(imagine this blog post written in 72 point Futura-Bold for full effect) Eddie Clontz, the editor-in-chief of the Weekly World News and the creator of Ed Anger and Bat Boy, died on January 26th, aged 56.
The obituary in the Economist is a must-read:
Sheer chance seemed to bring Mr Clontz to this strange outpost of journalism. After dropping out of school at 16 and trying his luck as a scallop fisherman, he became a copy boy on his local paper in North Carolina. He moved next to a Florida paper, and from there to the disreputable corner office in the Enquirer building, in a run-down resort near Palm Beach, from which he was to entertain and terrify America.
His own politics were mysterious. Under the pseudonym “Ed Anger”, he wrote a News column so vitriolically right-wing that it possibly came from the left. Anger hated foreigners, yoga, whales, speed limits and pineapple on pizza; he liked flogging, electrocutions and beer. No, Mr Clontz would say, he had no idea who Anger really was. But he was “about as close to him as any human being.”
Mr Clontz also always denied that his staff made the stories up. It was subtler than that. Many tips came from “freelance correspondents” who called in; their stories were “checked”, but never past the point where they might disintegrate. (“We don’t know whether stories are true,” said Mr Clontz, “and we really don’t care.”) The staff also read dozens of respectable newspapers and magazines, antennae alert for the daft and the bizarre. When a nugget was found, Mr Clontz would order them to run away with it, urging them to greater imaginative heights by squirting them with a giant water-pistol.
Yet he also showed care for authenticity. If a story resisted tracking down, he would give it the dateline “Bolivia”. If it relied on “scientific research”, he would make sure the scientists were Bulgarian. Writers who made up the names of Georgia natives terrorised by giant chickens would be asked to check in the telephone book to make sure they did not exist. Loving editorial attention was given to the face of Satan when he appeared in a cloud formation over New York.
Please tell me someone is writing/has written a biography of him, as he was probably the last glorious huckster left of earth. Anyone who coins the phrase “Nothing gets me more pig-biting mad than…” and comes up with “Bat Boy steals car – and goes on three state joy ride!” is a hero in my book. I hope Clontz gets to have that beer with Elvis for real.