The Plateful Dead 6

While most drivers are pondering over what the combination of seven letters and/or numbers mean on vanity plates, my thoughts are far away as I ruminate about the famous folks no longer with us. Surely in some aery realm the status-conscious who reached earthly heights must be navigating from cloud to cloud or sphere to sphere bearing a badge of identification fore and aft. Look up instead of down and see more plates coming into view right now…

Rudolph Valentino: SHEIK

Grace Kelly: CHIC

Fay Wray: SHRIEK

George Winslow: FOGHORN

David Bowie: ZIGSTAR

Coleen Gray: 1LPLEAS

Monica Lewis: CHIQBAN

Flip Wilson: GERADIN

Robert Mitchum: THUNDRD

Yvonne Craig: BATGIRL

Yogi Berra: FORKNRD

Kitty Kallen: LITTHGS

Bess Myerson: MISAM45

Marvin Milner: ROUTE66

Ray Milland: LNGWKND

Peg Lynch: ETH&ALB

Richard Lane: WHOANEL

Don Adams: WODUBLV

Billy Joe Royal: CHHILPK

Maureen O’Hara: IRSHRED

Judy Carne: SOCT2ME

Ron Moody:  FAGIN

Jack Larsen: JIMYOLS

Patrick Macnee: MRSTEED


Natalie Cole: THSWILB

Evil Knievel: NERVY

Barbara Nichols: CURVY

Marty Ingels: IMFNSTR

Rodney Dangerfield: 0RESPEC

Erma Bombeck: WITSEND

Eddie Albert: GRNACRS

Tony Randall: FELXUNG

Frank Gifford: NUMBR16

Lynn Anderson: ROSGRDN

Sid Caesar: WHHAVBN

Dennis Hoey: LSTRADE

Buck Owens: ACTNATR

Billie Burke: GLINDA

Rosalind Russell: ANTMAME

Benny Goodman: KINGSWG

Imogene Coca: ANTEDNA

Arthur Lake: DAGWOOD

Virginia O’Brien: DEADPAN

Spring Byington: DECBRDE



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In the Doggerel House 7

Some verses about giving and gifts for the holiday season:

Strongman Donald has quite a gift:
At the circus he gives six girls a lift;
He’s never late for a show, that Don,
He’s always there with belles on.

I wanted to give away my flute,
I knew it would not be a breeze; 
I tried to play off Henny:
“Take my fife—please!”

“Never the less” say those who want it all, 
“Always the more” is the cry of that crew;
They’d like to skip out when the Reaper calls,
But you can’t have your wake and beat it, too.

To write some graffiti in Latin
At a store this month is no crime; 
It would give some wag a chance to add,
“Veni, Vidi, I wasted my time.”

Old Fred hands me photos of Stargell and Mays,
They’re free and they’re real dillies; 
But Fred is a creepy kind of guy,
He gives me the Willies.

A weatherman whose wife was pregnant 
Gave a sample of his predicting powers:
“Are you sure Mom will get lots of gifts?”
“Partly, Sonny, with a chance of showers.”

There are watches now with two faces 
So time can be kept for two places;
To those late here it must bring calm
To know they’re quite early over in Guam.

From a toy shop a madman stole in a bag  
A little hamlet that he put in a 2005 mag;
He rubbed his hands and shouted with delight,
“There’ll be a hot town in the old Time tonight!”

In King’s new work about a very plump dragon
There’ll be a hero named Silas and a picnic even; 
A review this season might begin with the header  
“Good King When Silas Cooked Out on the Beast of Stephen.”





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Questions to Ponder 7

Some more questions that seem to float to the surface in the middle of the night:

Will pre-nuptial agreements ever filter down to tykes who will argue over who gets to keep the Tootsie Rolls?

How would magazines printed with soy ink go with egg rolls and chow mein?

Why is it the Presley imitators sound like El?

Am I the only one who thinks Soy Lecithin belongs on a marquee in the Borscht Belt?

If my aunt cracked her wrists while looking for the Loch Ness monster, would she let me write “Auntie Loch breaks” on her casts?

What company will be the first to offer the Frisbee Channel?

Did the charlatans who claimed their potions would grow hair on a billiard ball also sell blue chalk to rub on the scalp?

Why is it that the people who call and ask “How are you today?” are more interested in my money than my health?

How would they find the UPC barcode on a chameleon in a pet store?

Considering the state of our oceans, wouldn’t it be best to avoid eating oysters in months with vowels?


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Reading the Future

Among the many legendary tales associated with the screen career of Orson Welles, perhaps the most intriguing story concerns the genesis of one of his most notable films. In 1946 Welles, perpetually short of money to fund projects bubbling out of his teeming brain, needed financing to keep a theatrical version of Around the World in 80 Days afloat. According to Orson, he promised Harry Cohn over the phone that if the Columbia kingpin sent the cash needed to keep the musical in tryouts, Welles would direct a picture based on a great book he had been reading. Asked for the name of the novel, resourceful Orson grabbed the first book that caught his eye and said, “If I Die Before I Wake.” Although crafty Cohn may have sensed a ruse, he sent the money. 80 Days hardly ran that long so Welles was on the hook to make some kind of a film out of a book he had not read. The movie was eventually released in 1948 as The Lady from Shanghai.

One (at least this one) cannot help but wonder what kind of picture would have resulted had Welles spotted a book with just a slightly different title. For instance, If I Cry Before I Wake might have been scripted as Lady, Weep for Me. If I Fly Before I Wake becomes The Lady Takes Wings. If I Dry Before I Wake turns into The Lady Comes Clean. If I Buy Before I Wake hits the screen as The Lady at Macy’s. If I Spy Before I Wake becomes the caper flick The Lady in the Closet. If I Wry Before I Wake has a comic twist as The Lady Makes a Face. If I Vie Before I Wake hits the courts as The Lady Meets Her Match. If I Sigh Before I Wake pauses as The Lady Takes a Breather. If I Pry Before I Wake has her back in action as The Lady Fixes a Flat. If I Guy Before I Wake crosses the line as The Lady Changes Gender. If I Lie Before I Wake sets up the predictable sequel The Lady Meets Fibber McGee. The fitting end to the series would be based on If I Fry Before I Wake as she walks the last mile in The Lady in the Death House.




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The Thorny Grove of Academe

In the September/October Midwest Living readers are encouraged to pack their bags for autumn college getaways to Miami, Michigan State, and Indiana University. A sample attribute of one campus is worth nothing or worth noting, depending on one’s level of irascibility: “Ample wooded areas make Indiana University the fifth most forested campus in the United States.” That seems to be a rather mediocre distinction, causing one to wonder if arborists at IU will shuffle their way through leaves this fall to the susurrant rhythm of “We’re number five! We’re number five!”

Miami, of course, has two identity problems: Miami of Florida gets all the press (and football players) and Ole Miss’s Oxford is the college town with all the literary panache. But apparently Robert Frost was so enraptured with Miami of Ohio that he called it “the most beautiful campus that ever there was” so the alumni would be wise to play a Frost warning along the lines of “You come too” because “We’ve been here already.”

MSU, described as the cut-loose campus, could easily describe itself as the most footloose college in East Lansing without fear of contradiction.

What other hard-to-disprove honors can be bestowed upon Old Mains across the country?

Louisiana State University has the eight largest accumulation of Spanish moss and the fourth highest concentration of skinks that know how to get down and do the Bogalusa.

The University of Wyoming has the third-most terrifying standing dinosaur lookalike this side of Jurassic Park.

Cal Tech owns the sixth most useless accumulation of rusted spark plugs.

Alabama State University, located near Horseshoe Bend National Military Park, has the fourth largest collection of bent horseshoes.

Brigham Young University has the largest deposit of petrified salt marsh taffy.

North Dakota State University proudly displays the third largest collection of grand forks and bland spoons.

At the University of Nevada-Reno green-shaded curators display the second largest collection of discarded wedding rings.

Florida A&M is home to the nation’s foremost collection of defunct springs.

Visitors to Idaho State can see the sorriest set of sawed teeth and fossil beds anywhere.

On the grassy campus of the University of Notre Dame are the third most walkways and the second most mishy walkas.

The traveling miniaturist should stop by the University of Maine to peer at the tiniest collection of milli nockets to be found anywhere.

Wichita State University can boast of having the fourth most scenic drives to go along with the second most cattle drives.

And for those who have not received enough thrills from the Great Lakes State, they can stop at the Flint campus of the University of Michigan to marvel at the multitude of bad axes and glad stones.

We can only hope that the concept of lackluster superlatives does not catch on with recruiters at Edgewood College which is near the Arboretum in Madison. It would be a shame if their long-standing motto of “Heart Speaks to Heart” was exchanged for “We’re the woods edgiest.”






























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In the Doggerel House 6

Here are some verses on the writing life in the wake of the lukewarm reception to the publication of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman.

Publishers send out books with great haste
And for two copies of reviews they yearn;
If the critic is kind, they cut and paste;
If the critic is caustic, they rip and burn.

“Portions of this book
Appeared in different form.”
“What form?” I often wonder:
“Swamp gas or hailstorm?”

Do writers with the Hemingway Montblanc
Treat it like a bat when the muse casts no vapor?
“To get out of this slump I’ve got to choke up a bit,
Keep my head down, and just meet the paper.”

Why do authors’ hearts cease to beat
When set to dash off one last heat?
Why don’t writers finish what they start?
Sometimes the hearse gets put before the dart.

A boy in Random Harvest likes math so much
He cries when he reads the binomial theorem;
Some folks may find that quaint and such,
But personally I wouldn’t get near him.

Authors now sing this tune within their range:
“Many people today are exceedingly strange.
The evens must live across the ocean wide
Because the odds are all on our side.”

There are novels that never get finished,
But that is no reason to pout or yell;
Far better a good book that’s left undone
Than one that’s done but none too well.

Today’s heroes find it tough to cope,
For 300 pages they do little but mope;
If I’m offered one more tale of angst,
I think I will say, “No thankst.”

Wilde said George Moore showed one great sin:
He led readers to the latrine and locked them in;
Now writers and readers do their worst
To see which of them can get there first.

Some books have been censored in France,
I thought the French gave everything a kiss;
Here’s the only question they say “No” to:
“Have you had enough of this?”

A famous author “hated school as a boy.”
That makes the mind start to whirl;
I don’t think he would have liked it any better
If he had been a girl.

Those at the top are always writing
“With” an author who really does “most.”
When these celebs breathe their last,
They really do give up the ghost.

Some books of sayings don’t have noble goals
As when John Bartlett first took notes;
Soon to be on the best-seller lists
Is The Book of Generic Quotes.

All good authors should get a big hand,
They make living with books a happy fate;
But buyers and sellers belong in that band:
They also deserve who only plan and rate.

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The Plateful Dead 5

While most drivers are pondering over what the combination of seven letters and/or numbers mean on vanity plates, my thoughts are far away as I ruminate about the famous folks no longer with us. Surely in some aery realm the status-conscious who reached earthly heights must be navigating from cloud to cloud or sphere to sphere bearing a badge of identification fore and aft. Look up instead of down and see more plates coming into view right now…

John Forsythe: BACHDAD

Donna Douglas: ELLYMAY

Eddie Anderson: ROCHSTR

Jim Ed Brown: 3 BELLS

Claude King: WVRTNMT

Mike Nichols: GRADMAN

Anne Meara: LIZDOYL

Dennis Weaver: MCCLOUD

James Best: ROSCO

Ernie Banks: MR CUB

Charles Schulz: PNUTDAD

Mary Ann Mobley: MISAM59

Edgar Kennedy: SLOBURN

Perry Como: LOVEUSO

Leo Durocher: LIPPY

Dick Martin: BIPPY

Betsy Palmer: IGOTCRT

Jimmy Dickens: TATER

Ben E. King: SPNHRLM

Jayne Meadows: LADYNLK

Lizabeth Scott: 2LT4TRS

Burt Lancaster: ELMGANT

Bonnie Franklin: 1DA@TIM

Joe Cocker: ROCKER

Leonard Nimoy: SPOCKER

Dayton Allen: Y NOT

Lesley Gore: MYPARTY

Hedy Lamarr: DELILAH

Omar Sharif: DOCZHIV

Christopher Lee: DRACRSN

Jerry Tarkanian: SHARK

Verne Gagne: SLEEPER

Ray Walston: UNCMART

Bob Hastings: LT CARP

Eddie Lawrence: OLPHLOS

Joan Rivers: CNWETLK

Perez Prado: PATRISH


Anita Ekberg: SWEDISH

Curtis Lee: ANGEYES

Stan Freberg: DRAGONT

Peter Sellers: CLOULES

Doug Sahm: ABTAMVR

Roger Miller: ENGINE9

Otis Redding: DOCOBAY

Vivien Leigh: SCARLET

Rod Taylor: HGEORGE


Roy Orbison: ITSOVER

Rod Serling: TWIZONE



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