Jewish World Review Nov. 21, 2002 / 16 Kislev, 5763

Burt Prelutsky

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Consumer Reports

A welcome guest | I suspect that one of the main reasons I'm not rich is because I have devoted most of my writing career to coming up with ways the rest of you could improve yourselves, as opposed to merely looking to line my own coffers.

You would have thought that a writer more concerned with the betterment of his fellows than with himself would have earned some brownie points with the MacArthur Awards crowd; but, clearly they're an odd bunch who would rather lavish riches on money-mad sand sculptors and translators of Eskimo poetry than on me.

Be that as it may, on the one occasion when I actually had a moneymaking idea, pet rocks, I passed it off as a joke. The joke, of course, was on me when, later that year, some guy with an MBA started marketing the damn things and made himself a gazillionaire.

I didn't begrudge him, though. Some people, such as Newton, Einstein and I, are destined to make earth-shaking discoveries, while others seem ordained to cash in.

So it is that I have come up with yet another great notion that won't put a farthing in my pocket. Instead, I offer it up gift-wrapped to the world of commerce in the hope that it will benefit all mankind. I call it Rent-a- Guest, and I guarantee it will be the greatest boon to social gatherings since pigs-in-a-blanket.

When it comes to throwing parties, most people will squander gobs of time and money on decorations, caterers and booze. Then, depending on the personalities and agendas, they will either invite friends and relatives, or they'll limit the guest list to those people in a position to do them some good.

What every conscientious party-thrower tends to overlook, though, is the sad fact that most bashes leave everybody slightly dissatisfied. It's only natural; even if the food passes muster and you don't run out of ice, galas rarely live up to the most minimal of expectations. As you may recall, even legendary partygoer Cinderella wound up with the fairy tale equivalent of a hangover the next day.

As I see it, the problem with such occasions is that you start out trying to make polite conversation with strangers and, before you know it, you're calling each other names, and even proper matrons are rolling up their sleeves and offering to go outside and settle this thing like men.

For, no matter what the topic might be, and no matter how sensible your position is, you can pretty much lay odds that the next person you run into will disagree most disagreeably with your point of view. Moreover, he will inevitably be of a size and temperament to send you to the hospital, thus providing you with ample time to re-think the entire matter. With Rent-a-Guest, all that ulcer-inducing ill will will be a thing of the past. For a modest fee, RaG will provide one or more people, whose sole purpose will be to start arguments with your guests and then, by the end of the evening, cave in and utter those magical words that none of us, outside our wildest fantasies, have ever heard: "By god, you're right! I never thought of it that way before! Let me shake your hand." Once some savvy entrepreneur gets my brainstorm up and running, every party can be a guaranteed success. Then just think of the unbounded joy you will derive from providing your guests with the transcendental experience of changing a fellow human being's opinion about anything.

And, as an extra bonus, with the enormous high provided by Rent-a-Guest making the legal and illegal stimulants superfluous, the service will more than pay for itself.

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JWR contributor Burt Prelutsky is a veteran TV writer whose credits include, among others, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, The Bob Newhart Show and Diagnosis Murder. Comment by clicking here.

© 2002, Burt Prelutsky