BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We're playing this week with Petey DeAbreu, Faith Salie and Adam Felber.
FAITH SALIE: (Laughter).
KURTIS: And here, again, is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Thank you so much, Bill. So listen...
SAGAL: Right now, it's time for the WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game on the air. Hi, you are on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
JOHN DEELY: Hey, this is John Deely (ph) from New Brunswick, N.J.
SAGAL: New Brunswick, N.J. I'm from New Jersey. What do you do there?
DEELY: I'm a chemical engineer working at L'Oreal.
SAGAL: L'Oreal, the skin care products company?
DEELY: That would be it.
SAGAL: I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to tell me the truth.
DEELY: Of course.
SAGAL: So I see ads, especially for skin care products, and - usually in magazines - and they're amazingly elaborate about how this amazing product is anti-aging and is going to make you look like this supermodel or maybe that supermodel and is going to solve all your problems. And so on and so forth.
SAGAL: Are any of those claims true?
DEELY: I mean, only if you buy L'Oreal products, especially CeraVe, absolutely.
SAGAL: All right. Fair enough.
PETEY DEABREU: Well played.
SAGAL: Glad to know we heard it from a scientist. Well, welcome to our show, John. You're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is John's topic?
KURTIS: I'm just here for the chafing.
SAGAL: There's so much casual fans don't know about the Tour de France. For example, did you know Tour de France is French for a tour of France?
SAGAL: But not all of the stars of that bike race are on the bikes. Our panelists are going to tell you about an unsung hero, somebody who works in the background of that great race. Pick the real one, and you'll win our prize - the WAIT WAITer of your choice on your voicemail. You ready to play?
DEELY: Yes, sir.
SAGAL: All right. First, let's hear from Faith Salie.
SALIE: Old black-and-white photos of Tour de France riders show them smoking cigarettes on their bikes, their lean Gallic cheeks inhaling the smoke they believed open the lungs. It was only 2002 when the Tour officially outlawed cigarettes within 100 meters of the route. But do you think this has stopped tout le monde from smoking? Oh, non, non, my friends. This is France.
SALIE: Enter Didie LePen (ph). His job, his (speaking French), is official cigarette extinguisher of the Tour de France. He's a stone-cold man in a beret who stalks the crowd looking for smokers. When he sees a lit cigarette, he casually places his thumb and index finger in his mouth, covers them with spit, and douses the burning stick with the sizzle as he swans by, earning him the nickname Monsieur Le Doigt Magic, Mr. Magic Fingers.
And you can't miss him. To travel with the Tour, he rides his 1964 Peugeot motor scooter, a contraption that's so terrifically loud it warns smokers he's coming and therefore leaves a wake of hastily cast off cigarettes. Didie celebrates his work every night with a nice Pernod and a single Gauloises. Problem, he says, nothing wrong with a little smoke as long as it's away from the course.
SAGAL: The official cigarette extinguisher of the Tour de France riding along with his moto. Your next story of a Tour helper comes from Adam Felber.
ADAM FELBER: The cycling world was stunned last week by the revelation that the venerable Tour de France is rigged. No, the winner isn't predetermined, but now we've learned that the loser is. In fact, for the past 10 years, Tour officials have paid an actor to come in last as a means of encouraging slower racers who may be thinking of giving up. Now if this sounds like evidence of an overweening, everyone gets a trophy, nanny state culture run amok, let me assure you that's exactly what this is.
It's a good job, says New Zealand actor Leon Grice, (ph) who was just exposed to this year's paid loser. Quote, "you don't have to train as hard. You can have a pint or two each night, and you make friends with a lot of wonderful, funny people who's only sin is being hopeless wankers when it comes to cycling."
But now that the jig is up, Grice knows that the gig is over. And we can all rest assured that next year's last place finisher will be a real loser. For his part, Grice expects he'll return to acting and maybe someday to cycling. Quote, "now that I've come in 168th place, it'd be fun to see if I can improve on that. Or I'd be just doing what I did this year, but for free and with more training and no drinking. In fact, never mind."
SAGAL: Leon Grice, the designated loser of the Tour de France who always comes in last. Your last story of the wind beneath the Tour de France's wings comes from Petey Deabreu.
DEABREU: One of the great traditions of the Tour de France is fans writing encouraging messages for cyclists on the road - stuff like go, Lance, hurray, Miguel, you don't even need those training wheels, Franz.
DEABREU: But many fans write bad words or draw profane pictures, which the Tour doesn't want showing up on the TV broadcasts. It's hard enough to keep people watching ever since they cracked down on drugs and all the cyclists walking their bikes up the hills. So the Tour has hired two men whose sole job is to drive the course every day and paint over those dirty messages. They are called officially erasers. Says one, quote, "people draw genitals. I have no idea why."
DEABREU: Because it's fun. Mostly, the erasers just paint over the images, but they also let their artistic side show. According to the Wall Street Journal, one of the erasers turns larger renderings of the male anatomy into butterflies or owls.
DEABREU: By the way, now you know the backstory of everyone you meet who has a butterfly tattoo.
SAGAL: All right, so the Tour de France, happening now in France, is helped along by one of these three people. Is it from Faith, the official cigarette extinguisher - a guy who rides along the course and takes the cigarettes out of the mouths of the people who might dare to smoke them near the riders - from Adam Felber, Leon Grice - the man whose job it is to ride and come in last, so nobody else has to - or from Petey, the stories of the guy who go along the course and erase the obscene messages that people might have left for the riders so they don't appear on TV? Which of these is the real story of the Tour de France's little helper?
DEELY: I really wish it was all of them, but I'm going to go with number three.
SAGAL: You're going to go with number three. That's Petey's story of the graffiti erasers.
SAGAL: The audience likes it. All right then, to bring you the real answer, here's somebody who knows a lot about the Tour de France.
JOSHUA ROBINSON: The most inappropriate graffiti you see out on the roads of the Tour de France...
ROBINSON: ...Is really male genitalia, which seems to be a favorite.
SAGAL: That was Joshua Robinson. He is the European sports reporter for The Wall Street Journal who wrote about the official Tour de France erasers and what they have to do. Congratulations, you got it right. Petey was telling the truth.
SAGAL: You earned a point for him for being honest. And you have won our prize, the voice of anyone you may choose. Congratulations.
DEELY: Thank you so much.
SAGAL: Take care. Bye, bye.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BICYCLE RACE")
QUEEN: (Singing) Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle, bicycle, bicycle race.
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