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awilda
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Funniest, I have to think about. Horrifying is easy. There are so many of them. Contrary to what it may seem like, newspaper writers HATE to make mistakes. There is nothing more embarrassing. In the trade, corrections are called "skinbacks" and I think that perfectly captures the feeling when you find out you were wrong about something. Most of mine I've overcome through self-medication and therapy, but the one that really sticks out in my mind was the first section I edited when I was hired at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. This was really my shot at the big time, funny as that seems today, with the paper dead more than a decade. And for my first section, the features editor had assigned a writer to do a piece on the USC UCLA football game (an annual event here) and what the coaches were cooking, or some such stupid thing. I hated the idea, but it was my first week so I couldn't fight it. The story came in, I edited it and layed it out (we had no desk help at the Herald). The section pbulished and I was actually pretty pleased with the way it turned out. Until I got the first phone call pointing out that the big game was the NEXT week, not this one. I swear, I almost got back in my car and drove back to Albuquerque.

Funniest? There's been a lot of fun, by not much in the way of wacky. One exception (and again from my Herald days), I got an assignment from another feature editor, this one totally crazy, to do a piece on what was billed as "the opening of the legendary Rudy Vallee wine cellar." He had died the year before and they were talking auction and stuff, part of a general and ongoing liquidation, it turns out.

I got to the Vallee house a little early, it was at the top of one of the Hollywood Hills. Amazing place, it had a turntable in the driveway because there wasn't enough room to turn a car around. It also had been plundered through years of high living and not working. Picture a grand Moorish castle filled with furniture from Sears. At a certain point the widow Vallee came to meet us (there was also a group of touring Italian restaurateurs) and take us to the cellar. On the way down we passed through Rudy Vallee's private auditorium, complete with stage and mini-museum (one exhibit was a fully nude, fairly dated photograph of the Widow Vallee--when he met her, he was in his 60s, she was a 15-year-old Vegas showgirl ... you get the picture). After much oohing and aahing by the restaurateurs, we made it to the fabled cellar, which was actually located under the tennis court, stacked up against an outside south-facing wall, protected by chicken wire. Take the wine selection at your neighborhood 7-11 and you've got a pretty good idea of the contents. There was a publicist there, an actual old-time Hollywood publicist, and he came over and told me, you know something about wine, the TVs are coming, why don't you pick something out to open? I told him I presumed he meant something without a screwtop and that that might be a challenge. I did dig through the racks, though and I spotted what looked like a thick wax capsule. I pulled it out and it was a 1961 Chateau Trotanoy, truly a diamond in a coal mine. I very carefully removed it from the rack and took it over to the guy. This is really something, I said, but I'm not sure you want to open it. Of course I do, he told me and grabbed the bottle by its neck and waved it over his head "Look what the guy from the Herald found!" He pulled a corkscrew and proceeded to try to pop the cork through the capsule, shattering the cork in teh process. I finally cleaned up the last bits I could get ... he poured a couple of glasses and at just that moment, he leader of the restaurant group, an old friend of the Widow Vallee, spied the bottle. I saw them join in an urgent whispered coversation and she came running over. "Press conference is over!" she shouted, giving me a really dirty look.

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