Joe Biden, Kitty Kelley, and a Letter That Asked for—and Got— Two Corrections to the “Death and the All-American Boy” Story

By Jack Limpert

I got an email comment this week from Katharine Krauss about the current interest in Kitty Kelley’s Joe Biden article in the June 1974 Washingtonian. Titled “Death and the All-American Boy,” the article has received wider circulation since the 2020 election, including a shortened version on the Washingtonian website. Krauss says, “Seems pretty irresponsible to report that article without the correction.”

After the story was published, I got this letter from Wes Barthelmes, then the administrative assistant to Senator Biden, and we published it in the September 1974 issue:

Headlines That Make You Smile

By Mike Feinsilber

Writing newspaper headlines — six or eight words that accurately summarize a story and draw a reader in — is a skill. Writing headlines that have all that and a sense of humor is a gift.

Here are some I’ve collected, starting with a perfect one from the Washington Post’s Style section that appeared on November 25  over a story about a traditional silly presidential ritual:


The rest of these come from the New York Times, which uses more flexible fonts than the Post. The Times can get more words into a headline than the Post, which gives it an advantage when it wants to be cute.

The Peanuts Gang Settles Down for Thanksgiving Dinner and Peppermint Patty Is Not Happy

It was just after Snoopy’s misbegotten culinary efforts when the whole gang settles down for Thanksgiving…and Peppermint Patty is horrified to behold the menu items that Snoopy has served up. She gives a long, somewhat vindictive speech about how toast, pretzel sticks, and popcorn are not suitable Thanksgiving fare, about how the appropriate items must include cranberry, to the immense shame of Charlie Brown.

It is then given to Marcie to attempt to cheer him up (“Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck”), and to give the traditional Peanuts summary of the whole episode: “Those early pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and if they could be thankful, then we should be thankful, too.”

Bill Pryor: A distinguished judge and a good man who knew how to play the game

From a Washington Post obit by Matt Schudel on longtime DC judge William Pryor:

William C. Pryor, who served on the D.C. bench for half a century, including a four-year stint in the 1980s as chief judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals, died Nov. 19. He was 88.

Judge Pryor, who grew up amid segregation in Washington, was appointed to the old D.C. Court of General Sessions — now called the D.C. Superior Court — in 1968 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

He took his seat on the bench soon after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as Washington erupted in rioting and unrest.

Lewis Thomas: “His essays mixed facts about the human body with thoughts about the connectedness of man and the universe.”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of physician and essayist Lewis Thomas. He’s the author of The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974), The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1979), The Youngest Science: Notes of a Medicine Watcher (1983), and Late Night Thoughts on Mahler’s Ninth Symphony (1984).

When Thomas entered Princeton in 1929, his interest was biological research with the hope of increasing the effectiveness of treatment. His other great interest was the poetry of Pound and Eliot.

“What Donald Trump Liked About Being President”

From a New York Times political memo by Matt Flegenheimer and Maggie Haberman headline “What Donald Trump Liked About Being President”:

In November 2018, after a vote that did not matter enough to him to push conspiracy theories about the outcome, President Trump stood in the Rose Garden and delivered the hard truth.

“This was a fair election,” he said to a bird named Carrots, sidelined at the annual White House turkey pardon after being snubbed in an online contest over which privileged poultry (Peas or Carrots) would star in the ritual. “Unfortunately, Carrots refused to concede and demanded a recount, and we’re still fighting with Carrots.”

Yes, Writing Is Hard

“You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins and bleed.” –Red Smith

“Let’s face  it. Writing is hell.” —William Styron

“You build a book out of sentences. And the sentences are built up out of details. So you’re working brick by brick. And the bricks are heavy.” —Philip Roth

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” —Stephen King

“I hate writing. I love having written.” —Dorothy Parker

Fred Hills: “His view of the editor-author relationship was one of ‘unindicted co-conspirators.’”

From a New York Times obit by Katharine Q. Seelye headlined “Fred Hillls, Editor of Nabokov and Many Others, Dies at 85”:

It was 1958, and Fred Hills, a graduate student trying to earn some extra cash, was selling books at the Emporium department store in San Francisco. He picked up a copy of Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita,” which had just been published in the United States, and read the opening: “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.”

Mr. Hills was so electrified that he paid the full retail price of $5 for the hardback — the first he had ever bought, apart from textbooks.

Arundhati Roy: “I wrote the way an architect designs a building”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of novelist and essayist Arundhati Roy, born in Shillong, India in 1959. She was raised by a single mother and left home when she was 16. She lived in a squatter’s camp, went to architecture school, wrote for television and film, and worked as an aerobics instructor.

Peace and Quiet Return to Page One Headlines

New York Times

Trump relents, lets transition proceed
—Washington Post

Biden Chooses Yellen to Lead U.S. Treasury
—Wall Street Journal

New York Post

Trump clears path for Biden transition plan
Los Angeles Times

After weeks of delay, process starts for new White House team
—Miami Herald

Biden filling top cabinet spots
Chicago Tribune

Biden transition formally begins
—Boston Globe

Biden builds team as transition begins
Houston Chronicle

Many Americans face lonely Thanksgiving
USA Today