Gary didn’t start entering the Invitational until its 18th year, 2010 — but he made up for lost time, winning the whole Week 871 contest with his very first ink, then blotting up puddles of the stuff — up to 98 in a single year — consistently since then, with 17 wins and 42 runners-up (he has long since declined the usual Loser swag). And I and the Loser Community have had the pleasure of meeting him at a number of Loser brunches and parties over the years.
Gary has perfectly, totally endearingly cultivated the Mien of Gracious Humility, as when he accepted his Loser of the Year plaque at the 2012 Flushies awards: He immediately clarified to the audience that the prize is a one-and-done award — and that he was actually the sixth-highest scorer that year, behind five people who’d already gotten it.
Here’s the nutshell bio that Gary sent me last night — after I discovered that he’d gotten that 500th blot of ink.
"The most important thing about me right now is that I’m the proud grandfather of Fiona Ariadne Crockett-Atkins, born on May 27. Fiona’s grandmother is also known as Marla, whom I’ve had the tremendous privilege of being married to for the past 49.3 years. [YES! Gary is unbelievably youthful — that photo of him on the weird bike is brand-new and Gary is in his late sixties.]
"Apart from that I’m a programmer, a woodworker, and a recovering software company CEO. I dabble in humor contests, cryptic crosswords, and acrostics. For exercise I ride a Rowingbike and I play what loosely might be called tennis.
“Also, I’ve been told that I am tall.” [That is because he is 6-6. Or, as he puts it, 5-18.]
Here are Gary’s 17 winning entries (so far), starting with that first ink.
1. Week 871 : change a movie title by one letter: The Winner of the Inker: Four Weldings and a Funeral: A man attaches a set of rocket engines to his Chevy and momentarily achieves his dream of driving a flying car. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, a First Offender)
(That same week, he also had an honorable mention: An American in Parts: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 7)
2. Week 905 : fictional anecdotes in response to some of the “Editor’s Query” prompts in The Washington Post Magazine: “A time when a piece of clothing changed my life”: In the jungle you make do with what’s available, so I patched my torn pants seat with a piece of bright red flannel. Had I not, I would have been spared much pain. But I might never have discovered the new species of baboon.
3, just three weeks later, a dig at quarterback Brett Favre, who had come out of retirement three times: Week 908 , recast a movie or TV role: “Shane”: Fire Alan Ladd, hire Brett Favre. Joey: “Shane! Shane! Come back!” Shane: “Okay!”
4. Week 922 [still 2011!], new lyrics for the tune of “The Star-Spangled Banner”:
Send your tired, your poor, (Sing this line to “O, say can you see,” etc.)
Huddled masses also,
And your refuse that’s wretched
From shores that are teeming.
If to breathe free they yearn,
Here’s the place they should go,
Send them here, to the land
Of which they have been dreaming.
And we’ll send them away,
We’ll deport them today
(Unless they’re from Cuba, in which case okay).
We’ve all gone xenophobic,
All foreigners we now eschew.
We’re afraid they’ll take our jobs —
Jobs we don’t want to do.
5. Week 1054, poems about people who died in 2013:
Etch-a-Sketch inventor Andre Cassagnes
Andre Cassagnes, your Etch-a-Sketch showed us
We needn’t just tweak, fix and patch.
That sometimes the best course, for peasant or POTUS,
Is shake and start over from scratch.
6. Week 1064, 2014: Alter a moment in history: 1972: If the Democratic National Committee headquarters had been in the Willard Hotel, every scandal since then would have a name ending in “lard.”
7. Week 1081, 2014: Stupid questions: How do you say “Don’t claw the sofa” in Siamese?
8. Week 1115, 2015: Put a “typo” in a real headline, then write a bank head to go with it:
Royal Couple Checks Out the [Mall] Malt: Charles chugs Colt 45s while Camilla crushes cans against royal forehead
9. Week 1142, 2015: Combine two names into a Twitter handle and write a sample tweet: @OrangeJulius: Could be well mov’d: My friends in the House are sticking knives into me. #IdesOfSeptember
10. Week 1193, 2016: “Poeds,” poems with a six one-syllable words in the first line, three two-syllable words in the second, two threes in the third, and one six-syllable word in the last, plus a rhyme somewhere
Eight of me in my head.
Crazy? Maybe instead
11. Week 1211, 2017: Trash-tweeting laudable people from history: Looks like @TheMessiah*’s getting delusions of grandeur. Thinks he’s @RealDonaldTrump.
12. Week 1225, 2017: Protest march ideas: The Million Middle Managers March: * If It Were Up to Me, I’d Say Yes
13. Week 1341, 2019: Portmanteau words: Muellerotica: “If we had confidence that the earth did not move or that an explosion did not erupt through her as every cell in her body screamed ‘Yes!’ we would have said so.”
14. Week 1374, 2020: Historical rap battles:
Harriet Tubman: I’m an Abolition hero, Union soldier, scout and spy!
Your face is on the twenty still — you wanna tell me why?
Andrew Jackson: You’re crazy if you think that off the twenty I’ll be scoochin’
Don’t care if you’ve got history, because I’ve got Steve Mnuchin!
15. Week 1404, 2020: Ask Backwards:
. A. The Republic Forwhichistan.
Q. Where can you find One Asian Undergod — except he’s invisible?
16. Week 1427, 2021: Double puns about history: 2008: Sen. John McCain announces his running mate: Impalin’ the Ticket, or Wasilladvised
And most recently: 17. Twists on nursery rhymes etc.
Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
Then he made them go away
Encumbered by an NDA.
(But richer by one-thirty K.)
Capitol letters: This week’s acronym contest
This week’s Style Invitational contest, Week 1443, reflects those silly back-formed “acronyms” whose full names are contrived to fit some catchy word. You see them in all aspects of life — education and corporate culture are rife with them — but we’ll do it from the angle of legislation, which was suggested by the Empress’s Royal Consort, Mark Holt, in honor of his birthday.
It might well be a shock to you that members of the United States Congress would attach their names to formal documents defaced with inane, lame, juvenile titles. If so, Mr./Ms./Whatever Van Winkle, please return to your nap. Here are some actual bills, part of an even longer list collected by The Washington Post newsletter The Fix a few years ago, some of which continue to be introduced in each Congress. It’s where I found the HELLPP Act (Helping Ensure Life- and Limb-Saving Access to Podiatric Physicians) that I mention in the intro to this week’s contest.
JAWS Act: Justice Attributed to Wounded Sharks
EGO Act: Eliminating Government-funded Oil-painting
FAIR TOW Act: Fair Action for Interstate Recovery Vehicles on Truck Operating Weights
SMOKE Act: Stop Selling and Marketing to Our Kids E-Cigarettes
DRIVE LESS Act: Domestic Reduction In Vehicle Expenditure and Lowering Emissions from State Sources
TIGER CUBS Act: Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery for Cities Underfunded Because of Size
SAFE HAUL Act: Safe And Fair Environment on Highways Achieved through Underwriting Levels
GROW AMERICA Act: Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency, and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America (“Throughout” is conveniently lowercased because GROW AMERICTA doesn’t quite sing as well.)
RECALL Act: Repairing Every Car to Avoid Lost Lives
PLANT Act: Protecting Lands Against Narcotics Trafficking
QUIET Act: Quell Unnecessary, Intentional, and Encroaching Telephone Calls
And ... SPEAK FREE Act: Securing Participation, Engagement, and Knowledge Freedom by Reducing Egregious Efforts Act
For Invite purposes, I’d think the humor will also lie with the “there oughta be a law” angle — creative peeves (which, ahem, no longer include Those Kids Today and Their Cellphones) along with the acronym.
Question you’ll ask: Does every word have to be used in the acronym? Not necessarily, but leaving out significant words will definitely increase the lameness quotient. You can safely omit little words like “the,” “for,” etc.
The Replacements*: The song-vowel thing of Week 1439
*Non-inking headline by Tom Witte
Relatively few Losers entered the Week 1439 contest — not many more than 100 — but so many of them clearly enjoyed the game of deleting all the vowels in a song title, then adding their choice of vowels back in to make a new song. I ended up with 1,200 entries because more people than usual sent substantial lists, many of them the maximum 25 entries. Almost always when there are few entries, it’s a handful of regulars who get all the ink, but that wasn’t the case this time; in fact, we have three First Offenders, two of them with multiple ink, one of them a runner-up. And some people got their first ink in many years, including Sandy Tenenbaum, who last appeared in 1996.
Since we did the same contest in 2016 with movie titles, I was pretty sure we’d have a fun set of results, but these might even be better than those of Week 1155 because of the mini-parodies included with some of the entries. (Lines from songs that didn’t follow the tune of the originals didn’t work for me as well.)
Fresh off the Clowning Achievement for his cicada diorama four weeks ago, Kevin Dopart scores once again with I’m a Believer > Mob Lover, with odious Sen. Ron Johnson “singing”: “Then I saw their race, now I’m a mob lover/ Not a trace of doubt in my mind.” Instead of a second Disembodied Clown Head trophy, Kevin will receive a little “II” pennant to add to the base until he replaces it with a “III.”
Jon Gearhart, also famed for Invite wordplay, takes second — and wins that classy color-changing toilet night light — with his verse of “Stairway to Heave In.” Greg Johnson of our Canadian Loser Bureau played to the Empress’s copy editor side with “Lie Lady Lie” for just his fifth blot of ink ever. And First Offender Coleman Glenn of the Philadelphia area, who also just joined the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook, gets a Fir Stink for his First Ink to go along with his choice of runner-up Loser Mug or Whole Fools Grossery Bag. But Coleman never spend a week on the Loser Stats’ One-Hit Wonders list, since he had two inking entries this week, as did fellow First Offender Mark Turco. Both newbies sent long and especially clever lists of entries; I hope to see lots more from both of them in future contests.
What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood — meet him on Saturday (see picnic blurb below) found a lot to like this week. He agreed with me on the winners and also singled out Kevin Dopart’s “Hours With an Enema” (“A Horse With No Name”); Frank Mann’s “A Comet Got Her” (“Come Together” — “Finally explains how she got joo joo eyeball and spinal cracker”) Jesse Frankovich’s Don’t Stop > Don T.’s Type: “Please stop thinkin’ about Ivanka"; and Jesse’s “And Last," “Borin’ to Run," about those non-inking entries.
The unprintables: Clever, but too gross for the Invite, I think, especially on such a good week:
Born to Run > Brown Tureen: A chamber pot will have to do when the runs cause thunder on the road. (Kevin Dopart)
Smells Like Teen Spirit > Small Silk Tiny Spurt: The worm sperm bank work song: " Oh, I’ve worked with no thanks in worm sperm banks/ Hoping for a small silk tiny spurt" (Jon Ketzner) [I actually missed that it was about a silkworm, but still.]
Last call! Loser/Devotee picnic, Saturday afternoon, July 3
A couple of weeks ago in this space, I noted that Alex Blackwood, my co-admin of the Style Invitational Devotees group — and Invitational reader-junkie — would be in town from Houston for an unrelated event on July 1, and would be free to Meet the Losers on Friday and Saturday. And she’ll be staying with me and the Royal Consort here at Mount Vermin in Fort Washington, Md., about seven miles due south of the Beltway. Many Losers and Devs are eager to meet her — and one another, now that we’re finally emerging from covid hibernation.
I decided that the best way is to have y’all over for a potluck picnic here at my house, anytime between noon and 4 on Saturday, July 3. I’ll provide chicken and some other stuff (lemonade, watermelon) and you bring a moderate amount of food to eat and share: That way, the more people we have, the more food we’ll have (I really don’t care about how many of each food group), and we don’t have to worry about an accurate count. There’s no program of events; just come and chat; if you like, you can walk in the woods behind our house, or saunter down the hill to the Piscataway Creek waterfront. Kids are welcome, pets not so much. We’ll have tables outside; if it rains, we’ll bring them inside and be a bit cozier.
As always, you don’t have to be a Loser, just someone who enjoys The Style Invitational. I’ve posted information about my address etc. in the Devotees group; if you’re not on Facebook and would like to come, email me at email@example.com. for details. (If I don’t know you, expect to chat with me a bit first.) If you’re planning on coming and I do know you, let me know, too.
And later on we have two (non-Alex, alas) Loser events scheduled: Sunday, Aug. 22: A Loser brunch at the home of Loser Sam Mertens and fam in Silver Spring, Md., which is a dry run for Saturday, Sept. 18: The Flushies, the Losers’ annual awards potluck banquet and songfest, also Chez Mertens, to honor this year’s (and last’s) Loser of the Year, Rookie, Most “Imporved,” Least Imporved, etc.