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.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Production of Bath Salts outsourced to China

Now you've stepped in it, Arianna. I mean, it's one thing to order your copy editors to put names and places in headlines, I get it, that's how people searching the Internet find your story when 20 or 200 news-oriented web sites have the same or similar story. But today as I looked at my aol page, which uses the Huff Post as its news service, I was greeted with the following blaring headline:

Face Eating Attack In China: 'Dong,' Drunken Bus Driver, Allegedly Bites Woman 'Du's' Nose, Lips

Now it's a terrible thing, these face eating attacks that seem to be occurring all over the place, not to be confused with the flesh eating attack by a germ (or a virus?) on poor Aimee Copeland. But ol' Arianna Huffington has gone and done it now. I wonder how high up this story will appear when some shmo goes to the Internet and types in the name of his favorite porn expression. Huh? Some guy in China? Hel-lo. C'mon Arianna, wouldn't it be enough to simply announce "Drunken bus driver allegedly bites ..."

And then there's attribution. I love the use of "allegedly" here. Like what's Mister Dong going to do, sue Arianna for ruining his reputation?

Besides, Huff Post and all the other news outlets are missing the real story here. Obviously, Monsanto or Dow or Cargill or whoever produces the stuff has outsourced the production of Bath Salts to China.

Well, I wish Miss "Du" a speedy recovery. As for the Huffington Post's headline dictates, I wish I could say the same.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Meaning of Gumpton

After trekking several thousand feet up to the summit of one of the lesser Himalayas, I entered the heated tent of the Wise Man and said, "Wise Man, may I ask you a question?"

"Yes, my son," the Wise Man said.

"Don't My Son me," I said. "I'm 62 years old and don't have an ounce of the DNA for wisdom in me."

"As you wish, Mon Frere," the Wise Man said.

"Mon Frere my ear," said I. "You're 140 if you're a day, do I look like I could be your brother?"

"What is your question?" the Wise Man asked, appearing just the least bit agitated.

"What is the meaning of gumption?" I asked.

"Of gumption?" the Wise Man repeated. "Is that all you want to know? Most people who climb the thousands of feet through winding mountain trails, leaping crevasses in a single bound, ask me far more difficult questions, like 'What is the meaning of life?'"

"I already know the meaning of life," said I. "You either get it with parole or without."

"I will tell you the meaning of gumption," said the Wise Man.

"Thank you," I said. "My feet are killing me. I knew I shouldn't have gotten my climbing shoes at Walmart."

"Let me tell you about a friend of mine," the Wise Man said. "My friend took his wife out to lunch at a fancy restaurant, and each of them had an expensive meal."

"This is gumption?" I said.

"Let me finish," the Wise Man said. "After my friend finished his ahi ahi tuna salad, cleaning his plate he enjoyed the salad so much ..."

"The salad was made with Chicken of the Sea?" I said. "Is that gumption?"

"Stop interrupting me," the Wise Man said. "As my friend was applying a linen napkin to his lips, his wife pointed out that there was a strand of hair on his plate. 'WAITER!!!!' my friend cried out. 'There was a hair in my salad!" He then took out his iPhone and snapped a picture of the forlorn looking strand of hair that there but for the sharp eye of his better half he might have ingested along with his ahi ahi tuna."

"I'll be right back," the waiter said, returning shortly thereafter with an adjusted check, with some fifteen dollars, the price of his ahi ahi tuna, deducted and the words "HAIR ON PLATE" written on the check. My friend took one look at the adjusted bill, summoned the waiter back, and said "You forgot to deduct the coupon I gave you for a free appetizer."

"Aha!" I said. "Now I see. So that is gumption?"

"You got it, Bro," said the Wise Man.

"By the way," I said, "there wouldn't happen to be an elevator to the base of this mountain, would there?"

"Don't push your luck," the Wise Man said.