Friday, January 18, 2013



Since there seems to be more critics than journalists these days, I write with some trepidation because I'm sure they will find this unethical.
But once upon a time, when the mail was late or went missing, I played Dear Abby.
And no one dared joke about it because I had not yet shrunk from 6' 2" and 300 pounds. I was probably the largest Dear Abby pretender in the known universe.
One of my chores as Assistant Managing Editor at the vanished Tely was to run all the departments except sports while still trying to be a real newsman.
And so it was that I was in the composing room when some ink-stained wretch grumbled he couldn't find a Dear Abby column. So I called upstairs and the secretary who was better at being a national athlete than she was as a secretary said vaguely that we hadn't got any Dear Abbys for a week or so.
There wasn't anyone left in the LifeStyle section, which had been renamed from the Women's department as a slight bow to feminism or something. No one to dash one off. So I did what all young editors do facing a crisis. I improvised myself, and didn't tell a soul at first in case there was some syndicates fine for imitating the writing of one of the most popular features in North American journalism, probably because it was so quick to read
Mary and every woman over the age of 18 have always told me that I know nothing about women, romance, women, love, women, fashion....while you get the drift.
I banged off a Dear Abby where the letter writer seemed slightly deranged but the advice was so convoluted, no harm would be done.
No one said anything the next day. I saw Dear Abby being read in the newsroom by the usual suspects who pretend they never glance at such folderol.
So I played Dear Abby for a week until we got hold of the U.S. syndicate and found some kid newcomer was sending our stuff to the Telegram in England. I was almost disappointed when the new material arrived. I had asked Mary for advice but she thought the idea that I would be writing about love was so nuts, she wanted nothing to do with it.
I always liked Abby, who just died, rather than the Ann Landers advice from her feuding twin sister,.
A couple of weeks later,  when I was trying to survive in the composing room without touching too much type and causing a labour walkout, a comp said there was no bridge column and why did he have to keep track of regular features like that when the muckety-mucks upstairs got paid a lot more to play editor.
He plainly expected me to produce one as quickly as a Dear Abby. I bowed out, saying Mary thought that my bridge playing was even worse than any views I had on love. Besides, I had learned from phone calls that one tiny mistake in the bridge column or a crossword would bring down the wrath of readers on my head. Grappling with the eternal mysteries of love was a lot safer.

No comments: