Chris Rodell [00:00:00]:
I think one reason I was able to get so many wild stories throughout my career is because I made sure the only stories I pursued were the ones that passed what I called the Mollie Unger test. Hi. I'm Chris Rodell. I've written stories and features for just about every major magazine or publication in America. This is the use all the crayons podcast, where I'll share those colorful stories with you. Who's Mollie Unger? She was a 38 year old single mother of twins. I saw her story in the Indianapolis Star back in the mid 1900. That was back when I was subscribing to a dozen newspapers from around the country looking for only the very wildest, zaniest true life human interest features for National Enquirer, at the time, the most notorious newspaper in America.
Chris Rodell [00:00:44]:
I was a feature writer and thought I had a pretty good grasp of what earned precious news space in the Inquirer. That was before I heard the story of Molly Unger. She was a single mom of twins. Choir readers loved single moms of twins. She drove her kids to school every single day. As you're about to hear, that's a bigger accomplishment than what it sounds. She had no arms. Beginning to understand my thrill? Molly, bless her heart, did all this with her feet.
Chris Rodell [00:01:08]:
She drove with her feet. She cooked with her feet, but I didn't find my headline clincher until late in the story. She was a secretary who could type 30 words a minute with her feet. I faxed in the story under the surefire headline, "Armless woman types 30 words a minute with her feet." Then I waited and I waited and waited. Crickets. Exasperated, I finally called the editor and asked what the delay was. We're gonna pass on Molly Unger.
Chris Rodell [00:01:35]:
For god's sakes, why? Thirty words a minute, he said. That's not very fast. I fell into a demoralized funk and spent the rest of the day trying to conjure just what headline feet would have earned a nod. And I carried with me the lesson of Molly Unger and how to ensure I was retaining only the very best stories until I was ready to share them here with you. Armless woman tosses no hitter against New York Yankees. She pitched with her feet. I once took a Mexican girl who barely spoke any English to see U2, an Irish band in the Dixie town of Nashville. It was a diversity extravaganza.
Chris Rodell [00:02:12]:
It was 1987. I remember meeting her at a party where the music was loud enough to mask our difficulties communicating. I remember doing a lot of smiling and nodding. She was very pretty. Eager to spend more intimate time in her company, I told her I had 2 tickets to see U2 on the Joshua Tree tour. Did she like U2? Si, si. I don't know if the party music and my attraction to her had exaggerated my impressions of her English, But whatever fluency she had vanished the instant I opened the car door for her. In fact, the only word of English I remember her speaking the entire evening is was when I asked if she'd consent to a good night kiss.
Chris Rodell [00:02:47]:
No. I felt used. It was the 2nd time in 6 years a pair of tickets still a popular concert left me feeling that way. And while U2 was a multicultural affair, the previous one was anything but. In fact, I remember it as the whitest night of my life. Yes. In 1981, I attended a Barry Manilow concert at Pittsburgh Civic Arena. My date was my father.
Chris Rodell [00:03:10]:
He played old songs, Can't smile without you even now trying to get the feeling again. I write the songs as score of other catchy hits from the 19 seventies. And, yes, I love them all. My musical bona fides are unimpeachable. My first album was Elton John's goodbye, Elbit Road. My first concert, Tom Petty. But when dad was driving us to early morning hockey practice, we'd often listen to Manilow, his choice. They were great times.
Chris Rodell [00:03:35]:
My old man was the best, But I was cool enough at the time to know Manilow was not. That's why I was shocked to come home on Thanksgiving break from my freshman year at Ohio University to see the dad had bought his young hockey fan 2 tickets, not to a Pittsburgh Penguins game, but to the Barry Manilow concert. I still wonder if he was cunning enough to see exactly how it would all play out. I remember sitting by the phone and coming up blank trying to think of the girl I could ask that wouldn't respond with hysterical giggles. Manilow is not exactly a great first date icebreaker. I certainly couldn't ask any of my guy friends. They would all laugh me off the entire planet. Well, all but one of them.
Chris Rodell [00:04:13]:
And right then, he was sitting in his recliner across the room immersed in bowling for dollars. Uh...Dad, I was thinking, sure, I'd love to go. There were many other male couples there that night, but I'll bet only out of the 17,532 in Pittsburgh Fanalos, we were the only father son duo. Dad didn't care one bit. In fact, he was euphoric. Leaving the building, he kept gushing about how great the music was, how much he loved Manlow, and that this was one of the greatest nights of his life. I wish I'd have anticipated that reaction when he'd parked the car. See, dad hated to pay premium prices for parking.
Chris Rodell [00:04:46]:
This wasn't a problem at many suburban venues. But at the sold out civic arena shows that meant parking deep in the crime ridden neighborhood known as the district. That's where dad found a freebie parking spot behind all the abandoned vehicles and burned out tenements. I remember looking in the shadows for a parolees ready to pounce. It was late on a school night, but no one was sleeping. I know this because I kept seeing them looking out their windows to see the middle aged white man bouncing down the sidewalk singing, And it's daybreak. If you wanna believe, it can be daybreak. Ain't no time to grieve.
Chris Rodell [00:05:17]:
I said it's daybreak If you only believe and let it shine, shine, shine all around the world. As I said, I believe there's a place for Manilow and his music. I just didn't believe it was in the midnight of the Hill District in 1981. Of course, maybe I'm letting my prejudices get the better of me. Maybe those young hoodlums were transformed by the sound of my dad warbling Manilow's greatest hits. Maybe they sat down their crack pipes and said, damn. You know, that old white dude's right. It can be Daybreak.
Chris Rodell [00:05:45]:
Whether or not it happened that way, I cannot say. But of this, I'm certain. If my date had been anyone other than my own dad, I'll bet that night I'd have gotten laid for sure. Harmless Woman wows audiences by juggling 3 chainsaws and a cat with her feet. I had Molly on my mind again in 93 when the news began to pop that a Pennsylvania woodsman had to sever his own leg to survive a free tree filling incident. The tree took an awkward twist and crushed the leg of 33 year old lumberjack, Donald Wyman. Fearing he'd bleed out, Wyman chose to amputate the leg rather than risk bleeding out alone in the woods. But the story did not end there.
Chris Rodell [00:06:23]:
Thank you, Mollie Unger. He fashioned a tourniquet out of the shoelace and proceeded to do the grisly work, his ordeal far from over. He then had to drag himself about 500 yards to where he parked his bulldozer. From there, he had to drive the dozer with just 1 leg, mind you, to his pickup. You didn't think this hombre was driving a VW, did you? Then it was 7 miles to the ER. It was a remarkable feat coming as it did from a man with just 1 foot. Like Molly Unger's, Wyman's story did not make the pages of National Enquirer, but for different reasons. It was overexposed.
Chris Rodell [00:06:54]:
Everyone had run it. The story had been everywhere, and the Enquirer enjoyed no exclusivity. For it to be an Enquirer story, Wyman would have needed to have eaten the leg. If you enjoy the podcast, we urge you to complete the podcast road to success triathlon of share, rate, and review. Be sure to tell all your friends and urge them to tell all their friends. Thanks to my friends at Headspace Media in late trouble for technological expertise and for always being gentle in their criticisms,