Jewish World Review March 1, 2002 / 17 Adar, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- I AM flying down to the Broward Public Library in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to do a book signing for a paperback I wrote that, for ethical reasons, my publicity department forbids me to mention.
Over the years I have done thousands of book-signings (well anyhow, quite a few). It's even tougher than writing a book. Sandy Vanocur once told me, "You know you've been on the road too long when you've run out of quarters for the vibrating bed in your motel."
I have had many adventures in my book-signing career. One of my favorites was when I went to a department store in Rochester. The books were set up in the lobby. By accident I received a copy of the instructions for the staff.
One employee was assigned to make sure the books were there. Another supplied the ice water. A third person was in charge of supplying the pens.
The last assignment on the list had to do with security. Written next to it was the notation, "Mr. Buchwald does not need security because he is not that well-known."
When you're flogging a book, you sit in a lot of TV show Green Rooms, waiting to go on the air. I shared one in Chicago with a chimpanzee who was holding onto his owner for dear life. I kept eyeing the chimp, and he kept eyeing me. Finally his owner, a little old lady, asked me to hold him while she changed his diaper. At that moment I declared I was going to give up show business.
Sometimes on the road you are the victim of a breaking story and they tell you they are going to bounce you off the air.
This happened in Detroit. A friend, Tony Kornheiser, was with me plugging his book. The producer came out and said, "We have to cancel both of you. We just invaded Grenada."
I immediately said, "I just came back from Grenada."
He said, "Then come on the air."
When the producer left the room, Tony growled, "You lying SOB. You don't even know where Grenada is."
I said, "You have to think fast when you're out on the road."
Jim Michener and I were good friends, though he outsold me in the bookstores by 100 to 1.
One time I was at a bookstore on Fifth Avenue for an autograph session. Michener's "Hawaii" was displayed all over the window. My book was hidden all the way in the back.
I took off my suit jacket and looked for someone who worked there. I called over a stockroom boy and said, "You see all those Michener books in the window? Put them in the back and take the books in the back and put them in the window."
It was one of my greatest book-signing triumphs and when I told him, Michener laughed and said he was wondering why everyone was going to the back of the store.
The toughest book-signing competitor I ever had was Sylvia Porter, the business author and columnist. I appeared with her at a book luncheon. She talked about bonds and I talked about Washington. After we both spoke, we signed books. I had two people (my sisters) waiting to buy my book, and Sylvia Porter had a line that went around the block.
I learned from fellow JWR columnist Andy Rooney that the only way to speed up a book-signing line is not to talk to anyone whose book you are autographing.
I will do this in Fort Lauderdale. Flogging one's book is a dirty business, but somebody has to do it.
02/27/02: The players are mad