Who What Why Where When How



Some 50 years apart, Joe E. Brown and I pursued our ambitions related to the business of entertainment.

While he delved into fictional situations of entertainment, acrobatics, movies, and the like, I got involved in newspaper reporting and its credo of telling a story by using the six-factual approach: who was the story about, what happened, where did it take place, when did it happen, why did it happen, and how did it happen?

Normally, most newspaper editors demand that those who, what, why, where, when, and how answers appear in the first paragraph, or two, of the total news story, setting the entire tone for the informative, factual article.

Here’s an example of a paragraph from the Sports Section of a local newspaper told in one sentence that gives the whys and wherefores of the coming story:

“LeBron James recorded a triple-double, Kyrie Irving scored 40 points and the Cavs, bothered by chatter from Golden State’s players, broke scoring records while outperforming the NBA’s most electrifying offense in a testy Game 4 filled with technical fouls Friday night, beating the Warriors 137-116 and snapping their 15-game playoff winning streak.”
WHO = LeBron James and the (Cleveland) Cavs
WHAT = game 4 win
WHY = response to other team’s chatter and attempting to break Warriors’ win streak
WHERE = game 4 (location — Cleveland — already shown in dateline), but Quicken Loans Arena could have been included
WHEN = Friday night
HOW = broke scoring records while outperforming the Warriors’ offense

Basically, all the six-factual approach is accounted for in this one-sentence paragraph. Now the details can be added to the story.

In Joe E. Brown’s autobiography, “Laughter is a Wonderful Thing”, as told to Ralph Hancock, a typical long sentence of information is the following one:

“Thus the birth of the town’s most famous citizen got only a bare mention in (The Holgate) Times (which later became the Henry County Review, ‘Independent in all things — Neutral in nothing’), and he rated that only because Dr. Archer was the town’s leading M.D.”

The differences in newspaper reporting and factual book-length manuscripts is clear. The newspaper paragraph crams in as much information in as little space as possible, while the book discussions unfold at leisurely speed.

And, although I soon discovered my first love was Fiction writing, my newspaper writing experience and education was what enabled me to meet and interview Joe E. Brown in 1965. For that, I’m ever thankful, even all these many years later.

To know that our different pursuits ultimately brought us together at one place in time to create a who-what-why-where-when-how scenario is pretty magical.

Photo copy from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg


Pay Him Money…


Joe E. Brown admits to astonishment, he says in his autobio, when he first discovered he might be able to get “paid for flying through the air”. For acrobatics, he was certain, was the life for him.

His best school buddy, Alec Reuben, had declared for the trapeze, and together, the boys learned that 12-year-old George Jones, a boy also of their Toledo neighborhood (referred to as “The Hill”) had been hired by professional acrobat William J. (Billy) Ashe.

Joe E. relates that he endlessly practiced cartwheels, handsprings, and walking on their hands in George’s presence, hoping to win him over to put in a good word with Ashe on their behalf.

At nine-years-old, Joe E. convinced his father to let him speak with Ashe about employment, and he was successful in getting an audition, to practice with George at Ashe’s headquarters at the old Valentine Athletic Club gym. “That was a conversation I’ll never forget,” he says.

On a humorous note, Joe E. says George didn’t know what a “kinker” was at the time, and it was another six weeks before Joe E. himself discovered the term was a description for an acrobat.

While most of the acrobats in the United States were foreign born and trained in Joe E.’s time, Ashe was born in Toledo to a performing circus clown.

By the time Joe E. was 10, his father signed a contract with Ashe, who had agreed to take Joe E. on and pay him “the princely sum of $1.50 a week”. Joe E.’s statement was sincere. Payment of $1.50 a week was very good in 1902.

My parents’ home farm, 2013


At the age of 10, in 1956, living on a farm just East of Joe E.’s birthplace in Holgate, I was writing little short stories for school assignments, as well as for my own pleasure on weekends when school wasn’t even close to a thought in my head.

I wasn’t close to earning any money from my writing endeavors, either. My time was far removed from Joe E.’s, during which helping with the family income was dear to the hearts of many young boys and girls.

I didn’t see my first writing job until I was 18. But I did know writing was my passion.

Ironically, my second passion, which sometimes overrode my first, was athletics, particularly baseball, for that also was Joe E.’s second ambition.

It made perfect sense, then, that Joe E., an entertainer, would later make several baseball-related movies, while I would write stories of baseball heroes.

Top Photo (dollar bills) courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com
Second Photo (farmhouse) from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg