Burt Prelutsky

Recently, shut-ins, hospital patients and daytime TV addicts, have been treated to a whole lot of me. Perhaps “treated” isn’t the word that some of you would have come up with, but it’s my word and I’m sticking with it.

It all began with an e-mail from Ilana Rosenbluth, who works for CourtTV. Having discovered that I attended John Burroughs Junior High and Fairfax High School with Phil Spector, she wanted to know if I’d appear on the Nancy Grace Show, and share my experiences. Carefully, I weighed the invitation. On the one hand, I might have a chance to promote my book on national TV; on the other hand, I’d have to wake up early and get downtown to the courthouse during the morning rush hour. However, once Ms. Rosenbluth explained that they’d send a car, I readily agreed. The fact is, so long as people send a car, there are very few places I won’t go.

What I didn’t realize until I showed up at the courthouse was that they conduct the interviews in the parking lot, about 10 yards from a very busy street. So, one, it was very cold and windy; two, it was really noisy, what with all the traffic going by. Worst of all, though, they didn’t even show my book, let alone mention it.

On camera, I told Ms. Grace, who was warm and toasty back in her New York studio, that young Spector had been almost as weird as old Spector. True, he didn’t shoot anybody back then and he hadn’t worn fright wigs as a teenager, but he also never took a class with me or anybody I knew. Whereas everyone else at Fairfax was on college-track, Phil always appeared to be skulking around campus like a malevolent ghost. His name should have been spelled Specter.

If we had gone in for electing a student Least Likely to Succeed, it would have been no contest. Phil would have won the title without even working up a sweat. In fact, the only inkling I had that he was musically-inclined was when he sang and played his guitar at a Fairfax assembly. If you’ve ever heard his nasally speaking voice, you have some idea of how awful his singing voice was. When he finished his number, there was stunned silence in the auditorium. My best friend and I looked at each other in disbelief. I suspect that neither of us had ever heard an uglier noise in our life. Then, partly to hasten his departure from the stage and partly as a tribute to his unbelievable moxie, we began to clap softly. Soon the entire audience picked up our cue. Phil apparently mistook it for a standing ovation, and, to our collective horror, did an encore!

He had the final laugh when, a year or so after graduation, he had the number one hit record in America, “To Know Him Is to Love Him.”