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Column: Getting the story on a few famous people

WORTHINGTON -- This was a while ago. A girl said to me, "You worked for newspapers for a long time, didn't you?"

"Yes," I said, "I did. I still do, more or less. Less than more."

"The reason I mention this," the girl said, "I would like to work for a newspaper some day."

"Do you have a special reason?"

"Oh," said the girl, "I've got more than one reason. I would like to meet famous people. You met famous people didn't you? I mean -- not just politicians but famous people."

Maybe I cleared my throat. I probably did. I have problems with famous people, the biggest problem being that often I haven't heard of them. By this date I have to say the problem is chronic.

I lived what might have been a scene from M*A*S*H. I was with the 24th Infantry Division PIO. Public Information Office. PIOs often bring together crews that resemble the crew at the 4077th.

One evening Master Sgt. William Morrison, a Col. Potter type, said, "Be at the 21st Infantry mess first thing tomorrow morning. Raymond Burr will be there. USO. Interview him."

"Yes, Sergeant Morrison. Who did you say?"

"Raymond Burr."

Let me make my defense before I make my confession. This was Korea; this was long before Perry Mason and Chief Ironside. I checked some credits lately on the Internet. By 1953 Raymond Burr had appeared in, "Fort Algiers," "Tarzan and the She-Devil," "Serpent of the Nile," "The Bandits of Corsica." I have not seen one of these films to this day.

My confession: I did not know who Raymond Burr was. Someone helped me with, "He's a famous movie star."

I don't have that interview. I'm good with not having it.

I found the guy in the mess tent who wasn't wearing army fatigues. I probably said, "It's a good day, isn't it?" Raymond Burr probably said, "It is."

"You eating corn flakes? You like corn flakes?"

"I do."

"I do, too. You like toast?"

"I do."

I do, too."

"You like North Koreans?"

"I don't."

"I don't either."

My balm for terrible hours with famous people is to fall back on times when almost no one in our neck of the prairie knew celebrities.

Next February will be bring the 50th anniversary of the horrendous morning when Buddy Holly, Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens died when the small plane in which they were flying crashed in a cornfield just after take-off from the Mason City, Iowa, airport.

The Daily Globe had that story top of front page that afternoon but let me tell you: The Associated Press has ways of advising, "This, folks, is a big story." The Globe took AP's word for that.

In that time (1959), there were no wirephotos at Worthington or anywhere in the region. I was assigned to find pictures.

I called here. I called there. Worthington was largely tuned to 8-3-0, WCCO. People knew the songs -- "It Doesn't Matter Any More," "Chantilly Lace," "Donna," -- from listening to Charlie Boone or Clellan Card.

But this was before teeny boppers bopped. I called. I knocked on doors. No one had a Buddy Holly album or a fan photo from The Bopper, J.P. Richardson.

I called Burnell Krick. Burnell was working with Martin Kallsen at Martin's Music, newly-moved to Oxford Street. Martin's Music was juke boxes and sound systems. Piped-in music.

"Burnell -- do you have a picture of Buddy Holly?"

"I might be able to find one."

"I don't think I've ever seen a Buddy Holly picture," I confessed. Raymond Burr hovered above me once again.

Martin Music did not have a Buddy Holly file or a Ritchie Valens file. They had records. Burnell put, "Chantilly Lace," on a record player. 45 rpm. Everything was up to date.

"Chantilly lace and a pretty face, and a pony tail hanging down ..."

Burnell delivered. He found no photos as such, but he found circulars promoting singers and records. The next Daily Globe brought readers pictures of the fallen rock stars.

Readers needed to see those pictures. People knew the recordings but not the famous recorders. I explained to some, "These guys were really big. You know, like Raymond Burr."

Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.