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Genius Is As Genius Does - Another Terrifying Tale From The 70's by Brian Cullman


TV Talk Show star Dick Cavett hosted Little Richard, author Erich Segal and critic John Simon all together one night. Little Richard was in the midst of one of his many splendid come-backs, and he sang "FREEDOM BLUES" from his newly released album, ' THE RILL THING'. Which was an..."almost". As in, I kept wanting it to be better - but it was something. 


Then author Erich Segal came out. The movie of his best-seller, "LOVE STORY" was in the theaters. It was a huge hit, and he started to talk about "the classics." He went on about the roots of “LOVE STORY” being in Greek tragedy. He was folksy and charming and awkward - and it looked like the slightest breeze would blow him away. Critic John Simon came out with the sole purpose of being that breeze. 


Simon was not in a good mood, and he tore into Segal with total abandon . "What I want to know," he sneered, "is whether you're a fool or a knave? Whether you're an idiot who got lucky writing popular claptrap or simply a very clever and cynical man who makes money off of dead puppies? That, of course, is all LOVE STORY is...dead puppies."


Segal fumbled a bit, acted both weary and humiliated, and yet somehow above the fray. He came across as hapless and silly. "People like it," he stammered. "They like it. That's all there is to it. It touched a popular nerve. I'm not saying I'm a genius..."


At which point Little Richard, the evening's forgotten man,  jumped back into the fray. "Shut up," he cried. "Just shut up! I'm the only genius here. Who's talkin' bout genius? Me, I'm a genius - the Georgia peach - prettiest man in this room! Don't you know it?"


And still proclaiming his genius, Little Richard, God bless him, jumped right into John Simon's lap, and cuddled him with wild menace and contempt.


The shock, surprise, and sheer terror on John Simon's face was a thing of rare beauty. And all I remember hearing before they cut to a commercial was Little Richard howling once again, "The prettiest man in this room. And a genius...a genius!"


--Brian Cullman