Jewish World Review Dec. 8, 1999 /29 Kislev, 5760
From teen idol to
ink-stained wretch: Can
you Dig it?
WELL, SOMETHING finally happened to make me smile
this year. I was going through the day's e-mail,
opening up all the messages from code-named
strangers, when I encountered an electronic letter
that began like this:
"Dear Bobby -- I figure you must be 52 by now. I
found an old copy of Dig magazine, and I thought I'd
write to you. . . ."
This is perfect. Forty years later, and the Dig letters
are still coming in.
When I was 12 -- a quiet, innocent 12 -- I did
something somewhat surprising for a quiet, innocent
boy: I sent my picture in to Dig magazine.
This was in the late 1950s; Dig was a
rock-and-roll-oriented teen magazine with a
somewhat cocky, sardonic point of view; it was a
national monthly, and featured stories and pictures of
rock, movie and TV idols.
In each issue, there was a two-page spread
featuring pictures of Dig readers, a short note from
each of them, and the person's name and address.
The point was for Dig fans to get in touch with each
You had guys on those pages who looked like
reform-school escapees, you had girls who looked
like they could leave you dazed in a back alley, you
had soldiers. And -- without telling my parents -- I
sent my grade school picture in.
I went off to summer camp -- Camp Arrowhead, in
Jackson, Ohio. I . . . I don't know what I did that
summer -- played baseball, shot arrows, collected
bugs. Twelve-year-old things.
At the end of the summer my father -- in a dark
mood -- arrived at Camp Arrowhead to drive me
home. In the back seat of his car were boxes filled
with letters. More than 400 of them.
They were from girls.
Dig had printed my photo. Among the future felons
and current Army privates, there I was. A smiling
Except that Dig -- apparently to make me seem
older -- had increased my age by a year. Next to my
photo were these words:
"Bobby Green. 2722 Bryden Road. Columbus, 9,
Ohio. I'm just barely thirteen but I dig DIG! My
favorite stars are Edd Byrnes and Elvis. I hope
everyone'll get busy and write me!"
The editors of Dig had managed, in that short span
of words, to misspell my name, to get my age wrong,
and to misquote me. Which just goes to show you
that journalism has not changed all that much in 40
On my way home from camp that summer of 1959,
I began to read the letters (I had nothing else to do;
my father, who had watched the letters pile out of
our family mailbox all summer, was barely speaking
to me). The letters were fairly shocking; the girls
sent their pictures, and invitations to write or visit
them; one letter I specifically remember said: "My
father drives a dumptruck and my measurements
I didn't do much about the letters, other than stare at
them; what was I going to do, hop in my car and go
to these girls' towns? I was 12. My mother told me
that I had an obligation to answer every letter, but I
gave up after the first few. They kept arriving at our
house, every single day for months; by the time they
slowed down, more than 1,000 girls had written. I
was in a trance over this, but there was absolutely
nothing I could do about it.
And it continued for years. A letter with a postmark
from some other town would show up, and begin: "I
found an old copy of Dig magazine; you must be 16
by now. . . ."
Nothing else that I have ever done in my life has
measured up to the incredible, confusing charge of
being in Dig. And now -- out of the ether, over the
Internet -- here was this Dig letter, from someone I
have never met. "Dear Bobby -- I figure you must
be 52 by now. . . ."
The power of Dig: The magazine is long dead, the
Internet had not even been conceived of in 1959, yet
here's the e-mail in 1999. Some shy 6th-grader puts
an envelope in the mail 40 years ago and sends it to
a magazine. . . .
This has done wonders for my mood. The new
millennium is a month away. I hadn't been sure how
I felt about that, but all of a sudden I'm sort of
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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