I guess you can go elsewhere for your Robin Williams news this morning. When I heard the cause of death I was surprised, but not really. Comedians are infamous for their misery and anger, which they build under pressure into diamonds of humor (theoretically, anyway), and no one was ore infamously demon-plagued than Williams. He had his cocaine period, and his women period, and probably a few more that I don’t know about because he was never one of those entertainers who compelled my attention other than reading an occasional People magazine cover while at the dentist’s. Although I loved Dahlia Lithwick’s wonderful recollection of a day spent with him, and you will, too.
No, here’s where we’ll chat up Myrtle Young, who was made into an international sensation via her own strange hobby — collecting oddly shaped and colored potato chips from the line at Seyfert’s, where she worked — and by the prose stylings of my husband, who told her story in our paper and reported on her from coast to coast, first to Letterman (where she did not capture his acidic attention) and then to Carson, where she and the host meshed perfectly and produced a charming segment TV Guide later named the funniest single moment in television. (Yes, that sentence was way too long. Sorry.) Myrtle died over the weekend. She was 90.
That’s the first and last time Alan ever saw Los Angeles. We really need to get out more.
When I think about Myrtle, I consider a few things. First, that the Seyfert’s potato-chip factory where she worked first closed and was then torn down. Consolidation, I think, or some other economic force that cannot be denied. Potato chips used to be a local product, or at least a regional one, due to the realities of how fried potatoes travel, but I guess that’s not true anymore. There are still local brands, but they’re likely to be owned by Frito-Lay.
Then I wonder if Myrtle’s job would even exist anymore. She stood over the conveyer and pulled the chips off by hand. It might make a person crazy, but it certainly meshed with her personality; lost in hours of watching chips go by, she found herself seeing things in them that others wouldn’t have. Now that job is surely done by some sort of electric eye. She retired with her pension and lived out her old age, but there won’t be many more like her.
Which is sort of melancholy, I guess. But the world changes and changes again, every single day. A toast for the old lady. I thought Alan did a great job with his stories; I think she reminded him of the women in his family.
Bloggage today? No. You guys always find better stuff than I do. Here’s a Twitter follow I’ve come to love, the Worst Muse. Advice for writers.
And that’s how the week lurches into second gear.