"Satire doesn't belong in a newspaper," an editor I greatly respect once told me, and this column made me realize that he's right. It was written as a Christmas trifle, a gentle parody of a colleague who at the holidays likes to thank all the little people supporting her fabulous life. I thought it was dripping with enough obvious untruth to give the joke away almost immediately.
I was wrong.
After it ran, I was amazed by the number of readers who sincerely complimented me: how nice it is that I would be so gracious and acknowledge my staff! Even my own mother wondered why she had never spoken to my secretary with the Georgia accent.
I was flabbergasted, horrified really, and never did this kind of thing again. But Christmas is upon us, and I think it's safe to trot out, a relic of simpler times.
Once a year I ask the reader for a moment of indulgence as I pause from holiday merrymaking to thank all the special people whose hard work and constant attention have made my life a smooth and satisfying glide over well-greased rails.
First off, of course, no column that breaks as much fresh political news as mine does could function without a legman, and I'm proud to have Jimmy "Flash" Handon, the last reporter hired at City News, digging through court documents and running after coffee.
If you've ever phoned my office, you've heard the lovely Georgia drawl of Miss Annie Sherman, and it's a pleasure to start every morning with her always cheery "Hiya, chief!" and one of her homemade pralines. Thanks as well to the "mailbag sisters," Mary Beth and Cindy Beth Smartline, who handle the crush of letters.
If I thanked by name every fact checker, grammarian and research assistant who labors over this column between the rough draft that leaves my typewriter and the polished product you read—well, there wouldn't be space—so let me say a hearty thank you to the whole gang, en masse. Eheu fugaces labuntur anni!* Though I do want to single out our new chief redactor, professor Herman V. Goshlott, who I persuaded to give up the cosseted academic life at Cambridge for the bustle of a daily newsroom copy desk.
Some may find it obsequious, but I can honestly say that I am not only proud to work for Benjamin Rutledge Finch III, but to be his friend, and will always savor the memories of those long summer afternoons talking shop at his Barrington Hills home, "Pinecliff."
To him, and to all the Sun-Times employees, all over the world, particularly to the brave souls manning the new Sun-Times Scientific Survey Outpost at Point McMurdo on the Antarctic continent, a hearty "Merry Christmas!"
Those of you who start each morning with a hot lather shave and a trim know that it really puts a man in a fine frame of mind, so you won't mind if I thank my barber, Antonio Panderski, for making the trek between his shop at the Hartsfield Building to my office, every day, rain or shine. Thanks, Tony! I wouldn't let anyone else in this town hold a straight razor to my throat.
Not to forget the chefs and maitres d' at Lucre, Cafe D'Argent, Mucho Verdi and all the other fine eateries I have enjoyed over the years. Thanks!
My dear wife, the dancer Cherry Lee Deelite, is probably wondering when I'll get to family matters. Patience, Cher. Thanks to you, for your love, and for somehow balancing the exciting world of exotic entertainment with running our quiet suburban home and being mother to our dear boys, Neil Jr., Nelson, Lien and Niles and the girls, Nellie and little Vanilla, who we call Nil.
We could never manage such a brood without our beloved day nanny, Monique D'Anglatere, and our equally beloved night nanny, Felicia Montseuratt. Thanks as well to all the household help, with special kudos to Mr. Dillsworthy, whose wonderful tea roses took a prize at the All Cook County Rose Festival this year.
Then there is Mrs. Teague at the New Buffalo, Mich., "cottage," who always makes sure the white sheets are off the furniture and a warm apple pie is on the sill when we tumble into town. And so many others: former Gov. Witherspoon; Princess Gloria von Thurns und Taxis; Lt. Col. Oscar "Grit" LaBond; my squash partner, Reed Bodwell; the members of the Downtown Club, the Vest Key Club, the Fame Club, the Scrivener's Society, and the Spoon and Bowl Club, where I like nothing more than to pass the afternoon in a wing chair, reading a novel by my friend Hugh Chuffingham or snoozing by the fire. Then there's Mr. Pringle, the grocer...
Well, a guy can dream, can't he? Happy holidays
—Originally published in the Sun-Times, Dec. 21, 2000 * Latin: "Alas, the fleeting years slip by."