Paul’s Other Posts

Posted by on Apr 25, 2011

Fairly soon, I’ll be current on the e-pistles, so they’ll only be posted weekly, as new ones are sent around. For my own amusement, to keep my book(s) in readers’ consciousness, I’ll continue to post new material from my files. These are untold stories that didn’t make it into Tabloid Man – some did, of course, but I had to stay close to the theme of the book. Anyway, these tales deserve an airing. TOO GOOD TO MISS Enjoy the blogs? Consider possessing an actual book of these fine stories – about 85 of them not published here. Just invest ten bucks and a bit for postage et cetera and you too can own a copy of Tabloid Man, signed and dedicated. Think of it as supporting a writer whose stuff entertains you. Just  visit the  Purchase key and give me the name/address/ suggested dedication. All this for $13 including shipping and it might keep me from starving to death. Gasp, arrrghhh. To:  BLOGGERS and those who post I’m getting a lot of generic spam like ‘This information is highly useful’ etc that may or may not be from a reader. If you want your comment published, please make some kind of reference to my topics. I am not here to advertise people’s sites for fetish footwear, DVD sales or car hire in Saudi Arabia. Simple enough:  no references, or if I doubt your motives, your post is going to be at best trashed, or marked as spam. NEWS OF THE PARANORMAL I’ve just had a kind and generous review of my book published by the Pennsylvania group Spirit Realm Investigation – see their site at  www.spiritrealminvestigation.com and suggest that ghost-minded readers pay them a visit for spooky news and chills.   MALAPROPS plus Back in the UK, I saw some of my journalist pals, who filled me in on gossip and what a certain Mister Malaprop had come up with lately. The man was famed for mishearing and producing his own , often heartbreakingly funny descriptions. “It went down like a lead baboon,” was his latest, which capped ‘It’s as easy as walking off a duck’s back’  ‘No one’s inflammable,’ and “ I was a child progeny, you know,”  which were earlier chart-toppers. He’d been in The Victoria, the Daily Mail pub on Deansgate, Manchester holding forth about some altercation in the newsroom.  “He was a rogue element, put I sorted him out, and quensicontly,” he said, “we got on like a horse on fire.” The late Bill Davies was there, telling of complaining to news editor Ken Donlan that he was holding the north eastern district fort alone, while the rival papers had squadrons of reporters. “Everybody here is staffed up,” he said. “The Express has half a dozen, the Mirror is mob-handed, the Mail has only me….” Donlan, noted for his ferocity, nodded as if sympathetic. Then he gave his solution:    “Walk tall,” he said. The aviation correspondent chimed in with a story of a pilot who put a .38 revolver on top of the instrument panel, and asked the navigator if he knew what that was for. “No sir,” said the navigator, timidly.  “I use this on navigators who get me lost,” said the pilot. The navigator pulled out a .45 pistol and put it on his chart table. “What’s that for?” said the pilot. “”To be honest, sir,” said the navigator. “I’ll know we’re lost before you will.”   Tabloid titan John Bell, famed as the freelance Bell of Carlisle, then as the staffman  Bell of the Express, touched on Prince Charles’ prickly relationship with the press. HRH had just delivered a speech at New York’s Museum of Modern Art at which Bell was present,  and remarked: ”Thank God there was no press conference at the airport.” He was referring to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent, fatigued arrival in New York, when some reporter asked if he was going to any night clubs. “The innocent archbish was surprised by the question and retorted: ’Night clubs? Where are the night clubs?” said Bell. The headline in the next day’s New York Mirror was “Where Are The Night Clubs?  asks Archbishop.” The story ended the session, and the group adjourned to Sam’s Chop House,  a cosy, intimate old Manchester eating place with nooks where we sloshed down schooners of sherry tapped straight from the barrel. The menu was pure Victorian cotton kings’ favorites: brown onion soup with cheddar; corned beef hash,  Icelandic cod or haddock and chips with peas,  sizzling, gleaming, plump English bangers with hot mustard and mashed potatoes and a flagon of gravy. The ancient waitresses brought curried Welsh lamb, steak and kidney pie (sometimes even steak and kidney steamed pudding) apple pie with custard, rice pudding, jam roly poly. It was all food designed to stick to the interior of the ribs, everything  washed down with Chester’s or Newcastle Breweries, or Boddington’s beer. Sam’s was a place where editors took people to be fired or promoted, a comforting place that took away the edge of disappointment in a snug, warm, brass-gleaming retreat. We told war stories and took liveners of single malt whisky before the locals said their farewells and headed for the trains to Manchester’s rainy, leafy  suburbs. For me, as an expat visitor from Florida, it was back to the hotel and a sleep before tomorrow’s flight, regretful that under the swaying palm trees of my new home, there wasn’t a Sam’s.   ARLEN  & BETHANY I’ve  always liked the tales of the human spirit,  inspiring accounts of people like Ken Jones or Peter DeLeo, mentioned below. These were men  massively injured and alone in a remote place, whose  absolute determination took them to safety despite almost-impossible odds. The story of a young Hawaiian girl whose arm was bitten off by a shark, and of  a 56 years old  Arkansas rancher who lost his arm in farm machinery were equally inspiring in other ways, and I was privileged to hear their stories from the people who experienced them. Arlen Mundy, of Harrison, Arkansas was dragging a brush cutter behind his tractor, clearing land, and musing about dinner. He stood to see how much more there was to do, hit a hole and was jolted backwards, falling headlong. He plunged between the cutter’s whirling blades and the still-moving tractor. In a moment, he could be chopped into mince by the three-foot blades if the cutter ran over him. Mundy grabbed a sway bar and wrapped a leg around another support as the machinery dragged him over the bumpy ground. He struggled to reach up under the seat to knock the tractor out of gear. Just as his hand brushed the gearstick, a rock whacked him hard, knocked him against the spinning drive shaft and onto the brush hog’s blades. “They hit me like sledge hammers,” he told me. “It numbed everything for a while. My arm was chopped off at the socket and the blades ripped away three quarters of my right buttock, but I was lucky.” The blades whipped off the farmer’s boot heel and came so close to slicing him in half they cut his belt and clothes off. Arm amputated, back and buttocks slashed into raw meat, the diehard ex-soldier hung onto the sway bar as the tractor rumbled onwards. After what seemed like a year, the machine lurched into a ditch and stopped, wheels and blades still spinning. Mundy edged out and, jetting blood, stumbled back 35 yards to find his severed arm lying in the dirt. He grabbed it and went back to the tractor, putting the mangled limb on the back of the machine. Somehow, slippery with blood, he climbed into the seat, disengaged the blades and jolted the tractor across the fields. At the gate onto Boat Mountain Road, one-armed and with massive back and buttock injuries, he climbed down, opened the gate, climbed back up, drove through and climbed down again. “Had to shut the gate. Didn’t want my cows getting out,” he explained. Mundy fought off fainting spells as he drove more than a mile down the lane, where he met a couple who helped him. He was medevac’ed by helicopter to hospital, but surgeons couldn’t reattach the limb – too much was missing. Later he learned he’d had more than one miraculous escape from death. “By an amazing chance, when my arm was severed, the main artery snapped back like elastic into the socket and tied itself into a perfect knot. It made its own tourniquet and cut the bleeding to a level at which I could survive – just!” Bethany Hamilton also lost her arm in an instant, but she came much closer to death than did the Arkansas farmer. Bethany,13, was a world class surfer, a wave-riding star on her red, white and blue Rip Curl short board and she was afloat on the crystal Pacific off the north coast of Kauai one October dawn. “I was lying on the board, my left arm hanging in the water. I’d seen some turtles around, but nothing else.” Without warning, a striped 15ft Tiger shark rose from the deeps, rolled onto its side and bit down with more than a ton of pressure. The Tiger’s blunt upper jaw, with its nine diagonal rows of serrated razor teeth, sliced effortlessly through Bethany’s three-inch thick epoxy laminate surfboard. Its lower teeth cleanly amputated Bethany’s arm four inches below the shoulder. It was a numbing, almost painless crunch, a bite that severed the arm and took a 17 inch wide scoop from the surfboard. “The shark pulled me back and forth, but I just held onto my board. Then it let me go,” said the girl. The hit and run attack was over without a splash. Bethany, who is a trained lifeguard,  looked on, shocked, as her blood spurted into the ocean. Then she consciously contained her panic. She shouted ‘Shark! Shark! and began desperately paddling one-handed towards  fellow surfers Alana Blanchard and Alana’s dad, Holt. Blanchard skimmed across the waves to the frightened girl, tore off his tee shirt and wadded it over her wound. The blood poured into the water, creating a lure for another, deadly attack. Blanchard,49, used the rubber leash of his surfboard to tie off a tourniquet around the gushing stump. He loaded the girl onto another surfer’s board and set off to cover the 300 yards to shore. “We pushed and pulled and did everything we could to get out of the water fast, but the tourniquet was needed first,” he said. Bethany hung onto Blanchard’s ankle as he paddled, towing her to shore and mumbled responses as he urged her to stay awake. “I was drifting, but I was afraid, I was praying the shark wouldn’t come back, attracted by the blood.” Doctors said Bethany lost more than half of the blood in her body, could not have survived without the swiftly-applied tourniquet and even with it probably would have died if she had not been in such prime physical condition. Six months after the attack that should have killed her, Bethany was back in surfing competitions, was snowboarding and was considering a career in underwater photography. “My surfing is as good as ever,” she told me, “but paddling with only one arm to catch a wave is a handicap, so I’m working on building my arm power.”  Indomitable Bethany now makes the rounds as an inspirational speaker, as well as competing as a surf queen. With a prosthetic. And, oh yes, she’s making a movie.   BACKWARDS NAMES Sometimes, what’s on offer is amusing. Meet Dan Bloom, aka Nad Moolb, founder of the Backwards Names Registry. When I called Dan, he was living in Juneau, Alaska and had some long dark nights to fill in, so he found a hobby, and founded the registry, using his own backwards name (a newspaper columnist, he’d used it that way as a nom de plume) as entry number one. “For the price of a postage stamp,” he told me, ‘you can register your name, spelled backwards, of course, with my registry. One day, we hope, your name could be in the Smithsonian Museum archives.” Today, Dan’s working in Taiwan in a modest open-fronted office, and joining the register doesn’t even cost you a postage stamp: it can be done by email. Tim Rae of Baltimore, known as Ear Mit, was one of the first to join, a proud bearer of his backward name since college. So is Ed Clayfoot of Dallas, whose reversed nomenclature is DeToofyalc. He even submitted the name of his family dog Leber (Rebel). The Tokyo coffee shop Alucard carries its signage in both English and Japanese because the owner is a big Dracula fan. Others eager to register included Orlando photographer Bjorn Bolstad, whose second name turns into ‘Dat Slob’  and Eugene, Oregon resident Skip Nelson,  whose Piks Noslen has evolved into Poopie Noslik to his friends. Margarets, or Teragrams,  and Barbaras or Arabrabs like the reversals, and  pedantic people like Fred Holmes (Semloh Derf)  even add a postscript: “The ‘h’ is silent.’ Oprah Winfrey’s company is Harpo, Frank Sinatra signed his paintings Artanis and a company called Nutrimetics sold a stay-awake pill called Derit – ‘tired’ backwards. In San Francisco LeVart Travel Company is just ‘travel’ backwards and the man who invented an oil additive called Silogram is Ed Margolis. “Backward is no drawback,” says Dan, er, Nad. Stories like that are fun to do – dealing with a cheerful, inventive person who cooperates because he wants publicity, but they were only one part of the spectrum of interviews that filled my reporter’s notebook. *****   The YEAR OF YES I interviewed another young woman with an interesting outlook on life. Maria Headley was 21. She moved from Marsing,  Idaho, population 890, to New York to get a life, but it didn’t happen until she said Yes to 150 men and a couple of women. Then she found a husband. The petite NYU student with the curvy figure and searchlight smile got plenty of dates with undergrads but found them repressed, pretentious losers. “I wanted a real man,” she told me. “I wanted a cowboy who could recite Shakespeare. I was self-possessed and neurotic all at the same time. I was judgmental, critical, focused on finding Mr Perfect and all I was getting was dweebs.” A vegetarian, Maria didn’t want anyone who enjoyed meat. She dealt out bankers, truckers, lawyers, construction workers, Goths, Republicans, men with blond eyelashes, men in tight jeans. After too many bland dates, nothing dates and nowhere men, she told her friends: “I’ve been too picky. I could be missing really cool people. I’m sick of my own taste in men. “For one year, I’ll leave it to fate and say Yes to anyone who asks me for a date..” Maria set ground rules: no drunks, druggies or Instant Gropers. No obviously-violent, no married men. Any others of New York’s four million men who asked her to go out would hear: “Sure.” She dated guys she met in the subway, in the bookstore, in line for espresso, on the bus. Most of her dates took place in coffee or wine bars. The 12-month march-past of men included a museum security guard who wanted to take her to Sicily to meet his family; an Egyptian cabbie who was a psychoanalyst and a soldier with three missing fingers and too much to say about what he’d like to do with the remaining ones. A dashing Spanish artist who boasted of painting in his own blood and was contemptuous of those who worked for a living turned out to be a New Jersey Joe who sold glitter dust in a paint store. The goatee’ed psychic who told her she was from Nebraska (no) and was a Capricorn (no)  predicted she’d sleep with him (hell, no). A Japanese student escorted her to a dance club then spent the night listening to his Walkman, while a stone-silent  Hare Krishna shared a children’s swing with her but never uttered a word. She dated the local fountain of testosterone for months before regretfully finding he was servicing half the neighborhood, too. They stayed friends, as she did with her next date, a city bus driver took her on a 4am tour of New York in his empty bus, before dropping her at her doorstep. “I had 150 dates in my Year of Yes,” Maria said, “and I was never scared.” She walked out on a couple, though.  Two lesbians wanted to rent her womb to carry their child. That one went west. Frenchman  Georges met her at a Starbucks, proposed marriage within the hour, and said he’d take her to France tomorrow to meet Mama. He was, he said a high-level Apple exec before his retirement at age 35. He flashed a Rolex, spoke of his sailboat and did a fair imitation of a pathological liar. In the elevator of a plush Fifth Avenue building he said he owned, along with a mansion in Provence, he unzipped and introduced Maria to his penis, which he called God. The doors opened just in time. The Frenchman made the mal erreur of stepping out first and Maria pressed the Down button, hearing him wail “But I am a millionaire! Where are you going?” as she fled. Later, Maria found everything he’d said was true, but by then she’d found the playwright she’d marry and her Year of Yes was ended. “I learned: be less judgmental. Everyone has something to offer,” she told me. ***** Short and heartless:
Hear about the new drink named for Osama Bin Laden?    It’s two shots and a splash…
EPICS OF SURVIVAL   Three stories that gripped me::: Apart from psychic stories, I was given many survival or adventure tales to do, and found almost every one them hugely absorbing. People often ask me what was the Most Amazing story I’ve ever done, and honestly I can’t answer, but I’ve never forgotten the tale of John Relleke and the wild African bees. I’ve long since lost the file, and can find no reference to the place, but it must have been in Zimbabwe or Zaire in the mid 1970s. Relleke, a white rancher, was hunting with his Labrador dog and two black bearers. They disturbed a hive of wild bees as they made their way through a narrow gorge above a crocodile-infested river. As I recall the story, the bearers were both stung to death, as was the dog. Relleke said he last saw the animal swimming downstream snapping at the swarm around its head. Relleke himself  jumped 30 feet or so into the river to escape the bees, surfaced and found them waiting in an angry, buzzing cloud so dense it seemed solid. He hid underwater, breathing through torn-off hollow reeds, for five hours until dusk. In that time, something he thought was a crocodile bumped into him, and the bees kept crawling down the reeds and into his mouth. As each bee emerged into his mouth, Relleke crushed it with his teeth, then swallowed it, to keep breathing through the tubes. In all, he said, he had 1100 stingers in his body when he finally made it to sanctuary,  including 120-plus inside his mouth. The only long-term ill effect was a hearing loss in one ear, and that improved during a racquetball game 18 months later, when the ball hit him on that ear and a dead bee fell out.   Other tremendous survival stories followed. Ken Jones was a 26 years old British Special Forces soldier who went mountain climbing in Romania as a training exercise. Alone on 8,300 foot Moldoveneau, he was slowed by waist-deep snow and found himself a dozen miles into his hike, in failing daylight. He’d just begun to seek a bivouac when an earthquake sent an avalanche down. Jones was caught in a deadly, battering surf of rock,  trees, and ice. “I was being tossed around like a ping pong ball in a washing machine,” the para told me. Jones was carried downslope about a quarter mile, then over a 100ft cliff,  smashing flat on his backside onto rocks. His pelvis  shattered,  still being hurled downhill,  Jones was pinballed by the snow another 100 metres and halted only when he crashed into a fallen tree. Blood was spurting from a five-inch gash in his thigh. His pelvis, said medics later,  “looked as if I’d had an explosion inside me.” He’d fractured his skull, snapped the head off his femur, broken four ribs, lacerated his hands, face and scalp. Blood was seeping out of his eyes and ears. His pack and equipment was missing, he had just a pocketful of food and a backpack bladder of water. For the next four days, Jones crawled on his stomach through six miles of rock,  snow and ice, surviving  minus-15 deg C temperatures as he dragged himself  to safety. He used his bootlace and the water bladder  to scoop water from an inaccessible stream. He balanced on his one good leg, taking almost an hour each time to cross and re-cross a three-metres-wide brook and struggled barefoot with frost-bitten hands and feet to find a village. “I crawled to the door of a house,” he told me, “and I hesitated. Would someone who saw a bloodstained, ragged stranger standing outside feel threatened and slam the door on me? Would I get more sympathy if I was lying in the snow at their feet?” Jones opted to meet his fate standing. He got help, but it took four years for him to heal, although he is missing the toes of his frostbitten right foot. “I should not have survived the avalanche, the 100 foot fall, or the trek to safety, and then the doctors gave me only a 5% chance of surviving, but I’m still around, and I’m back in order,” Jones said in 2007. It took me a year to find Ken Jones and convince him to talk to me.  I knew only that he was a Manchester University student who’d been injured, and that his father had spoken to a UK national paper briefly, at the time of his 2003 epic self-rescue. I tracked him down through a message via a university newsletter and it took more months before I landed the interview, his first, as he was working in security in the Middle East and Australia. Taking a year was nothing. Right around the time of our 2007 interview, I was also interviewing someone who’d carried out an even more epic self-rescue, and it took me more than 12 years from initial search and contact to writing the story. Peter DeLeo was a private pilot taking two friends on a joyride over California in 1995 when a wind shear caused his Maule M-5 to crash in the snowy Sierra Nevada. One friend was badly injured in the crash landing, the other opted to stay with the wounded man while DeLeo,34,  hiked out for help. The injured pilot had 16 broken bones, including a shattered ankle and torn-apart shoulder, a collapsed lung and an eye so badly gashed it fused shut. The frostbite he suffered in his 50 mile, 13-day struggle was so far along, surgeons later debated amputating his hands and feet. DeLeo lived on moths and ice melt, had encounters with  a bear and a mountain lion, and was almost killed in a snow slide that swept him off a cliff . He solo’ed through a three-day blizzard, chest-high snow and over a mountain higher than the Eiger. “Once, I found myself dangling one-handed over a 500-foot drop, after slipping in snow, but the worst moments were the morale-sapping disappointments.” Twice, he found mountain cabins that almost certainly had food and fuel to sustain him, but he couldn’t break into them. Three times, rescue planes and a helicopter failed to see him, once approaching so close he could see the type of sunglasses the chopper pilot was wearing. Every breath was an agony from seven broken ribs, his right arm dangled uselessly, but DeLeo was determined to fetch help for his friends. He dragged himself one-handed through snow that was sometimes more than head-high, making as little as 40 feet in an hour’s struggle. He slept in hollow tree trunks or under downed timber, burying himself in pine needles and travelled only in pre-dawn and the morning hours, and always at high elevations to avoid slushy valley snow, and to get drying sunlight. Afternoons were spent drying his clothes on sunlit rocks and building shelter for the coming night. Emaciated, and near the end of his strength, DeLeo crested  12,200 foot Olancha Peak to plot a route into the Owens Valley and safety, but when he finally reached a road, nobody would stop for the tattered, bloodied man. Within four hours of reaching habitation,  he was in a plane directing rescuers to the tree-obscured crash site. His companions had been dead for more than a week. DeLeo stayed silent about his ordeal for years, then wrote a book, and I re-connected with him. He told me:”I went back and retraced my route to safety a couple of years later. It took me a long time, but I finally could talk about it. I thanked the mountains, they gave me life.”     LEE HARRISON: As a married man with two little girls, my pleasures were less adventurous. I did try ocean fishing with my pal Lee Harrison, though.  The format was to join a charter excursions on a party boat with 20 or so strangers. Lee, a jovial medical reporter and now Mine Host of the Blue Anchor, a Delray Beach pub whose brick façade he imported from London, told me tall tales about fishing and left me with the impression that I’d be up there with Steinbeck and the Old Man of the Sea in a week or two. All I knew about the sport was that I’d seen rows of morose-looking Englishmen with vacuum flasks huddled under umbrellas alongside industrial canals, waiting for something inedible to bite. Once, and only once, cycling in Wales, I’d seen a fly fisherman hook and land a salmon on a glorious summer evening. That, said Lee, was what fishing was about, and we could do something similar in Florida. We took ourselves, some beers, sandwiches and a bucket of fried chicken to the Two Georges landing stage in Boynton Beach, boarded the charter boat where the channel  boiled with catfish fighting over discarded scraps of fish guts,  and set off for piscine adventure. We went out into the Gulf Stream, that huge river of warm water that flows from the Gulf of Mexico. across the Atlantic and washes into the North Sea around the northernmost tip of Scotland. It could have carried a bottled message to my half brother Ted Roberts in John o’Groats, saving me the price of a stamp, but Ted would have had to hang around the beach for a while to spot it. A few miles offshore, where you can see the Gulf Stream’s different color in the ocean, and the  6 mph river of warmer water is marked by a line of swirling seaweed and flotsam along its edge, the skipper turned off the engines. We drifted with the current, hooks baited and lines out. We drank the beers, ate the chicken.  Lee went forward munching on his sandwich and after five minutes someone at the stern of the boat shouted he had a big one on, godammit. Much confusion as everyone else hauled in their lines. The big Perkins diesels coughed back to life, and the captain did some complex manoevering to get the line clear so the angler could fight this huge, unseen citizen of the deep. The angler’s rod was certainly bent fiercely as he fought to reel in his catch. It didn’t look worth taking to the trophy shop, though. It was Lee’s plastic sandwich bag, full of water as it floated away from the boat faster than we were drifting. “I just threw that away , off the front,” said Harrison through a mouthful of chicken.  “Don’t mention it, eh?”   ****** FIGJAM You’ll find oddities like the review board that checks racehorse names for saucy meanings. Norman the Foreman, Knickers in a Knot and Bad News (the owner hoped the horse would also travel fast) were approved, but in 2006 the board rejected Betty Swallocks (Spoonerism); Far Kinnel (too rude); Wear the Fox Hat (equally rude); Noble Ox (offensive) and Drew Peacock (offensive, and also rude). Interesting names aren’t limited to horses, though. There’s the ninth reindeer on Santa’s sleigh, Olive.  She’s mentioned in the Rudolph song in the line ‘Olive, the other reindeer,’  and there really is a nice California lady called Julie Dooley, and another named Joanie Bottoni. My friend Bob Westman has an Uncle Snuffy, a name not to be sniffed at. Australians admire their rugby league player Matt Hilder, and he’s popularly known as ‘Waltzing,’ but my favorite proper noun is the name given to an unloved Aussie cricketer, Kevin Pietersen, who’s known as Figjam. It stands for F*** I’m Good, Just Ask Me. The story about Figjam is that he accosted one of his mates in Australia and accused him of  “Bad-mouthing me all over Sydney.”  “Not so, mate,” said the pal. “You are totally wrong, yet again. I have NOT been bad-mouthing you all over Sydney. Only in King’s Cross.” ********   INKIES (as printers were affectionately, and sometimes,not so affectionately known) (From my days at the Telegraph, Sheffield) The current report was about a note from management to the Father of Chapel, the National Union of Journalists’ quaint nomenclature for the union organizer deemed our best negotiator. Our FoC was wiry and wily, a red-bearded sub editor who would have been at home making Molotov cocktails and lying in wait for Panzers while distributing  the Morning Star, the Communist daily. He’d been memo’ed and requested to meet management over the matter of graffiti artists writing on the newly-painted toilet walls. “Not us, must be the Inkies,” he told us he’d informed the company chairman. “How can you possibly say that?” said that worthy, whose name had appeared on a wall or two. “These are extensive and scurrilous writings!” “It is the Inkies,” said the FoC, beard bristling like Drake’s before the Armada.   “No journalist would write anything without being paid for it.” The group nodded. Right, was the attitude. Damned Inkies. My rock climbing partner, columnist Tim Brown, changed the subject just as someone started a rant about bolshie typesetters who invariably got the first letter of Buckingham Palace wrong. Tim offered his experience that week. Covering a women’s group’s weekly lecture, at which a distinguished author was speaking, Brown observed a woman get up after ten minutes of the talk and walk out. Ten minutes later, she returned to her seat and another woman got up and left. This happened a handful more times, at regular intervals, different women leaving, then returning. After the talk, Brown asked the chairman if the talk had gone down  well with the audience.  It had, she said. What about the traffic in and out? asked Brown. “Oh,” said Madam Chairman. “Wednesdays, the chiropodist visits us.” MORE INKIES My brother Ted,  who exchanged the burning oil sands of Saudi Arabia for bleak and blustery  Caithness, at the northern tip of Scotland,  had a theory. He said there were a number of Bibles in which printers’ errors occurred, and some were maybe not accidents at all. It was no coincidence, he said, that Inkies’ apprentices were called “printers’ devils.” The Wicked Bible of 1631, Ted explained, was so called because it omitted an important ‘not’ from the final version. Exodus 20:14 made the seventh commandment read: ’Thou shalt commit adultery.’ The printers were fined £300, a lifetime’s wages, and the entire issue of that unholy holy book was recalled for burning. Only 11 copies of the Wicked Bible are known to exist today. Other printer-erroneous Bibles included the Vinegar Bible  of 1717, which told of the ‘Parable of the Vinegar’ instead of the vineyard;  the Fools Bible of 1763  (‘The fool hath said in his heart there is a God,’ rather than ‘no God,’)  the  1562 Placemakers’ Bible (‘Blessed are the Placemakers,’ not ‘peacemakers’)  and the Sin On Bible of 1716 in which a dyslexic printer  inverted a ‘no’ to urge the faithful: ‘Go ye and sin on more.’ These long-ago typographical errors seemed part of an ongoing and deeply respected Inky tradition which blossomed into full flower with the Printers Bible of 1702. In that tome, Psalm 119:161 reads: ‘Printers have persecuted me without cause.’  It should have been ‘Princes,’ but those of us whose hard-written copy was mauled by others always blamed the Inkies for the mistakes and said yes, princes, that was the way they saw themselves. Of course, anybody who got hold of our copy could foul it up. Even Evelyn Waugh had a tale to tell. Randolph Churchill, the drunken son of Winston, had dined in WW2 Cairo with the British Ambassador, who proudly cabled to his Prime Minister: “Your son is at my house. He has the light of battle in his eyes.” A journalist like me, who’d had his copy misprinted as ‘full of the joys of string,’  could have predicted it. The cipher clerk telegraphed incorrectly, so the message that reached Downing Street said Randolph’s eyes were illumined by the light of ‘bottle.’ I told the story to an Irish friend and through the motor trade link got onto  a connection to the McGillycuddy of the Reeks, a territory on Kerry’s Iveragh Peninsula. The last McGillicuddy to live on the Reeks, Richard Dennis Wyer McG,  died in 2005, severing a link that went back before recorded history, a link to clansmen who fought the Normans and English for centuries. R.D.W. McGillycuddy’s obituary told how he turned away from Ireland for London’s uppercrust  Sloane Ranger set and ‘went into the motor trade.’ Cork woman Mary Kline, who now lives in California,  wrote to tell me of her connection: “I find Kerry people a bit hard going myself,” she said. “My aunt worked for him for a while in the 1990s as his social secretary, whatever that is. “We asked her and got some vague reply about organizing dinner parties and making sure fresh flowers were delivered every day to his London home. Then he got married and the new Mrs took control of the flowers and dinners so Auntie Fran quit. Or got canned. “I like the phrase ‘he went into the motor trade in London.’ Didn’t the girl who ran away from home in the Beatles song meet a man from the motor trade? It’s such a lovely vague reference, yet has completely different meanings depending on the person. “With him, I assume it’s the Motor Trade, where he sells Rollers, racing Baldwin Specials and MGs etc, whereas I figure the guy in the song is a mechanic.” Mary struck a chord. We all know that it’s how you tell it, and so much of a journalist’s working life is about telling yarns. “I told you because it’s my only connection to the upper class,” said Mary. “I tell it every opportunity I get. Actually, I lie. My paternal grandmother’s Uncle Jack married Aunt Ada, an Englishwoman whose father was a lord and had something to do with the Mint. “Gran would tell us this with great pride (hence my capitalization) and we were very impressed, assuming he worked for Rowntrees and was responsible for producing After Eights. “Anyway, their little boy Bertie came to visit the Cork side but had to wear a bag over his head on entering and leaving his grandparents’ house because it was on the side of a street over a commercial premises (they owned a grocery shop) and Aunt Ada’s side of the family didn’t know from what common stock her hubby hailed. “Gran also told us with great pride that he was a filim star and would often lament that his filim was never shown on telly. ‘We thought this was pretty cool until dad informed us that it was one of those silent spectaculars with massive casts of extras (King Vidor or someone) and he thought that possibly if one looked really closely with a large magnifying glass that Uncle Jack could actually be picked out briefly in a cast of thousands.” ***** (for a tale of how the Inkies wrecked my prized Lulu scoop, see Tabloid Man)   THE PORN QUEEN…. Lisa Ferreire is a beautiful, blue-eyed brunette known best by her working name: Alicia Monet,  a 32 years old porn queen who’s starred in more than 100 films with titles like ‘The Slut.’ She was a stripper at 17, a prostitute at 19, the star of hard-core porno videos at 23 and is now featured on 570 website vids. She’s a queen of Internet sex so celebrated that ‘X Files’ tv star David Duchovny once announced that his secret wish was to meet her and thank her for his lurid daydreams. My daughter and photographer Rachel and I drove south of Reno, Nevada to meet Lisa at her desert home. Our assignment: chronicle a day in the life of a porn star. We had some difficulty finding the place: it was down a remote and icy desert road and was an unprepossessing clapboard, single-storey house. No car outside, I noted. But Lisa was there, pale, tired-looking, with a cheerful toddler on her hip. She had startlingly lovely eyes, but her body tone looked neglected. She looked like a washed-out housewife, not a glamorous porn star. As I’d expected to find an affluent actress who could inject a bit of glamor into the story, this looked difficult, but Rachel started setting up cameras and Lisa and I talked. “Sex is just my job,” said Lisa, as she gave us coffee. “I juggle home, work and motherhood just like many other women. I have my workout, my housework, my little boy to collect from nursery school. “The babysitter might take over while I drive to San Francisco  to film a sex video in a private home,” she told me. Privately, I made that ‘nanny’ and ‘fly’ if it was going into copy. “While I’m there,” she added, “I’ll shop for material for my costumes, discuss a possible Las Vegas show and photo shoot, and come back the next evening.” My mental amendments included the thought that there was little chance of shopping for glitzy showbiz fabric in Weed Heights, Nevada, and no wonder the girl looked tired,  if she had to finish filming then face a six-hour drive across Donner Pass to get home. Her ex-husband had left her broke, her new manager was doing a half-hearted job of finding work for her, she was living on welfare. It was a low point, she was demoralised, stuck in the middle of nowhere with no resources and a small child. But Lisa’s life story was interesting. She was a rebellious teen who left home at 16 and started stripping to pay the rent. Within two years she was working at the Mustang Ranch brothel. “It was nice,” she said. “They looked after me. It was safe, warm, comfortable, friendly.” At 20 she was married, and with her husband’s management was touring as a nude dancer, doing five half-hour shows  a day. Some states allow dildo shows, so she did that. In Canada she had to wear a G-string, but the law doesn’t specify exactly where to wear it. “Some of the girls use it as a garter,” she confided. I wasn’t happy at the idea of photographing a tired housewife and explaining how she was a big time porn star, and the interior of her small house was cramped. Best focus on making her look good in everyday situations and use pickup pictures she could provide of her skin-show days. We wheeled her outside. Winter, cold and icy. No she didn’t have any warm coat other than this casual down jacket. She looked good in it, but it wasn’t the image we wanted. Rachel went to the car, came back with her stylish, black wool overcoat.  Lisa put it on, and her star quality started to shine out. She went from tired housewife to fashion model. Now for a picture with her son, taking him to nursery school. Some small difficulty here: she had no car. She was stranded in the desert, as her manager was off somewhere with her vehicle and she’d been dependent on her teenage babysitter’s occasional visits for transport. My Mercedes looked sufficiently Hollywood, I thought, so Lisa suddenly became its new, if temporary,  owner.  Only for the pictures, I told her. The atmosphere lightened, we were all in the conspiracy. Lisa’s smile broke out, a bit of cosmetic aid (supplied by my Girl Friday)  and she was a film star again. Forgive me, but I stretched the story. Or at least, I turned back the clock to where Lisa used to be before she was broke. “I’ll be working again soon,” she said earnestly. “It’s just my new manager…” her voice trailed off.  Then the old Lisa, the one we’d not met, the Lisa who was a star, kicked in, and she glowed and preened for the camera. “I’ll do a few more years of this, make some money, get married, get out of the business. There’s plenty to be made,” she said.  “You can make two or three movies in three or four days,” she explained. “The producers get someone’s big house, and the cast all stay there, together. It’s OK, I don’t think I’ve ever done a scene I didn’t enjoy, except once, where a German guy was hurting me and I bit him.” That time, she fled from the angered man, racing naked down a San Francisco street until the cops hauled her in. Lisa lives in sex-industry-tolerant Nevada where prostitution is legal. She visits the doctor monthly, is meticulous about personal hygiene and likes performing for internet sex. “You do it in front of a camera and charge people $50 to watch. They log on, give us a credit card number and watch the action. It’s just sex, it’s perfectly natural.” Still mildly stunned, Rachel and I told jokes to each other all the way home to California.  From then on, she’s called that coat her porn queen outfit. ********** This, from my days at Morning Telegraph, Sheffield::: Speeches and instructional talks were a big part of the attraction of the  societies that local newspapers covered and could be a restful way to pass on an hour or two for a young reporter who’d been out late the night before and who maybe had drunk beer with the photographer at lunch time. One warm afternoon, I was dozing through an especially boring exposition by an ornithologist who was part of a bird-watching panel, when a small drama developed. The master of ceremonies, desperate to get the bird man back in his cage so the restive remainder of the panel could have their say,  had been signalling to the man from the side of the stage, waving him “Stop!’ The stout ornithologist wasn’t intending to be hooked off that easily, thanks. He shook his head and droned on. Exasperated, the MC decided to take firm action and started onstage, intending to take over the microphone. As he made his way down the back of the row of five experts seated facing the audience,  the MC stumbled over a cable. He fell violently forward into one of the panel. As he did, he pulled a microphone stand with him, smashing an unfortunate expert over the head, and laying him out. The panel scrambled to their feet. The speaker, a determined, would-be thespian, swiftly decided the show must go on,  missed scarcely a beat, and  continued his delivery as if nothing had happened. The unconscious panelist was revived and in one of those unexpected moments when all was stilled but the drone of the dogged ornithologist, the injured man’s voice was clearly heard.   “Hit me again,” he said. “I can still hear him.”            

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