Monday, January 29, 2007

Jake Pickle, his real name

So-- the world needs another blog?

Nah. But I do.

All my life, I've been in press or politics or both. Now, I'm trying to go straight. Maybe this blog will help. I know it will help me. You, too, perhaps. Hope so.

If not, no matter. We can all have some fun.

In my speckled past, I spent almost four years in Washington working for a U.S. congressman (Jake Pickle) and a couple more years working for a U. S. senator (Lloyd Bentsen). Of the two, Pickle was more loveable, Bentsen more worldly. But those are stories for later. Somewhere along the line, I wrote speeches for assorted state and federal elected and appointed officials. Some were fun. Some were egotistical jerks.

OK. Here's one quick story. This is a true story, worthy of being told.

I had left Pickle and Bentsen and returned to Austin to hang out my shingle as a speech writer. In those days, a top speech was worth big money -- around $350.

One day, I ran into Pickle in the Federal Building.

"George," he said. "Am I glad to see you. I have a major speech on economics tomorrow to all the combined civic clubs in Austin. They are transmitting the information down from Washington and I want you to write my speech. I'll pay you. I'll pay you fifty bucks. That's fair."

Did I tell you Pickle was cheap? He was a Depression baby. Came by it honest.

I didn't know anything about economics, still don't. But I read the research and started writing. The speech was going good.

For Pickle, I wrote:

"As I was doing research on economics, the simple solution hit me. It will cure U. S. inflation. Cure world wide inflation. I've got a call into the president and I'll tell you what I'm going to tell him."

That was the end of Page 1.

At the top of Page 2, I wrote: "That's fifty dollars worth, you S.O.B. You're on your own!"

Fortunately, a staffer finished writing the speech and Pickle called every bar in town looking for me. I was laying low. But I couldn't hide forever and we ran into each other at the airport a couple of months later.

"Phenix, that was a terrible thing you did to your congressman," he bellowed. Strangers moved away. But I could tell from the gleam in his eyes that he enjoyed the joke.

"Well, congressman," I said. "I wasn't going to mention it, but you haven't paid me yet."

Pickle stiffened. The strangers nearly fainted.

A week later, a check for $150 arrived from Pickle. I return the check and wrote him back: "Keep your money. I've had a million dollars worth of laughs just telling the story."

Pickle wrote back: "Don't be noble. The money is to cover that speech -- and the next one!"

So you see...I got him up to $75 per speech.

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