• In 1966, two runaway best-selling books were The Adventurers by Harold Robbins and Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann — depressing news for anyone who loves literature. One person who loved literature was Newsday columnist Mike McGrady, who decided that he and his friends could write a book of that “quality.” He said to his fellow Newsday employees: “Why don’t we all do one? A novel. Everyone could do one chapter and each would write about one specific perversion ….” After coming up with the idea and getting the cooperation of his friends in writing it, Mr. McGrady sought a publisher. He went to the office of Lyle Stuart and explained the project. Mr. Stuart said, “I’ll publish it.” Mr. McGrady answered, “It should be ready in a year or so. You can read it then.” Mr. Stuart then said, “I mean I’ll publish it sight unseen.” In fact, he did publish the novel, and it became a best seller: Naked Came the Stranger, which was supposedly written by housewife Penelope Ashe.
• As a comic book writer for Marvel Comics, Stan Lee wrote many good stories, but because of his heavy workload, once in a while he wrote a story that he felt wasn’t up to the level he wanted and he didn’t have time to make it better. Once, when that happened, he wrote these words that appeared on the cover of the comic book: “Look, this may not be one of the best stories we’ve ever done, but we’ve given you enough good ones so that you owe it to us to buy this lemon anyway.” The response was phenomenal, as the comic book sold very, very well. In addition, lots of readers wrote in to say, “You guys are the greatest. Nobody else would have been that honest — and, y’know what, the story wasn’t all that bad!”
• Satirist Stan Freberg is known for his use in humor in advertisements — humor that is very effective in increasing sales. (Mr. Freberg once wrote an advertisement that had this message: “Nine out of 10 doctors recommend Chun King chow mein.” The ad featured 10 doctors — nine of them Oriental.) When another renowned ad writer, David Ogilvy, wrote 10 rules for creating advertisements, he wrote, “Humor in advertising doesn’t work.” Yet another ad writer, Howard Gossage, asked him, “What about Freberg?” Mr. Ogilvy was forced to backtrack: “Oh, well, I didn’t mean Freberg.”
• The New Yorker started out as a humor magazine, but in times of war and its aftermath the magazine was more serious. One woman read John Hersey’s famed article about the bombing of Hiroshima in The New Yorker, then complained, “I’ve just read that long Hiroshima article from beginning to end, and I just wish you’d tell me what was funny about it!”
Husbands and Wives
• Author Studs Terkel was married to Ida for 60 years in a marriage that ended only with her death in 1999. Both she and her husband were social activists, and she used to tease him because her FBI file was bigger than his. In her old age, she was advised to use a cane, but she declined, giving as her reason, “I fall over so gracefully.” Of course, she and her husband knew everyone, and everyone knew them. At age 95, Studs was still telling stories about the many people he knew. For example, Nelson Algren, writer of The Man with the Golden Arm, once made extra money by selling the typewriter on which he had written that world-class novel. Actually, that’s not the entire story. Mr. Algren had many typewriters, and each time he wanted or needed extra money, he sold a typewriter, telling the purchaser that it was the typewriter on which he had written The Man with the Golden Arm.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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