Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Fred the Schnauzer, Times Two

Newspaper columnists need time off, too, and an old gimmick they used to maintain their readership was to have celebrities fill in as guest columnists.

At least, they were advertised as the celebrities themselves. It’s easy to believe some of them simply got someone on their staff to pen 350 words in their name and send it off to a newspaper syndicate or wire service. Other methods could be used to fill space, too. An interesting case involves Richard Deacon of The Dick Van Dyke Show. A “written by” piece with his byline turned up on the Associated Press in 1964. Almost a month later, a lot of the same column ended up in a different column by Charles Witbeck of the King Features Syndicate, word-for-word in some spots.

It’s tempting to think Witbeck just ripped off the AP piece, but as he has quotes not printed elsewhere, it’s likely Deacon gave an interview to a bunch of reporters and it was crafted differently by the two services.

As redundant as this seems, we’ll print both for comparison’s sake. First is the longer of two versions sent out by the AP for papers of July 9, 1964.
Soliloquy of a Sourpuss
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Richard Deacon, In addition to playing sour-faced, sharp-tongued comedy foil Mel Cooley on CBS’ Dick Van Dyke Show,” is a participating student in Hollywood’s game of status symbols. Here he explains how trying to keep up with the Beverly Hills Jonses can make a fellow tear his hair—if he has any. He writes for Cynthia Lowry who is on vacation.)
Written for Associated Press
HOLLYWOOD (AP)—I have the uneasy feeling that people think of me as the world's worst sourpuss.
It's no wonder. I used to be a pretty cheerful fellow. That was before I ran into the status symbol game.
It's the modern version of keeping up with the Joneses. It's guaranteed to make a nervous wreck out of anyone.
If you have the right status symbols, you worry for fear they'll go out of date before you can pay for them. If you have the wrong ones—well, look at me. I'm a nervous wreck.
I got the clue early on what to expect when I went out to buy a house.
"How old is it?" I asked the real estate salesman. "This was built by Shepperd Strudwick," he answered, as though that made the house a cut above a Frank Lloyd Wright.
"Oh," I said, "is he a well-known local architect? Turned out Strudwick is a fine actor, who I'm sure would rather be known for his work than for a house. But that's how it goes in Hollywood.
When I asked how much land went with the place, the salesman eagerly told me Ella Raines had owned the house next door. Had owned, get that? Not now.
When I finally did buy a house I got quite a bit of status because it used to belong to Cara Williams. And Natalie Wood lived on the corner.
Then Natalie Wood moved away and there wasn't anybody famous left in the neighborhood. I was just about thinking of moving myself when I was saved—Chris Noel moved in nearby. She's a cute blonde actress who gives me lot of status, neighbour-wise.
Animals are very important for status in Hollywood. French poodles used to be the thing.
Then the Group went to Schnauzers. I got in on the wave with a wonderful miniature Schnauzer named Fred.
But now it's chic to have a mongrel or a beagle—anything, really, with long ears. I still have my schnauzer because I love her (Fred is a lady schnauzer) very much. But I walk her only at night, when people won't see me.
It's most important to collect art and I do. But all the artists I collect are living, so I'm not quite in. I do have a little etching by Rembrandt and I carefully point it out to people.
They told me I'd have to have a pool in Hollywood, so I hurried to put one in. After hauling all the rock and arranging all the piping and getting it landscaped, I found out they meant a swimming pool — not a fish pool.
I don't know how much longer I can stay in the race. I have an old convertible, but for status, you need a new convertible.
I've ordered a new one but I'm afraid by the time I get it the mode will be back to old convertibles.
That's the trouble with the status race. You can never be sure whether you're ahead behind. I like to think I'm so far behind, people will really think I'm ahead.
This is the version which appeared in the TV Keynotes column on August 6th.
Deacon's Bedeviled By Status Stardust

Hollywood—The straight man for baldness and stupid boss jokes is the mournful looking Richard Deacon on the Dick Van Dyke series.
Richard is permitted very few witty replies to barbs by Morey Amsterdam on the series, and it's really about time this new season that he be allowed to defend himself.
Being labeled an idiot sourpuss who got his job because he's a relative of the star may not do things for Deacon's ego, but it fattens the old checkbook.
Richard is now climbing up the success ladder and has been foolish enough to look for a house.
"In Hollywood you're measured not just by your current neighbors," says Deacon, "but by who used to be your neighbors."
DEACON TOOK the tour with a real estate salesman and he found a whole new world of status and rank.
The first house on the tour was built by Shepperd Strudwick, and judging from the salesman's tone of voice, Deacon figured he must be a very prominent architect. Strudwich turned out to be an actor, but the name meant more to the salesman than Frank Lloyd Wright.
Then Richard inquired about the backyard footage. The salesman countered brightly with the fact Ella Raines had owned the house next door. This was supposed to mean a lot.
Deacon went home, rested a few weeks and then took another tour and ended up buying one which used to belong to Cara Williams. An added inducement was the fact Natalie Wood lived on the corner.
Then Natalie Wood moved out and the whole block lost face until a starlet by the name of Chris Noel moved in.
With the house under his belt, Deacon then went shopping for furnishings and antiques, and quickly learned he should only buy in Beverly Hills or Bel Air.
• • •
BEING in the correct shopping area, Deacon began browsing and soon found a copper kettle he admired. He asked cautiously if it leaked. The saleslady gave him a look and said, "That came from an estate in which Mary Pickford had an interest." Perhaps before antiques on the status board is the selection of the right kind of dog. French poodles are out, so Deacon found a miniature schnauzer named Fred. A schnauzer is in between, and he is being pressed in the popularity race by mongrels, sheepdogs and others with long ears. Richard is sensitive about this and feels his dog knows too, so he only walks Fred at night.
With the right house, the correct kind of antiques and an almost correct dog, Richard is on pretty solid ground, particularly because people see him every week on TV. You can be "out" if you're working weekly, but people will give you a second chance.
• • •
HOWEVER, Richard says actors are also checked out on their art collection, their swimming pools and apparel. “I have a tendency to be too neat,” he says. "And that isn't good you know. The best known actors always wear tennis shoes, white sox and chino pants these days. A shirt worn outside is very smart, too.
"And let me tell you about my art collection. I collect living artists, so I'm not quite in, but it shows I'm daring."
Does Deacon have any real weaknesses in the status game?
"It might as well come on," he says. "My pool is a fish pool. And my car is an old convertible and it can't compete with the Lincolns or sports cars."
Adding it all up, Deacon doesn't know whether he's "in" or halfway "out." "Out here you never know whether you're ahead or behind," he says. "I like to think I'm so far behind, people will really think I’m ahead."
Did any papers publish both stories? It’s altogether possible. The AP is the premiere wire service in the U.S. and I assume the vast majority of dailies were subscribers. I don’t know how many papers picked up the TV Keynotes feature from KFS. A brief hunt on-line hasn’t revealed whether a paper ran both. Considering the vast array of newspaper columnists, wire services, syndicators, radio and TV outlets and magazines all publishing entertainment-related news, one wonders if a reader would even notice.

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