Reporters are the best pranksters

By Bob Huber: local columnist

News reporters in olden times enjoyed pulling pranks. They all did. You probably think they acquired that fun-filled pastime in journalism school, except the reporters I knew never went to college. That’s why they were reporters.

The most applauded jokes were those that involved large groups of people. Politicians and lawyers were not allowed to play, because they were considered experts at prankdom.

As an example, Red Fenwick was a crusty old guy who always wore Western clothes to his job at the Denver Post — big hat, boots, massive belt buckle. You get the picture. But one morning he sauntered into the city room clothed in the latest Ivy League fashion right out of Esquire magazine — narrow suit, pink shirt, black knit tie, tiny hat and pointy Italian shoes. He was resplendent.

A hush fell over the city room, which was a miracle in itself, and everyone gawked at Red. Red didn’t seem to notice. He sat at his desk and began typing.

Finally one reporter rose and strolled nonchalantly by Red’s desk and said, “Like your new outfit, Red.”

Red glanced down at his suit and said, “This old thing?” Then he went on typing. Obviously he wasn’t about to elaborate, and that kicked off the wagering.

The next day Red came into the city room dressed in his usual Western garb, and the betting started at city clothes 5-to-1, with Western clothes even.

But just when everyone got into the swing of things, Red, on the fourth day, appeared once more in his narrow suit, and the odds changed.
Later in the week city clothes fell to 2-to-1, with Western clothes at 3-to-1. Finally at the end of the week Red wore his city clothes for the last time, and they were never seen again.

I went to lunch with Red sometime later and asked him outright what was behind his adventure. “A joke on the entire staff,” Red said and broke into heinous laughter. “All I did was sashay into the city room in my fancy city suit, and the bets went wild. It was fun. You know, half the guys haven’t spoken to me since.”

Red’s joke met its match a year later when Lois “Candy” Barr, a lady reporter with delightful dimensions, cried on the shoulder of her desk partner that she was about to be fired. “I need a good, memorable story,” she said. “Can you help me?”

“Well, you might pull a Lady Godiva on 16th Street and write a first-person account,” the sarcastic remark came back.

“Hmmm,” Candy said and wandered from the city room. Imagine everyone’s surprise when it was later rumored that she’d landed a job as a topless waitress and was going to write about it. Needless to say, everyone in the city room drove to the designated nightclub that evening after work for a first account look-see.

But by 8 p.m., it was evident that Candy was a no-show and something was horribly wrong with the yarn. The next morning when she sat behind her desk as usual, a reporter walked up and said, “What happened last night? What about your story? What about going topless?”

She looked up at the reporter with large brown eyes as innocent as a newborn calf.

“What in the world are you blathering about?” she asked, whereupon she broke into heinous laughter.

Then there was the reporter who — aw shucks, I’m out of space.

Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. Some of his stories are mostly true. He can be contacted at 356-3674 or by e-mail: mlh@zianet.com