This is the true story of how I got the name Ethel Schwartz. Of course, it was only a joke at the time.
A group of guys were goofing off outside the administration building when they decided the next girl who walked around the corner would be named Ethel Schwartz and she would be the campus’ official sex symbol. Yes, it was me.
I can take a joke. Besides the guys were in my circle of friends at Bridgewater State College. They were among those who ran the student paper, which was first called Campus Comment and then Hard Times, and the lit magazine, Roots and Wings and then Conceit. They went to the coffeehouse Friday nights and were in the middle of any protest. And, they were probably stoned that day.
A few of them called me Ethel for a little while. But I went a step further. I decided to name the newspaper column I wrote “Hot Schmaltz by Ethel Schwartz.” Schmaltz is chicken or goose fat, but I didn’t care about that. I just liked the way the five words went together.
As Ethel, I got to write whatever I wanted like the time I went to a drive-in theater that was showing two Russ Meyer flicks. Russ Meyer produced low-budget, sexploitation films like Vixen, one of the two that were playing that night.
Today I found a Hot Schmaltz column tucked in an old lit magazine in my book shelf while I was cleaning. (Schwartz was spelled incorrectly.) I reviewed three books by Rod McKuen — in poetry form. Rod McKuen made a lot of money writing schmaltzy poetry. The girls in my dorm — that’s where I borrowed the books — loved his stuff. I thought he was a hack.
The review begins:
At times I feel
there’ll be no flag days any more
and, then you come, Rod McKuen
And it ends:
The moon is a hello navel for the sky
and beneath its belly
you write a journal of love’s top and bottom
inside and outside
under and over
down and out.
Rod, but there must be something more!
Okay, if McKuen’s poetry wasn’t bad enough, the review was. too. But it was written by Ethel Schwartz, my persona in a previous lifetime.