Perhaps you remember him from his curmudgeonly news commentary on Channel 3 in Cleveland for several years.
Or maybe you read his columns in The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. Or maybe, like me, you were reading him all the way back to his days with the Cleveland Press.
Did you know he used to work for the Sandusky Register? Yep. Last stop before he went to Cleveland, I believe.
At any rate, I was always a fan. And I was happy when I got the chance to tell him in person. I ran into him one day in the Sandusky Mall and worked up the moxie to approach and share some kind words.
I also reminded him of the time I had some fun at his expense in this column.
It was an April Fools joke, fake news before it was fashionable. And it featured Doreen Gentzler, fetching young anchorwoman on Channel 3 news in Cleveland from 1983 to 1988. Everyone in northern Ohio knew who she was. Dick Feagler was doing news commentary on the same station.
So I wrote a column in which I claimed that I had run into Doreen Gentzler shopping at a Cleveland mall. We talked. I told her about the column I write. And she told me that Dick Feagler was planning to retire. She encouraged me (I claimed) to apply for his job. In fact, she said she would put in a good word for me.
And, since I was making it all up anyhow, I got the job.
On April 2, 1986 I announced that within a few weeks I would be leaving the Reflector to do the news commentary on Channel 3.
I ended the story with a not-so-subtle hint. Something like: “Of course, don’t forget I wrote this story yesterday, April 1.”
But hardly anybody caught it. In fact, people were coming up to me for days to congratulate me on my new job.
One night that same week, I was watching the 11 o’clock news. The weather guy was saying something like “….it is currently 47 degrees in Medina, 46 in Vermilion and 45 in Norwalk…” In the background, I could hear laughter.
“What’s so funny?” asked the weather man. “They have weather in Norwalk.”
Cut to Doreen and Dick Feagler. “Of course they do,” Doreen said. “We are just laughing because some guy in the paper out there pulled an April Fools hoax that involves us.”
That caused me to sit straight up in bed because, of course, the jerk they were talking about was me.
The next day, I called the station and asked to speak to Doreen. “She’s not available at the moment,” the switchboard person said. “Would you like to leave a message?”
“OK,” I said. “My name is Jim Busek and I…”
The woman cut me off, saying: “We know all about you, Mr. Busek. People have been calling here for two days, asking if it is true that you are going to be doing commentary on Channel 3.”
I think you would have to agree, an April Fools prank by a small town newspaper columnist that makes the 11 o’clock news in Cleveland would have to be considered pretty good.
Doreen Gentzler was actually in Norwalk a few weeks later and I got to meet her. She was sweet and charming and forgiving. In 1988 she moved on to Philadelphia and then to Washington, DC where she can still be seen anchoring the news every night in the nation’s capital.
The day I ran into Dick Feagler at the mall, he said he remembered my prank. He wasn’t exactly sweet and charming like Doreen. But he was forgiving. He had, after all, spent his life coming up with story ideas.
And I like to think he would appreciate appearing in one more column, even after the final deadline for grumpy and gifted Dick Feagler passed last week.
Jim Busek is a freelance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.