Grand sight recalled

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Last updated on March 5th, 2018 at 01:45 pm

Christopher Hitchens describes the vision that inspired his career in journalism:

I was strolling along Tenison Road and saw, I swear, a wheezing second- or even third-hand motor belching towards me. Behind its wheel sat a man of impossibly fly-blown and lugubrious appearance; his skin sallow and wrinkled, an unfiltered cigarette in his mouth; his eyes like piss-holes in the snow. Only one detail was required to complete the scene, and at first my disordered senses almost refused to register it. Stuck in the corner of his windscreen was a faint and tattered card that read “PRESS”. It was yellow all right. It might as well have been stuck in the band of his hat. Christ knows where he had been – perhaps to a bad day at the Newmarket races – but it took little imagination to see where he was bound. And this was not a Giles cartoon but a glimpse of the future I thought I wanted. I cheered up immensely.

I was inspired by Carl Kolchak, myself. I may have to buy the Kolchak hat!

(Via Jim Nolan)

Posted by Tim B. on 12/03/2005 at 01:47 AM
    1. That Kolchak episode with the headless motorbike rider gave me nightmares!
      (hey!I was only 23 at the time!).

      Posted by Lucky Nutsacks on 2005 12 03 at 03:03 AM • permalink


    1. $200 for a plookin’ straw hat?????

      Posted by Mr. Bingley on 2005 12 03 at 03:04 AM • permalink


    1. O/T. Peter Cook has died again.

      Posted by Lucky Nutsacks on 2005 12 03 at 03:18 AM • permalink


    1. “Blaaaaaaaaiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrr!!!”

      Posted by Tony.T.Teacher on 2005 12 03 at 05:24 AM • permalink


    1. Nowadays Hitchens is inspired by Jaysus!

      Posted by slammer on 2005 12 03 at 07:07 AM • permalink


    1. Unfiltered cigarettes are the first thing you notice in an approaching car, if you’re a keen-eyed journalist.  Then you notice the PRESS sign.

      Then you get a job writing holiday pieces for the women’s page.

      “With her apron on, Nelle Hill looked the part of the Thanksgiving Day cook, but with no power, no refrigerator and few ingredients, all she could come up with were grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon.’’

      She was not smoking.

      Posted by rhhardin on 2005 12 03 at 08:08 AM • permalink


    1. The Night Stalker, huh?

      Good show, but didn’t last long, as I recall. I was in my last year of college, and the show was a favorite of the Lentz Hall TV room crowd. Always a little bigger crowd for that show.

      That, and Kung Fu.

      Posted by rinardman on 2005 12 03 at 10:40 AM • permalink


    1. #1 (hey!I was only 23 at the time!).

      Wow, DV. Unless you were watching a rerun long after the show originally aired….you’re an old fart!

      Posted by rinardman on 2005 12 03 at 10:52 AM • permalink


    1. The original Kolchak always wore sneakers with his ice cream suit and his straw hat, too.  I wonder why there are no Kolchak sneakers?

      Sadly but appropriately, ABC’s inept reincarnation of The Night Stalker tanked after only a few episodes.

      Posted by RebeccaH on 2005 12 03 at 11:41 AM • permalink


    1. #9 Tony Del-roy?

      Posted by crash on 2005 12 03 at 11:48 AM • permalink


    1. I loved Night Stalker.  Most of the episodes were very scary, at least by the standards of 1970’s television series.  They always included a confrontation between Kolchak and the supernatural villain.


      1.  Kolchak tracking down a vampire, entering her home near sundown (no way I would ever do that)

      2.  Kolchak searching the rented room of Jack the Ripper and having to hide when the murderer unexpectantly returned

      3.  the intrepid reporter searching for a murderous velociraptor living on the bottom level of a multi story subterranean storage facility.  The lizard was slow but would not stop stalking Kolchak.  Kolchak confronted it (more like happened upon it), ran like the sensible guy he was, and bee lined it to the elevator.  The only question was would he make it before the raptor got him.

      Scary stuff.  I always wished they had made Kolchak into a chief editor of a Washington DC newspaper and posed him as the nemisis of Fox Mulder.  An opponent, but yet in secret, a fellow believer and supporter.  But of course no one asked me how to make the series better.  Well, it’s their loss.

      Posted by wronwright on 2005 12 03 at 01:42 PM • permalink


    1. Ah, Kolchak… any show that could cast Jo Ann Pflug as an exotic dancer is ok with me…

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 2005 12 03 at 01:59 PM • permalink


    1. Oh, and wronwright… REAL shrapnel is spherical, not jagged…

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 2005 12 03 at 02:28 PM • permalink


    1. The 2 problems with the new Night Stalker. Kolchak is too young and too hip. Everybody else they could keep. But Kolchak needs to be in the age range 45 to 50.  who gets most of his clothes from second hand shops because Walmat is a little bit upscale for his wallet .

      Posted by Alien Grey on 2005 12 03 at 02:47 PM • permalink


    1. #9 Tony Del-roy?

      crash, I don’t understand your reference.

      Posted by RebeccaH on 2005 12 03 at 03:06 PM • permalink


    1. The new Night Stalker series was an abomination. The same guy who screwed up Lestat and Dorian Gray. No hat, no humor, and thankfully no ratings.

      Posted by Jim Treacher on 2005 12 03 at 04:40 PM • permalink


    1. The original Night Stalker was a great show, the “grandfather” of many of the paranormal and sci-fi series to come, but better than many due to the humorous interplay between Kolchak and his editor, Tony Vincenzo.

      The hat was fine for Kolchak, but for that kind of dough you can get a very nice Panama, not to mention a high quality fedora (as always, I refer interested parties to, in which I have no financial interest other than as a purchaser of their fine hats; it’s just that the sooner more men dress like I do, the sooner the world will be a better place).  If you insist on the seedy, old-style reporter head-gear, you can probably find what you’re looking for at Wal-Mart.

      Posted by paco on 2005 12 03 at 06:21 PM • permalink


    1. Paco — I am a big cheerleader for the return of hats; I think many people are greatly improved by covering a greater or lesser part of their head with a felt bag or wicker basket of some sort.  Consider the Hoss Cartwright Stetson Our Dark Master Karl sent wronwright for Christmas last.  Sure, it was two sizes too large but that was just an added benefit.

      One problem with hats in the modern world today: cars.  How many modern cars are designed with the headroom for a decent fedora, snapbrim or Panama?

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 2005 12 03 at 07:41 PM • permalink


    1. God, I’ve loved that series since a repeat of the voodoo zombie episode (broadcast at midnight) had me checking that front door was locked every commercial break. And while I’m a big fan of Grade Z Monster films, I think the only “accurate” depiction of an Aztec god I’ve seen was on the Kolchak episode with Ponch.

      The series had a weird dramatic problem though—every episode, Kolchak would explain to his boss that the crimes were caused by the supernatural horror of the week, and Vincenzo naturally would refuse to believe him.

      So, Tim, a serious question: as an editor, how many times could a reporter give you a story about vampires, werewolves, and Indian bear spirits before he screwed up his reputation to the point where you’d stop buying his stuff?

      Posted by John Nowak on 2005 12 03 at 08:05 PM • permalink


    1. Richard: The answer to the headroom problem? Simple: bring back the 1939 Packard Touring Sedan.

      Yeah, I suppose if it hadn’t been for wronright’s ears, the crown would have come down to his shoulders.

      Posted by paco on 2005 12 03 at 10:01 PM • permalink


    1. Forget the Kolchak hat, do they have a John Kerry Magic CIA Spook Hat?

      Posted by Steve Skubinna on 2005 12 03 at 10:15 PM • permalink


    1. So, Tim, a serious question: as an editor, how many times could a reporter give you a story about vampires, werewolves, and Indian bear spirits before he screwed up his reputation to the point where you’d stop buying his stuff?

      Don’t know about Tim, but for editors in general the answer likely is: As long as the reporter finds a way to blame conservatives for the sudden appearance of said vampires etc., probably quite a lot of times.

      Posted by PW on 2005 12 04 at 12:43 AM • permalink


    1. Carl Kolchak?! Tim, I knew you were a right guy – I loved that show. I became wedded to my TiVo the day it went out and found repeats of The Night Stalker on the SciFi channel – all by itself without guidance from me.

      I guess it’s true what they say, your TiVo really can read your mind.

      And #1, YES. The scene where Kolchak is questioning a suspect, and they hear a motorcycle in the distance, and suddenly freeze… and all you hear is the sound of the cycle for about ten seconds… THAT’S great television. Scary, and no blood/guts required.

      Posted by Dr Alice on 2005 12 04 at 01:27 AM • permalink


    1. I DON’T wear that hat.  It falls down to below my nose.  Yes, Karl thinks it completely hilarious and I’ll wear it when he asks me too.  But you WON’T see me wear it outside the office.

      Jo Ann Plugg?  Damn, I used to dream about her when I was a teenager.  I always thought Hawkeye Pierce not sleeping with her in the original MASH movie was the single most ridiculous piece of script writing from any 1970’s movies. Hubba bubba.

      Posted by wronwright on 2005 12 04 at 04:54 AM • permalink


    1. How about the episode where Kolchak had to stop the Black Knight and the only way was to swing an enchanted 100 lb broad sword? Like a Hitchcock movie, you saw the villain approach slowly with a mace in his hand.  At the same time you saw Carl struggling to pick up the heavy weapon.  If you were like McEnroe, you probably watched the show with a pillow covering your eyes.

      Posted by wronwright on 2005 12 04 at 04:59 AM • permalink


    1. Paco — re: wronwright.  I believe that was Karl’s idea and my point.  Notable improvement.

      wronwright — Don’t be absurd.  I have a person who holds my pillows for me.  And another one, a former BALCO employee, for swinging 100-lb broadswords.  Give me a gentlemanly small sword or coustille and a nice dark alley anyday.

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 2005 12 04 at 12:47 PM • permalink


    1. I always liked Kolchak, but I had a sneaking fondness for woobie Mr. McGee, too, the long-suffering reporter hunting the Incredible Hulk.

      I recall a Night Stalker episode in which a rude driver brought all sorts of supernatural woe upon himself by cutting through a funeral procession, too, thus tying together the previous thread and this one.

      Posted by Achillea on 2005 12 04 at 04:23 PM • permalink


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