When Fake News Was Fun News—the glory days of supermarket tabloids

“Humility is a flaw…and I have none.”—Manorism

If you have yet to hear the word, while huddled around the enormous living room radio with your parents and siblings, I, Stately Wayne Manor, am The World’s Most Conceited Man.

The use of upper-case in that last phrase is not some affectation.  It’s there because the epitaph is “official,” thanks to yet another tragically fading-quickly form of print journal, the most important literature ever, the supermarket tabloid.

Briefly, for the youngsters not around in their heyday, tabloid newspapers with names like The Tattler and (still-existing) National Enquirer were stacked in abundance by the cashier lines in food markets–and on some newsstands.  They attempted to grab attention, the more lurid the headline, the better.

It could be a gut-churning photo of a man mauled by a lion, scare tactics like “Flying Saucers Poised To Attack Los Angeles,” or celebrity dirt-shoveling a la “Is Liz Taylor Cheating On Her New Husband?”

Oh, yes, they used real names.  Which eventually resulted in real lawsuits.

Libel suit settlements cost the publishers millions, driving some of the “scandal sheets” out of business.  By the late Seventies, the tabs came across as sleazy relics, dismissed as trash for vapid gossips.

Everything changed when the Weekly World News exploded as a pop culture phenomenon.

The News was not hoping readers would fall for dubious nonsense.  It embraced the absurd and supercharged it.  Complete with photos and illustrations so goofy, there was little question the editors were yanking readers’ legs.

Sample headlines.  “I Was Bigfoot’s Love Slave” “Vampire Sues Employer for $120G—Because They Won’t Let Him Work In The Dark” “A Pterodactyl Bit My Arm Off” and ”Man Grows World’s Longest Nose Hair!”

Celeb screwiness also abounded.  “Karl Marx Was One Of The Marx Brothers!” “Jay Leno’s Chin Is Fake” “Oprah To Replace Lincoln On $5 Bill” and of course plenty of Elvis sightings.

Additionally, regular features were a howl.  There was a right-wing nutjob columnist named Ed Anger (long before MAGA brought out the real nutjobs.)  An “advice” columnist with a thoroughly bitchy attitude.  And numerous articles on their creation-turned-star Bat Boy, part-bat, part-human, allegedly discovered in a West Virginia cave.

The Weekly World News (WWN) was essentially a send-up of its tawdry predecessors.  It was a highly creative and side-splitting—and I wanted in.

Which is exactly what I did.

Before “branding” was anything but what ranchers did to identify cattle, your Future Rock Star narrator had devised a gimmick that was a blend of fellow drummers’ reputation for cockiness, and shtick performed by “bad guys” in the rekindled hobby of my childhood, professional wrestling.

I reckoned there was no sense in doing it halfway; therefore, “World’s Most” was appropriate.  I also figured it was wise to come up with a hook few if any would be willing to contest.  Thus, The World’s Most Conceited Man came into being.

My pseudonym already in place, I “dressed the part” by having a jacket embroidered in the style of a wrestler’s ring jacket, with “Living Legend” in large letters across the back, and “E.G.D.” (Every Girl’s Dream) on one sleeve.

Although I had yet to perfect the role, I had enough of it down and enough pro writing experience to approach the News about having Stately make his national debut on their pages.  And they went for it!

Here’s the first feature…

SWMinWWNfirstpiece

It made total sense—and is poetic justice—that The World’s Most Conceited Man would pen the piece about himself, even if someone else (and fictional) would get the byline.  To my chagrin, only a portion of the original manuscript was incorporated, some of the swapped-in material not true to my gimmick.

But still, woohoo, I MADE IT INTO THE WEEKLY WORLD NEWS In fact, one editor claimed I was once in contention to make the front page.

Mission Accomplished?  Sort of.  But I noticed a recurring News theme, the “one year later” sequel; so, I pitched a follow-up several months after the first piece, and was delighted the WWN was game.

SWMinSunsequel

This time, the published text was nearly all mine.  Consequently, I had begun occasionally submitting feature articles to Wrestling World magazine.  After being with WW for a year, I told the editor about my alter ego, the News publicity, etc. and suggested we begin a pro-villain column to rile up the readers.

That suggestion blossomed into what became a 29-year uninterrupted run (between Wrestling World and Power Slam) of being on newsstands around the globe, a world’s record for wrestling magazine columnists.

The News piece also led to me guesting on morning drive-time radio stations in Philadelphia and New York City.  The combination of the above opened the door for me to become a wrestling manager and commentator, “completing the circle” of a fan imitating the men in the ring to becoming one of them.

Just goes to show what you can do with one clever idea, eh?

So, Mission Accomplished with the second News feature, right?  Welllll, it so happened that the WWN had a sister publication, The Sun, slightly less wild but still open to daffiness.

This go-round, I got the bulk of a full page.

SWMinSun

 

Sadly, neither publication exists anymore.  Nonetheless, the book “Bat Boy Lives!” is worth seeking out, as it contains nearly 200 pages of articles from the News’ 1979-to-2007 existence.

Even if it is missing two of them.  A-heh a-hem.

Bat Boy book cover

 

 

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