What happened to five children who disappeared following a 1945 fire in West Virginia?
"For nearly four decades, anyone driving down Route 16 near Fayetteville, West Virginia, could see a billboard bearing the grainy images of five children, all dark-haired and solemn-eyed, their names and ages—Maurice, 14; Martha 12; Louis, 9; Jennie, 8; Betty, 5—stenciled beneath, along with speculation about what happened to them. Fayetteville was and is a small town, with a main street that doesn’t run longer than a hundred yards, and rumors always played a larger role in the case than evidence; no one even agreed on whether the children were dead or alive. What everyone knew for certain was this: On the night before Christmas 1945, George and Jennie Sodder and nine of their 10 children went to sleep (one son was away in the Army). Around 1 a.m., a fire broke out. George and Jennie and four of their children escaped, but the other five were never seen again."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 3, 2013
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2809 words)
[Not single-page] How the album bridged a racial divide on MTV and radio in the early 1980s:
"Despite the obvious quality of the Jackson videos, MTV initially resisted playing them, claiming it was a rock station and Jackson didn't fit the format. There is to this day some disagreement as to what led the channel to change its policy and add 'Billie Jean.' At the time, a story was widely circulated that CBS chief Walter Yetnikoff resorted to threatening to pull all of his label's videos off the channel if MTV didn't play 'Billie Jean,' but this claim has been refuted over the years by original MTV honchos Bob Pittman and Les Garland. They concede that the channel initially assumed it would not play the video, as its thumping beat and urban production did not fit the channel's 'rock' image. They contend however that in mid-February, after seeing the clip--which was possibly the best that had ever come across their desks--they began to re-think things. Coupled with the fact that even without MTV, the song had just leaped in one week from No. 23 to No. 6 on the Hot 100, the MTV execs concluded they should give it a shot."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 30, 2012
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4240 words)
The early days of the political consulting business—starting with Upton Sinclair's failed run for California governor in the 1930s and the opposition work of Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter:
"Whitaker and Baxter weren’t just inventing new techniques; they were writing a rule book. Never lobby; woo voters instead. 'Our conception of practical politics is that if you have a sound enough case to convince the folks back home, you don’t have to buttonhole the Senator,' Baxter explained. Make it personal: candidates are easier to sell than issues. If your position doesn’t have an opposition, or if your candidate doesn’t have an opponent, invent one. Once, when fighting an attempt to recall the mayor of San Francisco, Whitaker and Baxter waged a campaign against the Faceless Man—the idea was Baxter’s—who might end up replacing him. Baxter drew a picture, on a tablecloth, of a fat man with a cigar poking out from beneath a face hidden by a hat, and then had him plastered on billboards all over the city, with the question 'Who’s Behind the Recall?' Pretend that you are the Voice of the People. Whitaker and Baxter bought radio ads, sponsored by 'the Citizens Committee Against the Recall,' in which an ominous voice said, 'The real issue is whether the City Hall is to be turned over, lock, stock, and barrel, to an unholy alliance fronting for a faceless man.' (The recall was defeated.) Attack, attack, attack. Whitaker said, 'You can’t wage a defensive campaign and win!'"
PUBLISHED: Sept. 17, 2012
LENGTH: 27 minutes (6785 words)
[Fiction] Taking a trip to Times Square:
"Ginny had promised to take the girls to M&M World, that ridiculous place in Times Square they had passed too often in a taxi, Maggie scooting to press her face to the glass to watch the giant smiling M&M scale the Empire State Building on the electronic billboard and wave from the spire, its color dissolving yellow, then blue, then red, then yellow again. She had promised. 'Promised,' Olivia said, her face twisted into the expression she reserved for moments of betrayal. 'Please,' Olivia whined. 'You said "spring."'"
PUBLISHED: March 6, 2012
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4904 words)
The first thing Kiki Ostrenga saw as she ran out the front door of her family's white ranch house were the neon-green words spray-painted across the front path: "Regal Slut." She stopped short. Maybe this is just a dream, she thought. The 14-year-old took a few fearful steps forward. She gasped when she reached the driveway. Her parents' home was splattered with ketchup, chocolate syrup and eggs. And across the garage door, big as a billboard, was scrawled the word "SLUT."
PUBLISHED: April 18, 2011
LENGTH: 25 minutes (6281 words)
I’m coming to the conclusion that searching for the "real" Glenn Beck makes no sense. The truth is, demagogues don't have cores. They are mediums, channeling currents of public passion and opinion that they anticipate, amplify, and guide, but do not create; the less resistance they offer, the more successful they are. This nonresistance is what distinguishes Beck from his confreres in the conservative media establishment, who have created more sharply etched characters for themselves. Rush Limbaugh plays the loud, steamrolling uncle you avoid at Thanksgiving. Bill O’Reilly is the angry guy haranguing the bartender. Sean Hannity is the football captain in a letter sweater, asking you to repeat everything, slowly. But with Glenn Beck you never know what you’ll get. He is a perpetual work in progress, a billboard offering YOUR MESSAGE HERE.
PUBLISHED: Dec. 9, 2010
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4397 words)
How Clive Davis and Arista won the battle to sign Whitney Houston—then went searching for songs for her debut:
"Two years later, Griffith got a call from a friend. Had he ever heard of Whitney Houston? She asked him. He remembered her name immediately from the show he'd seen and said so. 'You better move fast,' she cautioned. 'She's negotiating with Elektra for a deal.' The news shook him up. 'I said, "Uh-oh - I better check this out,"' he recalls. As it turned out, Houston was performing that very weekend at another New York club, Seventh Avenue South. Griffith called Houston's manager, Gene Harvey, and had his name put on the guest list.
"'So I went down, and I was completely floored,' Griffith says now. 'She was mesmerizing. I couldn't believe she had grown so much in that two-year period. She went from a teenager to a woman. She had a mature look, her voice was more mature, she had obvious star quality. It took no genius to see it - all you had to do was just see her and you knew. I'll never forget, she sang the song "Tomorrow" from [the musical] Annie, and it was a showstopper. After I got up off the floor, I just knew that I had to bring her to the label.'"
PUBLISHED: Feb. 1, 1986
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2556 words)