Here’s a question I’ve often been asked. “Who is my favorite columnist?” Depending on which stage of my life I was when asked the answer to that question varies.
Going as far back to my preteen and teen years, I would probably say anyone who wrote for Seventeen magazine and was dispensing advice on boys, make-up, or clothes and probably in that order.
The first “legitimate” columnist I became hooked on was Irv Kupcinet. “Kup’s Column” was a staple in the Chicago Sun-Times. I found the exciting life he led among notables of stage, screen and politics fascinating.
His grip on life in Chicago also caught my interest. The end portion of his column would be reserved for birthday greetings to the famous, infamous and not so famous who were celebrating their day.
Now I always wanted to have my birthday mentioned in his column, and even thought I might send a note requesting a greeting to me. Of course, I never did it, which may be a good thing, since I have a feeling I may have been disappointed. But then, I will never know for sure.
High on my list was the late Erma Bombeck, a favorite of many. Now here was someone I could identify with and was very influential where I was concerned. This was someone who was a typical suburban housewife who made her name and column famous by relating the everyday happenings of all of us. She did it all well and she had a good agent. Agent! Her columns led her to writing books, which were found in the humor section of any decent bookstore. And don’t we all miss Erma and her slant on life?
Mike Royko became the columnist I could simultaneously love and hate sometimes over the same column. He wrote with an “I don’t care” sense of abandon, and it sometimes got him in trouble, but he kept people reading.
Perhaps it was because I sensed he was the last of what I imagined to be the old time columnists, I read his works. Many a time after reading one of his scathing columns I would vent, “I’m never reading his columns again. He doesn’t read my column. Why should I read his?”
At the time I was writing for another publication, which was not as much fun as writing for the Landmark. Needless to say, the chances of Royko reading my column were slim to none. Upon his death, I told someone working for the Tribune how I would be glad to take over his column and ask for less money. Evidently no one got the message.
When I was in a more serious mood I could turn to Bob Greene, whose social justice columns brought out the “I want to do good” feeling in me. Greene was a passionate columnist and could evoke tears from even the most hardened of readers with some of the stories he told particularly those dealing with children.
He went on to write books and was a frequent guest on many talk shows. Alas, an indiscretion brought him down. He packed his belongings from his office and removed himself from the literary scene.
I can only hope that somewhere he is holed up still writing, and maybe he is under an assumed name. His talent is too good to be denied and removed from the scene. It would be nice if he saw this and took it to heart and we know that won’t happen.
Bachelorette update: Wendell Jisa as of this writing is still in the running to be the pick of Jen (the Bachelorette). I think I caught Wendell saying he had a crush on Jen. Now how nice is that?
We will continue watching to see if Jen really has good taste, because we all know who we think she should pick. If you think we have the inside scoop, I can only tell you Wendell’s mother, Judy Jisa, says she does not know the outcome. Darn!