I sat in Steve Strickbine’s office in Scottsdale on Friday morning as we negotiated a deal for me to write columns for his monthly magazines. I use the word “negotiated’’ is the loosest possible terms. Here is how those negotiations went:
Steve: “We would like you to write a column for us each month.’’
Strickbine is the president of Times Publications. Most likely you have seen his magazines, which are circulated around the Valley as the Scottsdale Times, Gilbert Times, Chandler Times, East Mesa Times, Ahwatukee Times, Northeast Phoenix Times and Glendale Times. About 125,000 copies are printed and distributed at more than 3,000 locations across the Valley.
I have been aware of the Times for a while now. The format allows writers the space necessary to do some in-depth reporting, something you see less and less of in newspapers. What you also see in the Times that you rarely see in newspapers any more is a sense of fun. It’s a lively, entertaining, well-done product.
Probably the most recognizable name among the Time’s contributors is David Leibowitz, a former columnist at both the East Valley Tribune and Arizona Republic and radio show host at KTAR.
Leibowitz writes columns for the Times now. Steve gave me a whole bunch of back issues and I noted that Leibowitz’s columns appear near the front of the magazine. My column, Steve said, will run a little farther back, in the “Voices’’ section.
Now, I don’t know what this means, of course. Although it appears to me that I’m batting clean-up while Leibowitz is up there at the top of the batting order, trying to draw a walk or roll a trickler through the infield. Of course, that is just one way of looking at it, I realize.
At any rate, I’m really excited to have the chance to have my words put on newsprint again. That hasn’t happened with any regularity since Feb. 14, 2007, my last column at the Tribune.
Leibowitz came up in my conversation with Steve. On March 14, 2007, Leibowitz and I met that day under the most unusual of circumstances. I don’t remember what Dave was wearing, but I was wearing the black-and-white stripes, handcuffs and leg shackles. We met in a small room in the visitation area of the Durango Jail in Phoenix. I had been at Durango for 12 days at the time.
I don’t remember hardly anything else about our conversation except for the fact that Leibowitz had a Starbuck’s coffee. Prisoners in Maricopa County are not allowed to have coffee, so I remember fixating on that Starbuck’s cup. In his column, Leibowitz said he was fixated on my leg shackles.
Anyway, we talked about an hour, I think, and then Leibowitz left to write a column and I left to serve another 110 days in custody.
I never did get a chance to see Leibowitz’s column about me and I sort of forgot the whole thing pretty quick. At the time, I was a little preoccupied with not getting beat up by the other inmates.
But Friday, the subject came up and I asked Steve if he had that back issue. He found one and gave it to me.
I was eager to read Leibowitz’s column because I remember how emotionally exhausted I was at the time of the interview. As I turned to the column, I wondered if I had been able to articulate any coherent thought during the interview Not surprisingly, Leibowitz produced an interesting column, even though most of my observations about life in jail could be paraphrased in one phrase: “GET ME OUT OF HERE, PLEASE!’’
But what really caught my attention was the promo of the column on the cover of the magazine. In the top right hand corner of the cover, there was a picture of Leibowitz and a headline that read “Slim Smith’s Tumble’’ with small type that read “Jailhouse interview with a fallen star!’’
The promo was only half an exaggeration, I realize. Fallen, certainly. Star? Well, that’s a pretty liberal use of the term, don’t you think?
Still, I got a good chuckle out of it.
Yes, I think writing for the Times is going to be a lot of fun.
Look for my debut column in the September edition.
They say they are going to promo the column on the cover, too.
“Star Rises From the Ashes’’ is my guess.