Monday, July 9, 2012

I don't know, Ange, what do you feel like doing?

A Bill Gallo cartoon
Many of my Facebook friends have posted pictures of Ernest Borgnine and mourned his passing. I'll always remember him in "The Poseidon Adventure" with Shelley Winters, one of my favorite actresses. He won his Oscar for "Marty," which was indirectly responsible for one of the memorable moments in my copy editing career.

I'm referring to the day in 1981 that Paddy Chayefsky died.

I was working in the sports department of the New York Daily News. I had been there about three years, after coming over from the New York Post. Early in my career I had the honor of working in two of the greatest sports departments in history, those of the New York Post from 1969 to 1978 and the Daily News from '78 to 1983.

At the Daily News I worked with such luminaries as Dick Young and Bill Madden and Jack Lang and, especially, the legendary cartoonist Bill Gallo.

Which brings me to August 1, 1981 (I looked it up on Wikipedia)  and the day Paddy Chayefsky passed away. The News had recently hired a young night sports editor who, I'll give him credit, was a whiz at graphics. He could overlay 120 point white type on the surface of a full page picture like nobody's business. Heck, today with InDesign even I can do stuff like that, but this was 30 years ago. The only problem was, he was wet behind the ears, so to speak. Look at me talking, I was only 31.

Now, when Paddy Chayefsky -- who wrote the screenplay for "Marty" -- died, Bill Gallo drew a cartoon with two of the regular characters of his sports cartoons, Yuchie and Mookie. Yuchie was the quintessential young baseball fan with his Mets cap on sideways and Mookie was his sidekick.

In the cartoon, Yuchie says, "Mookie, what do you feel like doing tonight?"

And Mookie says, "I don't know, Yuchie, what do you feel like doing?"

Off to the side of the cartoon is a caricature of Paddy Chayefsky with wings on his way to heaven.

So the wet behind the ears night sports editor says to Bill Gallo, "What does this mean?"

Bill Gallo, dumbstruck, says, "It's a line from 'Marty.'"

And the night sports editor says, "Who's Marty?"And he made Bill Gallo change the cartoon.

I said to myself, one day I'm going to write a headline and he's going to ask me what it means, and we're going to have this same argument.
About a month later, during the U.S. Open tennis tournament, there was a quarterfinal match in which Jimmy Connors came from two sets down and barely avoided being upset by an Indian tennis player named Vijay Amritraj.
So I wrote a headline that said "Connors spoils Vijay day"

And the night sports editor said, "Who's Vijay?"

Now, Vijay Amritraj was pretty well known in tennis circles -- according to Wikibedia, he'd scored victories against the likes of John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Ken Rosewall, and he even won five of his 11 matches against Connors -- so I got pretty upset.

That was the train wreck I'd seen coming. I subsequently went to my supervisors and demanded that they rearrange my schedule so I would have to work with that particular editor as little as possible. The paper came out seven days a week, so I was able to get it down to one or two overlapping shifts a week.

Oh, and here's the line from "Marty," thanks to

Angie: What do you feel like doing tonight?
Marty: I don't know, Ange. What do you feel like doing?
Angie: We're back to that, huh? I say to you, 'What do you feel like doing tonight?' And you say back to me, 'I dunno. What do you feel like doing tonight?' Then we wind up sitting around your house with a couple of cans of beer watching the Hit Parade on television.

May you rest in peace, Ernest Borgnine. And Paddy Chayefsky. And Bill Gallo.

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