A surreal birthday message

Bill Walton did not hold back in a happy-birthday message – with mixed results in the audio file.
Bill Walton did not hold back in a happy-birthday message – with mixed results in the audio file.
Posted: March 23, 2009

Some people get presents for their birthdays. Harvey Pollack got a memorable message instead.

Pollack is the 76ers' longtime director of statistical information, but the octogenarian also worked four games of the NCAA tournament at the Wachovia Center on Thursday and two more Saturday.

After Thursday's games, he didn't get home until around 1 a.m. But he was in the office Friday as usual, then took his girlfriend to see a musical that evening.

Pollack recently celebrated his 87th birthday. Bill Walton called Pollack to mark the occasion, but Pollack didn't answer. No biggie. Walton left Pollack a message on his voice mail.

A friend of a friend of Pollack's forwarded the audio file to me. (You can listen to it here: http://tinyurl.com/pollackwalton.) It's a crazy, effusive, over-the-top monologue that makes Hallmark cards and singing telegrams seem lazy by comparison.

The message - which lasts 1 minute, 44 seconds and contains 238 words - is part traditional happy birthday song, part classic Walton stream of consciousness, and part Vegas lounge act.

Initially, I tried to chop up Walton's words to make them easier to digest. But that would do his stand-up routine a great disservice. You just have to dive in and get dirty.

As you're reading it, try to pick up your speed and energy as you go - that's how Walton delivered it. Also, understand that Walton sang all the "happy birthdays" with wonderful karaoke flair. He drew them out and turned them into long, dramatic asides that sounded like "haaaappppyy birrrrthdaaaaay."

Good luck:

"Happy birthday, happy birthday. Harvey, this Bill Walton just in case you thought it might have been Neil Young or Tony Bennett or Barry Manilow or someone else. But I just wanted to call and wish you the happiest of birthdays and just say thanks for everything, Harvey. You make our lives so wonderful, so full, so complete. And you are such an intergalactic treasure. I cannot believe it's gone so fast - 87 years young. Oh. My. Gosh. You have given your life to make everybody else's better, Harvey, and we just wanted to say thank you on this most special day for you. And we hope that you have just many, many, many, many more birthdays. Happy birthday, happy birthday. Thanks for not only making a difference, Harvey, thanks for making the difference . . . in all of our lives. Where on earth would we be without Harvey Pollack? Happy birthday to you.

"You're the absolute greatest. We could never thank you enough. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Keep it going forever, Harvey. You are our true inspiration. You are our beacon of hope. You are our moral compass and guiding light. Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday to you. Thanks Harvey. Bill Walton here just in case you thought it might have been somebody who can really sing. OK. You take care. We love you, Harvey. Thanks again. Bye."

The man should start a company - Bill Walton's Happy Birthday Messages. Beats ice cream cake.

While the rest of the country obsesses over NCAA tournament pools, some members of ESPN's radio family have obsessed - and bickered - over a different bracket. There's nothing sadder than when relatives turn against each other.

ESPN radio's Colin Cowherd (heard locally weekday mornings from 10-11 on 950-AM ESPN) spent a good portion of last week trumpeting his breakfast bracket - a field of 64 made up of various cereals such as Raisin Bran and Frosted Flakes, and Cap'n Crunch. Despite the unfortunate fact that he renamed the Sweet 16 the "Sugary 16," more than 170,000 people voted in Cowherd's pool.

Mike Missanelli wasn't one of them. The 950 ESPN host has been calling Cowherd's breakfast bracket a "violation." Just as Al Gore once tried to take credit for the Internet, Missanelli says he was the talent agent who made pop culture brackets the D-list pastime they are today.

"Anybody can put together a Field of 64 with various topics," said Mikey Brackets.

"I made it a cottage industry when I was doing the WIP show years ago. I would do one every two weeks, so I can legitimately lay claim to a faux copyright. The problem here is the connection with Vince Kates-Paulus. He was my producer when I was doing those Field of 64s."

Kates-Paulus is now Cowherd's producer.

"If the brackets were started in 1939, I'm sure they were bracketing other things for fun by 1940," Kates-Paulus said. "Stole is such a harsh word. I wasn't aware of any patent infringement happening here."

Fraternal tiffs are always entertaining. Can't wait until they start in with the swirlies and noogies.

Fight or no fight, I dig Gus Johnson's work for CBS. . . . L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke was at the Wachovia Center over the weekend. If you haven't seen the March Madness video he did for the Times, watch it posthaste (http://tinyurl.com/plaschke). It's both disturbing and bold. I'd pay good money to convince Bob Ford to do something like that. . . . Coach K and Duke drive me mad. Here's hoping Jay Wright and the Wildcats do what Texas couldn't and topple the Blue Devils.


Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.

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