Voices -- Ted Thackrey Jr.
October 19, 2008 | 7:07 am
Photographs courtesy of Morrie Mazur
Times reporter Ted Thackrey Jr. in the early 1980s.
Ted was my cousin, much beloved in a sort of irritable way by myself and by my beloved and sort of irritable newspapering family (my father, Eugene, also worked for the Times).
I have no reason to doubt that he was indeed a Korean war veteran, and indeed that the experience had traumatized him apparently beyond cure, or at least beyond any cure available to him; in other words, it simply marked him in some way he never got over. He talked about it to me at some length, but I'm not going to talk about it.
About the other stories, well...
But I only knew him as he was a bit later, mostly in the early 60's. One of my favorite memories of him was a visit, unannounced & when I was perhaps 20, to his then apartment in Venice or Manhattan Beach, or wherever it was (he tended to move around).
When I knocked, I could see through the window that he was intent on a strange ritual involving paper cards with notes written on them; just as I'd come to the door he'd thrown a handful of these cards up into the air, and they'd settled on the carpet. He was delighted to see me, so forth and so on; we talked for a bit about the obvious family trivia; then I gestured at the cards on the floor, & asked what in the name of hell he was up to.
He explained that he had so many alimony and child support payments past due, while his salary at the Times hardly paid for the rent, that he'd taken to writing for men's magazines. He said there was nothing to it: they each followed a formula, and that you could dial in the formula by taking the last few issues, writing down on a piece of paper the kicker phrase ("Nazi", "Sex-crazed", "wolf pack", "doomed mission", and so on) from each article header, throwing the ensuing stack of cards into the air (as I'd just witnessed him do), and then simply picking up the top four or five, and writing the article accordingly.
Thus, as above, we'd maybe have an article entitled, "Sex-crazed Nazi wolf-pack's doomed mission".
The details were the beauty of the thing, since everything was supposed to be pure documentary historical truth, and yet not one single word was true:
Thus, "As Oberstürmbanführer von Horst surveyed the bleak predawn light of December 2, 1943, he no longer cared why he'd known nothing of this dismal Luftwaffe base at Heiligenstein. He knew he'd never see it again anyway; so why should he care. His mission was doomed: yet, for what truly obsessed him, that thought wasn't enough at all. He know he'd never see her again either: but he could think of nothing but Angelika..." and so on.
I suppose it's a little weird for anyone outside the world of journalism to be asked to understand that this could be so much fun for two of us who were such genuine believers in the mission of journalism to find the truth and tell it whatever the consequences; I suppose the justification was no more than the thought that idiots are their own reward; and perhaps as a result of Korea, Ted hated mil spec macho meatheads more than almost anything.
Anyway, for absolutely no defensible reason, I hadn't seen or heard from Ted for years; so of course I hadn't known he'd died. Ave atque vale, frater...