The Rewrite Man
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 96 02:45:04 -0800
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: The Rewrite Man
Forwarded-by: BONG Bull No. 360!
THE REWRITE MAN. From David M. Cole (email@example.com),
this is a compilation of parts of the poem as remembered by San
Francisco Examiner Morning Assistant City Editor Fred Kirstowsky
and Los Angeles Times writer Jerry Belcher (who is now on the
Rewrite Bank in the Sky) in the mid-'70s. It is attributed to John
Reese or Henry Sutherland.
The Rewrite Man
The rewrite man was writing the death
Of a miserable Skid Row whore
Of the after effects of a drinking bout
Some two or three weeks before.
The facts were dull and dry and brief
And he almost had it done
When through the air came the raucous voice
Of James Hugh Richardson.
"On that murder story," the Great One said,
"We'll give it plenty of play
"And go into the mystery angle, too,
"Because we're short of news today."
The rewrite man cast a baleful glance
That the Great One did not see
And, round-eyed, turned to the desk and asked,
"Were you addressing me?"
"Of course," said the Man, and his voice grew thick,
"Some merciless sadist slew
"This innocent child of East Fifth Street,
"Though he probably loved her too.
"And somewhere high in your story
"Tell of the marijuana ring
"That made this maid in the seventh grade
"A wretched, besotted thing.
"Picture a wilted, yellow rose
"To tincture it with romance.
"Somewhere mention a party dress,
"Forgetting she wore no pants.
"And tell of the shattered cocktail glass,
"Which broke as the body fell.
"The artist will alter the photograph
"Of the bottle of muscatel.
"And that barroom bum she's been living with,
"We'll call him a mystery man,
"And try to mention the Japanese
"And communists if you can.
"You can lose the detail
"That the body was claimed
"By a whistling skid-row fag.
"Or the fact that the coroner said
"She was a syphilitic bag.
"You needn't mention the fact that she died
"On a twittering cocaine jag.
"Instead, in the opening sentence,
"Quote MacArthur, on the Flag.
"Get excited about the drama, here,
"Of hatred and lust and greed.
"Write a good objective story, and
"Get all of that in your lead!
"And after you've written two paragraphs,
"I'll want to give it a look.
"Make sure you get all the details in,
"And hold it to half a book."
The rewrite man pecked away, of course,
With benumbed dexterity
And finally turned in his copy
At twenty-five after three.
The climax came the following week.
He was gratified to get
The prize for finest writing
To appear in overset.
It served the bastard right, of course,
As philosophers will note,
For being a rewrite man at all
When he could have cut his throat.
© 1996 Peter Langston