Thursday, October 30, 2008

Every signature tells a story: Stephen King kicking butt

All the presidential campaign activity reminded me of one of my favorite autograph stories.

Stephen King, I learned, is an awesome writer, but not much of political pundit.

This discovery came back in 1984 when I was the editor of the Nassau Community College newspaper and we got word that King – my favorite author at the time -- was appearing unannounced downstairs in the Student Union.

King, we were told, was speaking on behalf of Sen. Gary Hart, who was seeking the Democratic nomination for president.

Not that it mattered. King could have been reading the minutes of the last student government meeting out loud and we still would have scrambled down the stairs to catch a glimpse. And there, standing without a crowd, was the master of the macabre, the man who penned “Cujo,” “Carrie” and “Christine.”

Tall and bearded, King looked as imposing as one of the characters in his spooky books.

I bravely walked over and introduced myself, and went into reporter mode.

“Why,” I asked, “should someone support Gary Hart.?”

King looked down, furrowed his brow and said – growled, more accurately – “Because he’s gonna kick Reagan’s ass.”

The last three words were said slowly as if each were followed by a period. They sounded more menacing than they appear in print.

And then nothing more.

I was going to venture a follow-up question, maybe something about a particular aspect of Hart’s proposals that King might have particularly liked.

But frankly, the whole ass-kicking thing threw me off guard. And I was totally star-struck. I might have thrown out something like, “I really liked ‘The Dead Zone.’” before handing him my reporter’s notebook to autograph.

Looking back, of course, it was The Gipper who extended boot to buttocks, dropping a 49-state smackdown on Walter Mondale.

And King’s candidate, Gary Hart, will forever go down in history as the man who, through his misdeeds on the Monkey Business, opened the door to a whole new kind of political reporting, the horror story that is the poking and prodding into personal lives of the people who run for office.

The only thing scarrier might be the phrase, "Now warming up in the Mets' bullpen..."

Give me "The Shining" over Schoenweis any day!

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