Just when you think you know this journalism game inside and out, somebody moves the goalposts.
According to an article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, former Miami commissioner Arthur Teele last week walked into the offices of the Miami Herald and asked to speak to columnist Jim DeFede. Teele, who had been facing state and federal prosecution on charges ranging from bribery to fraud and money laundering, then pulled out a handgun and shot himself in the head. He died less than two hours later, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
Now let's get one thing straight: I'm not suggesting this scenario has any satirical potential whatsoever. Suicide is an unutterably awful business, and Teele's is no exception. Acquaintances said he had been despondent over the way his legal troubles had been made public; one professed no surprise whatsoever that Teele ended up taking his own life. The former commissioner also left behind a wife, who has no doubt been shattered by his desperate act. Anyone who finds the slightest cause for the giggles in what he did has a serious screw loose. Got it? NOT FUNNY.
But the idea of one of Orlando's least-loved luminaries strutting into my own office and pulling the trigger? Comedy gold.
If you stop and think about it for the briefest second and believe me, I have this town is filled with vertebrate slugs who have no workable career options left except to extinguish themselves in my presence. F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said there are no second acts in American lives; in Orlando, there isn't even an intermission. What's Carrot Top going to do at this point take a job with the Maitland Parks and Recreation Department? But think of the coast-to-coast, front-page coverage he could instantly generate if he paid a simple visit to Orlando Weekly, let loose a cry of "Sayonara, suckers" and splattered his spit curls all over my philodendron. The outpouring of public sympathy would be tumultuous, and likely wouldn't abate until the next time George Lopez did something cute.
And the timing couldn't be better. The readers of this newspaper recently honored little old me with the title "Best Local Writer," and that's the kind of cachet that can last for 16 days or more. If Orlando's distraught C-listers act now, they can always be remembered as having made their last stands in front of that guy who wasn't Mike Thomas. When word of this (seriously) once-in-a-lifetime opportunity gets out, folks will be dying to get in here. And die.
Consider the P.R. rehabilitation that impromptu hara-kiri could bring to some of this column's regular whipping boys and girls. Right now, Lou Pearlman seems destined to go down in history as a sweaty huckster with all the personal ethics of a piss-drunk birthday-party clown. But what an enduring figure of hipster fascination he could become if he waddled up the (admittedly steep) staircase to OW's second-story HQ and blew his blubber hither and yon with a double-barreled shotgun. Or a triple-barreled one. Or a pork-barreled one. Whatever model is big and tasty enough to meet his unique needs. Not since Mr. Creosote heaved his way off this mortal coil in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life has pop culture faced the prospect of one of its own blowin' up so crazy large.
As an added enticement, I have an entire wall in my office that's remained unadorned since I moved into it eight months ago. The wall is big, it's white, and it's crying out for aesthetically intelligent decoration. Dare I suggest that Rich DeVos' eyeglass shards might fit the bill nicely? I could even offer him a last meal of whatever's been left lying around in our company refrigerator, as a parting reminder that a facility sinks or swims on the quality of its amenities.
Hey, Paris Hilton: Come on up and see me sometime! And then snuff it! If you want to know what fame really is, just train a pistol on whatever part of your anatomy is currently dictating your lifestyle choices and blast away. It'd be like House of Wax, but with a better plot. In fact, I know a couple of the Haxans; for a small fee, I'm sure they'd be happy to capture the magic moment on DV. It'd be a smart move for both of you.
George Crossley, of course, would want to hire a subcontractor.
Oh, I'm leaving out something important. The Sun-Sentinel story mentioned that, on the day of his demise, Commissioner Teele had been savaged by an article in his city's alternative newsweekly, the Miami New Times. This brings up a point that's crucial for any celeb who's thinking of taking me up on my gracious offer: Do not go to the goddamn Orlando Sentinel to do it. Give credit where credit is due. The daily lifts enough ideas from us without acknowledgment; the last thing I'd want is to go out on a limb by goading somebody into suicide and then see the glory of a WKMG news truck going to the wrong building. Let's be honest: The Sentinel's writers have never made anybody want to kill themselves, except maybe Kathleen Parker's 8th-grade debating coach.
Regular readers of this column may be surprised that I'm not extending my invitation to Daily Buzz co-anchor Mitch English. Just four months ago, I mentioned the possibility of English being executed live and on the air, Al Qaeda-style. So you might think I'd jump at the chance of helping him to eliminate the middleman. But after that piece ran, I received a very nice e-mail from English thanking me for including him in my list of terrorist extermination targets. I could tell right away that he's a nice guy whose conduct reinforces the two basic tenets of my existence: Any Publicity is Good Publicity; and If You Kiss My Ass, You're Cool.
So for you, Mitch, I'll be happy to reverse the deal. I will come to your office and run my guts through with a Samurai sword, just as a humble thank-you. I hope you know what a sacrifice this would entail. I'm not in the least an unhappy person. I have a loving family, great friends and a job I couldn't cherish any more if it paid a living wage. But I'd give it all up in a second if it'd enable you to go on the air and say, "Today's forecast is partly sunny, with a 75 percent chance of some wiseass' pancreas landing in my aquarium." Got your back, Buzzmeister.
All this talk of suicide has got me thinking how transitory suffering is. Just 23 years ago, I was the one locking myself in my room with the entire Black Sabbath catalog and wondering how I could possibly go on living in a world that could inflict so much pain on Geezer Butler. But I stuck it out, and now I get to make tasteless jokes about other people's terminal dejection. And as a reward, I get life insurance! I guess no matter how dark things may look at any given time, life really can get better.
Just don't spread it around.