By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
Editor's note: Barry Friedman was a New Times columnist for more than six years, and in that time perpetrated a number of memorable hoaxes. His latest and possibly greatest, which he wrote under the pseudonym Manfried Barry, claimed gold had been discovered under the Scottsdale Galleria; national headlines ensued. Friedman has written material for comedians ranging from Phyllis Diller to Jay Leno and is a former staff writer for The Arsenio Hall Show. He's currently co-writing the bizarre syndicated science show Beakman's World for Columbia Pictures/TV.
Unlike many of Friedman's stories, this account is actually true.
The cycle of madness began with a telephone call from comedian Richard Lewis, who, among his other neuroses, thinks he is godfather to my daughter, Taylor, but can never remember her name. His most recent guesses have been Miss Helen Hayes, Connie Stevens and, in a moment of singular desperation, Ferrante or Teicher.
Lewis had been actively working for the Clinton campaign, apparently in some kind of Psychotics for Clinton capacity. Forgive me, but I don't think that many voters were brought into the Democratic fold by the typical Lewis campaign appearance consisting of Richard mumbling ancient Hebrew folk songs in Esperanto while his therapist square-danced by himself.
Clearly, the Democrats needed help from additional quarters and, as always, when the clarion call for free jokes is sounded, everyone in Hollywood immediately thinks Friedman. After all, certainly no other writer can boast of job interviews with two different television shows in the same season that pay virtually nothing and star--yes, that's right--puppets.
Following these meetings, which were both highlighted by a truly uncanny simulation of Tourette's syndrome on my part, I perhaps ungratefully asked my agents, "Is it at all possible I could work for a show where the star isn't kept in a gunnysack?"
So my career was going swimmingly when Richard Lewis called to ask if I would be interested in writing jokes for Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Hey, it would take up all of my time, there was no pay and, since I would have to write during the hours I was contractually obligated to write for Columbia TV, it would also seriously jeopardize my only source of income. Naturally, I said I'd be delighted.
I was given a secret number to call and, after declaring that indeed I was sufficiently stupid enough to work for nothing, a strange and mysterious visitor flew in from the East to brief me and my television writing partner, one Philip J. Walsh, on the task ahead.
Phil is unquestionably the angriest young man in America, a human powder keg who hates Bush and Quayle with every fiber of his being and holds them personally responsible for creating the dismal economic climate that forces him to work with me. We listened spellbound as our mission was outlined in hushed tones.
Our visitor must, for security reasons, go unnamed. (My security reasons; if I use her name, her husband will beat me bloody.) Let's just say she's a lovely woman quite well-known within the Democratic hierarchy. What the hell, for the purposes of this article, let's say her name is Toaster Oven. It's not a great name, but it's surely not a ridiculous moniker like Waffle Iron.
She explained she represented a clandestine Democratic campaign organization known as WAT Squad/CEO, an acronym for We're Americans, Too . . . Counter Events Operations. In plain English, dirty tricks.
Wherever Bush or Quayle were, our collective job was to orchestrate some diversionary tactic that would make the national news and unnerve the Republicans. Every morning for the remaining six weeks of the campaign, Phil and I were briefed on the whereabouts of Bush and Quayle and would fax WAT Squad headquarters with slogans, jokes and ideas for pranks that would derail the Republican effort.
Enter the chicken. Bush had been refusing to debate Clinton, and it was time to force the issue. At WAT Squad's suggestion, a Michigan Democratic volunteer dressed as a chicken confronted Bush at a Republican rally. George was so shaken that he proceeded to refer to his opponent as President Clinton.
Toaster Oven smelled blood. Wherever Bush appeared, so did giant chickens. When the true story of this election campaign is written, let it be duly recorded that many Democrats gladly dressed up as farm animals.
When I initially proposed penning this article, the crafty editors of this paper were concerned that it really had no local tie-in. Not to worry. After Bush spoke in Houston (and by Houston, of course, I mean Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe or Deer Valley), he was shaking hands in a receiving line, and in that receiving line was a very large, very yellow chicken. What followed was the President of the United States actually screaming at a chicken. Onlookers reported it was like watching a twisted outtake from Green Acres.
Bush agreed to debate shortly thereafter, and I am proud to say Bill Clinton used a line or two we had written. Perhaps they were not delivered with the murderous, humorous intent we had envisioned, but let's face it, we know Shecky Greene, and Bill Clinton's no Shecky Greene. However, to keep things in perspective, it should be noted that Shecky Greene is no Lorne Greene.