And Morton Downey Is Not Locked Up

Morton Downey Jr. is at the vital center of a fascinating urban mystery.
Downey claims he was attacked by skinheads in the men's room of the San Francisco airport. He says they chopped off clumps of his hair and marked his face with swastikas.

But there's some doubt that Downey was ever attacked by the skinheads.
Police found witnesses who said they were in the rest room at the same time and saw no one attacking Downey.

Police studied the scene. They found a pair of scissors and a marking pen. But they found no sign of any scuffle. Perhaps there's an explanation.

Downey has been a guy who's scuffled all his life. He worked in radio for years without ever making the big bucks. He's finally making them.

Understandably, he wants to remain one of America's highest-paid talk show hosts. He not only wants it, he needs it--both financially and emotionally.

But something is going wrong for his kind of show. The thrill is wearing off. His ratings are falling. Some stations have dropped his show.

Some people find Downey's personal attacks on his guests to be boorish. I, personally, am not offended by Downey. But I do find his show uninteresting. His guests are generally the kind of people I would cross the street to avoid.

But Downey's nothing if not resourceful.
He understands that there really can never be any bad publicity. And, unfortunately, he's right. Downey's fictional attack earned him a spot on the front pages of most of the country's newspapers last week. And now he's about to tell the full story of his attack in the men's room on Phil Donahue's talk show.

It's a clear triumph for both Downey and Donahue. One wonders if Downey will tell his story to Oprah or Geraldo at a future date. My God, what about Barbara?

P.T. Barnum was right, of course. There is a sucker born every minute.

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Tom Fitzpatrick