A movie producer who gelled his hair upwards sat through a lunch with Fidel Castro during which the Cuban leader spoke without interruption for three hours. When Castro finally stopped talking, he looked at the guest from Hollywood and asked “How do you get your hair to stand up that way?”
Review of “The Best Table in Hollywood,” The Wall Street Journal.
“You should rinse with cold water, you know.”
I had come to Russia–me, Walter Duranty of The New York Times–to take the measure of the man born Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, but known to all simply as Stalin; the smallpox-scarred, taciturn, phlegmatic former peasant who could, with just a withering sidewise glance, condemn a million human beings to death. I recall one of his favorite wisecracks–“The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic“–what a nut! I had to meet this guy.
Of course The Times, then as later, was known for its tendentiousness; its ability to slant the facts in the setup, the “lede” as honest journalists put it, and then report the facts to meet its theory. So many stories were just too good to check out!
As I entered his grand office–no skimping for this son of the proletariat–I felt the full force of his will, the indomitable urge to conquer that gave rise to his cult of personality. I have to admit, I trembled a bit, knowing that I was in the presence of a guy who would be responsible for more deaths than Hitler, but would still get a free pass because–well, because he claimed to be for the people!
“Dear Diary: Slow day today, only killed a couple hundred thousand.”
I cleared my throat to let the great man know I was there, and he looked up from the daily reports: 120,000 enemies of the people, 250,000 Trotskyites, a quarter million Poles–slow day at the office.
“Yes?” he asked with a pregnant pause.
“General Secretary Stalin, my name is Walter Duranty.”
“From The New York Times?”
“Sit down,” he said with an almost gracious air. “I can never figure out that damned crossword.”
“It’s the best in the world,” I said with no small amount of institutional pride.
Stalin’s face darkened, and I began to fear for my life. Had I said something too proud, too egotistical?
“Your hair,” he said with squinted eyes after a few moments. “Do you use creme rinse, or is it always that smooth and silky?”
“Check out the 2-for-1 sale at Lenscrafters!”
As I entered Pyongyang, I couldn’t help but admire the magnificent progress that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had made despite the efforts of imperialist powers such as the United States of America to bring it to its knees. Sixty percent of the people had access to modern sanitation facilities–take that Arkansas! The average life expectancy was 69.8, only two decades less than Americans! I sensed that this proud people had turned the corner under the benign despotic rule of Kim Jong-un, Glorious Sun and Room Air Conditioner of Mankind!
But I wanted to see for myself, I wasn’t just going to take the word of a former NBA All-Star such as Dennis Rodman. No, I wouldn’t be swayed by the Hall of Famer’s average rebounds per game. If you’re a real journalist, you’ve got to kick the tires on a story, check out the plush leather interior and push hard to get the saleman to throw in floor mats.
“Right now they’re running the flex offense, so I’d dress in a skirt-and-sweater set.”
I stood at the shoulder of the Second Supreme Leader and tried to ease my way into his line of sight as he watched the entire Korean People’s Army eat civilians to ease their hunger pangs. It was painful to watch–there was so little meat on the bones of those who hadn’t volunteered for military service.
Kim, or Jong-un, I can never remember which is the first name, turned when he heard me sigh with compassion. He smiled at me, then looked upwards.
“Sweet,” he said after taking in my “Mainstream Hipster” do. “I wish I could get my hair to do that!”
As night fell, the German countryside began to glow with the light of a thousand candles. Another fun National Socialist German Workers’ Party pep rally! I had won one of the coveted seats on stage with Der Fuhrer his own bad self for turning in double my weekly quota of Jews, homosexuals, Poles and Masons. Not to brag or anything, but I truly felt I deserved the honor. Have you ever tried to round up twenty-five Masons? It’s not easy, what with those little scooters they ride.
“Excuse me–you’re in my seat.”
I cut short my internal musings when the Reich Chancellor–the man to whom all of us pasty-faced Aryans owed the revival of our race–started to bound up the steps like a talk-show host after a warm-up man. The guy was a natural entertainer, fiddling with every detail down to the precise start times of our rallies, to make sure we were enveloped in a dream-like state of darkness as he reached down into the deepest, darkest recesses of his psyche from the podium.
“Really? You like it this way? Thanks!”
He was about to pass me when he stopped, as if struck by something he’d caught the barest glimpse of. That’s the kind of all-seeing, all-knowing power that coursed through his frame! He turned and looked at me, cocked his head back a bit for better perspective, and then spoke the words that I’ll be recounting to my grandchildren once the Thousand Year Reich prevails:
“Your hair,” he said, almost dreamily. “Do you iron it yourself, or do you have your roommate do it for you?”