Sometimes, when I am trying to think of an idea for my column, I just stare at the wall. That’s not a bad thing, because on the wall in my home office is a collection of special pieces of memorabilia that inspire me to write, reminding me of the talented people I have had the privilege to meet…
Letter from Steve Allen: I always revered Steve Allen. In 1988 we did a show together to commemorate the opening of MGM theme parks in Orlando. During the interview, I imitated one of his classic TV bits when he would get irate at stuff in the news and throw the paper down in mock anger. Two weeks later, I got a personal note from Mr. Allen saying that he had seen the video and thought it was “very funny.” I only look at that letter when I wake up every morning and before I go to bed.
Art Buchwald display: When Art Buchwald was in a hospice in 2005, I wrotea story about how he influenced me. I sent him a copy of the piece along with a photo of us together in 1968 in his Washington, D.C., office. Buchwald responded to my letter by sending the column back with his autograph and a note: “Glad you made it as a writer… I was sure you’d be arrested for holding up 7-Elevens.” All my Buchwald memorabilia is now in a huge frame. How big? My wife wants to take it down someday and install a bay window, instead.
Garfield drawing: After I interviewed cartoonist Jim Davis, he left for a meeting. But I had forgotten to ask him to draw Garfield as part of the taped segment. His assistant called Mr. Davis, who then graciously turned his car around and came back to his office to do the drawing for me. This always reminds me what a genuinely nice guy Mr. Davis is. No fat cat, there.
Champion beagle: Cartoonist Gary Varvel celebrated the winner of the 2010 Westminster Dog Show with a drawing of the winning pooch in sunglasses standing by a newspaper stand that heralded his victory, the first time a beagle had ever taken top prize. The caption: Joe Cool. Gary sent the original to me in memory of my old pal Barney, who never won a ribbon… just a few thousand hearts.
Finally, I have on my wall a signed comic strip from cartoonist Charles Schulz, a thank-you gift from his corporate office after an interview. I asked a friend who is an autograph expert to appraise it. He told me it was probably not Schulz’s signature, but was signed instead by his secretary. How much is it worth? Peanuts, he told me.