I used to be a news junkie. Whenever the news came on TV, I was planted in front of the tube. That is, until the day a reporter for Eyewitness News went to Grand Central Station and started sticking his microphone under the noses of commuters rushing to their trains. He asked them their opinions about something or other that was at issue in the New York State legislature (I have no memory of what the issue was, whether it was ever resolved, or whether—probably the more likely situation— decades later the legislature is still trying to resolve it). As each succeeding opiner mouthed his foolishness into the mic, I got more and more infuriated. “You moron!” I yelled at the TV. “You idiot!” . . . But then I stopped. Who’s the bigger idiot, I suddenly thought, them or me—for sitting there listening to them? I jumped up, clicked off the TV, and have seldom watched a news broadcast since.
Eventually, I decided to get my own avatar and use it on the Guardian’s site. I thought of a few good ones, but I was foiled every time I tried to upload an image into my profile. So, I just shrugged and contented myself with genericism. Until I recently re-discovered a card that I had received years ago. The image on the card would be my avatar. And this time, I vowed, I would not be foiled. I fought my way through the imaging and uploading process, and finally launched my own avatar.
The caricature is of Al “Jazzbeaux” (or, earlier, “Jazzbo”) Collins (who sent me the card), a disc jockey on WNEW (New York) during the 1950s. The words on the card, which became one of Collins’ catchphrases, were his adaptation of some classic dialogue in the film “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”: “I Don’t Got To Show You No Stinkin Badges.”
Collins had a late-night spot on WNEW, claiming to be broadcasting not from a regular studio but from the “Purple Grotto” many stories below ground. He was accompanied in the purple aura by several strange denizens, including Harrison, a Tasmanian owl, and in a small lake a purple octopus, whose name, if it had one, I don’t remember. One night, when Jazzbeaux was doing the overnight show, he played a recording by a new female vocal quartet, The Chordettes. After the first spin of “Mr Sandman” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDXT7wC9jrc ) he said something like, “That’s nice; I think I’ll play it again.” And he did—for a total of 55 times during the wee morning hours.
The recording became the number one hit in the country.
He was fired.