A new book by U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., a former “Saturday Night Live” writer-actor, includes friendly references to ex-senators from Nebraska.

Franken and wife Franni enjoyed semi-regular dinners with three other Senate couples, the group split evenly between Republicans and Democrats. They included then-Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and his wife, Stephanie.

At one dinner they talked about the difficulty of remembering constituents’ names.

“I happen to love Stephanie Johanns,” Franken writes, “because she has the best laugh and, even better, laughs at almost anything I say. But one night, Stephanie made all of us howl with laughter.”

She told of a crowded political event in Nebraska where she turned to see a woman she knew well, but just couldn’t place.

“I panicked,” Stephanie said. “Then I figured out who she was and said, ‘Oh. Hi, Mom!’ ”

Al Franken defends 'Democrats like Ben Nelson'

Franken later writes that then-Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., asked for tighter restrictions on funding related to abortions.

“Friends of mine ask me why we tolerate Democrats like Ben Nelson,” the second-term Minnesota senator writes. “I tell them he’s the only kind of Democrat who can get elected in Nebraska, and we need as many Democrats as we can get. Besides, I like Ben.”

The book by the Harvard-educated Franken is a good read and covers serious topics. The title, though, is tongue-in-cheek: “Al Franken: Giant of the Senate.”

Woman proud of her birth weight — 14 pounds, 5 ounces

In an article this week about the old St. Joseph Hospital, I noted that a very big baby was born there in 1948 — 14 pounds, 5 ounces.

Well, I heard from the big baby. Kathy Monico Schafer of Omaha, 69, said she is proud of her birth-weight record.

“I’ve had fun with my story,” she said. “I kind of hang on to it.”

After relatives welcome new babies, she asks them to let her hold them — but only when they reach 14 pounds.

Her birth made front-page news in The World-Herald, and her parents received letters of congratulations from around the world.

Kathy and husband Dennis had no children. They are retired from phone companies, and this week went fishing at their lake home in Minnesota.

No, she never joined the circus or the pro wrestling circuit. Kathy says she stands 5-foot-6 and is of “reasonable weight.”

Cubs manager visits Manning, forgets to ask about 'Omaha' 

At a recent game in Denver, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon got to visit with retired Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

“Should’ve asked him about ‘Omaha,’ ” Maddon said, referring to the word Manning would call out at the line of scrimmage. “I had my opportunity to ask about Omaha, and I screwed up.”

Maddon must have missed Peyton’s explanation earlier this year at a marketing conference in Las Vegas: “Omaha was just an indicator word. It was a trigger word that meant we had changed the play, there was low time on the clock and the ball needed to be snapped right now.”

Dick Cavett sells New York property for $62 million

Nebraska native and former talk-show host Dick Cavett, 80, is listing his 19-acre oceanfront home in Montauk, New York, for $62 million.

No, not $6.2 million. Sixty-two million.

Cavett, who grew up in Lincoln the son of educators for whom Cavett Elementary School there was later named, often is described as witty, droll and cerebral.

He most recently visited Nebraska in February for performances in Lincoln, Wayne and Hastings. While in the state capital, the State Treasurer’s Office presented him some money that had been missed when his parents’ estate was settled long ago.

It wasn’t quite the value of his New York estate. The check was for $600.

Toledo's loss is Henry Doorly Zoo's gain 

Louie the Elephant, who will pack his pachyderm bags and travel soon to his new home in Omaha, is receiving a fond farewell from Toledo, Ohio.

The Toledo Blade said residents there “have watched him grow from a not-so-tiny calf to a burly teenager.” He now will provide important genetic diversity while mating at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium.

The 14-year-old bull won’t actually be at the aquarium, but it’s hoped the new African Grasslands exhibit will make him feel at home.

The headline in the Toledo paper playfully called to mind a popular song from the 1960s: “Louie, Louie — oh, no — me gotta go.”

Omaha native competes in NHL's Stanley Cup finals

Omaha native and former University of Nebraska at Omaha Maverick hockey star Jake Guentzel gives us a rooting interest in the Stanley Cup finals of the National Hockey League.

Guentzel, a 22-year-old rookie for the Pittsburgh Penguins, leads the league in playoff goals and is a candidate for postseason MVP — the Conn Smythe Trophy.

The Penguins lead 3 games to 2 in the finals, and play at Nashville on Sunday. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Guentzel — on the small side for an NHL scorer — is said to have a great work ethic and a high hockey IQ.

Dean Blais, recently retired coach at UNO, told the Associated Press that Jake once was reluctant to shoot and set a school record for assists.

“You want to be unselfish,” Blais told Guentzel over and over during his three years with the Mavericks, “but when you’ve got the opportunity to bury it, bury it!”

Guentzel not only handles the puck like a veteran, but also has a cool Twitter handle — jakenbake20.

michael.kelly@owh.com, 402-444-1132

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