Posted by on Nov 6, 2014

E-pistle in the back pocket 1054. 11/27/14

More on Cosby: a journo with a girlfriend who had une affaire with Bill Cosby enjoyed insider status and came across another of the comedian’s indiscretions in the form of an Asian dish, and not chop suey, either, so offered it to the Enquirer. It’s not news that Cosby was a serial cheat, but what is more illuminating is how the fearless, crusading NE handled the journo’s tale – by wimping out… “I had Cosby dead to rights (a la Robin Mizrahi later) when I sussed out an Asian showgirl he was keeping in Las Vegas, bought her a house, I got a photog to go there and he got shots of Cosby coming and going, so to speak, kissing her at the door….and I was told by Lantana (HQ) that I had to present it all to Cosby and get HIS quote or no go.

“So, I was obviously quite against this idea….but since I had a good relationship with him , and had interviewed all the costars on Cosby Show by then, I called him…..he flustered and blustered and asked me who the top man he could call at NE was… He proceeded to call the ivory tower “Star-F—kers” down there – who were gobsmacked to receive a call from a big TV star, and of course caved, and killed my story in exchange for Cosby access, (read: a lightweight sitdown)…with anyone BUT ME !!! David Duffy did it and behaved himself (under duress) in his questions. I still know the name of the showgirl and have blacks of my story, but…..”

Just as backup, the Guardian today (Thursday) carries a tale of the Sun’s deputy news editor admitting in court this week that the tabloid had a 7ft tall safe stuffed with ‘unprintable’ stories of politicians’ and celebrities’ scandals. No, the editors did not destroy the 30 years’ worth of ‘eye-popping’ muck raking. They hoarded it against the day when it might be useful… a scandal in the editor’s back pocket has its uses as leverage when you need to rein in some famous person, or to force his/her cooperation.

Enabling Bill: Chris Pritchard says: “By the way, though I can spell “enable”, I should report that at the old NE I sat next to a fellow “try-out”, an inquiring mind who every alternate week wondered “what’s another word for ‘disclose’, mate?” During the other weeks he’d inevitably ask: “What’s another word for ‘reveal’, mate?” But this wasn’t his only quirk. John Burke-Davis also refused to ride in elevators, preferring to walk up many flights because of a scary experience many years before he crossed the Atlantic.

“I think it was in Private Eye that I read of a Sunday Express sub who asked: “What’s our style for that place in the Middle East? Iran or Iraq?” A little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing.”

Thanks to all those who sent good wishes for my brother Donald Bannister, who’s finally recovering from oral surgery. Surgeons cut away more than half of his cancerous tongue and made a new one using a bit of muscle from his arm. Somehow, they nicked the vein and the graft failed, so they did it again, with a bit of muscle from the other arm. As Don served in the Royal Navy, I’ve been telling people that his arms are covered in tattoos (they’re not – he’s a deceitful saint – Ed.) and the docs used a muscle under a tatt that said ‘Royal Navy’ then added the other from under a tatt that said: “No Pain, No Gain.’ So now, his re-fabricated tongue says ‘Royal Pain.’ (It does not – Ed.)

The Beatified One whined the other week about the early onset of Xmas, as his neighbour began the annual chore of decorating with 10,000 lights and camels and the like. This sparked a synapse or two in the once-fine brain of big Jack Grimshaw, the Duke of Dana Point, Southern California. Yule be enlightened by his insight to Matters Xmas there, even as we celebrate Thanksgiving…

“Forget the grungy-looking guys with the “Will work for food” cardboard. Or the skanky, trailer-park blondes sporting “Three children, no money, no food, no home, God bless you” placards outside the local Wells Fargo. As we head into Christmas in Orange County, Independent Republic of Southern California – one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S., if not the whole friggin’ universe – we’re expecting a truly heart-wrenching new iteration any day now.

“It’s gonna be a sad sack in a pressed Valentino suit, standing on the median, holding a sign that reads, “Buddy, can you spare a couple hundred thou?” Sure, food banks and homeless shelters are hard-hit in the ongoing economic climate. But it turns out that our corporate honchos are the ones who are really suffering. The sobering fact, according to Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Corporate Reporting and Governance, is that the county’s CEOs are desperately trying to make ends meet on a paltry average annual salary of $1.8 million. Nationwide, annual CEO pay is “more like four to five million dollars.”

“Before you get all judgmental, however, may we remind you that the man doubtless has multiple alimonies, onerous child support, a 23-year-old Guatemalan housekeeper with lifted tits and a coke habit, and his Cuban cigar and Dom Perignon needs to satisfy. So, we’re strongly suggesting no snide comments until you’ve walked a mile in his Louis Vuitton wingtips, okay? Have a cool Yule, baby.”

Stiffed: Barbara Sternig’s recounting of Enquirer lore which I too heard decades ago sparked an email from former reporter Tom Muldoon, who mercifully has had no contact with me for 35 years, but did not write to ask about my health. Babs said Tom once insisted to his boss that someone was a story source only to be informed that the fellow had been deceased for a year. It was a chortle about the nature of NE stories and followed chatter of creative expense reports, but One Was Not Amused. Here’s the Muldoon response: “Your comments about me have been sent to me by several people. I fail to see why you felt you needed to make this comment which has angered me and greatly upset my wife. It is typical enquirer myth, a lie based on a partial truth. I don’t feel the need to explain this to you other than to tell you it did not happen.” Moral: if you’re the messenger, wear protection.

In the very next e-mail came this from Neil Blincow, who does have a sense of humour: ” Hilarious quote in the Los Angeles Times from Bristol University animal expert Stephen Harris in an interview with an American reporter about the growing number of foxes in London. “If you’d have been a British journalist, I wouldn’t have spoken to you because the story is going to be crap and it’s a waste of my time,” Harris told me. “Whatever I say will be taken out of context and misquoted.” I’m picturing David Duffy sitting at his desk at the NE, reading that quote and saying, “I’ve never been so insulted in my life.” And Kenny Potter responding, ‘“You must have been!”

(Editor: I suppose KP’s going to be indignant next.)

John Garton, aware of the saint’s predilection for miracles, sends this shaggy-dog tale: “Murphy drops some buttered toast on the kitchen floor and it lands butter-side-up. He looks down in astonishment, for he knows that it’s a law of nature of the universe that buttered toast always falls butter-down. So he rushes round to the presbytery to fetch Father Flanagan.
He tells the priest that a miracle has occurred in his kitchen but he won’t say what it is, so he asks Fr. Flanagan to come and see it with his own eyes. He leads Fr. Flanagan into the kitchen and asks him what he sees on the floor. “Well,” says the priest, “it’s pretty obvious. someone has dropped some buttered toast on the floor and then, for some reason, they flipped it over so that the butter was on top.”

“No, Father, I dropped it and it landed like that!” exclaimed Murphy. “Oh my Lord,” says Fr. Flanagan, “dropped toast never falls with the butter side up. It’s a mir.. Wait… it’s not for me to say it’s a miracle. I’ll have to report this matter to the Bishop and he’ll have to deal with it. He’ll send some people round; to interview you, take photos, etc.” A thorough investigation is conducted, not only by the archdiocese but by scientists sent over from the Curia in Rome. No expense is spared. There is great excitement in the town as everyone knows that a miracle will bring in much need tourism revenue. Then, after eight long weeks and with great fanfare, the Bishop announces the final ruling.

“It is certain that some kind of an extraordinary event took place in Murphy’s kitchen, quite outside the natural laws of the universe. Yet the Holy See must be very cautious before ruling a miracle. All other explanations must be ruled out. Unfortunately, in this case, it has been declared ‘No Miracle’ because they think that Murphy may have buttered the toast on the wrong side!”

Then there’s the very funny tale sent by the esteemed Fred Wehner, which I already sent to a few people pretending it was mine…well, Freddy has sent several of my feeble jokes back to me, so I guess he’s doing the same. Anyway, read all about the Scottish hooker:

“Because they’re financially strapped, a young Glasgow couple agree the wife should take to the streets. Her husband says: “Stand in front of that bar, pick up a bloke and tell him it’s a hundred pounds. If there are questions I’ll be round the corner.” Showing a leg she soon attracts a john, tells him it’s £100 but he says: “All I got is thirty.” “Hold on,” she says, runs back to the husband and asks: “What now? All he has is £30?” Replies hubby: “For that he gets a hand job.”
Back at his car the customer agrees. She gets in. He unzips his trousers and out pops this HUGE member. She stares at it for a few seconds, then says: “I’ll be right back.” Breathlessly, she runs back to her husband who asks what’s wrong.

“Any chance,” she asks, “you could lend this bloke the other seventy?”

Here’s a two-minute vid taken from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle commonly and incorrectly called a drone (it’s remotely piloted, drones are not) that was flown inside a Miami fireworks display. I muted the music but the visuals are stunning.

Finally, Ken Potter totally lets down the side with this story from the Garden of Eden: ” “Lord, I have a problem.” “What is it, Eve?” “I know that you created me and provided this beautiful garden and all of these wonderful animals, especially that hilarious snake, but I’m just not happy.” “And why is that Eve?” “Lord, I’m lonely, and I’m sick to death of apples.” “Well, Eve, in that case I have a solution. I shall create a man for you.”

“Man? What is that Lord?” “A flawed creature with many bad traits. He’ll lie, cheat and be vain. All in all he’ll give you a hard time, but he’ll be bigger and faster and will love to hunt, fish and bring you good things to eat. I’ll create him in such a way that he will satisfy your physical needs. He will revel in childish things like playing poker or knocking a ball around.”

“He won’t be as smart as you, so he will also need your advice to think properly.” “Sounds great,” says Eve, with ironically raised eyebrows, “but what’s the catch?” “Well,.. you can have him on one condition.” “And what’s that Lord?”

“Well, since he’ll be proud, arrogant and self-admiring, you’ll have to let him believe that I made him first. And it will have to be our little secret… you know, woman to woman.”

Note for new readers: the epistles of St Paul the Self-Appointed are for amusement only and you should not try this at home unless there’s a grown-up present (not Bill Cosby, though.) Older epistles are archived on St Pee’s website so that chronic insomniacs can have hope of a decent night’s kip for once. Don’t overdo it, we have had some tragic coma cases.

E-pistle 1053 Stone heads EXTRA with Cosby 11/21/14

T’other week, the saint (who never, ever fiddled his expenses claims, even in the matter of an allegedly run-over Guatemalan goat that was shared with a certain Mister Joffe, and charged at $30) well, the saint mentioned that a news editor testifying at the Rebekah Brooks bribery trial in London said: “There is more fantasy in journalists’ expenses than the Lord of the Rings.”

Up pops Barbara Sternig, former fellow senior reporter at the Enquirer and Top Gossip Girl in Hollywood, where nobody would dream of charging creatively. “Who would fiddle, now I ask you, WHO?” she demanded, baby blues at f-stop 1.4. “Or,” she added, “fiddle who they name on their source list?” Happily for the epistle, Babs added a confidence: ” I do recall, however, one Tom Muldoon being called in to the boss’s office to explain naming (Hollywood publicist )Stuart Ehrlich as one of his sources on some story, and avidly confirming this was true and how “inside” Stuart was….only to have it pointed out to him that Ehrlich had died the previous year.”

Babs herself is a busy girl, and is planning to take herself and her new gold leggings to Tahiti soon, to wow the troops. She writes: “My new book is “On Chestnut Street….a 1940s Childhood in Words and Pictures”….fond illustrated account of my earliest life in the midwest of America in a very large and affectionate family, and life of the era, with all pix composed and preserved by my talented late dad. Go see it at . It was really inspired by the shelf full of (photograph) albums my dad kept year after year, full of priceless vintage photos that tell the tale of a vanished world, a vanished time, and vanished America.”

The irrepressible Mervyn Edgecombe, aka Swervs, sent around pics of the Easter Island statues known as moai, having learned that they are not just heads, as popularly believed, but have bodies that in some cases have been buried since they were carved in the 13th -16th centuries. See the diggers at one, below. Well, many of the nearly 900 moai are not semi-buried, as this pic of a moai rugby team (XV of them) shows. OK, they’re not a team, but they are believed to represent ancestors and gods.

Some, like one in the British Museum (above) were painted. Some face inland, some face the ocean, to oversee the safety of the locals or to bring home travellers. One group of seven (seven-a-side team?) are believed to represent seven ancestors who waited for their king, and are now eternally set as watchers and guides. This last group might not have convinced the Enquirer’s publisher, Generoso Pope Jr, who was once presented with the touching story of a British woman who for 20 years went out each day to wait at the bus stop for her missing son. The photo of the poor old lady was captioned ‘A Mother’s Undying Faith,’ and the editor who took it to Pope had a tear in his eye as he explained the story. Pope threw the pic back at him. “Nah.” he said. “What if he took a cab?”

What if he took a cover-up? Well, GP was dead by 2005, when Tamara Green went to the Enquirer and claimed that Bill Cosby had drugged and groped her. This was a year after 13 other women had accused Cosby of drugging and molesting them, and brought a civil action that was settled under sealed conditions in 2006. Staff reporter Robin Mizrahi filed an unflinching story but the Enq fumbled or deliberately dropped the ball and didn’t publish it. Mindful of the maxim It’s Useful to Have a Scandal in the Back Pocket, the tabloid didn’t go after Cosby’s jugular even though he hinted at his own guilty feelings. The tape of the hands-off Barry Levine interview that supplanted Mizrahi’s piece has Cosby saying:” You hear many times that someone has done something and they’re crying out for somebody to stop them from whatever it is they’re doing wrong.”

He added an almost-confession, too: “I’m not saying that what I did was wrong, but I apologize to my loving wife, who has stood by my side for all these years, for any pain I have caused her.” Mizrahi this week told the Guardian newspaper that she remains “livid” about the spiking of her hard-news investigation in favour of “a bullshit feel-good interview with Cosby. I feel sad for the women who tried to speak up and weren’t listened to because he was so powerful and had such effective lawyers.”

Can anybody from the old Enq spell ‘enabling?’ At least the new NE has spilled a few beans on Cosby, in the Radar online mag. Others from the old days at the tabloid say it was not unknown for a scandal to be hushed up if it could be used to force some celeb to reveal dirt on fellow giltterati. Makes you wonder who’s worse – an errant celeb or an enabling editor?

E-pistol 1052 fires at German humour 11/20/14

It’s been a week of other distractions, and the epistle has taken a back seat, so this may be a mercifully brief missive. My (non-smoker) brother Donald found he had tongue cancer, had most of the tongue removed, and received a graft in a 14 hour surgery, survived a heart stoppage after he bled out, was saved by a jump start and emergency surgery, (eight more hours) now has a (second) grafted rebuilt tongue. At midweek he was stable and improving and finally beginning to communicate, after days under sedation..

Don’s 10 years older than the saint, and was a mystery figure in my life, as he did not fit well with my mother, who was his stepmother. He joined the Royal Navy at age 15 and only surfaced briefly at our father’s funeral then vanished for 30 years. Well, I found him a decade ago, went to meet him again in the UK (when the Bannister clan got news of a reunion for six people and 31 showed up for the party) and we established good relations, enough that he came to stay with us in the US for a couple of months. We’ve been in fine contact since, and now this. Wish him well. I suppose it’s never too late…

This story didn’t get much play in the USA, so the epistle may be a suitable vehicle to tell you of the Germans’ fine sense of humour. For the last couple of decades, grim-faced neo-Nazis have been flocking to the south German village of Wunsiedel to commemorate National Heroes’ Remembrance Day by marching to the grave of deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess. No matter that Hess’ remains were moved away and the grave destroyed, the extremists keep arriving. (No matter either that Hess may have been a traitor – he flew to Scotland in 1941 and was captured.)

The 1000 or so villagers tried to keep the extremists out, the courts repeatedly banned the march, but the stone-faced Nazis kept showing up with their flags and wreaths. This year, the villagers played a prank so that the thugs inadvertently participated in a walkathon. Its beneficiaries: an organisation that helps neo-Nazis to get out of the movement.

Locals organised sponsorships and raised 10 euros – about $14 – for every metre the Nazis paraded, but they didn’t tell the goose steppers until their march was under way. As they walked through the village, they were informed by banners and posters thanking them for their generosity with slogans like “If only the Fuhrer knew’ and – a spoof on a Third Reich exhortation – ‘Quick like greyhounds, tough like leather, generous like never before.’ Hitler’s book ‘Mein Kampf’ (My Struggles) was mocked, using bananas for the Nazis labelled ‘Mein Mampf’ (My Munchy’) and the route had markers painted on it, announcing just how much the marchers had raised by reaching the distance. In all, the reluctant walkathoners raised 10,000 euros, to be spent against their own cause. And none of them laughed.

My favourite fake bishop, the fictional Bishop Candless of third century infamy (aka Jim McCandlish of the 21st century) responds to last week’s blathering about early Xmas decorations with: “So (Nat Enq publisher) Gene Pope didn’t die. He just moved to Eugene, Oregon to torture his neighbors during Christmas time — without having to spend $1 million on a yuletide tree!” His Grace refers to the elaborate Xmas decorations that attracted about one thousand billion visitors to the Enquirer gardens each Yule.
(He’s making up the stats, as usual – Ed)

Top Aussie sportswriter Jeff Wells chimes in on the All Blacks’ rugby result against the USA with: “The right price about the Eagles against the All Blacks was around 500,000 to 1. That the Eagles scored at all is a huge credit to them. Coming from a tiny country the All Blacks are among the most professional and ruthless of any football code on the world stage..being constantly humiliated by our neighbors across the pond drives us Aussies nuts, but we realise that rugby is not a game over there it is a crusade and the Crusaders were not known for being gentle to anyone.

“But I will say this – looking at college football the USA has the raw talent to kick the world’s arse in rugby. it just needs the recruitment and the ability to understand a game about which not even the referees (especially the English) seem to have much of a clue. Go the Eagles.”

Ken Potter is a golfer, enough said about that, and he claims these were real calls to a golf club:

Staff: Golf course, may I help you?
Caller: Do you have any open tee times around 10 o’clock?
Staff: Yes, we have one at 10:15.
Caller: What’s the next time after that?
Staff: We have one at 10:22.
Caller: We’ll take that one. It will be a bit warmer.

Staff: Golf course, may I help you?
Caller: How much to play golf today?
Staff: 25 to walk, 38 with a cart.
Caller: 38 dollars?
Staff: No, 38 yen.

Staff: Golf course, may I help you?
Caller: What do you have for tee times tomorrow?
Staff: What time would you like?
Caller: What times do you have?
Staff: What time of the day?
Caller: Any time.
Staff: Morning or afternoon?
Caller: Whenever.
Staff: We have 16 times open in the morning and 20 open in the afternoon. Would you like me to read the whole list?
Caller: No, I don’t think any of those times will work for me.

John Garton is galled to tell us “Fresh from my visit three weeks ago to our local hospital for my “atrial flutter.” I’ve just got home from another three days there to have my gall bladder removed. Watch this space for more hospital visits….I might even start a blog! All well with four brightly-coloured abdomen scars, all a little sore but otherwise in good nick.”

Brit comedian David Walliams has written a handful of children’s books – the latest sold six million copies – and gets plenty of fan mail, but he says the most memorable recent letter came from an eight years old boy who told him: “You’re my second favourite author. My favourite is JK Rowlings, but she’s probably too busy to write back.”

E-pistle 1051 Christmas already? and poppies Posted Nov 13 14

Depressing though it is, commercial Christmas is coming and I had to sigh at seeing my likeable and very industrious neighbour hard at work on Guy Fawkes Day (Nov 5th) putting up his usual 10,000 Christmas decorations. Eight flipping weeks before the holiday! I am not joking about the quantity of lights, either. Limos and small buses parade up our street during the lights season, carrying drunks who climb out, leave trash and (I hope) steal the decorations they troll around town to view. My neighbour also hosts fund-raising dinners for people who want to wander through his house, where almost every room is filled with tableaux, Lilliputian towns with moving skaters and railway trains, where the stairs are crowded with dozens of child-sized ‘collector’ dolls, and 140 Nutcrackers, some of them five or six feet tall, lurk around the place, menacing with their giant wooden teeth.

The lawns are filled with reindeer, inflatable snow globes, jolly Santas and a creche where the ox and ass and several depressed-looking wooden blokes with curly beards hang out. That creche once blew over in a windstorm, and I assured my place in Heaven because I put Christ back on his feet. I just wish I didn’t have to look at him and his celebrants for two months or more, every year.

The week marked the centennial remembrance of the start of WW1, and a Brit artist created a stunning memorial to the 888,246 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the conflict. Called ‘Blood-swept lands, and seas of red,’ it is a tide of ceramic poppies that fills the moat of the Tower of London, one poppy for each fallen soldier.

Four thousand volunteers placed the poppies, which were purchased individually by the public, and which will be sent to them at the end of this week, and an estimated four million people will have viewed the tribute before it is dismantled. Remember: this staggering number is just to memorialise the British and Commonwealth dead. German, Austrian, Russian, French, Belgian and the rest of the dead are not included. The estimate is that overall, ten million soldiers and seven million civilians died – so each poppy in the Tower’s moat could also represent 19 Great War dead, worldwide.

Died in 1916: among the several of our family who died in the trenches, at my boyhood home we had a portrait on the wall of my mother’s older brother/ my unknown uncle Joseph Campbell, a Royal Engineers sapper, with those painted eyes that follow you everywhere (my Daily Mail colleague Betsy Everett stayed with my folks and suffered similarly with a spooky pic of the Sacred Heart) and writing all this reminds me that I’m the last of the clan to remember him, though maybe Campbell family historian Angela Hulse may have a link … Sic transit et cetera. Fact is, almost every family in Britain had a close relative who died in the Great War, and my own boyhood was spent seeing the crippled and mustard-gassed men who paid an awful price, but at least they survived. Poppies are an important memorial.

Last week’s epistle was right and wrong, says Aussie Dave Anson, who is a business owner and a very knowledgeable former rugby player and first class coach. Dave addressed the saint’s thoughts on crime and Jack Grimshaw’s criticism of the US Eagles’ performance against the world champion All Blacks. Sit back and read on:
“My comments may not suit your column, but I thought the critic of the USA Eagles was out of line, and out of touch with the game of Rugby. I don’t think such derogatory comments are worthy of space in your Epistles. Criticism is fine, but the unwarranted “Buncha dogs” isn’t. Perhaps the Editor was asleep at the keyboard at the time. (My usual posture, but Dave says it like it’s a bad thing – Ed.)

“First Beef. Both the San Jose Police Department and the City of San Jose brag about the drop in crime rate in the area, and how wonderful everything is in one of the safest cities in the country.

“This doesn’t sit with my experience over the last 15 months, having confronted two intruders in my showroom on two separate occasions in the early hours of the morning, two more in the enclosed yard of the business on other occasions, and an attempt by a woman to run me down in the car park whilst she was talking on her cell phone. When I tried to draw her attention to the fact that she had just reversed into me, and broke the signs I was carrying, she continued on with her cell phone conversation, then when I stood in front of her waving for her to stop, she aimed her car at me and took off.

“Result: five police reports, one assault with a deadly weapon, two arrests, two in the too hard department, and no convictions.

“Writing to the Chief of Police to ask for an update, saw me visited by two senior Police Officers, who both glossed over all the earlier reports but promised personal intervention in any future problems with, “Here is my cell phone number, call me with any problems”.

“The result; Crims 5, Cops ZERO! That is how they fudge the statistics. It is easier to BS with PR than to do the actual police work and follow up with Lic. Plate numbers etc. and investigate fully.

“Second Beef: In defense of USA Rugby. I thought the critical comments about the USA performance against The “All Blacks” was harsh, ‘What a buncha dogs,’ and unwarranted to say the least.

“To my mind the Eagles did exceptionally well with possession and territory as the statistics show. They made numerous breaks through the All Blacks defensive system, but lacked the support play to continue on like the All Blacks do. They certainly didn’t dog it! I guess if a USA basket ball Dream Team played N.Z., you would get a similar one sided result. However I don’t think any New Zealand player would be guilty of the charge of dogging it! Rugby is a collision sport, without the padding and protective wear of American Football.

“There is a film clip going around of another scribe who opted to take on Todd Clever, the USA Rugby team captain, in both offensive and defensive roles. The scribe finished up with broken ribs. So it is not as easy as it may appear to the uninitiated. I thought the Eagles learned a lot from their experience, and might surprise a few teams in the Rugby 7’s at the next Olympics.”

(Opinions are aired, not edited. The saint does not censor or edit contributors’ material (except for minor errors) unless it is critical of himself, when it goes immediately onto the spike – Editor.)

Dave Anson’s tale of cops uninterested in crime sparked rugby mate John Bradley’s memories of a late arrival in Memphis..”Ground crew greeted us, gave us passes to local Holiday Inn Express and said shuttle vans were waiting to take us. We had early morning connecting flight at 7am so was just going to be brief stop over.

“Keen to get some sleep my younger colleagues rushed out to jump into first van waiting, 400lbs ‘African American’ driving silver minivan. He opened rear tailgate as they threw luggage, golf clubs, briefcases into his van. He told them that the van behind his would take us passengers & drove away…………

“I fortunately did not bring my own clubs and had my suitcase with me as we all got into the next minivan. This pleasant chap also of similar size decided to give us all a Saturday night tour of some of the nicest areas of Memphis, as we passed by the intended hotel. We were told that road works forced this 30 minute diversion. Some very pleasant viewing of street fights, gangs & hookers. We arrived at this wonderful Holiday Inn Express at 2.05am to a wedding reception at its end, to be told by reception they had no rooms. I did manage to acquire a room with door that didn’t close. I managed to get a few hours sleep, showered and went down to lobby to catch shuttle back to airport.
Three of my colleagues still dressed looking half-dead had no sleep, instead had spent three hours on phone trying to get through to the Memphis police. Seems Bubba in the first van had driven away with all the belongings. He never showed at hotel, was not employed by taxi company. When dialling police you get a menu, press 1 for robbery, press 2 for rape etc you get the picture. Dialling 911 was told that it was not life threatening & hung up. Cooper the bright spark had memorized the license plate. Still didn’t make a difference not one policeman would do anything.

“Finally as we boarded shuttle van for ride to airport a police car pulled up in front of hotel. Cooper walked over thinking that they had arrived to take statement, immediately brushed him off.

“Bubba got away with thousands in golf clubs, lap tops & other items of value. Police could care less. My brother in law at that time was professor at University of Memphis, when I told him he couldn’t stop laughing saying police were probably in on it.”

Monkey Biz: It takes one… photog Kelvin Jones points out the error of my tale in the matter of a tail. The ape pictured on the back of a motorbike was not an orang-utan, he says, as they don’t have tails. “Try baboon,” he helpfully (and correctly) suggested. But, I protested, I didn’t see a camera over its shoulder… His response should get him into deep fertiliser with Linda: “And thereby hangs a tail! That was no monkey that was my wife!!” Here’s the evidence, again:

Here’s a link to an hilarious vid of two baby pandas joining forces against their keeper when he tries to administer medicine. Watch at your own risk of laughing loudly….

There’s the tale of the Irishman accused of rape, who’s lined up in an identity parade with nine others. The woman is wheeled in, she walks in front of the lineup, and the Irish bloke shouts out at once: “That’s her! That’s the one!”
Passages: Eddie Sanderson sends notice that Harry Arnold, 73, has lost his gallant battle with cancer. The former chief reporter of the Daily Mirror was asked by hospital staff to take a dementia test, says pal Phil Mellor. “Harry was asked the date, which he answered correctly, then the county he lived in. He answered that correctly. “Then he was asked who was on the throne and he answered, ‘Of course, Queen Elizabeth the Second – I had lunch with her last week.’ ” Adds Mellor: “Which of course he did – at a charity event.”

Alert: a pre-holiday scam of which we’re warned by Ken Potter is the USPS/FedEx/UPS e-notice of non-delivery. Says KP: “It will say that they were unable to deliver a package sent to you on such-and-such a date. It then asks you to print out the invoice copy attached. DON’T TRY TO PRINT THIS. IT LAUNCHES THE VIRUS! ” Checked on Snopes.

Here’s a pic of Ken and wife Diane (nee Albright) and their pooches. Enviably, the humans seem not to have changed at all since 1979.
An alert from the saint himself, who this week received a ‘Starbucks $20 gift card.’ DON’T print the voucher – it’s a phishing scam designed to steal your identity details. A scam-busting site advises that AT&T and Costco gift cards are also on offer, with similar viral attachments.

Sharing the (Oscar?) glory: retired Univ Oregon professor Dan Kimble writes with pride: ” On the movie front, my nephew, J. K.(for Kimble) Simmons has a new movie out called “Whiplash.” He plays the character of (Terence) Fletcher and the New Yorker and NYTimes and USAToday all think he should be nominated for an Oscar. I wrote him and asked for two tickets. He replied: ‘Don’t bet on the World Series during spring training.’ I am so pumped!”

Graham Lawrence offers these Dear Abby agony aunt letters: “What can I do about all the Sex, Nudity, Fowl Language and Violence on my VCR? ” and “I am a twenty-three year old liberated woman who has been on the pill for two years. It’s getting expensive and I think my boyfriend should share half the cost, but I don’t know him well enough to discuss money with him.” And then there’s: “Dear Abby, I’ve suspected that my husband has been fooling around, and when confronted with the evidence, he denied everything and said it would never happen again.”

Last word to Andy Leatham who claims that he accidentally swallowed some Scrabble tiles, so his next poo “could spell disaster.”
He also tells the story of (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel arriving at the Athens airport. The immigration officer looks at her passport and says: “Occupation?” Says Merkel: “No, just here for a few days.

E-pistle 1050 Saint Pee and the po-lis. Nov 6 ’14

There’s an uncomfortable trend about theft these days, and we’re all suffering from it. Police in many major cities have simply stopped responding to certain crimes. Your house was burgled? Call the insurance company. Your car was broken into? Call the same Good Hands People. Forget about 911.

Chicago PD last year announced its new policy and it will take broken bones, bullet wounds, rape or the threat from a criminal who’s still in your house before they’ll send out a patrolman. If you come home to find the place ransacked, the cops say: ‘Call the insurance agent.”

It happened to me a couple of years ago when someone tried to break in (fail) but did steal some small stuff from outside. The same thief that night took about $6000 worth of contractor’s tools from a neighbour 50 yards away. No cop came to visit either of us.

In Seattle last weekend, journo Danny Westneat returned to his car to find a window smashed and his phone and wallet missing. His tech-savvy kids tracked the phone and told him: “It’s at a 7-11 on Aurora.” Danny went there and realised that the silver van now moving out of the parking lot had his phone aboard because he could see its GPS-tracked movements. He called the cops with the van’s licence number, description and location. The dispatcher “Was dismissive. ‘Go home and file an insurance claim,’ she told me,” said Danny.

He didn’t, followed the van and monitored it for an hour. No cops showed up. He called his phone and the van moved off so he gave chase, and again called the dispatcher. “She was furious – with us. ‘Stop following them, Pull over immediately, you’re going to get shot!” she said.” More conversation, but the cops said they would only go to a fixed address. The thief meanwhile was waving Danny’s phone at him and laughing. He learned later that some thieves want to be tracked, so they can sell your stuff back to you.

The cops say they are undermanned and get too many cases, they can’t send someone merely to soothe you, post-crime. They’ll only come if you’re in danger or are a victim in a serious case. Security analysts say the cops want lower crime stats, so no report equals no crime. The DA on the other hand wants a high conviction rate (he gets elected every few years) so he needs stone-cold proof before he’ll take a case f that might lower his percentages. One result: the two don’t work well together. Another result: criminals know they’re going to be ignored, and petty crime’s soaring. Danny says the ‘more serious’ car thefts in Seattle are up 44% in the past year, and that the city suffered 426 smash and grabs in the past fortnight alone. Sobering stuff.

Crims 2: bellissima Angelena* Dawna Kaufmann has authored a whole library of best-selling crime nonfiction, so imagine the saint’s squirming delight at a) being flatteringly addressed by her and b) having anybody at all pay attention.

DK wrote: “So lovely of you, O Anointed One, to include me in your list of authors Ernest Hemingway, JK Rowlings, and now Rod Gibson. I have much in common with the first two. As I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed white hairs springing from my chin, and I too tried to sway the Scottish Independence movement with my vast fortune, which might explain their loss and Rowling’s win. But cheers to Rod Gibson and you, every author’s best publicist.” Rockin’ Rod meanwhile is signing children’s books like a maniac.

Dawna viewed a pic of an orang outan on the back of a motorbike, which I said was me, en route to a conference. She noted: “You really should shave before you meet with your publisher. Of course, that was the advice I gave Hemingway too…”
* Italian hyperbole for stunningly attractive Hollywoodite. (She’s probably from Santa Monica, though.)

As a grumpy old hack, the saint often decries the lowered standards of the shrinking Fourth Estate (newspapers, to you) and even more frequently decries Americans’ often-stunning ignorance of other nations, but the cake goes to the Chicago Sun-Times subeditor who wrote (and the copy editors who missed) the headline below. It concerns the world famous All Black rugby team which destroyed the US Eagles 74-6 last weekend. Yes, the ABs come from the Land of the Long White Cloud, or New Zealand as it’s more properly known. Thanks to Mally Balfour for the catch.

I do miss those subs with thinning white hair, grey cardigans and a knowledge of everything from the capital of Ghana to the right way to address a bishop.

Meanwhile, a onetime rugby league correspondent has this to say: “Following the American rugby team’s 74-6 shellacking by New Zealand the other Saturday in front of 61,500 spectators at a chilly Soldier Field, Chicago, Jack Grimshaw reports:

“The U. S. Eagles? Forget it. More like the Beagles. What a buncha dogs. Two early penalty kicks against 12 tries? Oops! Even Argentina performs better against the All Blacks than that. (The only team to do worse – Japan. Better known for suicide pilots, hara-kiri, two half-naked fat guys grappling each other and brutal treatment of war prisoners than aggressive rucking.)

“After leading 12-6, New Zealand scored 62 unanswered points. Other than an occasional flash of individual, short-lived brilliance, the Eagles basically stunk. Waving your arms at a guy while he runs by you is not a tackle. Duuuh! Their performance recalled the late ’60s, when I had the infinite pleasure of covering Swinton for the Salford City Reporter. There was one regular, rabid supporter with a high-volume taunt of the opposition: ‘Tha couldn’t beat fucking Henshaw’s!’ As in the Manchester school for the blind. Eagles vs. Henshaw’s? Too close to call.”

Tom Butler shamelessly airs an old chestnut, but hey, it’s Throwback Thursday: “A young man goes up to the pharmacy counter in a CVS store. He asks the female assistant “Do you have Viagra?” “Yes, we do”. The young man says “Can I get it over the counter?” The assistant nods: ” Maybe, if you take two.”

An equally awful groaner comes from former Head Boy Simon Winchester, adding to his erudition last week about the names of the space shuttles: “And of course, please note that if NASA hadn’t named its shuttle Endeavour after Captain Cook’s ship, it would have sported the American spelling Endeavor. So – u got into space, even if I didn’t.”

My Lancashire mate Graham Timmins once rode his (Triumph?) motorbike across the USA but has seen his machismo decline so far that he’s now puttering about on a Vespa when he’s not Lexus-ing it. His Kiwi pal Don Macnaughton (no, not Norton) saw him on it the other day and taunted him with a Mike Sarne vid of old Dommies, Beezers and the like – anyone remember ‘A Burn-Up on my Bike that’s wot I like.” ??? Graham’s in tears. Don wrote: ‘When I see ‘I’m on ‘is scootah, I blast ‘im wiv my ‘ootah.’ More despondency from a Rocker gone Mod.

Passages: Jennie’s aunt Mary May passed away in Cornwall this week, indomitable at 101 years of age. Right to the end, she enjoyed her daily G&T, her mind was as sharp as ever, and her only fear was that she’d lose her sight and the ability to read. Her life spanned a century of amazing change and she long held the view that everyone should be quietly put to sleep once they passed 80 years of age. “Getting old is obscene,” she said, ” and I’m tired of it.” Sleep well, Mary.

Kevin Golden comes from Irish immigrants who wholeheartedly integrated into American society and have thrived. He read the Dutch politician’s speech about Islamist incomers who resolutely remain aloof so are changing the face of their new countries and notes: “Unfortunately you are not allowed to express your views without being labeled a racist or not being politically correct. City of Santa Clara (Calif) has neighborhoods of only Muslims. You would wonder what country you are in just by going to the local Costco. I worked with Muslims who would say they despise the way Americans live. Where’s the acceptance of other religions from muslims? You see a lot more women wearing burkas or head scarves.

(Kevin’s son ) “Michael is a senior at St. Mary’s (Catholic college) Moraga, he keeps hearing the white male blamed for all the world problems. He’s even gotten a C from a militant female professor who didn’t like him not agreeing with “white males are the problem”. This is disappointing since you would hope they would encourage and respect discussion of differing views.”

If you laughed at the pic above, you’re going straight to hell. Blame image supplier Graham Lawrence of Swinton, Lancashire. Oh, he’s already in hell. And Ken Potter’s joining him for this: David Letterman’s top reasons why there are no black drivers in NASCAR: ‘Have to sit upright while driving;’ ‘Pit crew can’t work on car while holding up pants at the same time;’ ‘No passenger seat for the Ho;’ and ‘They can’t wear their helmets sideways.’

Then there’s the story of Lady Felicity Filmore, who came home to her palace after a ball and seductively beckoned to her butler and whispered: “Phillips, remove my dress.” The silk rustled to the floor. “Now,” she said, “take off my slip. And my bra. And remove my stockings. And, Phillips, if I catch you wearing my clothes again, you’re fired.”