Burt Prelutsky

I hate bullies. Always have, always will. Because I was younger and smaller than my classmates in grammar school, I have been aware of them for a great many years. You might even say I’ve made a study of them. One of the things I’ve uncovered is that occasionally size isn’t the determining factor; meanness is. In some families, for instance, it’s the smallest person who turns out to be the biggest bully. Lacking size and strength, he depends on guile. What he does is provoke his larger sibling by constantly annoying him, knowing full well that if his big brother gives him a well-deserved whack or even yells at him, it’s the older kid the parents will punish.

What occurs in homes also happens on the world stage. Islamic terrorists provoke Israel time and again, and when the Jews finally strike back, most of the world parrots the despicable Kofi Annan in condemning Israel.

In our personal lives, too often we find that the schoolyard bullies morph into bullies in the workplace. It never fails to amaze and infuriate me when I hear the tales of woe told by employees who are required to grovel to second-rate Hitlers and Napoleons. Only morons actually believe you get the most out of your work force through intimidation, but, down deep, these tin horn bosses are less concerned with morale and productivity than with inflating their tacky little egos.

For what it’s worth, I’ll tell you about the time I got the best of a famous bully.

Back in 1968, I was writing a profile of Jackie Gleason for the L.A. Times. The assignment required that I spend a week with The Great One, as he called himself, in Burlingame, an upscale community south of San Francisco.

He was shooting a movie, “Skidoo,” which even he acknowledged was a stinker. When I asked him why he had bothered coming all the way out from Florida to make it, he explained, “The money, of course.” A good answer, but a very, very bad movie.