June 1, 2015 by

This column was printed in the 2015 May/June issue of Omaha Magazine.

It says right there in an old bio I sent out years ago, “I was once Paul Newman’s bodyguard.”

Okay, I lied.

Or, did I?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell. I mean we start out lying at such an early age. I’ve seen studies where scientists have discovered that spreading deliberate falsehoods is in our DNA.

Or did they?

Maybe I’m exaggerating what they discovered. Maybe I just saw it on Facebook—where I also discovered yesterday that President Obama binge watches Overhaulin’ originally from The Learning Channel.

Which brings up a salient point—if TLC and The Learning Channel run shows like 19 Kids and Counting, Sister Wives, and Love, Lust, or Run, then is it a lie to call themselves The “Learning” Channel? Maybe they’re truthful. Maybe I should learn from them, even if the lessons taught are at times contradictory and always impractical.

Do we lie because it’s in our nature, or is it nurture? My mom used to tell us kids that if we ate the crusts of our PB&J sandwiches we’d be able to whistle. Now, since I was the only one of my siblings who could ever whistle, did my mom lie to the brother and sisters? They turned out to be bigger liars than I did. Maybe it was the way they were brought up.

I learned to be honest at my father’s knee. My dad once told me, “There are only three things you should never lie about; love, dinnertime, and taxes.” Though he also offered an addendum, “Pay your accountant to lie about the taxes.”

Lying is everywhere.

And the media, well the airwaves and lies go together like chemicals and life. One is not possible without the other. Brian Williams is a liar. That’s what I’ve been told. He lied about his helicopter being shot down in Iraq. NBC suspended him without pay for six months. So, he’s out about $5 million, not counting the side money he made as my stand-in for my L.L. Bean catalogue modeling assignments.

Bill O’Reilly is a liar, though there isn’t enough space here to enumerate all of the falsehoods he’s likely guilty of spreading. What’s Bill-O’s punishment? Higher ratings. Proving once again that venue is more important that veracity.

Of course, we were all outraged by their lies. We all called talk radio shows to condemn Bill and/or Brian. Who we were most mad at depended on whom we most agreed with. We were so mad some of us posted something on Facebook about how scandalized we were…right under our Photoshopped profile pics.

The irony always escapes us.

So, back to my bio, was I actually Paul Newman’s bodyguard?

You be the judge. In 1968 during the Nebraska Presidential Primary campaign, the movie star himself came to town to speak on behalf of “Clean” Gene McCarthy. The organizers needed “security,” so they recruited some tall college students to show up and form a protective ring around the diminutive star. When the predicable surge of hysterical female fans rushed us, and the station wagon tailgate that Paul stood on so as to be seen, I was terrified. I was petrified. No, I was worse that that…I was shy. Despite the fact that I was touched, grabbed, and groped in ways I had never been before (or since) as I stood between the mob and their prey, our adolescent phalanx held. Paul, who remained true to form “cool,” spoke. No one laid a hand on him…and I could write in my bio:

I was once Paul Newman’s bodyguard.

Go ahead… suspend me.

OtisXII