Will wackos never cease?

January 25, 1994|By Kevin Cowherd

One day when I was a rookie reporter, an editor rushed over to my desk and breathlessly assigned me a "very important" story which appeared the next day at the bottom of page 26, next to the tire ads and a notice requesting volunteers for a study on impotence.

At most, three people read the story, which was so boring that I kept dozing off at my typewriter as I wrote it.

I'd begin typing a sentence such as: "At its regular meeting last night, the zoning board voted to . . ." and soon my eyes were closing and my chin was drooping and finally my head would bang against the carriage return.

This would rouse me momentarily, but then I'd type: "In other matters, the board heard from Paul Sorento, owner of Little Paulie's Pizza . . ." and pretty soon I'd drift off and bang my head against the typewriter again.

Even after turning in the story, I felt drowsy, because by now I had a full-blown concussion from banging my head so many times.

As I said, maybe three people bothered to read the story the next day, and these were probably shut-ins. So naturally one of them called me up to complain.

After spewing gibberish for several seconds, this person's voice went low and he said: "I've had it with you people. I'll be down there in 10 minutes."

My first move, after silently rehearsing the phrase "Sir, please put down the knife" and practicing a few leaps under my desk, was to alert security.

Then I realized that our crack security consisted of this one old guy, Ned, who sat in the lobby with his head buried in the newspaper.

If a dozen Libyan terrorists armed with machine guns walked in, the odds were good they'd find Ned lost in a crossword puzzle and mumbling: "Five-letter word, Norwegian body of water."

Predictably, Ned swung into action upon hearing that a potential madman was on his way down to the paper.

"Well, I go to lunch soon," he said.

In any event, a few minutes later, a red pickup truck swung into the parking lot. A small man emerged carrying -- this is absolutely true -- a chain saw.

Watching from a corner window of the newsroom, I quickly looked around for any frail-looking editors that I could throw in this madman's path.

But instead of heading for the entrance, the small man walked quickly to a corner of the building, fired up the chain saw and began -- here's where it gets real bizarre -- cutting into one of the decorative wooden beams.

Moments later, the police arrived, and the man was taken away without incident. Ned was greatly relieved and hurried off to pick up a meatball sandwich.

In any event, this was my first real brush with a wacko and it left me with a genuine appreciation for the excitement these people can drum up.

But these days, there are so many wackos in the news that we're actually becoming bored with the species.

In L.A., you have these two rich-boy Menendez brothers, Lyle and Erik, who claim their parents abused them for years.

But instead of telling anyone of the abuse, or simply packing their bags and leaving, the Menendez brothers apparently thought: "Hell, it'd be so much easier if we just kill 'em. Plus that way, we don't have to give up our rooms."

Anyway, after taking a shotgun to their parents, the two brothers were so overcome with grief and shame that they went on a massive spending spree.

Then, after their arrest, Lyle provided the classic quote when he told the police that, sure, he missed his parents, but "I miss not having my dog around."

Then there are John and Lorena Bobbitt, matching bookend wackos. Mrs. Bobbitt also told a tale of abuse, which no one familiar with John Bobbitt's sunny personality would dispute.

But tell me: Did she have to cut off his . . . ?

Couldn't she just cut off, I don't know, a finger? Wouldn't that get her point across? Let's face it, you cut off a person's finger, it sends a pretty clear message that you're tired of being pushed around.

Then there was the attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, where some sorry hayseed suddenly thought he was a member of the Gambino crime family and allegedly whacked the poor woman across the knee with a metal rod.

One footnote to the chain saw wacko story: Upon his release from jail, the man promised to deal with his emotions in a more constructive manner, one that did not include firing up a Homelite every time he disagreed with someone.

This made me feel a lot better. I could tell it made Ned feel better, too, because when I told him, he said: "Fine, fine, but I have to be out of here at 6. The wife needs a ride to bingo."

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