Book 'em, Dave


January 03, 1993|By DAVE BARRY

By the time I saw Larry King interview the snake, my brain was a whimpering wad of useless tissue. I had been on a book-promotion tour for several weeks, following the standard book-tour schedule, which is designed by publicity experts who do not believe in letting you fritter away valuable time on non-promotional activities such as eating and sleeping. I'd be in, say, Seattle, and I'd ask, "Do you think I could go to the bathroom?" And the publicity people would frown at the schedule and say, "Not today. Maybe in Los Angeles."

But the hectic pace was worth it, because of all the terrific book publicity I was generating on radio and TV shows.

"So, Dave," the hosts would say. "What do you think of Madonna's book?"

That's right: Through a stroke of good fortune, my book came out on the same day as Madonna's book, "Smut." I want to stress that I'm not at all bitter about this, nor about the fact that Madonna probably gets to go to the bathroom whenever she wants and has sold way more books than I have, even though her book costs as much as two Salad Shooters and is nothing but pornographic photographs.

So, OK, Madonna gets to be rich and naked. But she did not get to have my book-tour memories:

I'm in a Detroit radio station early in the morning, before I am awake, slurping coffee and listening to Denny McLain. He won 31 games for the Detroit Tigers in 1968, and now he's a Radio Personality, attempting to interview me about my book, which he, in compliance with the Radio and TV Personality Code of Ethics, has not read, or even seen. But he's a good guy and he's giving it his best shot, reading a press release provided by the publicity people.

"In his latest book," he reads, "Dave takes on the mysterious what the (very bad word) are we doing here??"

"Glurk," I respond, spitting my coffee onto the control panel, because this is a surprise question. Fortunately, it turns out that Denny is talking to his engineer about a technical problem, and this interview is being taped, so we are not broadcasting bad words to greater Detroit. Although it occurs to me that he has hit upon the ultimate book-tour question: What the (very bad word) are we doing here?

Now I'm in Boston, being interviewed by a woman from a cable-TV station with an annual production budget that I would estimate at $4.50. I'm sitting to the interviewer's right; to her left, playing on the floor out of camera range, are her two daughters, ages about 3 and 5. They're not getting along.

"So," the woman says to me, "tell me why you wrote this book."

"Well," I say, and suddenly I'm talking to the back of her head, because the instant the camera zoomed in on me, she whirled around to face her daughters.

"Stop that!" she is hissing at them. "You stop that right now!"

" . . . basically," I'm saying to the back of her head, "my goal was to . . . "

"You put that Barbie down!" the back of her head is hissing. "That is not your Barbie!"

Now I'm in a Washington, D.C., TV studio, waiting to go on "Larry King Live," watching Larry interview a man who has brought on a variety of wild animals, including some fierce predatory birds. I don't know why. Maybe the birds are running for president. I'm too tired to ask.

Then the animal man produces a snake approximately the size of the Hudson River. The snake is writhing all over the desk, waving its head around, sizing Larry up as a possible nationally syndicated hors d'oeuvre, and Larry, his body totally rigid, is leaning away from the microphone at a 45-degree angle, in danger of keeling over backward. He is clearly yearning for 1996 to roll around so he can get Ross Perot back on. He is talking to the man, but his eyes are riveted on the snake.

These are just a few of my fond book-tour memories. I could recount some more but I need some sleep. In closing, I just want to stress that, despite my tone earlier in this column, I do not begrudge Madonna her success with her book.

Although it does tick me off that, according to today's New York Times, the snake has a best-seller.

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