Poet and retired clown Tim Torkildson has gotten revenge on me via the NY Times.

“You came down to Nicollet Mall when I was working there as a clown and you did a video of me, about five or six years ago,” Torkildson refreshed my memory Tuesday. “After that I decided, ‘I’ll just send her everything I do.’ I did flood you with poetry and most of it was bad, so I don’t blame you for e-mailing me back, saying, Please stop.”

NY Times business reporter Rachel Abrams handled Torkildson’s poetry in a different manner.

“I sent her several over the past couple of years. Finally she e-mailed me back: Why do you do this? What is your purpose? I e-mailed her, ‘This is what I do. This is who I am.’ We arranged a telephone conversation. I explained, I’m semiretired right now and love reading newspapers. I’m obsessed with poetry. I write a lot of it and it’s always based on a story from a newspaper or magazine. When something tickles my funny bone or outrages me I’ll write about it.”

In Monday’s NYT, Abrams wrote about Torkildson, in a little behind-the-scenes feature, citing this one:


I eat magnets all the time:

the reason ain’t redactive.

If I eat enough of ’em

I’m sure to be attractive.

(Abrams declined my attempts to fact-check but condescended to note, via e-mail: “Just so you’re aware, we don’t intend to write anything else about him.”)

Torkildson taunted me via e-mail Tuesday: “Now my poetic work is being recognized in the New York Times. My revenge is to share that article link with you today. (nyti.ms/1A8ewEQ)”

By phone I told Torkildson that he was not the first reader whose poetry I had discouraged but that I had always intended to get back to him, to follow up on an e-mail he sent about how my video landed him a job in Asia.

“I sent the link [of the video] to all my friends. One of them lived in Thailand and he was concerned that I was reduced to panhandling as a circus clown to get some money together. He talked to a friend of his who owned an English school. I spent the next four years teaching English in Thailand. It was a great part of my life.”

Osteoarthritis, which has the Roseville resident wintering in Utah, brought Torkildson’s clown days to an end. That just means more time for poetry, and, since Torkildson owes me, I gave him assignments for two upcoming interviews: with a clown and a poet.


LaBelle on SooooulTrain

“Not a lot of white boys end up on SoulTrain.com’s Web cover,” said music producer Shaun LaBelle, “but your boy is there.”

Joe Walker’s profile of my buddy (tinyurl.com/n36gtvq) reads as though Shaun wrote it: “Highly-regarded producer/musician Shaun LaBelle is sitting in his hotel lobby, stringing his bass while speaking with SoulTrain.com. … Asked his favorite Soul Train memory, LaBelle pauses his upkeep. Accustomed to packed stadiums and sharing stages with multi-instrument bands, it must be nice to hear himself think. ‘For me to name one moment,’ he begins, flashing his bright smile before continuing, ‘I can’t. It was all great for me!’ ”

The article points out that LaBelle went on to become “one of the most sought-after producers alive, a millions-selling sure thing who’s created hits for Ray Charles, Jody Watley, Everette Harp, Ambrosia, Nikita Germaine, and The Jets.”

LaBelle, who was appearing at the Loft in Lansing, Mich., with Stokley when this interview was conducted, did not have a great first encounter with Don Cornelius, the producer who created the syndicated music and dance TV show.

“Soul Train’s late creator had a bond with LaBelle’s legendary manager, Gary Reed, and was not impressed at first sight,” reads the article.“ ‘I don’t want to say it’s because I was white,’ ” LaBelle told SoulTrain.com. “Don needed convincing. ‘Once he started to hear some of my credits, then it was, ‘Oh, OK!’ He warmed up and was like, ‘Yeah, he is funky!’ I’ll be honest with you: as a white guy in the urban business, which I’ve been in my whole life, there was always a little bit of apprehension at first.’ ”

Apprehension and confusion.

In 1992 LaBelle was at Motown to meet with one of Berry Gordy’s sons about signing a production deal.

“ ‘I’m waiting in the lobby for like two hours, and I keep seeing the same guy go by. He looked like Berry Gordy. I thought ‘That’s gotta be his son,’ ” LaBelle told SoulTrain.com. LaBelle was becoming irritated by the wait. “ ‘Then I see the guy go up to the secretary and yell, ‘Where … is Shaun LaBelle?’ She says, ‘He’s right there!’ And he says, ‘That’s Shaun LaBelle?’ ”


C.J. can be reached at cj@startribune.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count. Attachments are not opened.