All of us failed to recognize
that being a tightwad and freeloader
is a sign of greatness
Will Trump be able to justify and explain away
his disgusting gutter talk about picking up women the way
he glorified ripping off Uncle Sam with his taxes?
By David Maril
It’s no secret that cheapskates are all around us. You can see them in action at any time or any place every day.
It might be in a long coffee line at the donut shop, watching a customer double-check the change down to the penny, and refusing to leave a tip after torturing the person behind the counter with an order of a dozen different hot and cold items.
Cheapskates are at their best in plush hotels. Often they will hide their luggage around the corner from the lobby desk so they won’t have to pay a bellhop to take suitcases up to their rooms.
While being a cheapskate was considered a bit of a character flaw, it never had the same stigma as being a thief or a liar. Cheapskates have often been the source of jokes and good humor. People love to tell stories about cheapskates they’ve known.
Groucho Marx always gets a laugh in the Marx Brothers movie where he pretends he’s going to give a tip but says, “Here, see this five-dollar bill? Well come back in an hour and I’ll let you see it again.”
Jack Benny made a career in show business drawing a lot of laughs by pretending he was cheap. One of his most famous scenes was his long hesitation when the robber sticks a gun in his ribs and says, “Your money or your life.”
THE INTRIGUING THING about being a cheapskate is that some of the biggest skinflints are comfortably fixed. Donald Trump, the GOP nominee for president, is the most recent example. Before the shockwaves of his lewd, and recorded, comments about forcing himself on women, while married, surfaced, the biggest unconventional revelation was his pride in not paying much, or any, federal income tax.
Here is a multi-millionaire, or billionaire, depending on who you believe, bragging about how smart he is paying a little as possible for taxes. His apologist stooge supporters, like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, even go so far as to describe him as a genius.
Well, that casts a whole new light on being a cheapskate. If being a penny-pincher is a sign of being a genius, we will all have to revise our standards and thinking.
WHEN I WAS A NEWSPAPER sports writer, I had a rather low opinion of of high profile athletes and entertainers who regularly checked vending machines or pay-phones so see if anyone left change.
In covering sports for 25 years it was amazing, and downright humorous the signs of cheapness you’d run into among athletes and in the media.
During the Celtics’ glory days of the 1980s you’d see superstars, making millions of dollars, cramming cans of beer into their overcoat pockets to take home from the locker room after games because it was free. One well-known player was famous for pulling tip-money off restaurant tables and putting it in his pocket if he thought too much had been left.
And all along I had failed to recognize these great athletes were more than freeloading cheapskates. They were also geniuses. Some of them hardly spend a nickel on clothes and are more than happy walking around looking like human billboards wearing free clothes crammed with advertising. Trump makes us realize this, alone, is a sign of greatness.
You don't have to be thrifty with everything to qualify as a cheapskate. For instance, former NBA coach Chuck Daly, a Hall of Famer, was well known for his unlimited collection of expensive suits. But when it came to eating, Daly was the only coach in the league who would climb the ramps and stairs at the old Boston Garden to eat a free dinner in the cramped, smoke-filled and stifling hot press room. If the air quality and temperature were not bad enough, the food left something to be desired. It was joked that if they turned off the lights after a fish dinner had been served, everyone who had eaten would glow in the dark.
But then again, we already knew Daly was a genius with his success coaching great playoff teams in the NBA. The cheapskate angle was just another sign of his stature in the genius category.
I ADMIT IT, I WORKED IN a profession known for cheapskates. One well-known and very well-paid out-of-town baseball announcer used to make it a habit to invite people out to eat after a broadcast and then practically pull out a calculator when the check came, figuring what each person at the table owed.
Anytime free media food is offered, there’s danger of a stampede. One tennis tour promoter used to tell a story of serving tuna fish sandwiches at a media gathering in Worcester, MA. After the press conference, he returned to the room and saw one of the writers putting the dozen or so leftover sandwiches in his briefcase.
“I was so embarrassed for the guy, I quickly walked out and pretended I hadn’t see it,” he said.
But if he knew then what Trump has taught us, he’d admire and praise the resourcefulness of the media moocher.
One Boston sports columnist was famous for sharing a cab with other writers when covering one of the teams on the road and always being able to avoid paying for a share of the fare. He was also notorious for ducking out of the bar when his companions were buying rounds of drinks just before his turn to pay.
ONE MEDIA PUBLICIST I used to know had a system for just about everything. For example, whenever he had to meet someone at Logan Airport, he’d drive to one of the major hotels at the airport and park there for free. He’d go into the hotel and walk through the lobby, as if he was one of the guests, and then ride the free shuttle to the terminal. He’d retrace his steps with the person he was picking up.
You can’t top his method of economizing in the winter.
“I never waste money on snow tires,” he told me proudly one day. “The simple thing I do is make sure when it snows I get behind someone who has good treads and just follow in their tire ruts through the snow. One time in nearly a foot of snow, I was OK driving behind a bus with brand new tires.”
Which made for a good joke among a bunch of us who knew this guy pretty well. We always said the only problem was the bus was headed for Chicago. Forced to follow, he hasn’t been seen since.
BUT OF COURSE now, thanks to Trump, we know this thrifty character was a genius and far too brilliant to follow the wrong bus.
Now, the big question is how far can Trump take this strategy of turning a negative it to a positive.
We can only wonder how Trump will try to find a way to justify his gutter talk about women and make himself look like a hero instead of a complete zero.
Rational people believe this time he has gone too far. But a lot of us felt he had stepped too far over the line a long time ago.
If Hillary Clinton wasn’t such a weak candidate, with her own closet of skeletons, Trump would be defeated by wider margins than the presidential election losses suffered by Barry Goldwater and George McGovern.
David Maril has been a columnist, sports editor and copy editor at three newspapers published in Massachusetts, winning numerous writing and section-design awards. As sports editor of the Milford Daily News, he covered the Boston Red Sox, Celtics and the New England Patriots. At the Brockton Enterprise he served as vice president of the newspaper’s guild, dealing with contract negotiations and workforce issues through difficult economic times. He also served on the board of the Boston Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, where he is a lifetime member and voter in Major League Baseball’s annual Cooperstown Hall of Fame balloting. For several years was a columnist for Voice Of Baltimore. The son of the late artist Herman Maril, whose work is included in over 100 museum collections, David splits his time between Cape Cod, MA and Baltimore, MD. He currently serves as president of the Herman Maril Foundation, which supports curatorial projects, art education programs and exhibitions related to the study of his father’s work. The website, featuring his father’s artwork, is hermanmaril.com. A graduate of Park School in Brooklandville, MD, David majored in English at Clark University in Worcester, MA.
If you wold like to comment on this blog David can be reached at email@example.com.