Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Legends Publicity

Legends of the Mountain State, which includes my Underground Railroad ghost story "The Way Home", got some love on local TV station WCHS in Charleston, WV. Congrats to editor Michael Knost on the fine job.

My haunted hospital tale "Dancing in Time to the Beating Heart of the World" will appear in volume 2.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The C Word

This week actress Jane Fonda said the C word on NBC’s Today. You know the one I’m talking about. The mother of all cuss words. The expletive that almost all women are united in their loathing of. (And if she can say c*** on network TV, I can end a sentence with a preposition.)

When I heard about it my first thought was: how is it possible that Jane Fonda thinks it’s fine to drop a c*** on live morning TV?

Let’s put aside, for now, the argument of whether swearing on TV leads to the fall of Western Civilization (it doesn’t) and if the FCC is a reactionary, under-supervised government arm that can’t make up its own mind about its policies, and should be abolished (it is).

Instead, with the memory still fresh of Diane Keaton’s F-bomb on the same show in January, I suspect that there is an organization called The Senile Old Actresses Club, and Fonda and Keaton may only be the tip of the iceberg. If I say anything more, the SOAC may send its thugs over to silence me, so I’ll give TV producers this one piece of advice: next time you have Helen Mirren on, fire up the seven-second delay.


The C word reminds me of a radio partner I once had. Opie was very young when he worked on my morning show, about 16 when he started and probably 19 when the following happened.

It was a little past 9 in the morning, and Opie and I were still air the air. During a song we were discussing the next day’s show. He was pitching a comedy bit that had real potential. There was only one problem.

“I think we should call the character C***,” he said.

I did a Danny Thomas spit take, dousing the control board with coffee.

“No,” I said between bouts of choking.

“Why not?”

I was always hard to tell if Opie was playing dumb or, in fact, being dumb, so I didn’t take any chances.

“You can’t say c*** on the radio.”

“Yes you can!” Opie said.

“You really can’t.”



“Why not?”

“Because it’s one of the worst swear words in the history of swearing. You say that and we’ll get fired. Then the women in the garden club will come over here and kick us to death.”

Opie looked puzzled for a moment, then he decided that I was messing with him (which, I admit, I did as often as possible. Once, while flying contest winners to Disneyland I convinced him that every nation had their own separate jet stream. Ours was the original, so it was called THE Jet Stream. Mexico’s, for example, was The Taco Stream. He repeated this new fact several times during the trip until someone set him straight.)

“I don’t believe you.”

What I did next was unnecessary and cruel. I hope it won’t make you think any less of me.

At the time, the radio station’s business manager was Consuela, then and now one of my best friends. Consuela does not suffer fools gladly, nor will she ever be known for keeping her feelings to herself.

As I said, it was after 9. The office was filled with staff and, if memory serves, a client or two, all mingling in a large room separated only by partitioned cubicles. Everybody could hear everything.

“Okay,” I told Opie, “we’ll do the bit the way you want it, IF Consuela says it’s okay to use c*** on the air. Since she’s a woman, we really need her opinion.”

His face lit up. “Are you serious?”

“Sure. If she gives it her okay, we’ll do it.”

“Who gets to ask her?”

“Why don’t you?” I said. “It’s your idea.”

He jumped out of his chair and ran out of the studio. The studio was directly adjacent to the main office.

As the door automatically swung shut, I heard:

“Co-o-o-o-nie! It’s okay to say c*** on the air, right?”

I have never witnessed a nuclear detonation. I hope I never will. But if I did, I imagine it would sound akin to what followed.

It was a barrage, a cacophony, of screaming, all from Consuela. Apparently, women really don’t like the C word.

When Opie returned to the studio moments later, he had been forever changed. His skin was red, as if he’d been out in the sun too long. His eyes carried knowledge of something he hoped never to see again.

“How did it go?” I asked.

“She –” His voice squeaked. He cleared his throat. “She said we shouldn’t use...that word.”

If only Jane Fonda had a Consuela...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Snow Days

I’ve worked in morning radio for a long time. I’ve seen turntables give way to computers and mobile broadcasting vans replaced by cell phones. But one thing has never changed. When it snows, little kids, teens and parents are going to call me to find out if school is canceled. I understand it. I did it when I was in school.

Year after year I get the same calls, nearly verbatim. My favorite is Six-Inch Lady. I don’t know her name, but her calls always come when we’ve had barely a light dusting of snow.

“Is school canceled?”
“No, ma’am.”
“Why not?”
“I guess the road conditions are okay.”
“What???? I’ve got six inches of ice on my street!”

I’ve always suspected that Six-Inch Lady’s husband was exaggerating a certain, ah, measurement at home.

About ten times each snow day, I get this gem:

“Is they skoo today?”

And that’s a parent. What I want to say is, “Leave the kid at home. You go to class. Starting with English.”

Another caller on the Snow Day Hit Parade is The Repeater. I get a lot of those from parents and kids, one group praying for school, the other praying for cancellation.

“Is skoo closed?”
“Skoo is closed?”
“You’re sure?”
“(sigh) Yes.”
“Skoo. Is. Closed?”

Finally, I can always expect The Excuse. See, we give the school closings at least every ten minutes. If listeners miss them, they don’t have long to wait. Still, when they call, a certain percentage of listeners feel the need to explain why. Every one of these calls goes something like this:

“Um, sorry to bother you but...I dropped my radio in the bathtub/my radio only picks up the competition/ my neighbors meth lab just blew up and I don’t have power.

By the way, the only excuse I believe is the meth lab.

But you know how I get through days like today?

I remind myself that Spring Training starts next week.

Oh yeah. I also go home and drink.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Goodbye, Steve Gerber

This is a lousy day.

I had to drive in to work in the middle of the night through several inches of snow and ice, only to find the heat in the office was out. Again. Further work problems ensued, then I had to go to a funeral.

But that’s not what made today such a chunk of suck.

When I got up this morning, I found out via The Comics Reporter that Steve Gerber was dead.

His pal Mark Evanier memorializes Gerber here.

I didn’t know Gerber. I’d never met him or corresponded with him. I was just a fan.

He was the best writer at my favorite comics company during my favorite era in comics.

I was a Marvel boy, and the 70s were a good time to be a Marvel fan. Distribution limits had been lifted, and Marvel was expanding their line faster than George W. Bush can violate the constitution. As a result, there were too many books for The House of Idea’s small staff to oversee. By default, Marvel did something which would be unheard of in today’s comics world: they found writers they trusted, then turned the writers loose.

Nearly total freedom resulted in some of the most creative work in the history of the medium, stuff like Don MacGregor’s Black Panther and War of the Worlds, Doug Moench’s Master of Kung Fu, Moon Knight and Planet of the Apes, Marv Wolfman’s Dracula stuff (and, yes, even as a dumb kid I thought it was cool that Dracula was being written by a Wolfman) and Jim Starlin’s cosmic Warlord and Captain Marvel.

But nothing compared to the writing Gerber was doing. He didn’t create Daredevil, Sub-Mariner, Man-Thing or The Defenders, but he made them his own, especially the last two. Gerber imbued them with absurdist hijinks and a rare-for-the-times sense of political relevance.

He did create Howard the Duck. The anthropomorphic fowl remains Gerber’s best known creation. He also brought forth the tragically brief Void Indigo, a series that was decades ahead of its time. Too bad Vertigo didn’t exist in the 1970s.

Gerber eventually left Marvel on unfriendly terms, moving to other companies and animation.

Though many of his colleagues are MIA (Moench, Engelhart), Gerber continued to turn out mainstream comics work. He was writing a Dr. Fate script for DC in the hospital in the days before his passing. He remained creatively and hilariously subversive right up to the end.

Kudos to Marvel for getting a lot of Gerber’s 70s stuff back in print. Tonight I’ll sit down with volumes of Essential Defenders and Essential Howard the Duck, and I’ll remember one of the best.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Where Did the Weekend Go?

I spent Saturday morning working on a secret audio project, then the rest of the weekend has flown by. I did some writing, some reading. Got caught up on the new comics and the latest issue of Video Watchdog.

I'm still reading Deeper by James A. Moore -- a great novel so far -- but today I got this:

I have to put Jim's book on hold for a few hours while I read the Parker. When a new Parker book comes out, everything else has to stop.

That's how my universe works.

So I go to my favorite reading chair to settle in, and what do I find?

I'm going to bed and read. Good night.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Mitt Romney Out, Stephen King In

Mitt Romney, the political mannequin, quit the presidential race today. This affects me not at all, since voting for him was never in my playbook.

In a world of phony double-talkers, Romeny was king. His position on the issues shifted more than the transmission on a ‘70 GTO. If you looked up “plastic” in the dictionary, you’d find Mitt’s picture.

Hey, I’m not the only one who thinks so.

McCain is going to be the Republican nominee, so here’s my question: will Hilary and Obama team up for the sure shot at beating McCain in November? Could they put their egos and grievances aside? Could Hilary settle for Vice-President? Would Oprah allow Barack to take the number two spot?

If you’re a political junkie like me, these are interesting times.


I just finished Duma Key by Stephen King, easily his best novel in years. It’s a spooky meditation on the power of creativity to heal broken people. I’m writing a review for Horror World, and I think I need to ruminate on the book for a bit before I’ll be ready to set my thoughts down.

Meanwhile I’ve started reading Deeper by James A.Moore.


Congratulation to my buddy Matt Cowan on his first short story sale. Read all about it here.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Are U Ready For Some Foosball?

Since I don't have a horse in the race, I can go with the underdog. But while my heart's with the Giants, no one has yet figured out how to beat the Patriots. I don't think they're going to lose tonight.

Now to the important stuff:

Norma made creamy veggie soup, veggie chili and a pineapple upside down cake. Several bottles of wine are ready and the keg of Heiney has been tapped. Maude is bringing the blender for the margaritas (ours burned out during last year's Super Bowl). Consuela is bringing spicy bean dip. The Grillinator has prepared his meaty chili and chipotle hot wings. And Pickles is arriving with her famous cocktail weinies.

Now THAT's football.

Friday, February 01, 2008

More Mark

Bulletin: Horror World has run out of people to interview. The evidence is right here.

(Thanks to Steve Wedel for asking some great questions.)