PETALUMA, Calif. - I still have the picture somewhere of me pointing a cigar, with about the same emphatic look on my face as Darren McGavin (pictured here) confronting his editor, played by Simon Oakland.
The photo comes from the movie The Night Stalker which later became a tv series. But the initial Night Stalker was a wild ride of a made-for-tv movie. And if you were in the news business, well, it was too much fun.
Kolchak discovers that there is a vampire loose in Las Vegas - a real one, not just some retiree on a bus trip who has played the slots too long and seems like they are the undead.
But his editor is skeptical. (Who wouldn't be?)
The local authorities are concerned it will be bad for business. (A universal theme, correct?)
But Kolchak won't let it go and in this scene finally confronts his editor.
"This nut thinks he's a vampire. He killed five, maybe six women. And he's drained every drop of blood from every one of them. And that is news, Vincenzo, news. And we are newspaper. We print the news. We don't supress it."
My editor at the Petaluma Argus-Courier, and the reporters who worked directly for me, got so sick of hearing me light up with some variation of that quote photographer Tom Balmer finally took a picture of me, waving my cigar and printed the text of the quote in the corner, handing it to me in a little newsroom ceremony. It's still a prized possession.
It was part tribute, part shut up, willya. But in weird way, the quote - and Darren McGavin's dogged pursuit of the story - set the tone for that newsroom. The city officials in Petaluma thought that they had a whole newspaper full of Karl Kolchaks on their collective asses. And they did, I suppose. Several of the city councilmen looks kind of like vampires, now that I think back about it.
McGavin just died, well into his 80s after a long and successful film career.
My nomination for his best work should be pretty obvious.
R.I.P. Karl Kolchak.