Posts Tagged ‘Walter Winchell’

Does the Pope have a good retirement package?

February 12, 2013

Charlie Sheen’s appeal to a killer to surrender, the pope’s resignation, and the President’s efforts to prepare for his State of the Union speech were some of the top news stories in the media on Monday February 11, 2013 and so the pundits went on “Condition Red” status in anticipation of a week that would not soon be forgotten.  In response to such a week, a columnist can try to provide the best (most quotable) analysis of one facet of the complex week, find an overlooked story that was getting lost in the shuffle, or use the Walter Winchell School of Journalism method, called three dot journalism, of trying to make one snarky comment about each of all the various topics of the week.

Comparisons of the search for the rogue cop in L. A., Christopher J. Dorner with the O. J. low speed pursuit seemed too obvious.

A full column about the time that John Dillinger was apprehended in Truckee CA would mean a lot of fact checking work.  Dillinger was arrested.  The local authorities telegraphed their coup to Washington and got a stultifying reply.  The local sheriff was informed that Dillinger was in prison in Indiana and their prisoner should be released immediately with an abundance of sincere apologies.  Three hours later they got a high priority update message that said “disregard previous message.”   It was too late and that little footnote to gangster history was consigned to a life of obscurity.  The fact that Truckee and Big Bear Lake were similar terrains would help add to the appeal of such a sidebar story.

The most famous fugitive in Canadian history also fled to a snowy mountain area to elude the Mounties.  Readers from north of the USA might like seeing a column in the USA that indicated a passing knowledge of their history.

A snarky suggestion about the possibility that law enforcement officials might want to check and see if their fugitive was hiding in the Gelenrowan Inn might tickle the fancy of readers in Australia, but that would be too esoteric, arcane, and baffling for most Yanks.

Technically isn’t one escape from Alcatraz still an open case?

We know of one fan of the TV series “The Fugitive,” who finally got to see the last episode of that program while he was in Saigon.  Have they ever use DNA testing to provide an update on the real life murder that provided the basis for the TV series?

For a column about papal history we would have to locate a copy of “The Bad Popes,” and reread it before attempting a long and accurate column about that topic.  What’s not to love about someone historians call “Pope Joan”?  Didn’t one of the popes have the heartache of contending with the scandal of one of his kids killing a sibling?

The topic of the state of the union should be easy to predict.  What do folks think a President who has just been reelected is going to say at the beginning of his second term in office?  The World’s Laziest Journalist is considering doing all the fact checking about the “sit down strike” Republicans are conducting in the halls of Congress and lumping all the relevant material into one column that would carry the headline:  “Dead Democracy Walking!’

It would take a massive amount of arrogant pride for a columnist to think that he could come up with an interesting thought provoking angle to pop culture that all the other commentators missed during a hectic news week.

The Internets was fascinated last week with a story detailing private e-mail material from former President George W. Bush which had been discovered by hackers.

Initial news reports implied that some unpatriotic scallywags might have been the culprits.  With small staffs and tight budgets, most privatized news media can’t waste resources on analyzing that innocuous crime news but if they did, what could else could it possibly be?  Didn’t Watergate start out as a “second rate burglary” item from a police beat reporter?

The media ignored the possibility that the hackers were from Iran or China and immediately focused attention of the unpatriotic possibility that Americans in cahoots with Anonymous were the culprits.

Did anyone have the audacity to suggest that the story was actually a Republican leak which will form the foundation for rehabilitating the Bush family brand name?  Wouldn’t the leaked – stolen – e-mails help humanize the former President?  Isn’t that how they started the campaign in the late Seventies to reshape Nixon’s image for history?  First you humanize him, then you deify him.  By the time Nixon was buried hadn’t his image been recast as a misunderstood American hero?  Well, if JEB is going to get the Republican nomination in 2016, when, where, and how would you start the effort to reestablish the Bush Dynasty image?

If any nationally known pundit hypothesized such an explanation, that fellow would immediately have to content with explaining how a copy of his “Employee ID card” from the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory had made its way onto the top Yahoo searches of the day list.

What’s not to love about a country where a President’s State of the Union speech morphs into the status of “opening act” for a Ted Nugent press conference?

Marlene Dietrich has been quoted as saying:  “If there is a supreme being, he’s crazy.”

Now the disk jockey will play Merle Haggard’s song, “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive,” Gene Vincent’s “Pistol Packin’ Mama,” and a memorial tribute playing of Reg Presley’s version of “Wild Thing.”  We have to go look for a copy of Cliff Arquette’s autobiography.  Have a “which way did he go” type week.

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This columnist celebrates National Columnists’ Day

April 18, 2012

On theislandofIe Shima, on April 18, 1945, war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed in action and that is why that date has been selected by the National Society of Newspaper Columnist to be designated as National Columnists’ Day. 

After a few years of writing about Ernie Pyle for National Columnists’ Day, it grew a bit challenging, and so the focus for our annual column for that occasion was expanded to include homage to other famous columnists from the past such as Herb Caen and Walter Winchell.   

For a columnist named Bob Patterson, who was born and raised inScrantonPa.and now lives in Berkeley CA, to celebrate National Columnists’ Day by writing this year’s installment about a columnist, scalawag, and rascal named Bob Patterson, who was raised about a hundred years ago in Berkeley CA, is a daunting challenge.  In order to produce a column that doesn’t sound like a noteworthy example of shameless über-egotism and crass self-promotion, we will refer to the writer from the past by his pen name of Freddie Francisco and note that the facts for this column were contained in the “exposé” story Freddie Francisco wrote about himself for a weekly newspaper named “The City of San Francisco” in their August 10, 1975 issue.

Francisco revealed that during the Twenties Patterson landed a $47 a week reporter’s job on the New York <I>Graphic</I> and when he began to work the police beat Freddie/Bob was offered a $100 a week bonus from a Prohibition entrepreneur who wanted a phone call tip whenever the Prohibition agents left on a raid.  That stunt got him fired.  His confession relates that subsequently Freddie/Bob went to work for the fellow who had supplied the tip bonuses.

In the early Thirties, Freddie/Bob moved toJapan.  To augment his pay while living there Freddie wrote about the forbidden topic ofTokyo’s notorious Yoshitwara district.  That got him another pink slip and deportation status on the same day that he contracted malaria. 

Freddie quickly transitioned to the staff of the China Press inShanghai.

Freddy/Bob arrived inShanghaibetween World Wars.  Freddie described his reactions thus:  “It was fine, fine, fine; Patterson decided to stay forever, and maybe three days over.”  It took only two months for him to get the assignment of writing a daily column he dubbed “The Dawn Patrol.” 

During Freddie’s stint inShanghai, he gathered enough human interest stories to fill a thousand novels, if he ever retired from journalism. 

In describing the conduct of a battle between rival houses of prostitution, he informs readers that the madam with seniority hired coolies to defecate on the front steps of the rival location just as the evening was about to begin.

One kindlyShanghaimortician used to offer free services to indigent Americans who died far from their native land.  He also, Freddie reported, paid for shipping and interment back home in theUSA.  Customs started digging up the opium laden coffins before the morticians’ associates and then the concept of the altruistic motivation went up in smoke (as it were).

Freddie got to visit at Madame Sun Yat-sen’s home, thanks to Andre Malraux.

Freddie wrote a book about the glory days inShanghai.  When the book was republished in theUSA, the American publishing firm gave Freddie the run-a-round rather than residuals.

In the 1975 article, Freddie glossed over the time line and ignored certain gaps in the narrative saying only that when it came time to apply for a job at the San Francisco <I>Examiner</I>, that “Sing Sing doesn’t provide irresistible references.”

Back in the day when Frisco was home for very memorable gin mills  such as “The Fly Trap,” “Mark’s Lower Bar,” and the “Home That Jack Built;” Freddie/Bob became good friends with San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, and the two gathered material by going bar hopping together.  Feddie/Bob conceded that his arch rival was “a shade faster because of fancier footwork and better streamlining.”

Once, after the two purchased some toy machine guns and participated in some late night frolicking, they were apprehended by two rookie policemen and the columnists indignantly inquired if the youngster knew who they were trying to arrest.  When they arrived at the station house, they walked in and the watch commander broke into a hearty laughing fit and finally managed to ask the two patrolmen if they knew who it was that they were trying to arrest.  (Case dismissed – on the spot.)

Freddie pushed the boundaries and got in hot water with management when he used the word “poontang.”  He was forbidden to use that word ever again and the top proofreader was charged with making sure the embargoed word was banished forever.  In a description of a party that included a list of forty names, a mysterious guest named Poon Tang was listed and won Freddie a wager for a double sawbuck.

In a dispute about running a story about a business man and a bimbo, Freddie asked about using that information in the paper.  His boss, out of concern for the fellow’s wife, replied “Forget the story and give him a call so he knows that we know.”  Freddie elaborates the result:  “Max dumped the doll and stayed away from expensive poontang from then on until coffin time.”

Freddie was involved in a plot that involved hush money for his prison record and he spurned the chance to cover it all up.  His termination was reported to the readers in a box on a subsequent <I>Examiner</I> front page.

Freddie/Bob reports that he then went into business with “Honest” Luke Carroll playing poker on various passenger liners sailing the Pacific.  The company that owned the vessels eventually stopped selling tickets to the two card players.

Freddie/Bob bummed around the Journalism Industry and picked up some writing assignments inHollywood, but then:  “In 1967, Patterson felt homesick for the <I>Examiner</I> and asked them for a job.”

In 1960, the <I>Examiner</I> had suffered some humiliation when (according to the Freddie exposé) Bud Boyd “was discovered (by Ed Montgomery) to be writing a wilderness survival series from the comfort of his living room.”

A few years after rejoining the <I>Examiner</I> staff, the rehired Freddie/Bob scored some exclusives fromChina; the newspaper’s managment didn’t take kindly to allegations that the scoops had been penned in Hong Kong and not the interior ofChina.  It was time for another front page box informing readers that Freddie/Bob had been fired again. 

A copy of the Freddie/Bob story was located in the San Francisco Public Library and other sources indicate that Freddie/Bob’s story didn’t end there.  Due to a law suite, Freddie/Bob was suspended from writing assignments but was kept on the payroll at full pay until the legal matter could be clarified.  (Some guys have all the luck?)

Like Elvis, Jim Morrison, and James Dean, Freddie Francisco (AKA Bob Patterson)’s death was well reported in the Bay area many years ago.  The World’s Laziest Journalist intends on holding a brief memorial service on National Columnists’ Day for Freddie Francisco.  Since one of the legendary Frisco bars, the Gold Dust Lounge (Est. 1933), which got fond mentions from Herb Caen, is in immanent danger of closure now, perhaps we will hoist a glass of diet cola in Freddie/Bob’s honor there as our celebration of National Columnists’ Day.  What’s not to like about a fellow who loved traveling the world, having good times, and then writing about his own adventures?  Putting it on the expense account could only have been putting frosting on the cake.

Freddie Francisco’s lead for his exposé provides an apt closing quote for this column:  “Bob Patterson, erstwhileSan Francisco<I>Examiner</I> newsman,Chinaexpert and scoundrel is a very misunderstood man.  He is misunderstood by his critics, by two former wives and by at least one god-fearing and red-blooded former employer who recently fired him on the front page.”

Now the disk jockey will play “On a slow boat toChina,” the soundtrack album from “The Lady fromShanghai,” and the Flatlanders “My wildest dreams get wilder every day.”  We have to go over toSan Franciscoand look for some very old books.  Have a “stay out of jail card” type week.

The case of the missing 5 grand

June 26, 2011

The new special collectors edition cigarette packs with photos on them came out recently, but since the World’s Laziest Journalist doesn’t smoke, we are not going to be buying them.  Their debut did remind us of how a long ago opportunity to get started on the cigarette addiction boiled down to an odd choice:  a free pack of cigarettes or a trip to Paris.

Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a young Ernie Pyle wannabe who was attending parochial school.  After the lunch hour break, the classes would line up outside the schoolhouse and march in at the sound of the start bell.  

On one particular day (was it during seventh grade or eighth?  In all the intervening years we kinda lost track of the exact number), a group of adults approached and began handing out small sample packs of cigarettes.  Some of the more sophisticated students (the boys were required to wear a suit coat and tie and the red jacket, white t-shirt, blue jeans uniform of the rebels was strictly <I>verboten</I>) snatched up the items with enthusiasm and then turned to the ones who seemed perplexed with the windfall and asked “You gonna use ‘em?  If not; can I have yours?”

The columnist aspirant had been exposed to smokes many years previously.  When he, at the age of seven, asked his mom about cigarettes; she pulled one out from her pack, told him to put it in his mouth and lit it up.  She coached him through a few drags and a vehement coughing spell and continued the lesson in existentialism:  “You can learn to overcome that taste and the negative reaction and learn to enjoy it if you so choose.”  She added:  “In the future your friends may start to try smoking in secret.  If you want to smoke, come see me for your next lesson.  Don’t let them goad you into sneaking them.  You have permission to try again if you want another attempt to learn to like it.” 

The free sample packs held no allure of the forbidden for the young Walter Winchell fan.  He did, however, venture to ask his aunt why a company would give away a product that they usually sold.  She responded with a lesson in marketing saying the product was habit forming and that if they could give away samples and get a customer for life in return it would be cost effective.  (She may not have used that exact terminology.)  Then she prompted the lad to see if he could use mathematics to figure out what one of his classmates could expect to spend for a life time supply of smokes.

At a quarter a day and seven days a week with 52 weeks in a year, it worked out to $91 a year.  Since the UShad not become embroiled in Vietnam, it was logical to assume that all his classmates would live to retirement age.  (As it turned out some didn’t make it to their 25th birthday.)  That would bring the expected cost up to $4,823.00.  Then the aunt introduced the concept of inflation and added expected rises in price to the formula.

Can you believe that some conspiracy theory nuts in the fifties thought that a package of cigarettes would eventually go to a dollar a pack? 

Five grand would surely cover a deluxe two week vacation inParis.  It was just about then that some guy named Papa Hemingstein coined the marketing slogan “Moveable Feast” for use in reference to trips to the City ofLight.  (Did he write for Clipper, which was Pan Am’s inflight magazine?)  An opinion poll survey at the time said that a majority of high school students listed a trip toParisas one of their lifetime goals. 

Pariswas considered the new destination of choice for young folks who yeaned to go on the road.

At one time in his career, wasn’t that Hemingway guy also a columnist?  If columnists likeParis, it must be good.

The young non smoker finally made it toParismuch later in life.  The first night inParis, he didn’t expect that a trip on the Subway (to Cactus Charley’s place) would become a memorable part of the vacation.  [InParisthey call the subway “le metro;” but what do they call a “Big Mac”?]  InNew Yorkthe subway toNew Jerseygoes under the Hudson River, but inParisthe subway comes up from under ground and goes over the Sein to get to the other side.  When it emerged from below ground and came to a stop, between the rows of buildings adjacent to the subway station he could see a bit further away, a tower that was such an eyeful they actually call it theEiffelTower.  He thought “Holy cow, batman, we’ve finally made it!  We are inParis!”  It was a “lump in the throat” moment.  It was time to scratch “Get toParis” off his bucket list.  Who’dda thunk that a subway trip could be such an emotional experience?

Sometime later, when a coworker complained to the boss that the nonsmoker, who was getting paid less than the complainer, could afford a two week vacation inParisand he couldn’t, the columnist used math to explain why life isn’t fair. 

The fellow (Let’s call him “Jim”) smoked a pack a day (which by the late Eighties had broken the buck a pack cost barrier).  Jim usually drank a six pack a day.  Jim went out to one ofSanta Monica’s many fine coffee shops (Alas Zucky’s, the Broken Drum, and the former drive-in at Wilshire and Harvard [?] are history) for lunch, which would chew up (pun alert?) at least five dollars a day with more if he left a tip.  The economical minded fellow (Let’s call him WLJ) had made sandwiches and did the brownbag lunch routine during the work week.  The extra cost for the cigs, brewskis, and eat-out chow computed out to be almost exactly what it had cost the cheapskate to get toParisand back.

Some fine minds are paid very well to come up with strong anti-smoking Public Service Announcements (PSA’s) for use on Television.  You never see any of them use the “It’s the economy, stupid” approach.  Who did the old comedy routine about telling kids they can do anything they want to do except they must not put beans into their ears?  Isn’t telling them they could get cancer a lot like saying “we dare you to . . .”?

What would happen if someone did a PSA <I>reductio ad absurdum</I> ad offering kids a free (smaller than normal) sample pack of “coffin nails” or a trip to Paris and included a cost comparison?

Speaking of cigarettes, is it true that CBS radio is looking for a fearless journalist to do a series of live reports titled:  “Tripolicalling!”?

Bartlett’s reminds us that it was Rudyard Kipling who wrote:  “And a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke.”

Now the disk jockey will play “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room,” Smokey Robinson (and the Miracles)’s album “I’ll Try Something New,” and Patsy Cline’s song “Three cigarettes in an ash tray.”  We have to go see where we can buy a pack of the Fatima brand of smokes.  Have a “memories of theTimes Squarebillboard” type week.