Thirty-two years ago I was doing a radio show in New York City, Jim Aylward in the Morning, and, trying to find unusual and different things to talk about, I started a feature called "Things No One Ever Tells You.''
In going through the rolls of copy on the overnight UPI wire service, I would come across odd bits of almost useless information. I decided to use them and add a punch line: "In ancient Arabia people who bathed regularly were tax-exempt.'' That was the idea. My punch line? "The plan was designed to get more Arabians into hot water.''
Alice Dormann listened to me in the morning on WRFM. Her husband, Henry, listened to John Gambling on WOR. Alice told Henry about "Things No One Ever Tells You,'' and she told him she thought it would make a good feature for his new magazine called Leaders, a publication for presidents, popes, corporate executives and the like.
Henry had been looking for something humorous to run on the back pages to counter the serious tone of the glossy, thick publication. Henry, good husband that he is, listened to his wife, called me, came to see me and, all these years later, "Things No One Ever Tells You'' is still running on the last two pages of Leaders. And, according to the man who knows, a copy of Leaders is always kept as a relaxing thing to read on Air Force One.
Occasionally, an item would come with its own punch line built right in: "Nearly half the men who go to singles bars aren't.''
But mostly I took a pretty straight item and added a flip: "Your facelift is supposed to last five to 10 years. After that you need a mini lift. Or a maxi mask.''
One early morning I was deep in to this stuff when I got a phone call from Miriam Chaikin, the Young Readers editor at Holt, Rinehart & Winston, the publishers. She was curious about something I said about taking tests and she thought my punch line was pretty funny. She figured it might make the basis of a good book for kids.
The item was: "The good old summertime is when you're at your mental bottom. If they give you a test in August, you may not pass it. Give you the same test in April, and you'll handle it easily.'' That was the basic item. The punch line? "You're dumber in the summer.''
She asked me if I'd like to do a children's book called You're Dumber in the Summer, and Over 100 Things No One Ever Tells You. Aware that my mother hadn't raised any stupid children, I said yes. The book was published in 1980 and was followed by Your Burrow Is No Jackass in 1981.
Today, "Things No One Ever Tells You'' is slightly different. I don't have the overnight wire to check for bits and pieces, so my research comes from obscure print publications, encyclopedias, special interest magazines and newspapers.
And much of it is built around the foibles of everyday people. For example, "An upscale Manhattan spa is charging $180 to smear clients' faces with dried nightingale dung. The Japanese facial, the spa says, gives you skin as flawless as a geisha's. I say, 'Notice how "dung' and "dumb'' sound alike?' ''
It all started 32 years ago when Alice told Henry he ought to listen to me. I'm grateful that he did.
New Port Richey resident Jim Aylward was formerly a nationally syndicated columnist and radio host in New York City. Write him in care of LifeTimes, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.