Maynard Parker Remembered

This isn’t actually about Maynard Parker, the editor of Newsweek, who passed away yesterday. But he figures in it and it’s a good story, so here goes:

About 10 years ago, Chatterbox’s best friend and fellow Newsweek scribe, Bill Barol, wrote a cover story about Bruce Springsteen that met with Maynard’s approval. Maynard invited Bill to Friday night dinner with the Wallendas, as the top editors at Newsweek were known. Bill had a date with Jennifer Cecil, another Newsweek staffer whom Bill would eventually marry. It was early in the relationship and he didn’t want to break the date, so he politely declined Maynard’s offer. Then he joked nervously about it to a couple of friends at Newsweek.

One of those friends was Ron Givens (now with the New York Daily News). Ron immediately sat down to his computer terminal, dummied up an e-mail message to make it look like it came from Maynard, and sent it to Bill. The message read: “Dear Bill: I only ask once.” Bill went into a panic, and immediately sent Maynard a note of apology in which he asked (jokingly, he says) whether he should clean out his desk. As soon as he pushed the “send” button, Ron informed Bill about the joke. As best Bill can remember, Maynard expressed “bafflement” at his note. Amazing fact: Bill (who is now a scriptwriter in Los Angeles) and Ron remain friends. This is the meanest practical joke Chatterbox ever recalls hearing about, at least within an occupational setting.

Timothy Noah