The Observer Dec. 16 

It’ll be a blue Christmas without Gil Thorpe calling “time out,” forming a “T” with his hands the way coaches do, interrupting the story in progress so that he and his associates can wish newspaper readers a merry Christmas. Well, maybe it won’t be all that blue — truth is, many of us haven’t been following Gil the way we once did — but it’ll be one more thing gone where only the Ghost of Christmas Past can take you. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette announced Dec. 9 that it had canceled the “Gil Thorpe” comic strip and was replacing it with something called “The Elderberries.” For those who don’t read the funnies, “Gil Thorpe” was sort of an athletic soap opera. For nearly 50 years, Coach Thorpe had the answer to every problem, on and off the playing field. In Arkansas, the strip first appeared in the old Arkansas Gazette. After the Arkansas Democrat vanquished the Gazette in a newspaper war that ended in 1991, the surviving paper, now calling itself the Democrat-Gazette, picked up Thorpe and other comics from its deceased rival. As the number-one paper in Arkansas at the time, the Gazette had carried most of the top strips. The D-G still has several other comic strips that began in the ’50s and seem to have lost some of their original sparkle — “Judge Parker” (another soap opera), “Beetle Bailey,” “Dennis the Menace.” You have to wonder if some of these will be following “Gil Thorpe” into the sunset pretty soon. But the D-G’s oldest comic strip is probably in no danger of involuntary retirement. “Blondie” (the official name — about as many people call it “Dagwood” or “Dagwood and Blondie”) began in 1930. Though newspaper comics have declined in popularity since their pre-TV heyday, as have newspapers generally, “Blondie” still appears in more than 2,000 newspapers in 55 countries, and annually ranks among the five most popular strips in reader surveys, according to the King Features syndicate. “Blondie” may bury the Democrat-Gazette. Fans may be reading it in the Arkansas Times someday. We’re glad that Little Rock’s Jermain Taylor won his professional boxing match last week against what was supposed to the most formidable opponent he’s yet faced. But we were a little put off by the pre-fight TV commercials, which solicited attendance with the slogan “Season’s Beatings.” Speaking of commercials, God’s taking out advertising again. We know this because we were driving behind a panel truck last week whose back side announced, in white letters on a black background: “I love you and you and you. — God.” But this was no ordinary advertising vehicle, if you’ll excuse our pun. Because a second or so later, as if by a miracle, God’s ad was suddenly replaced by a picture of a church and its invitation to drop by on Sunday. We stared and stared and realized the truck was fitted, on its back and side panels, with slats that flipped. But wait! These weren’t simple two-sided slats, because there was a third ad. The slats flipped, and now pictures of huge pizzas and information on the specials at a local pizza parlor were made manifest. We were left to wonder if the fancy truck was owned by a proselytizing pizza parlor, or if God likes pizza. The two are not mutually exclusive, of course. We couldn’t help ourselves Friday morning when we read that some of Dorothy Rodham’s belongings were going to be included in an estate sale. The Observer dashed over to a house on Pine Manor, fronted by no fewer than 40 cars on the narrow, pine-lined street near Hall High. The house was crowded with humanity and knickknacks, but, like most people there, we suspect, we could not tell what items Rodham had contributed to the sale. So we asked (and lots of people were glad we did) and were told to look for an R on her things: A small gingerbread-style carved table (already sold to a woman who was delighted to hear of its provenance), a dining room table, an Oriental stool, a print said to be a gift from a foreign head of state, and more. We did look, and found, in the back room, the more: A vibrating backrest with attached reading lamp! A gift, we were assured, of the former president and his wife to Mrs. Rodham only last year. (It didn’t suit her, we were told, she was dumping it.) Sold! Bet you can’t wait for The Observer’s estate sale.


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