CHRISTMAS HORROR: Jerry Jones Is Dead … But Still Talking On The Radio: A Digital Review of the Best Analog Christmas Songs … And Why Bill Cosby’s Rape Confessions Won’t Be Given To The National Enquirer
THE GHOSTS OF CHRISTMASES PAST HAUNT OUR REPORTER
WHY YOU SHOULD ALWAYS RETURN A REPORTER’S CALL
VIEW FROM THE HURRICANE BATTERED VIRGIN ISLANDS
By JOHN McCARTHY
VIRGIN ISLANDS FREE PRESS
CHRISTIANSTED — I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed the Christmas music on a local radio station this season. That’s not usually my thing. I guess everyone in the Virgin Islands is seeking some sort of comfort this time of year.
For instance, I learned that the song “Do You Hear What I Hear?” was written as a peace song during the Cuban missile crisis. With that knowledge, the song brought tears to my eyes as I listened to it in that context. Also, I found out on the syndicated show “Christmas Across The Lands” that Tin Pan Alley’s Haven Gillespie preceded Santa Claus in a holiday parade one year — and no one paid any attention to Gillespie. That’s how he came to write: “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” If you listen closely to the lyrics, Gillespie was rather good-spirited about the “slight.” Which I guess is the point of the season. I’m certainly not worthy to criticize Dean Martin, one of my all-time favorite singers — and probably one of the coolest guys to ever live — again the point of the season: It’s cold out there. But as much as I love Martin’s voice and recognize his coolness — when he dubs “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” — “Rudy” in the song a couple of times — the result was jarring. It evoked a kind of half-cringe in me. That’s when I realized something self-evident about Christmas songs — you can’t change the lyrics — no matter how cool you are — not even one word. People are looking for the “payoff” of the words they remember. Not that it’s a sacrilege — just that it doesn’t work. That’s just da rules. See? You were looking for “the” there.
Example. A local Crucian scratch band here, either “Blinky and The Roadmasters” or “Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights,” (I get them mixed up — so I’ll give them each credit) sings one of my favorite versions of “We Three Kings.” But what I noticed to my Christmas horror is that in the St. Croix version of the song, at /”Star of wonder/Star of light/Star with royal beauty bright/” he always substitutes the word “stars” for “star.” Not a big deal, you’d think. But the whole point of the song is that the Three Wise Men are following one star which is leading them to the place in Bethlehem where Jesus is about to be born circa zero B.C. So in that case, changing one letter in one word changes the whole meaning of the song. Those Three Wise Men might still be wandering around looking for the King of Kings if they had followed a muddled mass of stars — rather than just one star.
And there is a philosophy behind this — no one star shines brighter than any other star. It might apply to religions. It might apply to people. It might apply to things. Some folks would have us believe that everyone who participates in a given event is just as good as everyone else. While it is true that they are worth the same as human beings, the prime objective is to finish first. Our current President is someone who subscribes to this philosophy. The person who finishes last or in the middle of the Rat Pack did not perform to the same levels as the person who won — especially if the competition is a running race (where some of the competitors haven’t been given performance-enhancing drugs [Russia’s Sochi Olympics] as opposed to “Dancing With The Stars” where subjective judges determine the winner.) Not sure if that tangent will make the final column.
While listening to the “Season’s Greetings” that included a Chanukah song (Adam Sandler) and a New Year’s song (Abba) to my delight I also heard my all-time favorite Christmas song: “Santa Baby” by Eartha Kitt. But this good cheer was broken when the ads started playing — not for the reasons you are thinking. I noticed coming in and out of the ads that the voice of the local radio announcer — was someone who had died in March. When I first heard that Jerry Jones had died (on Facebook) I immediately Googled “Jerry Jones dead” seeking confirmation over the Internet. I looked and I looked and I looked … but I couldn’t find anywhere where it said that Jerry Jones had died. Apparently, it was just another Internet hoax, like HIV needles in movie theater seats. Probably no one was more glad of that news than Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones — that was who I was searching for as having died. Oh, not that “Jerry Jones,” someone told me. I immediately sent an email to Glen Dratte, the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) spokesman who used to work with the lesser-known Jerry Jones at WJKC-FM 95 for station owner Jonathan Cohen in Gallows Bay. Dratte confirmed that Jerry had indeed died. I asked him to get a comment from Cohen because he was often want to speak with me, for reasons that are all his own. I only wanted to know where it was that Jerry was from on the U.S. mainland and his age at the time of his death. I knew the rest. But Dratte/Cohen never got back to me. So the Virgin Islands Free Press, and many other local media sources, never covered the death of Jerry Jones and gave him the fitting tribute he deserved as one of the most professional radio men to have ever worked in the territory. It will be 30 years I have lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands in February, in all that time the only comment I have ever gotten from Cohen — no matter what the subject was — was this: “Don’t you want the whole story? I thought you were fair and balanced with your reporting. Anytime I’m available.” I had contacted Mr. Cohen because he was charged and then convicted of choosing not to pay federal income taxes on his radio businesses for a period of 10 years — totaling some $1 million in taxes owed. Our federal income taxes are ceded back to the territorial government once paid. In nearly 30 years of trying, that was all I ever got from Mr. Cohen — it amounts to one sentence of words per decade that I have lived in St. Croix.
And that’s why it pays to immediately return a reporter’s call — because the question once asked and answered — the subject matter however damaging or distressing — is put to rest without resurfacing at any given time later. When you get the call about why you chose not to pay federal income taxes for 10 years — no matter how inconvenient the time is when the call comes in — that call is for you! Maybe your dog likes to eat income tax returns. Has a veritable diet of them as a matter of fact. Whatever the case might be — whatever your reasons are — if you’re the one who did that — then you’re the one who needs the excuse — not the reporter. The story isn’t about him — it’s about you! I remember ABC’s Sam Donaldson ambushing someone with a camera rolling, why they did what they shouldn’t have done. The interviewee replied: “You know Donaldson, you’re a real $&@!#%! (expletive deleted). Donaldson replied: “That may be, but the question remains …” And Sam proceeded to ask the question again, this time getting no response from the man.
In contrast, someone who has always had a very good relationship with the press, especially the mean, vile, nasty tabloid press was: Bill Cosby. Bill Cosby allowed The National Enquirer to keep his number on speed dial. Anybody at The National Enquirer who had a story coming up about Mr. Cosby knew that he was willing to take the call at any time — and give them a fair and thoughtful comment. Bill Cosby knew and used the rules of the media game to his benefit — no matter what the subject — he was willing to take the call at a moment’s notice. It engendered a good feeling between The National Enquirer and the legendary comedian. If this was Paul Harvey’s “Rest of the Story” he’d probably be telling you about how The National Enquirer wasn’t the first press organization to break the story that at least 50 women have accused Bill Cosby of rape.
When our Jerry Jones died, I immediately looked off-island for confirmation. And that is the difference between the V.I. Free Press and other newspapers here. The others are in a race to the bottom. They want to know the best way to position the microscope to reveal the minute things that happen here — but in doing so they are missing the big picture. At the V.I. Freep, we recognize that no one has ever “made it” from here — they all had to go somewhere else to make it happen. Whether we are talking about Alexander Hamilton (St. Croix), Camille Pissarro (St. Thomas), Tim Duncan (St. Croix) or Kelsey Grammer (St. Thomas). Even our elected leaders, Gov. Kenneth Mapp and Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett are Americans who were born in New York. But Mapp and Plaskett have shown a dedication and willingness to work in the best interests of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. Hedge Funder Warren Mosler (St. Croix) and Commodities Broker Larry Williams (St. Croix) can pack up shop and move their successful businesses from the mainland here — but their respective claims to fame were established elsewhere. They can now try to graft their successes onto the territory for the betterment of everyone living here.
But my point still stands — no one ever made an international success of themselves while living here. I’m not saying that it can’t be done — just that it has not been done — yet. (Hopefully, someone will prove me wrong on this point some day.)
Good relations with the press, bad relations with women. Words are important. Why do people read? Second-favorite Christmas song is: Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing: “Little Drummer Boy.” Let’s hope at the end of 2018 that that radio cheapskate Cohen will get someone other than the dead Jerry Jones to voice the music piping in and out of commercials. That is just wrong. I think “ghoulish” is the word.
When I do something wrong, I am right because of the power of the press. When the interviewee does something wrong — it is exposed as it justly should be.
As Captain Jack Sparrow says when he does something bad: “Pirate!”
“The National Enquirer was complicit in Bill Cosby’s cover-up?”
I didn’t say that.