People and Places

POLITICS CHATTER: Say no to Harper, Rae, public service cuts, and Romney. (And Yes to some real stories of intrigue and mayhem)

  • Contributing editor Mark Bourrie ponders the good old days, when skilled wordsmiths knew how to massage a good story — and a good scandal.

I was pawing through stuff at the Smith’s Falls flea market Sunday when I came across a copy of the Toronto tabloid Hush. Published in the 1950s and early 1960s, Hush was a scandal sheet in every sense of the word.

It sent reporters to what was then called “Morality Court” to hear the cases of hookers and men charged under the still-on-the-books sodomy charges. And it covered petty scams, happenings at nudist colonies, and gave racetrack odds. There were a few pages of ads for hookers unconvincingly disguised as “lonely hearts” messages.

I read every word of this 1960 paper, marveling at the sorrowful stories offered up by its skilled wordsmiths. No political spin in this stuff, just a lot of tragedy, plenty of seedy sex, some wide-eyed enthusiasm for a nudist colony beauty contest, and stern condemnation of a two-bit crook who fleeced a young woman out of $100.

I miss that kind of news. Here, on the Hill, reporters are grinding out “Whither Quebec” eye-splitters, covering the floor crossing of an NDP MP who might as well have been in the witness protection program, or pontificating on themes like “Stephen Harper, Friend or Fiend?”

Not me. Can’t do it. I am no political Rumpelstiltskin, able to turn stale political straw into punditry gold. Instead, here’s some news you can use around the water cooler or during those embarrassing pauses at dinner:

  • Authorities in Fayetteville, Arkansas, spent Monday searching for a man who held a man hostage while forcing his wife to rob a bank with a fake bomb strapped to her leg. Betty Davis, 73, told employees at the bank about the “bomb”, which was removed by a team of explosives specialists. The culprit made off with the couple’s pick-up truck, which was later found abandoned on the side of a road. Police are looking for a white man of indeterminate age, wearing blue jeans. Anyone fitting that description in Fayetteville and environs may want to nail down their alibi.
  • Christopher Patterson, 25, appeared last Friday in a Fort Lauderdale courtroom for a hearing in his felony narcotics case. Patterson, charged with illegal possession of Oxycotin (Hillbilly Heroin) showed up wearing a distinctive sweatshirt imprinted with instructions and illustrations for making and using crack cocaine. His lawyer sent him home to change, then sent The Smoking Gun web page a picture of Patterson in his interesting sweatshirt. (This reminds me of a time when I covered the trial of a hold-up artist in London, Ontario. The guy showed up wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with his name, “Rob”. His lawyer did not send him home, and the judge ended up sending him to jail.)
  • Larry Knowles, 65, of Jupiter, Florida, was quietly minding his own business last Friday morning, spending some quality time watching Judge Judy when his wife Janet, 62, went  berzerk  and started smashing him on the head with a hammer. Larry took too bad blows to the face that opened cuts that required stiches, and he suffered bruises on his arms from trying to fend off the blows. Police said Janet was incensed at Larry’s choice of daytime programming. She was booked into the Palm Beach jail, with bail set at $10,000.
  • And, lastly, we have the case of Col. Mikolaj Przybyl of the Polish Army, who, on Monday, invited reporters and TV crews to his office in the western city of Poznan for a news conference. Midway through the session, Przybyl, a military prosecutor, pulled out a pistol and shot himself in the head. Przybyl was not a skilled marksman, and he survived the suicide attempt, though he did need surgery to fix his face. Przybyl was despondent that the Polish government had cited his incompetence as a prosecutor as the reason for the closure of his office and several others.

There. No Harper, no Dippers, no Bob Rae, no public service cuts, no Romney. Maybe next week.