It was more than 3,000 daily columns ago that then-Daily News editor Zack Stalberg asked me if I wanted to take over Tattle.
"I already have a job," I said.
This being the Daily News, I already had multiple jobs.
Do this too, he said. You're better at this than your other jobs.
Who could say no to such a compliment–and the whopping $50 raise that came with it?
So a photo appeared in the paper with Dan Gross and I standing on a ladder and "Nubian Princess" Jenice Armstrong (Stalberg's words, not mine) standing on the floor between us, and I took the baton passed from Susan Stewart to Ann Gerhart to Francesca Chapman to Regina Medina.
All of these Tattle writers brought their own style, sense of humor and quirks to the job, which was essentially to aggregate celebrity gossip stories from media outlets around the world, eons before aggregating celebrity gossip became an industry unto itself.
Some days, during the heyday of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears or when Tiger Woods was getting it on with more women than The Bachelor, the job was easy–a string of off-color jokes and bad puns.
Other days, not much happened, and the hole on the page remained the same size, so I had to get more creative, expanding two-line items into short stories, looking beyond the typical celebrities to people on the outskirts of stardom, or not stars at all.
Over the past few years, after I said everything I had to say about the Kardashians, Chris Brown, Rihanna, Mel Gibson, Josh Duggar or whomever, I began to use the celebrity items as a jumping off point to write about politics (ugh), gender pay inequality (against), the shrinking middle class (against), unions (for), political correctness (usually against), censorship (against), sexism (against), the culture wars (against), hypocrisy (against) and more.
Celebrities, it turns out, are people too–albeit richer and better-looking–their views occasionally have merit and their vast wealth is relevant to workers struggling to get by.
Celebs deal with hate-speech as Chrissy Teigen and Penn alum John Legend found out Thursday at JFK Airport when a paparazzo asked Teigen, "If we evolved from monkeys, why is John Legend still around?"
Nice, right? But if a supermodel and a wildly popular, Ivy League-educated musician have to deal with that kind of twisted nonsense, it's clear we're not in a post-racial society and racism too could be fodder for Tattle.
I wrote about celebrity memoirs and bemoaned the fact that while talented writers couldn't get their books published or on bookstore shelves, celebs could sell cookbooks, self-help tomes and YA novels.
I wrote about my disdain for Hollywood's contant flood of remakes and sequels and consistently pitched jokey ideas in Tattle for movies and TV shows, spun off from the insipid ideas folks were being paid a ton of dough to generate.
I wrote about "Upper Darby's Tina Fey" and "Former Daily News Intern Bradley Cooper" and whenever I mentioned Maggie Gyllenhaal or Felicity Jones, as an inside joke I plugged their roles in my movie, Hysteria, even though they'd been in bigger box office hits.
(Watch The Charnel House, starring Callum Blue and Nadine Velazquez, available on DVD and all VOD platforms.)
Occasionally, I wrote about the struggling newspaper industry (I'm for it) and the Newspaper Guild (I'm for that too) because the people I work with try hard to get things right and inform people honestly. Occasionally they have to deal with abusive phone calls, emails, text messages, online comments and letters to the editor, but I imagine that will all change today as we usher in a new golden age of journalism.
Over the years I've also been fortunate enough to meet and interview many of the celebrities I'd snarkily written about and countless more who never made the Tattle column. My favorites were Dakota Fanning, Jodie Foster, Brad Furman, Spike Lee, Kelli Garner, Paula Patton, Michael Douglas, Diablo Cody, Tom Hanks, Jason Reitman, Halle Berry, Michael Caine, Keira Knightley, Kate Hudson, Norristown/Conshy's Maria Bello, Upper Darby's Tina Fey and Felicity Jones (Hysteria).
A few years ago, I was sitting behind the one-way glass watching a focus group of Daily News readers and they were asked about Tattle. One of them said, "Tattle, let's keep it." I smiled. Then another person in the group said their favorite Daily News columnist was Stan Hochman and Stan had been retired for a decade. Maybe the person who like Tattle thought Francesca was still writing it. Still, I had the sentence typset and tacked to my office wall, in the old building on Broad Street, back when I still had an office.
"Tattle, let's keep it."
And the Daily News did.
Although I thankfully haven't lost my job...yet...this, alas, marks the final Tattle column. The folks that run the newsroom here have decided to go in a different direction and give me something else to do.
(It seems especially cruel that Tattle is ending on the day that a reality TV star is being inaugurated as president. It's like some sick, cosmic joke.)
I will miss having something fun to write at the end of my work day and miss seeing what items generate clicks on philly.com and what gets a rise out of people. I'll miss answering emails from readers–both nice and nasty.
From the beginning, Tattle was meant to be a silly gossip column–a break from the hard news–but most days I took it seriously and some days some of you took it way too seriously.
But thanks for reading.
Daily News wire services contributed to this report.