Good Evening, I’m Chip
Fortuna. God’s Off Today
Legendary sportscaster and political commentator Chip Fortuna, who died 60 years ago today, belonged to the golden era of journalistic expression, one devoid of fears of embarrassing powers that be and unbound by the politically correct.
Controversial he was and would often emerge from his well-publicized brawls bruised and execrated by his own peers. Dopes, he’d mutter. A maverick, he could always come out with the perfect quip to ultimately vindicate his position.
A perfect fit for the expression larger than life, many a time he was described as a combo of Ernest Hemingway and James Cagney, and hard-boiled was another expression that was probably created to define his sheer manliness.
There was no half measure to Chip. He could be as viciously cruel, especially when drunk – his operating mode – and unabashed loyal, evidenced by the many potshots he took defending his friends.
Despite his large 6’3″ frame, he could be nimble at tango and a charmer with the ladies. He did well as a war correspondent, becoming fluent in six languages and learning to curse in seven others.
Not a bad banjo player either, according to contemporary Django Reinhardt. But since he detested boasting about anything, no list of celebrity friends will follow, lest not mistreat Chip any more than peacetime has already.
A wolf of another age, it’s easy to imagine his displeasure with the comforts of the modern era. Nonetheless, he would’ve been impressed by the many new ways people invented to justify not moving a muscle to change the world.
For at heart, he was an idealist who’d do no better alive today, than his outdated habit of calling woman dames, and Asians, Orientals; well
Good evening, I’m Chip Fortuna,
* stepping in for god, who’s playing softball for charity at Rikers Island.
* substituting for god, who got arrested last night. Cops hate the you-know-whom-you’re-talking-to routine.
* doing it for god, who’s in bed, with a migraine and some cough. Don’t worry, I gave him soup and some aspirin.
* subbing out for god, who’s locked his keys inside the car. I told him he’s not having mine.
* standing in for god, who’s running a marathon, you know, for the kids.
* replacing god, who’s refused to come out of his room today. He must apologize to Aunt Eve; she’s very hurt.
* filling in for god, who’s home nursing a shiner. He got into a fight with a guy claiming to be Jesus at the local soup kitchen.
* stepping in for god, who’s taking the cat to the vet. Tough job because they hate each other’s guts.
* substituting god, who’s visiting grandma upstate. She’s doing time for armed robbery.
* doing it for god, who’s at home all day waiting for the cable guy. The damned box never worked properly.
* subbing out for god, who’s banned on the air for as long as he keeps screaming his hair is blond. His pubic hair.
* standing in for god, who simply can’t handle it today. You people…
* replacing god, who’s gone to the DMV. They’d taken his license away years ago for DWUI.
* filling in for god, who got arrested again, last night, for exposing himself on the subway.
* stepping in for god, who’s having some memory issues. Last night, he couldn’t remember who he was.
* substituting for god, who got caught partying at a motel with some teens. I need to pick him up downtown.
* doing it for god, who’s making some dough shooting pool at Billy’s.
* subbing out for god, who was fired after some child porn was found stashed in his cabinet files.
* standing in for god, who’s skipped town and is on the lam. Watch out, he’s armed and may be dangerous.
at least he’d never call them broads and once punched a guy in Chinatown for using a slur against a florist.
Chip took along with him the now obsolete concept of doing something nice for someone just for the kicks of it. In any case, he’d get quickly deranged by so many flukes and grandstanding phonies babbling around all the time.
A carnivore who suddenly became a vegan before the word was even invented, the reason he gave for the change put to shame many a Christian preacher: for the animals, he chuckled, unconcerned (more)
* Before Afterlife
* Final Cut
* Out to Get You
that people would think of it as out of character. Out of safety, no one ever dared to call him a pussy, though.
But it was the way he’d wrap his on-air chronicles that remains the most distinctive feature of his complex legacy. Suffused with his quicksilver wit – sharp-tongued and absolutely merciless – they stand as a journalism chapter of their own, still being taught at classrooms across the land.
Tonight, we’re all Chip Fortuna, standing in for god, who could never do a better job anyway. Glad to get acquainted, Skipper.
(*) Originally published on June 23, 1916.