How I Horrified One of the Great Columnists of All-Time

Even as a kid, I loved people who could write succinctly and with humor.  Loved an old columnist named Walter Winchell.  He wrote little, right to the point, sentences about the latest gossip or happenings of the day.  Put enough of them together each day to produce the number one newspaper column of his time.

In Los Angeles in the 1960’s, we had basically two papers…The L.A. Times and the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.  The Herald got delivered in the afternoon and tended to be a bit more tabloid than the proper morning paper, The Times.  I loved them both.

The Herald had a columnist who wrote a bit like Walter Winchell, but certainly in his own style.  His name was Matt Weinstock.  I read his column everyday.  When the time was right, I started sending him short little items that he might want to include in his column.  Sent them typed up and by snail mail…no email in those days.  If I were lucky, several days later I would pick up his column and read one of my stupid little items in his column.  I recall one of them read…”Don Hurzeler of Palos Verdes Estates wrote to say that if inflation gets any worse, it might be cheaper just to eat the money.”

Well…turns out I liked seeing my name in one of the top columns on the West Coast.  I sent him more and more.  Some he would skip because they were probably just plain stupid or horrible…but others he ran…much like the lame one above.  After a period of months of this, he called me.  He told me how much he appreciated my items. Told me he felt guilty not being able to pay me for them.  Asked if I could join him for lunch at the Brown Derby Restaurant…which was a place all the stars went to be seen back in the day.  I immediately accepted and asked if he would mind if I brought my mom along.  There was quite a long silence.  “Why would you bring your mom along?” was his reply.  I said…”Because she is my ride.”  Another lengthy silence.  “Why would you need her to drive?” he asked.  “Because I am 12 and don’t yet have my license.” I replied.

This turned out to be the first time I ever heard the expression “Are you shitting me?”  “Well, no Mr. Weinstock, I was not shitting you.  I will be thirteen in a few weeks, but will still need a ride.”  The conversation went straight downhill after that bit of information.

Mr. Weinstock explained to me that he would be the laughing stock of the newspaper business WORLD WIDE if it were ever revealed that he was getting his content from a twelve year old kid.  I could tell that this wasn’t up for debate, Mr.L.A. seemed on the verge of panic.  Needless to say…no Brown Derby for Donny.  No more inclusions in the nifty column written (for the most part) by Mr.Weinstock.  In fact, I noticed that he almost never ran anything from anyone other than himself after our little episode.

Matt Weinstock filed his last column many years ago and passed away.  I feel that he would want me to share this with you now, given that he passed away in 1970.  I kept it to myself for more than 50 years…and it is not really a matter of national security…so there it is…Little Donny and Matt Weinstock and our almost luncheon at the Brown Derby.