Gee,” I said, exchanging suppressed smiles with a friend, “do you think Bob is going to write about this?”

We both exploded in laughter, knowing that Bob could never let Justice James D. Heiple’s hissy fit before the Pekin police go unsavored. Not after Heiple firmly established himself as the Beast in Bob’s world, first by condemning Baby Richard to a lifetime in the company of Otakar Kirchner, and then by ignoring Bob’s 70 or so columns shrieking for reconsideration.

Who didn’t expect Bob to take off his shirt and roll around in the episode? Still, one must admire such vigor. Not one. Not two or three, but seven. Seven columns in a row–at least at press time–bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam, gloating over the judge’s sad tirade. Leave it to Bob Greene to make predictability surprising.

The facts of the incident had already been fully set out in the press. But that didn’t keep Bob from lovingly reprising them, day after day. Heiple’s angry “Do you know who I am?” is repeated six times in these columns, once in a headline, to Bob’s loud moans and tongue clicking. “His civil rights?” Bob shrieks at the climax of Heiplefest #1. “His civil rights?”

Bob’s blood boiling, he exhibits several trademark flaws worth noting:

The veiled promise. Bob often enjoys hinting at what’s to come in a following installment. Closing Heiplefest #1, Bob must have wanted to leave Heiple stewing until he could snatch up the next day’s Tribune in his shaking hands: “If he still believes his transparent threat will work, he may soon have reason to think again.” In Heiplefest #2, Bob says Heiple seems confident the police account will not be believed, adding, “He may be surprised.” Later he quotes one of the arresting officers saying that Heiple didn’t think the police’s handcuff policy should apply to him. “He may be about to learn differently,” Bob intones.

The lifted quote. Always a master at reprinting vast expanses of other people’s writing, Bob turns over a full third of Heiplefest #3 to the Peoria Journal Star–the way a tag-team wrestler, exhausted, slaps his partner’s hand. With a gleeful whoop the Journal Star leaps over the ropes and puts Heiple in the Typeset Lock of Doom with a stinging editorial against the judge. Heiplefest #7 is given over entirely to reprints.

The coy transition. After six dozen columns on Baby Richard dominated by recriminations against Heiple, Bob has the childlike ingenuity to pretend his Heiplefest columns aren’t about revenge. Halfway through Heiplefest #1, Bob muses: “This should also be an occasion to think of what can be done for the people he has been allowed to hurt in the name of the citizens of Illinois.” Bob calls Baby Richard “chief and most voiceless”among Heiple’s victims, as if there were scores of other hapless Illinois litigants buried in unmarked graves along I-55.

For the finale to Heiplefest #3, Bob appeals to the Illinois Courts Commission, “the only governmental body in the state that can declare a judge unfit and strip him of his robes.” Bob dashes that hope, however, by noting that the head of the commission is–scary music here–James D. Heiple! The bullet-riddled villain returns in the final scene for a Twilight Zone twist: The doctors at the hospital are the aliens!!! Aaaaaiiiyeee!

This will go on for some time. There will be a trial, reported in the papers and echoed, word for word, by Bob in a sort of giddy, Heiple-o-centric Greek chorus. Woe to us.

–Ed Gold

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration/Jeff Heller.