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.


Jeff Hebert said...

Great story, thanks George!

ramsey said...


You can type?

And tell stories?

And you never told us until you left Texas Weekly?

Ranzau said...

Atta boy. And so it begins.

Anonymous said...

George, as a reporter still in the cheap trenches (with a reporter's notebook, a stale pimento cheese sandwich and a Texas-size cup of coffee), I can't wait to read your musings and thoughts about life, Texas politics, the world and reporting in general. Your book, "The Day the News Went Live" is absolutely riveting, and a couple of our young reporters were acutally reading it, more than just looking at the pictures and wondering why they weren't in color. You are definitely bookmarked -- here's to you, George! Can I claim you as family through Jeff?! Denise

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