Politics & Media
Oct 23, 2023, 06:29AM

King Kans

This is the story of a curious and imaginative intern. What year is it (#445)?

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Several years ago, before the pandemic, there were a lot of stories about unpaid interns—at news organizations, p.r. firms, book publishers and the like—getting a raw deal, and the complaint that only well-off college student or graduates (with the proper connections) could afford to fetch a bagel for Mr. Fitzgerald or look up the correct spelling of “Kissinger” for Miss Santos. The stir caused some companies to rectify that situation, and boast about it, but today, with so many businesses in the dumps I don’t read much about interns at all.

When I published weekly newspapers we usually had two or three interns each semester, and while they didn’t receive a paycheck, the work wasn’t meaningless. Editors interviewing prospective interns made clear they didn’t have time for college-credit layabouts and they’d have to crank, whether in the listings department or helping reporters research stories. (The art department was immune from the kids; they got too persnickety on deadline days.) The best of the lot were later employed—in my case, Baltimore’s City Paper and New York Press—the following year. In the picture below at a Baltimore bar on St. Patrick’s Day, Granville Greene (flanked by me and a fellow name Gary who delivered newspapers every Wednesday) flashes his trademark look of amazement, one that wasn’t just reserved for a Polaroid snap like this one.

Granville (now around 60 and author of 2017’s The Mezcal Rush), was an editorial intern supervised by Phyllis Orrick and me in the spring of 1985. He was rambunctious, curious, not afraid to joke around or offend (usually sales representatives) staff members and once he graduated from Johns Hopkins in May, was hired as a fulltime reporter. He instantly blended in with our crew, whether in croquet matches, interrogating unsuspecting political candidates at bull-roast fundraisers in Northeast Baltimore or bringing an armful of Miller 32 oz. King Kans late at night when we worked on a “Best of Baltimore” issue. One fall afternoon, an “off” day at the paper, six of us went to the home of Granville’s parents and played badminton after many tumblers of Jameson’s. It was exhilarating, but stupidly I played barefoot and when spiking a birdie at one point, landed hard on the concrete court and was stuck with crutches for six weeks. The only benefit was that cabs on N. Charles St. gave me preference.

One of Granville’s most memorable articles was about staying, on successive nights, at the skuzzy Congress Hotel downtown (the Marble Bar was in the basement) and the posh Peabody Hotel in Mt. Vernon (too pricey for Baltimore, its run was short). The paper picked up the tab (my business partner Alan Hirsch rolled his eyes at the bill, but we were at a point that such an expense was affordable), and Granville’s cover story was one of the year’s best. (Although 21, and a cool and crazy cat, Granville was unequivocal in which hotel he preferred; the luxe Peabody, since he found the roaches and winos at the Congress “gnarly.”) He wasn’t privy to my future publishing plans, but at the Club Charles one night he took me aside, and said: “You should sell City Paper, man, and we’ll start a paper in New York, just sleep on couches and run it guerilla-style. That’s the ticket, man.” I admired his intuition (which was uncanny), but almost 10 years older, I told him my days of “wherever my hat is that’s my home” were over, man.

Look at the clues to figure out what year it is: The first Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is observed; Ernest Burkhart, the man played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Killers of the Flower Moon, dies; Sam Cooke is inducted into the now-bogus Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; the U.S. Senate passes a treaty outlawing genocide (!); Andrew Tate is born and Scatman Crothers dies; Jonathan Pollard pleads guilty to espionage for selling U.S. intelligence to Israel; Mike Tyson becomes youngest heavyweight champ; Lady Gaga is born and Benny Goodman dies; Art Spiegelman’s Maus is published; and Simple Minds’ “Alive and Kicking” is #17 on Billboard’s year-end chart.

—Follow Russ Smith on Twitter: @MUGGER2023


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