Red Buttons' "Never Got a Dinner" Routine and Things I Did Not Write About This Year

My family circa 1948
A clever piece of writing became a signature routine for comedian Red Buttons (1919-2006)). I don’t know whether he wrote it or it was written for him, but the concept provided him with an unending supply of material.

The routine was a send-up of celebrity roasts, with Buttons having fun over those who “never got a dinner.” Buttons was born Aaron Chwatt in New York City to Jewish immigrants and often singled out Jews and Italians in his routine. Example: “First baseman Joe Torre, too chicken to play catcher, who said, ‘Who wants to be known as Chicken Catcha Torre?’ never got a dinner.”

Writers are always alert for things to write about: A tidbit here, a morsel there, a crumb elsewhere; a situation in our personal or professional lives or something we observe in others. Sometimes we latch onto a specific issue and generalize. Sometimes we take a general issue and make specific points, as Buttons did in his routine.

I’m reluctant to write about myself. Perhaps my German heritage keeps me from sharing too much. Maybe my background as a broadcast news reporter conditioned me to ask rather than tell. Also, I’m basically shy. (Can writers truthfully claim that?) I have not written my memoir or life story even though I work with others to write theirs, including my brother Gene on our family history.

In a minimal effort (let's call it beginning therapy) to overcome my reluctance, I made the following non-exhaustive list of ordinary things in my life I did not write about this year. The items are great memory joggers for fleshed-out episodes in a book of my life story—dinner or no dinner.

Flying, shopping, walking, and mulching

My wife and I flew to California and spent Thanksgiving week with our daughter and her family. Our planes left on time and arrived early each leg of the journey. Our bags were not damaged or sent to India.

Learned from our son-in-law’s sister that she finishes her Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving. All of it. Every year.

Had to give up walking for exercise in my neighborhood because I was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy. My foot doctor prescribed an expensive food supplement not covered by insurance. I’m going to a gym three times a week and working out with cable weights, which doesn’t put pressure on my feet and toes. I don’t expect to become Charles Atlas. Uh-oh, that dates me. Change to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Still dated? Okay, let’s go with Phil Heath, Mr. Olympia 2011.

Mulched the leaves in my yard twice this fall; should have mulched a third time.

Sam, civility, e-Book, and mobile phones
Arthritis in our fifteen-year-old cat Sam is getting worse. We started him on a six-session laser therapy.

In the adult Sunday school class I teach we are studying P. M. Forni’s The Civility Solution: What to do When People Are Rude. “Adult” is an apt description, as Forni’s topics include dealing with the “F” word and the middle-finger salute.

My co-author and I hired a vendor to turn our paperback book, Dumb Luck or Divine Guidance, into an e-Book. Online how-to instructions were like Chinese to us. We learned the appearance of a hard-copy book page does not transfer to the same appearance in an e-book.

Called a friend’s mobile phone and he answered in a whisper, “I’m at a funeral. Can I call you back?” Others I called answered in a board meeting and real estate closing. Brings to mind a bunch of issues regarding mobile phone etiquette, including phones ringing during workshop presentations and church services.

A guest minister at our church brought his smart phone to the podium and flipped through it for some of his notes. The phone did not ring during his sermon.

Publicity, fundraising, plumber, and old men
I was elected vice president of the Springfield Writers’ Guild for 2012 and will be in charge of publicity.

My wife and I attended a fundraiser for the Christian County Historical Society. It was a one-man show by Reeds Spring, Missouri actor Will St. Clair portraying Mark Twain. Fantastic!

We called a plumber to snake-out out the drain lines beneath our house. Learned the persons who built our house didn’t secure one of the longer lines with a strap. The plumber fixed it at no extra charge.

Attended eleven monthly breakfasts with old men. That’s what we call it, “breakfast with old men.” A handful of church friends gets together once a month at a restaurant and shoots the breeze. We don’t meet in December.

Webinars, Facebook, and library downloads
Participated in free webinars on my desktop computer. Topics included blogging, memoir writing, marketing, and managing Facebook fan pages. While I picked up tips I can use, I also learned “free” means a sales pitch at the end for products and services of the webinar presenters.

Created a Facebook fan page for my writing business. It’s quite basic and I'm on a long learning curve to jazz it up. Please visit and Like, Write something, and Share on your Facebook page or other media.

Learned to check out books from the library by downloading them to my desktop computer. I don’t own an an electronic reader or smart phone. The books are checked out for seven or fourteen days, after which they are automatically returned to the library by disappearing from my computer. Shades of Merlin the Wizard!

What three or four things in your life did you not write about this year?

Photo: My older brother Jack, my mother Dixie, my father Al, my younger brother Gene, and me. Jack and our parents are deceased.
Not shown: Red Buttons, no relation. Photographer unknown, but probably my grandmother, Ada. 

1 comment:

  1. Wayne! You've gotta write your personal stories!