R. D. JONES And His Sewing Machine
The following is an ad from a real-life newspaper which appeared
four days in a row - the last three hopelessly trying to correct
the first day's mistake.
For sale: R. D. Jones has one sewing machine for sale. Phone
948-0707 after 7 P.M.. and ask for Mrs. Kelly who lives with him
Notice: We regret having erred In R. D. Jones' ad yesterday. It
should have read "One sewing machine for sale cheap. Phone
948-0707 and ask for Mrs. Kelly, who lives with him after 7 P.M."
Notice: R. D. Jones has informed us that he has received several
annoying telephone calls because of the error we made in the
classified ad yesterday. The ad stands correct as follows: "For
sale -- R. D. Jones has one sewing machine for sale. Cheap. Phone
948-0707 after 7 P.M. and ask for Mrs. Kelly who loves with him."
Notice: I, R. D. Jones, have no sewing machine for sale. I
intentionally broke it. Don't call 948-0707 as I have had the
phone disconnected. I have not been carrying on with Mrs. Kelly.
Until yesterday she was my housekeeper, but she has now quit.
A female newscaster is interviewing the leader of a youth club:
Interviewer: "So, Mr. Jones, what are you going to do with these
children on this adventure holiday?"
Mr. Jones: "We're going to teach them climbing, canoeing,
archery, and shooting."
Interviewer: "Shooting! That's a bit irresponsible, isn't it?"
Mr. Jones: "I don't see why, they'll be properly supervised on
Interviewer: "Don't you admit that this is a terribly dangerous
activity to be teaching children?"
Mr. Jones: "I don't see how, we will be teaching them proper
range discipline before they even touch a firearm."
Interviewer: "But you're equipping them to become violent
Mr. Jones: "Well, you're equipped to be a prostitute but you're
not one, are you?"
AS A television
writer/researcher, I was working on an item that involved a debate. At the last minute it
was cancelled, and I had to notify the participants, one of whom was named Singer.
Telephoning his office, I was surprised to hear a pleasant female voice rattle off an
unfamiliar company name. "Oh no," I said, realizing I had misdialed, "you
don't sound like a Singer." "Heck no," she shot back. "We're not even
allowed to hum around here."
A FRIEND of mine, a newscaster in Victoria had triumphantly passed the
months at a new job without referring to his former radio station, and considered himself
out of the danger zone. But one morning, to his horror, he heard himself announcing:
"And it's currently 23 degrees in beautiful downtown Edmonton." Recovering
quickly he added, "What a coincidence! It's also 23 degrees here in beautiful
A FREE-LANCE writer working at home, I squeeze in my household chores between
assignments not always with the best results. For example, there was the day I
overheard my sons talking as they came home from school. "I'm starved," said
one. "I hope there's something good for dinner." Replied the other, "Well,
do you smell anything in the oven or do you hear the typewriter?"
JUST before he was to go on the air, a radio announcer grabbed a news
wire story about
an African leader who had been assassinated. Realizing too late that he couldn't pronounce
the deceased's name, the reporter sputtered "His name is being withheld pending
notification of the next of kin."
FORMER NBC news correspondent Judy Woodruff once had a chat with an oil
sheik. At a dinner attended by members of the press accompanying former U.S. President
Jimmy Carter on a visit to Saudi Arabia, the sheik expressed interest in the earning power
of ABC's Barbara Walters. "Is it true that she earns a million dollars a day?"
he asked. ''No, no," Woodruff replied. "It's about a million dollars a year.
" "Oh," said the Saudi, his interest in Walters obviously waning.
"Only a year.
I AM a disc jockey and one night when I was at the controls, a record began to skip.
Before I could react, the needle scraped across the entire song leaving me with
"dead-air" silence, a D.J.'s worst enemy. I grabbed the mike and shouted over
the air: "All right which one of you listeners at home just bumped your radio and
made my record skip?" After my little face-saving joke, I played another song. A few
minutes later the switchboard operator came in to say that three people had called to
As A weekend disc jockey on our local radio station, I got pretty bored talking to a
microphone for seven hours at a time. One Sunday I decided I would ask listeners to call
me so I'd know that I wasn't alone. Five phone calls later, one of which was from my
mother and another from my grandmother, I told listeners that unless I got more calls they
would hear a grown woman cry on the air. A call came in as I started the next record. When
I answered the phone, a friendly male voice said, "You are going to be thrilled to
death. You've got forty listeners here!" After I expressed my delight, he said,
"Yup. I've got the radio on in the barn for my cows."
WHEN I was a magazine editor, a young man approached me about a staff-writer position.
He had studied dramatic arts in college, had been a professional actor, and also sang and
played the guitar at local restaurants. "How come," I asked, "with all that
talent and experience, you want to switch to a nine-to-five writer's job?" He started
explaining that he enjoyed the arts, and writing was an art he'd always wanted to try, and
so on. Suddenly he stopped his spiel, looked me in the eye and grinned. "Let's face
it," he said. "I'm starving, and I'm trying desperately to get into a rut."
I hired him.
OLYMPIC gold medalist Darrell Pace was to give an archery exhibition in New York's
Central Park, and the event received coverage by all the TV stations. Shooting
steel-tipped hunting arrows, Pace punctured bull's-eyes without a miss. Then he called for
a volunteer. "All you have to do," said Pace, "is hold this apple in your
hand, waist-high." ABC correspondent Josh Howell took a bold step forward. He stood
there, a small apple in his hand, a larger one in his throat. Pace took aim at 30
as we all held our breath. Then thwack a clean hit that exploded the apple before
striking the target behind. Everybody applauded Howell, who was all smiles until
his cameraman approached with a hang dog look. "I'm sorry, Josh," he said.
"I didn't get it. Had a problem with my view finder. Could you do it again?"
I'VE always suspected that some disc jockeys are long on conversation, but short on
knowledge. My theory was borne out as I listened to the local radio station in a small
Indiana town. "And now," the deejay announced, "here's the theme music from
'War and Peace' by Leo Tolstoy and his orchestra."
TELEVISION comedy writers never hesitate to practice their trade on one another.
I was working on an NBC variety show with 11 other writers and made the mistake of showing
up in funny looking saddle shoes. My colleagues kidded me mercilessly.
Finally, I thought a joke of my own might stop the attack. "Sure, you can kid me if
you want," I said, "but these shoes were given to me by my father on his
death bed." "What did he die of?" one gagster replied.
WHEN Toronto Sun president Douglas Creighton and his wife, Marilyn, were heading home
from Texas after buying The Houston Post, customs officials asked the usual questions:
"Did you buy anything, ma'am?" "Just a newspaper."
MY FAVORITE open-line radio talk show was hosted by Dean
Tower, a family counselor. One day a child asked, "How can I get my parents to
increase my allowance?" The counselor asked the boy how much money was involved, how
reliably he carried out his responsibilities, and what he was required to buy with his
allowance. He then advised the boy to discuss these points with his parents. As the
counselor was about to say he thought the boy's request a reasonable one, there was a
silence on the air. Only then did he realize he had been talking to his own son!
ONCE when John Clare was editor of the now defunct Star Weekly in Toronto, a member of
his staff confessed that he enjoyed writing magazine articles but didn't like having them
edited. Clare stared at the man, disbelieving. "Goodness gracious," he said, or
some such "that's like a ball player being shy of round objects."
SEVERAL years ago I worked for a Hollywood television network where numerous changes
were being made in top management firings, hirings, resignations, transfers. One
day, in the midst of this upheaval, my supervisor said to his secretary, "I'm going
out to eat. If the boss calls, find out who he is and tell him I'll call back."
WHEN we needed a writer/editor for our small office, our manager included us in the
screening process. The field was narrowed to three equally qualified candidates. The
manager then read us a line from one of the cover letters: "I've been with this
company for six years and am not in a senior position." Said our manager, "This
guy is frustrated by his lack of progress and has the gumption to say so. He's our
man." The fellow was hired and did fit in well. Months later I told him he owed his
job to his cover letter's candour, and I showed him the winning line. "What a way to
land a job," he told me. "It was supposed to say, 'I've been with this company
for six years and I am now in a senior position."
I WAS an intern for a large professional journal and was concerned that my first
article would not measure up. My anxiety increased when I walked into my editor's office
and saw that his "In" box was labeled "Sows' Ears"; the
"Out" box was labeled "Silk Purses."
FINDING myself with time to spare after retiring from 43
years in the newspaper business, I phoned the proper county authority, explained my
background as a reporter and editor, and said that I would like to get involved in their
literacy program. There was a pause at the other end. Finally a voice asked,
"Okay, but do you want to teach or join a class?"
A NEWSPAPER publisher sent a telegram to a noted
astronomer: WIRE COLLECT IMMEDIATELY FIVE HUNDRED. WORDS ON WHETHER THERE IS
LIFE ON MARS. The astronomer dutifully replied: NOBODY KNOWS - 250 times.
AS PRODUCER of the "Charlie Brown" TV specials, I'm
always listening for new voices for the characters. While waiting to board a plane, I
heard this fantastic voice from a young boy who looked about six or seven years old. I
secretly started to follow him around the airport so that I could hear more. Suddenly his
mother looked at me very suspiciously, and then angrily. I hastily presented my business
card. "Why are you following us?" she demanded, ignoring the card.
"Look," I started to reply. "I produce the Charlie Brown TV shows
and " "We don't have a TV, and who's Charlie Brown? Now just what's
going on here?" "Well, if you'll just call the number on my card there,
I'd like to audition your son and see. . ." She started fuming. "If you
don't leave us alone, I'm calling the airport police," she said, and she stormed off
with her son. I suppose I picked one of the few mothers in America who had never
heard of Charlie Brown.
AT THE insistence of a reporter, a wealthy man finally
decided to reveal the secret of his success. "I became rich selling homing
pigeons," he said. "Really?" replied the amazed reporter. "How
many did you start with" "Only one," the millionaire answered,
"but he kept coming back."
THE city editor of the Omaha World-Herald handed the
unpopular job of writing the annual Father's Day piece to my colleague Ralph Smith, an
independent minded veteran of the rewrite desk. Grumbling sourly, Smitty quickly whipped
out his response: "This is Father's Day. It is also the day when this reporter was to
have his story in the paper about Father's Day "On Father's Day, a father can do as
he wishes. "This reporter is a father. He doesn't want to write a story. On Father's
Day he can't be compelled to." To the delight of readers and Smitty's
colleagues, the editor ran the by-lined "story" on page one, all editions.
A TORONTO disc jockey received the following letter:
"Please let me know as fast as possible the title of a song you played last week. I'm
not sure whether it was Tuesday or Thursday. Perhaps it was Wednesday. It was a polka or a
waltz, but it may have been a fox trot. The lyrics were wonderful, although I can't
remember what they said. I'm sorry I didn't catch the name of the composer nor of the
singer. On second thought, I'm not too sure if it was your station, but give me the
information anyway since I want to buy the record."
EVERY author fears that arch foe, the rejection slip. In
China, one economic journal has reportedly come up with a "Thanks, but no
thanks" note that has real style: "We have read your manuscript with boundless
delight. If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any
work of a lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that, in the next thousand years, we
shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition,
and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sightedness and timidity."
THE 11 p.m. news team of our television station received a
surprise visit one night from a lovely young celebrity who was in town to promote her
newest movie. The actress managed to arrive just in time to be squeezed into the final
segment of the show. Just before airtime, however, the producer realized that her blue
slacks were going to disappear into the blue background. When he complained that her
entire lower body would be invisible on the screen, a hand appeared out of nowhere holding
a brown skirt. So the celebrity appeared on the show in a brown skirt, while the anchor
woman finished up the news behind her desk-in her beige blouse and lacey black slip.
A FOREIGN journalist in Gdansk, Poland, covering the
Solidarity congress in September 1981, wanted to phone London. The hotel telephone
operator was not very encouraging. "That'll take two days," she said. "Two
days?" "On whose behalf are you making the call?" asked the operator.
"Well, you might say on behalf of Solidarity," said the journalist. "Oh,
that's different," was the cheerful reply. "That'll take five minutes."
AUTHOR Leo E. Buscaglia, on the moment he'd most like to
forget: When speaking in public I perspire profusely, and thus always carry a few neatly
pressed white handkerchiefs. Once, in a televised appearance before a large audience, I
had already used two handkerchiefs. I reached for number three and proceeded to wipe my
forehead-only to find to my horror that I was using a pair of pressed white-briefs,
underwear that had inadvertently been piled among the handkerchiefs. With as much poise as
I could muster, I completed the dabbing and quickly returned the underwear to my pocket. I
often wonder how many viewers shared the "brief" embarrassment.
COLLIER YOUNG, creator of the TV series "Ironside,"
had a job writing advertising copy for Young & Rubicam in the late 1930s. He was not
noted for his industry, and habitually took afternoon naps. One day his boss, Sid Ward,
lurked outside the cubicle where Young was dozing. At 5:01, he dashed in and shook the
sleeping writer violently. "Collie," he shouted, "for God's sake, wake up!
You're sleeping on your own time!"
TELEVISION offerings were scant, and my husband finally
settled on a PBS nature broadcast. As we watched, two male crickets waged a fierce
battle to win the favours of a female. The victorious male then mated with his
prize. "That's television," my husband said, sighing. "Wherever
you look, nothing but sex and violence!"
IN OUR publicity office, we're always elated when one of our
stories is picked up by a metropolitan newspaper. This inspired the comment of a departing
staff member when he noticed that his going away gift was wrapped in a page from a New
York daily. "At last," he said, "coverage by The New York Times."
JANET LANGHART, former co-host of Boston's "Good
Morning!" television show on WCVB, told about the time she attended Easter morning
Mass at the Mission Church in Roxbury, Mass. After the service, she fell into conversation
with one of the Mission priests. "You know, Father," she said, "I'm not
Catholic. I'm Baptist." ''Well, look at it this way," he replied. "You just
work for another network."
"YOU don't know what you're doing," the
impoverished writer pleaded with his landlord, who was pressing him for the rent.
"Ten years from now, people will be saying 'Spencer, the novelist, once lived
here.'" But the landlord was unimpressed. "If you don't pay up
today," he said, "they'll be saying that tomorrow."
JAMES HERRIOT, veterinarian and best selling author, receives
a huge amount of fan mail, often bearing such strange addresses as "James
Herriot, Darrowby, Yorkshire." One letter, which bore only the words, "James
Herriot, It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet, Yorkshire, Scotland," arrived with the
addendum, "It Shouldn't Happen to a Postman, either."
A journalist had done a story on gender roles in Kuwait several years
before the Gulf War, and she noted that women customarily walked about ten
feet behind their husbands. She returned to Kuwait recently and observed
that the men now walked several yards behind their wives. She approached
one of the women for an explanation.
"This is marvelous," said the journalist. "What enabled
women here to achieve this reversal of roles?"
The Kuwaiti woman replied, "Land mines".
VETERAN newscaster David Brinkley remembers when he was a
young reporter in North Carolina. The judge in a dry county had ordered 100 cases of
illegal Canadian whiskey smashed in public, in front of the courthouse. The eager-beaver
reporter scrambled to the bottom of the steps and tasted the contraband as it cascaded
down. It was all water. "When I went to the judge and informed him of my
discovery," says Brinkley, "he said, 'Damn, I told them to leave one fifth of
whiskey in every case to make it smell right."