While still in college, I answered an internship ad at the job board and ended up working at the Los Angeles Reader, a since defunct free weekly newspaper. Because the paper was in a terrible decline at the time (they had just lost Matt Groening’s Life in Hell and several other important writers and editors had split), my rise was meteoric and in just a few months I had ascended from “listings guy” to Assistant Editor. It was quite a ride.
One feature of the place was that most of the sales staff were serious alcoholics and coke heads. They were frequently found getting all drunked up in the Two Guys from Italy bar downstairs, or departing for Palmdale to get an 8-ball. I was frightened of them. The whole atmosphere in the sales department was very Glen Garry Glen Ross and I was a young kid who liked crazy punk and noise music, but never partied harder than beer.
As you might expect, St. Patrick’s Day of 1987 led to a complete breakdown of business function. All of them went off to the Robin Hood and drank half & halfs until they didn’t know their names. One guy in particular stands out. Ted was a 50something burnout salesman who was nearing the final stages of fatal alcoholism. He had trashed his life to the extent that the only vehicle he possessed was an unlicensed unregistered former ice cream truck in which he would slowly weave down Van Nuys streets. Most of the time he didn’t drive at all. His buddies would pick him up from home with his full “coffee” mug of Jack Daniels and ferry him into the office, where he would alternate sales calls with vomiting in the restroom.
On this drinker’s day of days, I was working with the production staff on final layout for that week’s issue. As I leaned over the mat adjusting my story, I heard a commotion and looked up to see that everyone had departed, and Ted was bulging and stumbling into the production room. He had a tiny stupid “Irish” leprechaun hat on and had pulled the green feather out of it. His face shone like a stop light. His pants were half open. He stank.
Ted looked at me half crosseyed. “Shurghg… blrggh.. do you know why I carry thish FEATHER?”
“No, Ted. Why?”
“I carry th’feather for the LADIESH. Becaush.. shome of them like a little TICKLE…” He touched the feathery end, here.
“And shum of them like a li’l POKE!” he waved the other end of the feather at me and then passed out cold on the production table with a loud cartoon klunk. An exacto knife sitting there missed his eye by about 1 cm.
When I left the office 2 hours later he was sitting on the floor, holding the feather in front of his face and singing softly.