by | Dec 3, 1999 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

WALTER IS a jerk. A knucklehead. A loser.

He is also my boss.

Walter, my sports editor, is chubby, bald, sarcastic and gruff. He is immediately unlikable. In fact, everyone who sees him has the same reaction — and this is pretty much a direct quote — “yuck.”

“What a clod,” they say.

Who can blame them? Walter is so insensitive, so preoccupied with the sports section, that when I ask him for some time off to take care of my personal life — and later, to visit an old dying teacher — he tells me I can’t. He says, “The world doesn’t stop for your problems.” He acts as if my newspaper column is the only thing that matters.

At one point, Walter nearly fires me. Then he forces me to take a leave of absence, saying, “Plenty of other guys can do your job.”

He is a lout. The kind of boss who, quite frankly, after a few minutes of watching him, will make you turn to me and say, “Why do you work for this guy?”

The answer is simple.

The answer is: I don’t.

Wait a minute, Mitch. You said he was your boss.

Ah. Well, this is the problem. He is my boss.

In a movie.

Hollywood always has its reasons

The movie is an adaptation of my book, “Tuesdays With Morrie,” which airs on ABC-TV this Sunday at 9 p.m. Oprah Winfrey produced the film, and has been working on it for more than a year. I think she did a fine job. Jack Lemmon plays Morrie, and Hank Azaria plays me, and they are both excellent actors who, for the most part, give accurate reflections of the real people they are playing.

So do the actress who plays Morrie’s wife, and the actress who plays my wife, and the actress who plays Morrie’s nurse. Of course, these are all real people.

And then there’s Walter.

Walter is not a real person. He is a figment of the screenwriter’s imagination, a character designed, I believe, to personify the pressures that exist between my work and personal life. This happens all the time in adaptations, and since not everything in a movie is taken directly from the book, I have no problem with the concept.

But my real bosses might.

In fact, when the buzz began about this film, the biggest question everywhere was: “Is it any good?”

Except around my office, where the biggest question was: “Who’s Walter?”

And when word got out what a skunk he is, it switched to, “Hey, I’m NOT Walter!”

And now people in my office are walking past one another, smirking and saying,
“Hey, Walter, how’s it going?”

The men behind the mustaches

Now, I must admit, there is a perverse part of me that enjoys this potential confusion. I have visions of my real bosses ducking under restaurant tables as people point and say, “There’s the insensitive jerk.”

I can see little old ladies poking umbrellas in my bosses’ chests and chirping, “How dare you, you …creep!”

But much as I chuckle at the idea of letters to the sports editor that begin,
“Dear Lunkhead . . .” I must come clean. I don’t want this movie to air and have readers think I answer to the sports section equivalent of Joan Crawford.

So let me set the record straight:

I have a real boss. His name is Gene. He is neither bald nor foolish. He has a mustache.

I have another boss. His name is Dave. He is neither bald nor foolish. He has a mustache.

I have two other bosses, Heath and Bob. Neither is bald. Neither is foolish. They both have mustaches.

Wait a minute. What are these guys hiding?

What’s with the mustache, Walter?

No. I’m kidding. I always have been treated fairly by the people at this newspaper. If I ever told them I had a problem in my personal life, they would put an understanding hand on my shoulder and say, “You have a personal life?”

Ha! Another joke. No, the truth is, if I came to the office seeking time off to visit my old professor, my bosses would look at me fondly and say, “Do you work here?”

Ha! More kidding! OK. The serious truth. Everyone at this newspaper has been wonderfully supportive of me, my old teacher, the book and the movie.

So, for those of you who will watch this film Sunday night, let me say this once and for all:

None of my bosses is Walter.

Unless, of course, they have a problem with me taking next week off …

MITCH ALBOM can be reached at 313-223-4581 or Listen to
“Albom in the Afternoon” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Mitch will sign copies of his books 7:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Little Book Shoppe On The Park in Plymouth. Other signings: 7:30-8:30 p.m. Dec. 15 at Barnes & Noble in Toledo, 1:30-2:30 p.m. Dec. 18 at Borders in Ann Arbor, 4-5 p.m. Dec. 18 at Barnes & Noble in Bloomfield Hills, and 7:30-8:30 p.m. Dec. 20 at Barnes & Noble in Troy.


The countdown to Sunday’s debut of the movie version of

“Tuesdays With Morrie” continues:

Today: Columnist Mitch Albom will appear with actor Jack Lemmon, who plays Morrie, on “Larry King Live” (9 p.m. on CNN).

Sunday morning: Check out the Free Press’ Entertainment section for the making of the movie, an interview with Mitch and a review of the film.

Sunday night: “Tuesdays With Morrie” debuts at 9 o’clock on ABC (Channel 7 in Detroit).


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New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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