderloin."

He hoped to buy nicer meat with his bribe money.

Question submitted by Bay Curious listener Kevin Beach.

Is it true that the original voice of Popeye died in a San Jose trailer park?

Yes. The gruff voice of William Costello was the original voice of Popeye the Sailor Man.

But the show's producers wanted a softer voice for Popeye, and Costello was becoming difficult to work with. One day, while the show was in the middle of production, Costello asked for a vacation and he was fired.

After that, Costello had a long career as a musician. According to his obituary, Costello worked with Ginger Rogers and Bing Crosby and went on to play in over 100 orchestras.

In the late 1950s, he retired to manage a trailer park in San Jose. He remained manager until he died in 1971 at the age of 73.

Question submitted by Bay Curious listener Peter Caravalho.

Why Are There Rainbows on the Tunnel Between S.F. and Marin?

We answered this question in a separate post. Check it out!