To those who know me, it comes as no surprise that I've never read a book by Norman Mailer. First, I don't read many books. I have to be moving all the time. And, second, even if I did read books, I probably wouldn't read books by people who write books that people who like to name-drop read. I feel the same way about Woody Allen movies. And, up until I started working in Public Radio, I thought the same thing about National Public Radio.
In other words, I'm pretty much a putz.
But I'm a putz who unwittingly told Norman Mailer off face-to-face, once.
It happened like this:
Back in 1994, the world headquarters of Minnesota Public Radio was being rebuilt, so they moved us to a dumpy old radio building in St. Paul that once had obviously housed a dumpy old radio station (I believe it now houses the crew from A Prairie Home Companion, and that's a whole 'nother story).
The "newsroom" -- and the studios -- were in the basement and there were two sets of stairs leading to the same point just outside the newsroom/basement. The stairs were at 90 degrees to each other.
One day, Norman Mailer was upstairs, (near one set of stairs), to be interviewed for, God knows what... just so someone could say they interviewed Norman Mailer, I guess. He was waiting to be led downstairs to the studio.
But also upstairs, near the other stairs, was Ron Popeil; he of the Pocket Fisherman fame, although at that time I think he was pushing his spray paint for bald-headed men. He was the maker of all that cheap junk on TV. You know, "But wait! There's more!"
Being a putz, I had to meet Ron Popeil. And so I started to dart out of the newsroom saying, "I have to meet Ron Popeil."
"Norman Mailer's upstairs too," my colleague said.
"Norman Mailer?" I said just as I left the newsroom and entered the stairwell, "**** Norman Mailer!"
I didn't know it at the time but Norman Mailer was walking down the stairs and just as I said, "*** Norman Mailer!" he turned the corner, and was now about 3 inches from my face.
I didn't stay around -- Ron Popeil was upstairs, you know -- but I understand he registered his complaint with the management.
And so I've outlived yet another person in the newsroom who thought I was a jerk.