Ghost-Writer In The Machine

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Ghost-Writer In The Machine

This morning, I awoke to find my ingrate son M. Prescott prodding my rib-cage with his gold-tipped walking stick. He wanted an old "Message" of mine from the era of the Second World War to commemorate the end of the century. But when asked to recall an appropriate column, I was at a loss. The heart-less whelp pronounced it senility, but I must now admit some-thing I've never made public before: A lot of the "Messages" I wrote throughout the century weren't actually by me. For nearly 20 years, from 1934 to 1953, I used a ghost-writer.

Yes, yes, I know that means I'm not the world's longest-running news-paper columnist. That honor belongs to one of those twin lady advice-columnists with the concrete hair. But why should I have to write a column day in, day out? Dammit, I had other fish to fry and more important goals than keeping you low-lifes amused. Feeling that my true talents were cramped by the briefness of my columns, I wanted to pen long, ambitious books of history, biography and political commentary, and that's what I did. Those schooled in American letters will recall my classic work Cram All The Immigrants You Can Find Into A Giant Cannon, Aim The Cannon Toward Europe, And Light It, and, of course, my best-seller The Boil On My Bottom Is Now As Big As A Hen's Egg.

My ghost-writer was none other than my long-time secretary, Mildred. This may seem odd to you, as I stead-fastly oppose the participation of women in the news-paper trade. But I also knew you could pay women tiny wages and get away with it.

At first, Mildred was quite good. She could uncannily mimic my writing-style, and no-one was the wiser. But sometime in the late '40s, she discovered that my column could be used as an instrument for political and social change. Soon, she was writing about giving the Negroes more rights, increasing the wages of migrant workers, and harnessing the atom for peace. In fact, "Message" won the Pulitzer for Distinguished Commentary in 1948.

It took me a while to notice this shocking abuse of my name, but the moment I did, I fired Mildred and once again under-took the writing duties. Never-the-less, it took me years to restore my reputation. It just goes to show, you can't trust any-body.

Incidentally, I'm not returning the Pulitzer. I'm also not giving back the Grammy I won in 1958 for my phonograph album, Zweibel Sings!, on which my voice was dubbed by Mario Lanza.