Letters, calls and the roar of the crowd:
Raymond W. Schneider, Milwaukee: I have a collection of over 8,000 autographed photos and would greatly appreciate your autographed photo as part of my collection, which includes presidents, senators, justices, chiefs of staff, U.S. astronauts, 15 Soviet cosmonauts, numerous foreign dignitaries, sports figures, TV personalities, entertainers and religious dignitaries.
Randy Barlet, Lebanon, Pa.: Have you ever thought of a political career? You are a very knowledgeable and down-to-earth man. I think the American people want and need just that. Could I
please have an autographed photo?
Bob Gannon, Chicago: My brother-in-law Dan and my wife Virginia and I have been your greatest fans. We know you must get many such requests, but could we receive from you two photos, one to Bob and Virginia and one to Dan? We would treasure them.
COMMENT: OK, you guys, what's the scam? I may work at a newspaper, but I'm not stupid. In my entire career, which has run the gamut from A to B, I have had maybe six requests for autographed pictures, mostly, I suspect, from people who do unspeakable things to them in the privacy of their post office boxes.
But now in the space of a few weeks I get three oh-so-nice letters requesting an autographed photo. In one I am compared to presidents and senators. (Big deal.) In another I am encouraged to enter politics. (Why should I take a step backward?) Another person wants two photos, autographed to "Bob," "Virginia" and "Dan," names so weird they are obviously pseudonyms.
I know something is going on. But what? All I can figure is that Money magazine must have run an article titled: "Charles Manson, John Hinckley, Richard Speck -- Their Autographed Photos Worth Big Bucks Today. Start Collecting Future Stars Now!"
Mel Udoff, CBC Sales, Baltimore: We are delighted to hear how much you like Smith Brothers Wild Cherry Cough Drops. As you well know, our product has been in existence for many years and we are still in production. It is our pleasure to submit a few of our products to you.
COMMENT: Journalistic ethics prevents me from accepting most things of value (the exceptions are cash, gold bullion, stocks, bonds and gems of two carats or more). Fortunately, however, I can keep the Smith Brothers Wild Cherry "Cough Drops" you sent me because they no longer have any official value when it comes to coughs. You may call them cough drops and I may call them cough drops, but the package clearly calls them "throat drops" and says each one "soothes sore throats and irritation due to smoking or speaking." No mention of coughs.
I am happy to report, however, that they still work on my cough, probably for psychological reasons (the taste reminds me of the third grade), which means, I suppose, a cherry Life Saver would have the same effect. (Hint to the Live Saver Corp.: Send stock, not samples.) And while I liked the old Smith Brothers package better than the new one, I am delighted to see that the two Smith Brothers are still named Trade and Mark.
A. Alexander Stella, Susquehanna, Pa.: The theme of your recently published book suggests you may enjoy the following:
"Before the flag of the United States of America, I pledge allegiance to that nation's Constitution and to the republic, founded thereon, one democracy under God, indivisible,with liberty and justice for all."
I have sent this to 1,051 clergy, publishers, entertainers, editors, jurists, syndicated columnists, athletes and television commentators.
William F. Buckley Jr. complimented my proposed revision of the Pledge of Allegiance for being "pertinent" and "commendable."
Provided my proposed revision meets with your strong approval, please do consider discussing it with your colleagues.
COMMENT: Actually, I have nothing against the old Pledge of Allegiance and am not looking forward to memorizing a new one. JTC But if we do have to have a new one, how about this:
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands and the president who can send me to war without an act of Congress any time he wants to because he says he can, by God, indivisible with liberty and M-16s for all."
Carolyn Crittenden, Elkridge: Who is Martha Quinn? Have I lived a vacuum lately and missed something? Please advise.
Second of all, perhaps I have a weakness for barbershop quartets because a group of talented fellows from my place of business formed such a group on a lark, went out to sing for some folks last Christmas and were so well-received that they're still singing.
Perhaps barbershop is something like bluegrass in that it's an acquired taste.
I'm certain that's true for bagpipe music or is that an oxymoron?
COMMENT: Martha Quinn is the new prime minister of England. And who are you calling a moron?