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Dimples wasn’t dumb

cropped-DSC_0039.jpgBack in the day, The Arizona Daily Star sponsored a book and author event, and one year — 1988 or 1989 — Shirley Temple Black was one of our authors; her autobiography “Child Star” was the book. The B&A event was a big deal, difficult to assemble, manage and present. The effort was led mostly by June Caldwell Martin who spent the year before scouring the planet for writers willing to hype their books in a desert backwater. Some authors were easy to work with, others not so much; Ms Temple Black was in the latter group.

John Peck, then the Star’s managing editor, came to me to announce that Ms Black had certain requirements. She would be coming from the East on a very long flight and requested that we pay for a first-class seat in the smoking section. We did not pay air fare. But in this case we did.

She was an enormous draw. Tents were set up outside the convention center Music Hall where the event took place. People lined up to buy books and get autographs long before the 10 a.m. start time. They brought all manner of memorabilia, clothes, dolls and the like. The chain-smoking Black refused to autograph that stuff. Only the books. She gave her talk during the event and left after having sold, I’d guess, around a thousand books.

I got to spend a very little amount of time speaking with her. I was curious because I remembered that some years previous to this when Black was our nation’s delegate to the United Nations, she had attracted the attention of William Loeb. He was the prick publisher (a redundant phrase to be sure) of the Manchester (N.H.) Union-Leader, a newspaper then well-known for its conservative, if not reactionary, editorials. He wrote one concerning Ms Black under the memorable headline, “Dimples is Dumb.” In that short time talking with Ms Black I could see she was anything but dumb. That was a good for it provided additional evidence in support of my long-standing conclusion regarding newspaper publishers.

(The most engaging and charming authors I met in these events were Kitty Carlisle Hart, the actress and singer who wrote an autobiography and Richard Selzer, a surgeon, who wrote “Taking the World In for Repairs.”)

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