Category Archives: 1987

The Mystery of Beth Din

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.”

Great Seal of the State of Arkansas
Source: Wikimedia Commons

This, according to one of many who knew Beth Din and did not want his name published in this investigtion 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.”

Revenge?

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.

And Whatever Happens, You Heard It Here, First

Voices (op-ed) column, 1st run Monday 13 April 1987 in the Arkansas Democrat
By Ben Pollock Jr.
Guest Writer
Editor’s note: Ben Pollock Jr. is a copy editor for the Arkansas Democrat.
Copyright 1987 Ben S. Pollock

Clip of my 4/13/1987 column
Clip of my 4/13/1987 column

My favorite gadfly, “Biff” Mumsword, let slip last night a political bouquet sure to shake up Arkansas Democrats.

Hanging out in bars pays off. Particularly if you drop a few big names.

Here goes, and remember, you heard it here first.

Sen. David Pryor, D-Ark., fresh from leading a tour of the “clean plate” nutrition club to the Soviet Union, soon will form an exploratory committee to help him “decide” to run for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination.

Of course, Pryor has already decided to run, or so I’m told. And here’s the other shoe to drop — straight from the best barkeep, amateur astronomer Dr. “Buster” Morgenstern, proprietor of Casa Nova, the Mexican-Cajun cantina where I wait for politicos to stop by.

Morgenstern says Mahlon Martin, director of the state Department of Finance and Administration and Arkansas’ leading economic indicator, will manage Pryor’s campaign.

Neither Pryor nor Martin, nor for that matter anyone connected with them, will confirm this, but that never stops me.

My contacts with the Clean Plate Club did talk over dinner and drinks, though we had to delay our conversation for Morgenstern to finish nailing another star to the wall.

By the way, the blackened bluefish is delightful.

The clubbers — who include boom-or-busters Jack and Witt Stephens, retail king William T. Dillard, discount king Sam Walton, chicken a la king Don Tyson and a modern major general — prefer I refer to the group by its official name, the Good-for-You Council, although the other newspaper calls it “Star Wars,” which the administration in Washington insists is the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Where was I? That’s mean cuisine. I wish I had a personal computer and a telephone hookup at my central Casa Nova table, where everybody knows my name. Then my columns could write themselves.

With Sen. Dale Bumpers red-shirted and the Legislature having stymied Gov. Bill Clinton, Pryor will be left holding the bag (of cliches), my sources assured me.

Mahlon Martin is a patient man and knows the numbers. He is willing to wait for higher office but in the meantime can build valuable contacts, not to mention experience, by running Pryor’s race.

It was Martin’s doing, after all, that kept Pryor’s name from being mentioned as a presidential contender too early. The public accountant certainly had me fooled.

You should keep an eye on Pryor, now that I’ve begun the rumors, but I would suggest also watching Martin. He perhaps could be the first Arkansas politicians to fool all of the people all of the time. I have that on good authority.

* * *

Brummett's column ran day later, 4/14/1987. Coincidence?
Brummett’s column ran day later, 4/14/1987. Coincidence?

While Biff Mumsword was taking care of business at a pay phone, a political animal in red satin gym shorts came up to me and purred, “Bubba, can you spare a dime?”

I told her ethics came before anything and that a direct contribution would constitute a conflict of interest for my newspaper.

“I heard you all had deep pockets,” she cooed.

“That was inflation, honey,” I replied with some remorse.

By this time Morgenstern had switched off Casa Nova’s neon sign. The waitresses had begun putting the chairs on the tables.

It had been hours since members of the Clean Plate Club cleaned their plates and emptied their glasses and were chauffeured home to their wives. Biff, it turns out, had a dime.

After a long, hard night of reporting, I had a column for today’s editions.

If some other newspaper tries to claim an exclusive on Pryor and Martin, remember — you read it here, first.

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