Headline writers are a strange bunch who long to write obituaries about people named Stiff, pole-vaulters named High and politicians with names like Crook or Shyster.
Sadly, it’s not often the planets align and all the elements are present for a truly memorable head, or “hed,” as us old-timers say (and opening paragraphs of stories are “ledes,” not leads).
So, I was plumb tickled when I read about the impending marriage of Mr. Burger and Miss King. Of course, the wedding announcement was headlined Burger-King wedding.
I chuckled, but lamented that the story hadn’t fallen into my lap. So much more could have been done! I thought of three side-splitters in the time it takes to say, “Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us.”
Burger-King matrimonial vows sure to sizzle… Burger-King union promises to be whopper of wedding… Love on the menu at B-K ceremony.
Go ahead, you try. Fun, isn’t it?
I would have come up with more, but Burger King doesn’t super size meals, offer a value menu or have a clown or a pigtailed redhead for a mascot.
Personally, I blame Indiana newspaper legend Jim Bannon for the twisted way my mind works. Jim taught me that headline writing is an art, and that the bold type words above the story should never be a mere label. Strong heds enticed readers to keep reading.
“Heds should roll readers into story,” he insisted.
Of course, he was right. It’s easy to skip over a story headlined, “Burger to marry King.” On the other head, “Burger-King wedding,” as underdeveloped (or should I say “uncooked”) as it is, at least makes you read on to find out if someone is getting married at a hamburger restaurant.
A headline writer can go years without having the makings of a great hed. I didn’t understand how fortunate I was when I was a young sportswriter covering the Haworth High School girls swim team.
That team was a headline writer’s dream, all because of one extremely talented swimmer, one — I’m not making this up — Susie Nipple. I kid you not.
A brilliant athlete, sensational Susie almost always won two or three events. Of course, everyone in the Sports Department longed for Susie to barely lose a race. The headline, of course, would be “Haworth’s Nipple pinched.”
Never happened. Susie was just too fast. And, she never lost her balance and fell into the pool, which robbed of us of publishing news of a confirmed “Nipple slip.”
A few years later, I again stumbled upon headline gold after moving to a newspaper in Plymouth, Indiana, home of a prominent bug-killing business named — drum roll please — Husband Exterminators.
We ghouls of the newsroom always hoped something newsworthy would happen involving Mr. Husband or his employees, preferably a domestic dispute of some sort. Best case scenario: A married couple having their home sprayed by Mr. Husband’s business would get into an argument. Oh how I longed to write the words, “Couple fights after wife calls Husband Exterminators.” But, it wasn’t meant to be. Mr. and Mrs. Husband and their customers all seemed to be exemplary citizens.
I supposed every writer dreams of writing a headline that will live on long after he or she is gone. Me, I had given up. But, Mr. Burger and Miss King gave me new hope.
Perhaps the elements of a perfect hed will drop in my lap someday. When they do, I’ll be ready. Here’s hoping I don’t have writer’s block if Husband Exterminators ever pinch Susie Nipple’s husband at Burger King.