Letter to the Editor

The late Jim Comstock, Editor & Publisher of “THE WEST VIRGINIA HILLBILLY used to say that he sent more copies of his weekly publication to New York City than THE NEW YORKER magazine sent to West Virginia. As a regular subscriber, you could not only become reacquainted with State history, folklore and just plain stories of interest. One particular one was that the famous movie star Laurence Tierney, who had starred in “Dillinger” as well as other portrayals of persons on the dark side of our society, had died near Charleston, WV. and in his final years had been giving gift subscriptions to the HILLBILLY to local honor students. Lawrence Tierney in real life was not to distant from some of the characters he had portrayed. In fact it was almost as though he got into a role and never came out, having been convicted of manslaughter by kicking his victim to death serving time in prison for this crime. One afternoon, this writer was having a conversation with one of the theatres’ stagehands and mentioned the newspaper story and the response was “That can’t be true, because I had a beer with him the other night here in New York City”. Of course, knowing the accuracy of the press (usually) could only say, “That’s what I read.”

Several days later, the cashier called me and said there was someone in the lobby, who wanted to see the Manager. Coming down the stairs, there was, you guessed it, Laurence Tierney saying in a loud voice to any who would listen, “I just came to see the SOB who says I’m dead”. That episode was close enough, but for a real insight of time sweeping across the eyes, on a particular Saturday morning, I took a break from the office paperwork and just stood in the lobby watching the people pass by and as I looked across the street, I saw a familiar face of a man walking a couple of dogs. Turning to the doorman  saying “Look, there’s Phil Harris”. He looks at me and says “Who’s Phil Harris?” I answered, “He’s the band leader for Jack Benny and he’s married to Alice Faye.” His reply, “Who are they?”

Jack Ballard



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