— Croft M. Pentz
From, “The Complete
Book of Zingers”
Once all the ballots from “Reader’s Choice 2013” had been counted and their numbers publicly released last weekend, I cried myself to sleep knowing that for a second consecutive year I was not among the “Best of Bradley County.”
Dreams of being coronated “Best Newspaper Columnist” by thousands of Cleveland Daily Banner readers were again dashed, this time by frontrunners Joe Cannon, assistant sports editor, and David Davis, managing editor. Inarguably, this duo for years have graced Cleveland’s stage of print journalism as the official faces and most trusted names of our community newspaper.
Each is truly gifted and has a flare for creativity.
Last year’s inaugural winners were William Wright, Lifestyles editor who is handily one of the most inspirational writers in these parts, and Lucie R. Willsie, a past associate editor who has since taken her literary roadshow to a newspaper in Mount Airy, N.C.
All four deserved their honors. Each savored a just reward.
In a moment of self-pity while dabbing my moist eyes — yet again — with an already wet tissue, I thought of Hollywood actress Susan Lucci in amazement that she could endure such disappointment for 18 years. This millionaire starlet who played the villainous Erica Kane on ABC’s “All My Children” was nominated for a daytime Emmy Award for 18 consecutive years before finally nailing the coveted honor in 1999.
I never watched the show — at least, not that I would admit — but I do remember some of the Emmy hype that always surrounded her nominations. Her record streak of failures even caught the eye of TV marketers and NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
Seems like I remember seeing that episode. I just can’t remember when. Big surprise. So in keeping pace with the rest of Western — as well as Eastern, Northern and Southern — civilization, I Googled. According to Wikipedia, she was invited by SNL producers to host the late-night show. In her monologue, her string of Emmy losses was “... parodied by the rest of the show’s cast, crew and even the stagehands” who were all pictured scurrying about carrying Emmys of their own in her presence.
In 1989, when her winless streak had reached 11, she appeared in a TV commercial for an artificial sweetener called Sweet One. She was cast in the spot as a polar opposite of her wicked “All My Children” character, yet in typical Erica Kane fashion she threw a tantrum and screeched to anyone within hearing distance, and even those who were not, “... Eleven years without an Emmy! What does a person have to do around here to get an Emmy?”
Managing a subdued smile while again wiping my leaking eyes, I recalled that being a funny commercial. But my unheard whimpers returned upon the realization that this year’s “Best Newspaper Columnist” kingpin had taken a cruel and unjust jab — and yes, intentionally lighthearted — at me during these sad times when I was at my most vulnerable.
As quoted directly from the final paragraph of his “Cannon’s Corner” victory speech, published last Sunday, in which Joe was crediting divine intervention, parents and “The Academy” — all three of which were well-deserved kudos — for his newfound stardom:
“And lastly, better luck in next year’s Reader’s Choice voting, Rick Norton. This is two straight years you came up just short in the voting. Ouch, that’s got to sting a little.”
Yeah, right about now “ouch” is a good word. “Sting’s” not bad either.
I am told the original version of this jovial Santa lookalike’s boast stung even deeper, but the weekend editor on duty made him edit his copy to soften the blow. Word on the streets, and in the newsroom, is he was going to suggest of me bribery — donuts for votes, or something like that.
To his credit, this new “Best of Bradley County” did close out his celebration-in-words with, “If they’d let me vote, yours is the name I’d write down.” It has not been confirmed whether the weekend editor mandated this closing sentence out of respect for my tender, but badly damaged, feelings.
Not to worry.
For any who have not already figured it out, Joe and I go back a long way. Our friendship dates back to our first stints at this newspaper back in the 1980s. Thinking back, I sometimes wonder how our Saturday night shift ever got a Sunday edition published with guys like Allen Mincey, George Starr, Barry Currin, Joe and me at the helm.
Whether it was chowing down on a pizza buffet at lunch, gathering at somebody’s house for “Wrestlemania” or rafting the wild waters of the cold Ocoee River, we always managed to find a way to have some fun back in the day.
So a little needling here and a few innocent jabs there is nothing new. It’s just what friends do.
It’s also what “Reader’s Choice” is all about — finding a way to enjoy a few laughs through the luxury of braggin’ rights. And if the newspaper can make a few dollars in the process, then the more the merrier. Ink’s not cheap, folks ... especially by the barrel. And the newsprint’s just as bad, even the recycled stuff. Like any household or business, a newspaper’s got to pay its bills.
So congratulations — and I genuinely mean this — to 174 “Best of Bradley County” winners and 174 runners-up. Wear your crowns high for the coming year and relish your fame.
But heed this warning, one credited to history’s Napoleon: “Fame is fleeting. Obscurity is forever. I’ll take obscurity.”
Me too, Susan as well.
If life is truly a teacher of lessons, two of the best learned are to steer clear of towns named Waterloo and save your skin with a better soap.