Sometimes there’s nothing you can do but laugh. In the past two months I’ve been interviewed dozens of times about the themes of Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe, my GoodKnight Books release. It’s a story with so many angles that the media practically has a smorgasbord. But my experience of a couple days ago was one I didn’t see coming and an angle I wasn’t comfortable talking about at all.
A certain talk show host at a radio station in a major Midwestern city asked me for a 7- to 10-minute interview. It was on the schedule for 10 days. Sometimes the station calls me and sometimes I call the station. Usually, I speak first with a producer during a commercial break who patches me in so I hear the intro, and then go live. Well, this time it was me doing the calling, and there wasn’t any conversation with a producer. I automatically went into a queue where I heard the commercial break and then the talk show host, a woman, started her segment with a folksy chat about the holidays, and I thought she was segueing nicely into a mention of It’s a Wonderful Life and then here I’d come after she completed a standard welcome of Jimmy Stewart biographer Robert Matzen.
She was going on about the baking of holiday cookies, and I wondered how she was going to bring it back to Mission, but OK I’m sitting there listening waiting for the plane to circle around to my direction. Then she started talking about the “Cookie King,” Robert Merten who has written a book about holiday cookies and in a split second I realized: Wait a minute. Robert Matzen, Robert Merten. World War II book, cookie book.
It’s a horrible thing when you realize, This plane isn’t landing. This plane is about to crash. She launched into an adoring, full-fledged introduction to Cookie King Robert Merten and the deeper she got into it, and the closer I got to going live, the faster my brain operated as I tried to think of what to do. I imagined the conversation that was about to take place, the one where I hesitated and stumbled my way through an explanation of how, yeah, I like cookies just fine but I’m not the king of them and in fact my blood isn’t blue but rather, it’s as red as the next guy’s, and I’ve written this book called Mission about death in the heavens over Germany. It would be a conversation blinded on both sides by egg on faces, and there would be earwitnesses all over a major Midwestern city.
The flop-sweat started to flow as she brought the intro into what she imagined was a smooth landing with a warm, “Joining me today in a rare radio appearance is the Cookie King himself, Robert Mert—
Yes, people, I strapped on my ’chute and jumped before the plane crashed in flames. I left the host to die in the cockpit and I besmirched Robert Merten’s reputation but at that moment the Cookie King was on his own and I was out of the doomed ship in one piece. I lived to fight another day.
The post-mortem with Sarah my top-notch publicist left us both baffled (and her furious on my behalf), and I don’t feel too bad because somebody at that station wasn’t paying very close attention: How do you confuse an author who’s written a book about cookies with an author who’s written a book about World War II? I mean, I can sort of imagine how this crash happened, but only sort of, and the startling lack of preparation on their end mitigates any guilt I felt about bailing out with bare seconds until impact.
For the record, the Cookie King’s book is entitled, logically enough, The Cookie King, and sports a royal crest on its cover. The subtitle is, “Delicious, sweet and savory cookies from a lifetime journey of cookie baking” and my sweet tooth thinks it must be a steal at $34.95.
So there you have it, just another day in the life of an author who is soldiering on in a major publicity campaign. And Robert Merten, the next time you realize that somebody has booked you to talk about Jimmy Stewart as a combat pilot in World War II, please bail at the last moment and leave the host to crash in flames. At that point we’ll be even.
I’m sorry — but I can’t stop laughing.
And can you please send me a decent recipe for Snickerdoodles, Mr. Merten? Or was that Matzum?
I think of you every time I drive past Matson Insurance on Babcock Boulevard.
Thanks Tom. I think.
Mostly about how you hate when folks misspell your name.
I am thinking of changing my name to Robert Pierre-Paul. That would be AWESOME. I got the idea seeing Jason Pierre-Paul playing against the Steelers Sunday. Mission by Robaire Pierre-Paul? YES!!
How do wookies like their cookies?
Hey, at least you have a funny story to tell next time you see a friend you don´t get to see that often- or here.
You should try one of this COOKIE KING recipes for next time you get confused with him. Either that or people will stop you to say how sorry they are to hear about your daughter´s divorce!
Sorry we missed you when you were in town here in Toledo. My wife is Lindsey Potts whose father Ramsey Potts was a close friend of Jimmy Stewart’s. Although he passed away a number of years ago I have boxes of his papers and we’ll be happy to share anything related to Jimmy Stewart if you’re interested.
Dave, I’m just catching up on my blog and am astonished to see this message and learn who your wife is. Of course Ramsey Potts plays a prominent role in the Mission narrative for the critical months he and Jim spent together at Old Buckenham in mid-1944. It would have been great to meet up in person, and how I wish I had known of the existence of those papers even a year ago. Is there anything Stewart-related in them, do you know?
It’s a wise pilot who knows the proper time to bail.
Thanks for the funny anecdote, Robert. You’ve used your writer’s skill and humour to turn a negative chapter from the book of life into a positive one by providing us all with a nice laugh.
Well done, Mr. Merten, or whoever you are.
It’s great to hear from you, Tom! I’m interested to get your take on It’s a Wonderful Life turning 70 this month, and hope you have Happy Holidays.
Was just alerted to this! I did so enjoy my Holiday Radio interview and the publicity for my book!
So sorry you were cut off, I hope the station made amends!
If you would like a copy of The Cookie King, please let me know !
The Cookie King
Robert, this is fantastic. I had to re-read that column to remind myself of that dark day when I was mistaken for the Cookie King and took the coward’s way out. I hope you are well and your book sold in the tens of thousands.