Style Conversational Week 1517: Hasn’t it been Loserly?



What to do with all these tiaras?

I used to be knowledgeable about 48 hours in the past that The Fashion Invitational’s final column would seem Sunday, Dec. 11, in The Washington Put up’s Arts & Fashion part, and on Thursday, Dec. 8, on-line. That’s yet another column after this week’s, and it’ll be used for a greatest-hits sampler.

At that time I used to be nonetheless judging the Week 1513 contest of greeting-card rhymes for non-greeting-card events — whose results run today — and had deliberate our annual “Yr in Preview” funny-predictions contest (see the would-have-been examples beneath).

I don’t have the time and pace and, to be sincere, the presence of thoughts proper now to put in writing one thing in depth concerning the virtually 30 years of The Fashion Invitational and my 19 years (proper to the week subsequent Sunday) as Empress. So only a few issues.

I wasn’t in on the plans for the large shakeup that’s occurring all through the The Put up’s options division — most notably however not solely the folding of The Washington Post Magazine and the layoffs of its whole staff — to whisk away the mud of the outdated establishments in favor of a “revitalized” Fashion part. The canceling of the Invite is part of that.

The Put up’s new government options editor, Ben Williams, assured me that The Put up wasn’t killing the Invite over style questions, or response to a specific contest or entry, though he had not too long ago killed quite a lot of entries that he thought-about tasteless. This was an amazing reduction to me, as a result of it signifies that I gained’t be kicking myself in remorse for working one thing that introduced down the column — a concern that lurked in me throughout all 982 contests. (I did, nonetheless, change into emboldened by the truth that the Invite’s edgy, typically risque humor drew near zero reader complaints — and by no means a single one from the even edgier jokes that ran solely on-line.)

Let me make clear one factor that a lot of you don’t know: The Put up killed the Invitational, and with it my 40-year reference to The Put up, however didn’t technically fireplace me, as a result of I’m not an worker anymore.

I used to be a duplicate editor in The Put up’s Fashion part from my little-baby-editorhood in 1982 to 2008 (a few of that being answerable for the copy desk, and the final 5 years additionally working the Invite after “Czar” Gene Weingarten handed it on to me). In 2008, like everybody within the newsroom who was 50 or older (I used to be a number of months quick, however i counted), I used to be supplied early retirement with a buyout, which I took, together with a number of hundred different workers; it gave me a pleasant pension. Then, for the reason that finish of 2008, I’ve continued to do the Empress factor, however not on the payroll, actually not even with a contract; I’m simply an impartial contractor, getting paid by the column (one purpose I by no means skipped any of the 982 weeks). Nonetheless, I wasn’t your common freelancer; I’ve a desk at The Put up and, extra essential, editor-level entry to the pc system, letting me make my very own fast fixes — one thing the Losers know has been super-important, contemplating what number of messed-up credit, improper week numbers, and so forth., they’ve alerted me to in time to get all of it right for the Sunday print version.

I’m actually astonished — and naturally delighted — at how lengthy the Invitational has been allowed to exist. It outlasted a collection of editors, a few of whom didn’t retire of their very own accord. (I’ve to chuckle that I used to be assured by Govt Editor Marcus Brauchli round 2010 that “so long as I’m right here, there can be a Fashion Invitational.” He lasted 4 years.)

In recent times I vowed to proceed working the Invite till it was killed, and so it was inevitable that The Put up could be the killer. I’m sorry, after all, that it canceled the competition, however not outraged about it; the anger I’ll go away to its readers and neighborhood of contestants. My solely remorse is that for some purpose, and it wasn’t defined to me, that the editors had been in such a rush to scrub home that they left three contests within the lurch. They hadn’t instructed me in latest weeks to cease placing out new contests, or alternatively set the ultimate week at Dec. 25, the scheduled date for the outcomes of final week’s contest, Week 1516. I’m positive it wasn’t malicious, however fairly that they hadn’t identified what our schedule was, or thought of it when so many different modifications had been happening.

A number of stuff nonetheless to occur — and might carry on occurring. I hope you participate in a few of it.

Subsequent week’s column: Biggest hits. Ship your solutions! To wrap issues up, Gene and Bob and I’ll assemble a few of our favourite entries, and yours. Due to this last-minute scheduling, you have got solely until Monday evening, Dec. 5, to chime in with solutions for what we must always run. That favourite joke you keep in mind from 2004 or no matter. Clearly we are able to run only a few of the hundreds and hundreds of traditional entries from the previous 30 years, however it may possibly’t damage to foyer in your fave. Ship them via this week’s entry form, which has a separate house so that you can recommend what to do with the clown heads.

— The Week 1514 Ask Backwards contest: Have at it! As a result of we’re going to place these best hits on the web page, which means there gained’t be room to place the outcomes of our recurring Jeopardyish contest there, too. I gained’t have the time to guage it anyway. So my thought is to publish the uncooked entries right here in subsequent week’s Conversational, class by class (so it’s not only a jumble of 1,200 entries, and you may select only one group to have a look at), and allow you to be aware your favorites within the feedback. No prizes, only one solution to get these jokes on the market, a few of which can be very humorous and lots won’t.

I’m unsure whether or not that’s going to work; I haven’t examined it or something within the final 48 hours. But when that proves a Massive Tub o’ Enjoyable, then possibly I’ll attempt one thing comparable with the Week 1515 sister-cities contest. There gained’t be a Fashion Conversational in two weeks, in order that one might need to only be sacrificed, or go to Fb. I’m being retired, you recognize, and I’m going to retire.

— We’re having brunch! Which simply occurred to be scheduled for midday on Sunday, Dec. 11, at Lena’s Wood-Fired Grill and Tap, proper close to the Braddock Highway Metro in Alexandria, Va. Free parking on its deck! I recommend that we simply order an assortment of pizza and cut up the tab in order that we don’t spend our valuable reminiscing time slowed down in ordering. Sadly, I can keep solely until about 1:30 as a result of I’ve to get to my name and last-minute rehearsal for the choral concert I’m singing in later that afternoon.

— We’ll have a grand wake! Our annual Losers’ Put up-Vacation Social gathering potluck, scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 28, in a giant lengthy Crystal Metropolis celebration room with pool tables, should be one for the ages. The parody sing-along should cowl all 20 years of Invite songs. Now we have a lot of musicians within the Loser Group; let’s see what we are able to work up over the following two months. Information of this, because it develops, will go up on each (Our Social Engorgements) and on …

— The still-active (and even turning into extra lively?) Style Invitational Devotees group on Fb. Keep in contact with me and greater than 2,000 kindred spirits and share your wit with probably the most appreciative of choose audiences. Already persons are creating threads for the Questionable Journalism jokes, obit poems and the like . Consider what we are able to do with all these new congressional names subsequent month! We gained’t choose them, simply benefit from the wit.

That’s precisely how lengthy they’d go if I didn’t must get this on-line. Off the highest of my head, only a few — extra will observe in different venues, I’m positive.

To Gene Weingarten, my predecessor and BFF. He created The Fashion Invitational in 1993 when he was editor of the Sunday Fashion part, making it a extra raucous however equally subtle model of the New York Journal Competitors, and instantly making it one of the well-liked options within the Sunday paper (no substantiation however I say so). When he turned it over to me, I couldn’t hope to match him in creativity and writing aptitude, so I principally tried to repeat him and do higher with sending out the prizes, and likewise including track parodies, which he fails to understand.

To Bob Staake, Gene’s after which my visible associate since 1994 — method longer than both of us. Over the a long time whereas Bob gained huge renown as a New Yorker cowl artist and bestselling youngsters’s e book creator and illustrator, Bob continued to ship a cartoon to the Invite, as “actually the one regular job I’ve ever had.” Bob and I’ve met in particular person solely as soon as — he lives on Cape Cod — however each week we’re the Invite model of the Kramdens, bickering and threatening to ship one another to the moon, however aww we make up.

To the editors who let the Invite do its factor: It began with Fashion editor Mary Hadar — who additionally took a flier on this 27-year-old upstart to run the part’s copy desk in 1986 — who gave virtually free rein to Gene to alter Sunday Fashion and let the Invite flourish, and to successive editors together with Gene Robinson, David von Drehle, Deborah Heard and particularly Lynn Medford, who introduced the Invitational from the Saturday paper (it was there for a number of years) again to Sundays for a brand new tabloid-size Sunday Fashion, with the Invite prominently on the again web page in coloration. Lynn was a real fan of the Invite, displaying trophies in her workplace, providing her Appalachian “Haw!” at her favourite entries, and even coming to at the very least two Loser occasions. Most not too long ago, Fashion editor Amy Hitt learn over the column and made some helpful solutions.

To the copy editors, web page designers and IT workers: I’ve had huge assist from, and labored most with, the individuals who have helped with the particular necessities of the Invitational, each technical and in simply getting the humor and references. The Invite has has a succession of web page designers over time and thru ever-changing know-how, most not too long ago the super-helpful Alla Dreyvitser. Kurt Gardiner and Danielle Newman, each newspaper journalists turned IT individuals, went out of their method to assist me — Danielle late final evening, from residence.

And my beloved former copy desk colleague Doug Norwood made it some extent to be the eyes on the Invite each week till his latest retirement from The Put up (however not from journalism); I’d quote his favorites as “What Doug Dug.” And after him, Ponch Garcia (“What Happy Ponch.”) As a former (or everlasting) copy editor, I worth the essential of a talented pair of eyes to comprehend that, no, you didn’t imply to say that, proper?

And naturally, I used to be simply the conduit: The true credit score goes to the greater than 5,000 individuals who’ve gotten ink in The Fashion Invitational, placing out ridiculous quantities of effort and sharing prodigious expertise in alternate for foolish trinkets. I’m glad that a few of them have change into native celebrities amongst devoted Put up readers. Subsequent week, I’ll single them out.

And don’t neglect the readers! The competition, aggressive because it was among the many self-styled Losers, was at all times supposed as a solution to carry quite a lot of top-notch humor to readers. Due to so a lot of you for writing to only thank us for supplying you with amusing in instances once we want it greater than ever.

Who would have predicted …

As I’d executed for a number of years after stealing his idea from his personal humor column, I’d requested 93-time Loser Malcolm Fleschner to provide me some information occasions from 2023 to make use of as examples for this 12 months’s “Yr in Preview” contest (headline: “23 and ??”) to run as we speak. Malcolm, who’s change into an excellent good friend, promptly despatched me a protracted record. The three examples I selected had been so good that I’ll share them proper right here.

March 12, 2023: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is wildly applauded when he seems in particular person on the Academy Awards — then will get a standing ovation when he runs as much as the stage and slaps Will Smith.

— Marvin Oglethorp of Newburgh, Iowa, wins the largest-ever lottery jackpot. He tells reporters he plans to make use of the $1.8 billion “to purchase two tickets to a Taylor Swift live performance.”

— After a ferocious bidding battle, expertise company CAA triumphantly declares the inking of a four-picture deal for the top of lettuce that outlasted Liz Truss.

Malcolm can now use these together with the remaining in his on-line humor column Tradition Schlock. (Yeah, he used to put in writing it for a newspaper, too.) Join free at

So I’ll see you subsequent week — see what it’s prefer to see a thousand uncooked jokes.

Thanks for the messages you’ve been sending in whereas I’ve been making an attempt to put in writing this down.

Nonetheless the Empress for One other Week

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