It’s hard to remember most people we meet. But a few of us do things with a quirkiness, an unforgettable style, or a power that we’ve got to call them colorful characters. Since last August, I’ve been seeking out such folks for a book I’m working on. When it comes out in the fall, its title will be, of course, Colorful Characters of St. Louis.
Many of those in the book are funny but not all. One of the more serious ones is the civil rights activist Percy Green, who has fought for equality of employment since the 1960s. People still talk about his climb up the partially-built Gateway Arch and the unmasking of the Veiled Prophet during the hoity toity Veiled Prophet Ball that he helped arrange. I spent an hour today (Feb. 2) talking to him at Einstein Brothers Bagels in the Central West End. At 80, he still has the power in him that he had half a century ago.
Paul Pagano is definitely on the lighter side. For decades, he’s greeted people outside Cardinal baseball games, at fairs, and everywhere there was a crowd. In his early 90s, he’s slowed down. He lives at Delmar Garden North and gets around on a scooter wheelchair. But he still gets around to a few places, with the help of a son.
Without question, Mike Stein was one of the funniest ones. You’ll remember him as the Schweig Engel credit guy on outrageous ads that ran on local TV from 1981 to 2004. Actually, he was the pretty straight laced president of the Schweig Engel furniture and appliance company until he decided he didn’t like the commercials his ad agency made for him. So he made them himself and became the King of Credit.
You’ll find about eighty of those guys in Colorful Characters of St. Louis, including me. Josh Stevens my publisher made me write that part. The title is “My Wasted Life as a Writer.” It goes downhill from there.
When the book comes out, I’ll have a release party, possibly with some of the people I’m writing about. Plan to come and get an autographed copy. It’s an easy way to add some color to your lives.