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OPINION | PAPER TRAILS: Slick Willie title stands test of time

by Sean Clancy | August 1, 2021 at 8:58 a.m.

SLICK WILLIE RETURNS It was July 20 and Dan Greenberg's phone was blowing up.

"Many of my friends were sending texts and putting notes up on Facebook," he says.

All this activity was inspired by that day's edition of "Jeopardy" and an answer that involved Dan's dad and former Democrat-Gazette editorial page editor, the late Paul Greenberg.

The answer, under a category about nicknames, was: "Arkansas columnist Paul Greenberg first used the nickname 'Slick Willie' for this man in 1980."

Do you know the question? Need a few seconds?

We'll wait.

Who is Bill Clinton? Yes!

Paul Greenberg was at the Pine Bluff Commercial, where he won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in 1969, when he used the term to describe Clinton, who was early in his first term as governor.

The self-described Inky Wretch would devote thousands of column inches over the years at The Commercial and the Democrat-Gazette to Clinton's adventures, resulting in the 1996 book "No Surprises: Two Decades of Clinton-Watching."

The younger Greenberg had no idea his dad, who died April 6, was going to be referred to on the game show.

"It was a surprise to me, but when I first heard about it I said to myself, 'I'll bet it has something to do with Slick Willie.'"

A TARANTINO FAVE Director Quentin Tarantino's debut novel, an adaptation of his 2020 film "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," was published in June. During an interview with "The Bigger Picture" podcast, the man behind "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" talked about his favorite books, most of which are novelizations of screenplays.

Yes, there is an Arkansas connection.

Topping the filmmaker's list was "9/30/55" by John Minahan.

The book is an adaptation of the screenplay for the film "September 30, 1955" by James Bridges, who was born in Paris, Ark., and wrote and directed the 1973 movie "The Paper Chase" (John Houseman won Best Actor in a Supporting Role for that movie).

The date refers to the day after the death of movie star James Dean in a car crash. The movie was a semi-autobiographical project for Bridges, who was a student at what is now the University of Central Arkansas when Dean was killed, and follows hardcore Dean fan Jimmy J. (Richard Thomas), who is left reeling after his hero's death.

Bridges filmed the movie in 1976 around Conway. It featured the screen debut of Arkansas native Lisa Blount and early performances by Dennis Quaid and Tom Hulce.

On the podcast, the loquacious Tarantino dropped the hot take that he feels Minahan's adaptation surpasses Walker Percy's novel "The Moviegoer."

Alas, while the film can be found on DVD and is screened occasionally, "9/30/55" is long out of print and hard to come by.


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