“Oswald Still Dead”

15 02 2008

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a radio news broadcaster. I did. Or an Oscar-winning actress training kids in the inner-city the wonderful words of Tennessee Williams.

Yep, that’s what was on my “What I Want To Be When I Grow Up List.” But because I lived in a small, very rural community (but had great parents who had the means to let me travel so I have to give them kudos) what I saw on Television or in movies was where I got my blueprint for these jobs.

But I knew one thing: I wanted to be clever no matter what I did and I wanted to have style. And, I wanted to break down some doors by being the woman in the room wearing the tattered Fedora that screamed the word “Scoop.” Yes, I’ve seen My Girl Friday with Rosalind Russell perhaps seventy five times. Shut up.

Anyway, it was folks like Rick Selvin who made me want to be clever. He died this week but his legacy lives on:

Rick Selvin arrived at the Daily News in 1980 to apply for a job. When he got to then-managing editor Zack Stalberg’s office, he hesitated at the door.

“I’m really sorry,” Rick said.

“What are you sorry about?” Zack inquired.

“Well, I usually wear a necktie to these interviews,” Rick said, “but my tie was frozen in the trunk of my car when it got wet and when I tried to put it on, it broke.”

Zack, recognizing a guy who would surely become a true Daily News character, hired him on the spot.

“I was on the floor laughing,” Zack said in recounting the incident.

Rick’s broken-tie story was typical of the quirky sense of humor that would keep Daily News staffers amused and captivated for the 17 years he served the paper as features writer and editor.

Richard Selvin, an innovative editor and guest headline writer for some of the major news stories of his day, and a talented musician who could play a number of instruments with professional skill, died Tuesday night of multiple organ failure. He was 63 and lived in West Philadelphia.

Rick’s most famous headline was inspired by the exhumation of the body of Lee Harvey Oswald on Oct. 4, 1981, in Rose Hill Cemetery, Fort Worth, Texas, in a dispute over its identity:

“Oswald Still Dead.”

Selvin was pretty amazing and, for me at least, it goes back to the playful and wickedly clever stereotype of the newsman that formed my thinking 30 years ago. It was Slevin’s dry writing that cut through the BS that gave him such an exquisite uniqueness. People in news do it for a variety of reasons but we don’t get rich.

We do it because we dig it.

Now that I’m older, I think it was that false, yet very sexy, ideology that I could be the fly on the wall watching things as they happened. And I really wanted to be a vehicle of change.

But more than anything else, I wanted to be able to communicate and be good at it. And clever.

Of course, in my tattered Fedora. (Shhh, I’m reliving my past. Be very quiet.)

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8 responses

16 02 2008
R. Neal

“Oswald still dead.”

Are you sure about that?

16 02 2008
newscoma

One never knows, Ron. One never knows.

17 02 2008
Time For This Weeks Liberal Tennessee Round-Up « The Crone Speaks

[…] NewsComa: “Oswald Still Dead”, and I can’t believe that crap like this still exists but every time I think we have moved […]

17 02 2008
Those Pesky Tennessee Liberals « Newscoma

[…] NewsComa: “Oswald Still Dead”, and I can’t believe that crap like this still exists but every time I think we have moved […]

18 02 2008
Lean Left

[…] NewsComa: “Oswald Still Dead”, and I can’t believe that crap like this still exists but every time I think we have moved […]

26 02 2008
David Selvin

Rick Selvin was my dad, and I can tell you that he was always like that. I can remember many a time when I would either come across or come up with a good headline, witty phrase or pun and would rush to share it with him. If there was ever a time I was in need of title or a name for something, I could count on him to come up with one– usually before I would finish explaining the concept to him. He was that quick.
And even in the end, when he was too weak and medicated to know for sure if he was truly there, he continued to show himself: When a therapist asked him to spell “world,” he did, slowly and in a whisper. Encouraged, the therapist asked him to spell it backwards. After some time, he said, “T. . .I,” to which the therapist repeated himself. My dad repeated the same response. My sister picked up on this and started laughing, to the bewilderment of the therapist. He spelled “it” backwards.
Yes indeed, he was still there.
Thank you for writing a piece about my dad.
Oh, and this I think you’d appreciate: One of the things of his I took home with me after his funeral was a book of WWN articles!

26 02 2008
newscoma

David, I am delighted that you stopped by this silly blog.
Your father was one of a kind. For those of us who watched from a distance, he was an inspiration. And WWN articles?
I knew I adored him. 🙂
I do want to express my sympathies for your loss.
Thank you so for much for sharing about his wonderful sense of humor.
Sending you many kind thoughts.

27 02 2008
The Blogging World Is A Small Intimate Place « Newscoma

[…] The Blogging World Is A Small Intimate Place 27 02 2008 I’d like to take a moment and thank David Selvin for stopping by this blog and sharing a story about his father, Rick, who I wrote about a couple of weeks back in a post called “Oswald Still Dead.” […]

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