Fame doesn't always last. I mentioned Colonel Harland Sanders recently. A colleague said, "I didn't know he was genuinely a Colonel, or even a real person."
Both are true, even if the colonel designation was an honorary one. Unlike Ronald McDonald, Sanders was a living, breathing person who really did create Kentucky Fried Chicken.
He died 40 years ago at the age of 90 and had finalised his original recipe 40 years before that.
But Sanders had quite an eventful life even before coming up with the recipe that brought him fame and fortune - a true example of the American Dream.
As with any legend, some of the details are hard to pin down, but here's an attempt at the story.
Sanders was not born in Kentucky, but in Indiana in 1890 to a farming family. His father died a few years later, leaving his wife and three children in poverty.
Young Harland learned to cook by age seven and helped raise his younger brother and sister after his mother went to work in a canning factory.
At 10, he was sent out to work on a neighbouring farm but was fired for laziness and received a tongue lashing from his strict, deeply religious mother he never forgot.
Sanders quit school early (sixth or seventh class, depending on the account: he said "algebra's what drove me off") and when his mother remarried to a man he clashed with, he left home, aged 13.
He worked as a farm hand for a couple of years then, between 15 and 40, moved around the country and undertook a variety of occupations including tram conductor, soldier, railway worker, insurance salesman and ferryboat operator.
Sanders studied law by correspondence and practised in justice of the peace court - this ended when he got into a fistfight with a client in court.
Along the way Sanders ended up in Corbin, Kentucky, where from 1930 he ran a highway petrol station (and at one point had a gunfight with a competitor). It was a success, all the more so when he began cooking meals for travellers - including, by 1940, what would become the definitive Kentucky Fried Chicken, which after a period of experimentation was cooked in a pressure cooker with its 11 herbs and spices.
Sanders' reputation grew, business boomed and he expanded his food service into a successful restaurant and motel.
He had married his first wife, Josephine, a union that produced three children, two girls and a boy: the last, Harland Jr, died at age 20 from blood poisoning Sanders and Josephine divorced after nearly 40 years and Sanders married his second wife, Claudia, who had been an employee and who remained with him until he died.
In 1935, he was given the state title of Honorary Colonel by the governor for his good works - which included donating food and acting as an amateur midwife when needed (such as when a doctor was too drunk to attend).
He was recommissioned in 1950 for his services to Kentucky cuisine. It was after the latter honour he grew his moustache and goatee and began to wear his white suit and string tie to look like a Southern colonel. Things were looking (finger lickin') good.
But in 1955, when Sanders was 65, disaster struck. The highway was rerouted, customer numbers dwindled and he sold the business, ending up with little to show for it.
Sanders had franchised his secret recipe in 1952 to Pete Harman, another restaurateur, who lived in Utah (and would come up with the idea of the chicken bucket a few years later) in exchange for a few cents per chicken sold.
A handful of other franchisees had followed and taking this further seemed like a good idea.
At an age when most people would be retired, or at least seriously thinking about it, Sanders travelled around the country, often sleeping in his car. He would cook his chicken at restaurants for the employees and stay for a few days cooking for customers: if it caught on, the chicken would be added to the menu.
By 1960, he and Claudia had established another restaurant and company headquarters in Shelbyville. She would mix and send out the spices and he took care of the franchising. Eventually he didn't need to continue the road trips: people came to him seeking the rights to sell his chicken.
But all the work was taking a toll on Sanders and in 1964, at the age of 73, he sold most of his franchise business (he kept Canada and England, Florida, Utah, and Montana had already gone to others.) to a former state governor, John Y. Brown and businessman Jack Massey for $2 million which he later complained was too little after the company's value soared. He was retained on salary as a quality controller and international company spokesman.
Unlike Ronald McDonald, Sanders was a real, living trademark. He was charismatic and distinctive in look and voice and made ads and television appearances and even played bit parts in a couple of movies.
To the company's chagrin, the often irascible Colonel was not shy in holding back when he thought quality was being compromised.
The secret recipe became a major selling point, with stories of the recipe being locked in a Kentucky vault and two suppliers preparing portions of the ingredients mix so neither would have the whole list.
In his 1983 book Big Secrets, William Poundstone wrote he had obtained a sample of the chicken coating mix from a KFC restaurant and taken it to a chemical lab for analysis. This, he wrote, revealed only four ingredients: flour, salt, pepper and MSG.
Whether Poundstone was duped, more ingredients are added before cooking or the recipe had changed over the years is hard to say. The company had certainly simplified Sanders' prized gravy recipe: upset, he referred to the new product as "wallpaper paste".
Kentucky Fried Chicken expanded internationally - the first Australian outlet opened in Guildford, NSW in 1968 (McDonald's came to Australia in 1971). Now there are more than 23,000 outlets in at least 135 countries and territories. Australia has more than 640 of those.
The company was sold to food and drink company Heublin in 1971 which was acquired by tobacco giant RJ Reynolds in 1982. It, in turn, sold Kentucky Fried Chicken to Pepsico in 1986.
In 1991 the company was rebranded KFC, which US company president Kyle Craig acknowledged was to avoid the unhealthy connotations of the word "fried". The company also added more nutritious choices to its menu.But the prime attraction remains the original recipe chicken and it's one of the world's top 10 largest fast food chains.
KFC has also been subject to its share of urban legends, none of which are true. There's the one about someone finding a fried rat (or rat tail) in their meal, another that KFC uses mutant chickens bred to have extra legs and no beaks or feet or feathers.
While these false stories have been a longtime irritant to the company, they do, perhaps, point to how deeply embedded in the culture KFC is.
In recent years, US TV ads - both animated and live action - had a series of actors playing Colonel Sanders. Although it was frequently acknowledged in the live ads that this wasn't the real Colonel, it feels like the company is replacing Harland Sanders with a fictional mascot.
No wonder some people think Colonel Sanders wasn't real.
Cracking the KFC code
The original recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken is up there with the formula for Coca-Cola as a Holy Grail of secret recipes.
Many people have tried to duplicate KFC's flavour themselves. Assuming Poundstone (see main story) was mistaken or misled and that Sanders; original chicken recipe is, in fact, still being used, here is one possibility you might like to try.
We can't guarantee its authenticity or quality, of course.
In a Chicago Tribune story. Jay Jones said he was shown the ingredients by Joe Ledington of Corbin, Kentucky who said it had been attached to the will of his Aunt Claudia, Harland Sanders' second wife.
It lists the following ingredients:
2 cups of flour
2/3 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp thyme
1/3 tbsp oregano
1/2 tbsp basil
4 tbsp paprika
3 tbsp white pepper
2 tbsp garlic salt
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp dried mustard
1 tbsp celery salt
1 tbsp black pepper
As for the cooking: Barry C. Parsons of rockrecipes.com/copycat-kfc/ tried it.
After a first attempt, he added one tablespoon of MSG (which he says the company admits is used) which gave the chicken that extra kick of flavour.
Mix all of the herbs and spices together, making sure there are no lumps.
In a large bowl, add the herb and spice mixture to the flour and mix well until the spices are evenly distributed.
Cut two whole chickens into nine pieces each (2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 side breasts and a centre breast)
Dip each of the pieces in plain water, shake and dredge in the flour and spice mixture.
Repeat for all of the remaining pieces.
Leave the pieces to sit in the dredge for 10-15 minutes while the oil heats up. This will help the coating stick to the chicken better.
Preheat a vegetable oil filled deep fryer to 180C.
Shake off the excess coating from the pieces and fry for up to 18 minutes for the largest pieces.
Wings generally take 8-10 minutes, drumsticks about 12-15 minutes depending on size.
Place cooked pieces on a rack that has been placed on top of a baking sheet.
Hold the cooked chicken in a 150C oven if you need to cook the chicken in multiple batches, starting with the largest and ending with the smallest pieces.
There are other written versions of the ingredients and cooking process you can find online as well as YouTube cooking tutorials. But if it all seems like too much trouble, you can always go to a KFC store.