marked the 22nd anniversary of the passing of an icon: humorist
Erma Bombeck, and a great story about her came to mind. Awhile back,
I ran into Fred Tatashore, Emmy-winning producer of the Dinah Shore
Show, and he told me a wonderful Erma Bombeck anecdote.
"One night," he said, "Dinah had arranged for a small dinner party
at her home in honor of Erma Bombeck, who was to appear on the show
and whom Dinah absolutely adored. Show business royalty sat at Dinah's
dinner table that night: Johnny Carson, William Holden, the James
Stewarts, Cary Grant, big names who rarely socialized but who came
out that night because they loved Erma.
"At one point," Fred continued, "Dinah saw Erma looking around the
table at the other guests, leaned in to her and said, 'Well, Erma,
how will your column begin tomorrow?' and, without missing a beat,
Erma said, 'Last night, when I was having dinner with Cary Grant
When I heard that story of Erma's quick wit, I decided to join the
Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, based in Dayton. Must be pretty good,
I thought, to have her name attached to it, so I drove across the
country, from Los Angeles, California, to Dayton, Ohio, to attend
the Workshop at U. Dayton, Erma's alma mater.
Although Erma herself began college life at Ohio U. in Athens, her
writing was not praised, accepted, or encouraged. In fact, the guidance
counselor there advised her to quit journalism and get a job as
a secretary. Instead of following that advice, she enrolled at U.
Dayton where her self-confidence about writing was restored and
encouraged. She was invited to write for the school newspaper and
it was here that Erma Bombeck heard three words from her English
teacher, Brother Tom Price, words that would echo throughout her
life and continue to inspire her. After reading one of her articles,
Brother Tom Price told her, "You can write." His words gave Erma
a necessary emotional push to continue, ultimately blessing this
nation with her remarkable sense of humor.
The entire Bombeck family was at the kick-off event, and I met Erma's
husband, Bill, of whom she had written so often. Keynote speaker
was Jill Conner Browne, author of the Sweet Potato Queen books:
SPQ's Book of Love; SPQ's Big Assed Cookbook, and a bunch of others.
She showed up with her own entourage, the official Sweet Potato
Queens, dressed in pink boas, pink hats, pink dresses, and Big Hair
wigs. Some of them even wore tiaras. They laughed, stomped and shouted
out whenever Jill said anything funny, which was most of the time.
Their high-spirited humor carried the rest of us right along, laughing
with them. By the way, they were all named Tammy. Erma would've
had a great time that night.
One of my favorite Erma quotes is: "When I stand before God at the
end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit
of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me."
She did share, with a grateful public, everything God gave her,
enabling us to see the humor in life through her eyes.
Thankfully, the Workshop in her name was established at U. Dayton
to encourage new writers, as Brother Tom Price once encouraged Erma
with those three magic words: You can write.
Ohio has produced lots of other famous people: astronauts, inventors,
generals, entertainers, sports stars, and more presidents than any
other state except one (Virginia), but nobody was ever more beloved
than Erma Bombeck.
"A Balloon In Cactus"
- April 23, 2018 column