Guest column, a parody, first run Monday 5 January 1987 in the Arkansas Democrat, Page 5B, Voices op-ed page
Copyright 1987 Ben S. Pollock
By Ben Pollock Jr.
“Beth. Sure, I remember. Heard she went to Hollywood.”
This, according to one of many who knew Beth Din and did not want his name published in this investigation on her reappearance and flight this past year. (A polygraph test confirmed he did know her.)
Who was Beth Din, the small-town girl who many say got uppity when she preferred “doing lunch” to meeting for coffee?
Ms. Din was born around 1940, and while a college student in the late 1950s, a person or persons turned her town, West Camden, upside down. The foundations of decency were upended. Upright citizens got headaches.
The Little Rock press picked up the story, as did the wire services. The town eventually got itself right-side-up again.
Ms. Din fancied herself a journalist, and several months ago returned to try her hand at movie making, although some townspeople, the ones who knew her best, said she fancied herself a movie maker and returned to try her hand at journalism.
She was the latest to visit and attempt to make sense of the day gravity forgot West Camden.
While looking for investors, Ms. Din sold her efforts to a newspaper.
“Beth’s project looked better in print,” said a movie studio mogul, who preferred swearing on a stack of Bibles to a urinalysis. “If it’s in the newspaper it must be true, and this one is older than the Los Angeles Times.”
Meanwhile, the newspaper series went on and on. And on.
Then, on Christmas Eve: “Last of a series … All rights reserved.” And Beth Din disappeared.
Ms. Din’s high school sweetheart, Rupert Neufchatel, was dumbfounded. “I believed her when she said she was the same girl, that nothing had changed. I suspect foul play.”
Set on Its Ear
Former Mayor Al Japheth remembers both when West Camden was set on its ear and Ms. Din: “By the time West Camden straightened up, Beth was standing on her head and chanting.”
Next-door neighbor Sam Ham recalled the University of Southern California “taught her how to make documentaries, docudramas and melodramas. She flunked out before, before, she learned the difference between, between rape and pillage.”
Ham’s nurse, Lem Shem, explained: “Like many people who were middle-aged in the 1950s, Ham is real slow now.”
Ms. Din had acne as a teen.
A retired druggist said, “I was bringing in a delivery from the alley one day when the phone rang.
“When I got back out, six months’ inventory of Clearasil was gone. It had to be Beth. I heard all the teenagers went to Beth’s for Clearasil and sulfur soap, black-market style. Couldn’t prove it.”
A merchant said, “There was a period when no one could get chocolate or fried food without Beth Din.”
A judge said, “The Piggly Wiggly manager called the police the week after Christmas one time. It was Beth. Seems she was at the half-price table biting the heads off chocolate Santa Clauses.
“Geeking is a misdemeanor here. I fined her two weeks’ allowance and the price of the candy.”
Why did Beth Din disappear? Why did she write “Mystery at West Camden”? Revenge? To make Arkansas look silly? Easy money? The fact you can’t libel dead people?
This reporter has written his story but still has some good juicy notes that may provide some answers. After all, dead men tell no tales, but give then enough cream sherry and old gray ladies will.
Darn. I can’t read my notebooks. Someone threw water on them, and I write with felt tips. Someone’s going to have to pay for this. And look. My tape recorder. …
Editor’s note: Shortly after this article was turned in, Ben Pollock, the Democrat’s assistant wire editor, disappeared mysteriously. We assigned an intern reporter to investigate. We told her not to rush.