Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Stratford Theory of Numbers

Further evidence for my theory, which holds that
almost every number in a newspaper or magazine is wrong, because it has been misreported and/or misunderstood by the journalist.
The Daily Telegraph reports:
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the death on stage of the great comedian Tommy Cooper. A complex man, Cooper could be warm and thoughtful but was renowned for being cautious with his money. On exiting a taxi he would famously tuck something crinkly-feeling into the driver’s top pocket and depart with a ‘There you go – get yourself a drink.’ The cabby would reach in and find a tea bag.

But as a new book makes clear, when it came to the gently surreal gags that he so winningly combined with conjuring tricks in his act, he was prepared to put his hand in his pocket. On a visit to New York he hit the jackpot when he met a comic called Billy Glason who had compiled a 26-part ‘Funmaster Giant Encylopedia of Classified Gags’. Cooper baulked at the asking price of $3,000, eventually securing a copy for a more teabag-like £900.
And how, pray, did £900 compare to $US3000 at the time? It sounds a lot to me, but was it half? A third? A quarter? A tenth? Or was it about the same? I haven’t a clue and can’t be bothered trying to do the sums. Just like the reporter and sub-editor.


Penny said...

Well spotted. Just takes a minute or two to google a long-run chart of the US/sterling exchange rate. The payoff for the haggle was a price in US$ anywhere from about US$980 to $2520. So, a remarkably uninformative comparison of apples and oranges.

Stephen Stratford said...

Thank you for that elucidation, Penny. If Cooper really paid somewhere in that range of $US980 to $US2500, that was one hell of an expensive teabag.

tommy moore said...

To get the "numbers" really correct, it was a 30 volume encyclopedia, of which there were only 26 sets ever made. The first 2 were purchased by Tommy Cooper and "The Duke of Paducha" a Southern comedian from the Grand Ole Opry radio show. Subsequent set were purchased by Henny Youngman, Joey Adams, Flip Wilson, and members of the "witing staff" of Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Jackie Gleason, Johnny Carson, and more.
I knew Billy Glason very well when I was a teenager, he was a tough business man, and I can tell you, even on a "discount" it was closer to $2,500 ... and that was
(guessing) late 50's... by 1970, the price was a firm $3,000... I know, I bought one. The set is a collector's item today. Couldn't even begin to estimate it's value.
Best Wishes, Tommy Moore