of my demise are exaggerated, just the way Mark Twains
were. I am not dead. I am just hiding out in an undisclosed location,
near Vice President Dick Cheney, a stones throw from the
Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden hangouts.
I wanted this to be my ultimate Walter Mitty scam, much better
than playing for the Detroit Lions, pitching to Willie Mays,
taking a punch in the nose from Archie Moore, hitting a few long
ones with Sammy Snead, suiting up for Red Auerbach and tapping
the triangle during Mahlers Fourth under the direction
of Leonard Bernstein.
The death scam has been wondrous for me. Writers, readers, jocks
and fans have been filling newspaper columns and television shows
with Plimpton stories. I knew I was popular. I never knew I was
How about the time I started the Paris Review 50 years ago and
got a curmudgeon like Ernest Hemingway to sit down and give me
an exclusive interview about writing? I was just a kid then,
maybe 25 or so, and I thought Papa was flattered at how well
I knew his style. Then I mentioned that he seemed to use birds
in a lot of his stories. He bellowed at me, If you think
you can do it better, go ahead.
Boy, some writers are sensitive. My pal, Maury Allen, told me
a Hemingway story that made me laugh: Hemingway went to the famous
1941 Joe Louis-Billy Conn fight in Yankee Stadium with restaurateur
Toots Shor and Joe DiMaggio. When they walked down the aisle
to their seats, kids yelled for DiMaggios autograph. One
kid poked the bearded Hemingway and asked, Are you anybody?
The most famous writer in America pointed to DiMaggio and replied,
Yeah, Im his doctor.
Being dead, or faking it as I have, has its advantages. No more
taxes. No more annoying fans. No more writers calling for cover
blurb quotes on their boring books. Boy, do I hate that.
One other thing about supposedly being dead. You think back to
the old days. I first went to the Stadium about 1933 and saw
Babe Ruth play. So what? He was just a fat guy. Then I became
a big Yankee fan. I went to a game with the poet Marianne Moore
once. Bill Monbouquette was pitching for Boston. She said his
name in French meant beautiful private parts. What she remembered
most about the day was how often Monbouquette tugged at his cup
and his balls to see if they were there--about every other pitch.
I read a lot of stuff by Paul Gallico. He was a great writer
who started out as a sportswriter for the new Daily News of New
York in the 1920s. He liked to get in there with the stars. He
once boxed Dempsey. I started thinking that was a good idea.
I got in there with Archie Moore, but when he punched me in the
nose in the third round and I cried, I felt embarrassed. I played
quarterback for the Detroit Lions and only lost 30 yards on the
three plays I called. I got a damn funny book about it called,
Paper Lion, and made some big bucks. I liked the
movie, too. Alan Alda looked a lot like me.
I liked these scams so much I tried it in about every sport.
I did it in the circus and I did almost every night at Elaines,
a New York restaurant where the boss, Elaine Kaufman, gives you
a table based on your current success. A best selling author
is up front. A guy who hasnt had a hit in years is just
about inside the kitchen. She enjoys keeping people out more
than she enjoys letting people in to eat.
My favorite scam was the creation of Sidd Finch. Like me, he
isnt dead, either. Actually he was never alive. Finch was
a huge guy from the Himalayas. He could throw a fastball at 168
miles an hour. When I told the Mets about him they told me to
bring him to spring training. Me and the Finchmeister traveled
down to St. Petersburg, Florida (anything to get out of the New
York winter) to line up a deal. The sportswriters, including
my friend Maury Allen, were begging for the one on one interview
with Sidd. I kept him under wraps. The bar fights for a few days
were pretty tough as everybody bragged about getting the first
Finch interview. I promised that to everybody. Then I got exposed.
Finch was out of there, on the next boat back to the Himalayas.
He didnt like flying.
You see, the idea of writing is to have fun. Sure, you want to
make a little bread and meet some interesting guys and gorgeous
gals but fun is the real deal. Otherwise you can go to Wall Street,
get rich and suffer from terminal boredom until you check out.
Now, of course, I havent checked out. Im out here
with these other non-deads like Papa, FDR, the Babe, Jesus, Moses,
Gershwin, Picasso, Mantle, JFK, JFK Jr., Jackie, Edison and Joe
D. How can they be dead? People talk about them every day in
the present tense.
Well, thats about it for now. The landlord just told me
I have to move to another undisclosed location. Chaney wants
You know Im not dead. You know this is just my latest Mitty
scam. Pick up Paper Lion or Out of my League
and see how I live forever.