Dear readers: Do not panic! Paul Rolly has not left the newsroom.
He reluctantly took a one-day leave of absence, so I, his former partner in crime, could congratulate him on 20 years of muckraking. TWENTY YEARS! That means Rolly has uncovered and publicized the misconduct of prominent people in 3,120 columns, many of which he penned solo.
I left The Tribune seven years ago to take on the world's most challenging job (teaching high school students), leaving Paul to write 1,092 columns on his own.
In 20 years he has never missed a column, setting some kind of journalistic record for which he received no medal, but rabidly annoyed politicians, which is almost as gratifying.
Rolly's sojourn into the world of Herb Caen-type column writing began in 1991 when then Tribune editor Jay Shelledy asked him to write a column about the quirks and curiosities of Utah life.
Easy enough, right? Unless Shelledy orders you to have a partner who differs with you on religious, political and social issues. Rolly said he could think of many candidates, but when Shelledy said the person also had to like him, Rolly said the field narrowed considerably.
Rolly suggested me, and, after some negotiations, I was rescued from the Deseret News. And the fun began.
During 13 raucous roller-coaster years, we hurled unprecedented, unexpected and, in some cases, politically incorrect jabs at such deserving targets as former Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini ("Queen Dee") and former Logan Mayor Darla Clark ("Dame Darla"). Utah State University President George Emert was crowned "King George" after he ordered a conference table, which was, well, fit for a king.
No public official was an untouchable, off-limits "sacred cow" to R&W, except Ute football coach Ron McBride, whom everybody loves. To ensure there was no hint of favoritism in the R&W column, Rolly even had veto power over anything I wrote about my friends Sen. Orrin Hatch and Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. (At least I showed bipartisan bias.)
I thought Rolly would have writer's block when most of our favorite colorful characters left public office.
But alas, former Salt Lake County Attorney Doug Short, Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman, and Reps. Merrill Cook and Enid Green, and her former hubby, Joe Waldholtz, were succeeded by a new cast of comedians: state Sen. Chris Buttars, members of the Utah Liquor Commission, the Sutherland Institute, the Eagle Forum and, of course, West Valley Mayor-turned-journalist Mike Winder.
They ensured Rolly had job security, and his column continued to have a big impact even after I went on to make my own "special contribution to society," and ended up being the cheerleader adviser at Brighton High School.
It obviously was my punishment for the time Rolly and I angered the Deseret News when we registered with the Department of Commerce the new names its editors were considering. Or when we ran the answers to the D. News' "Les Miserables" contest.
Ironically, every time Rolly wrote something about my new employers Canyons School District or Brighton High my colleagues accused me of being his "source." Most of the time, I was too busy defending Shakespeare and Steinbeck, not to mention the First Amendment, to be a dependable Deep Throat.
But, always I am proud to be counted among Rolly's legions of fans foolish folk who still believe politicians should act in the public interest. And, that nobody should take himself or herself too seriously. Including Rolly & Wells. Frequently, acquaintances still ask me if I miss writing "that" column. My response: You never look back with regrets in life only forward to the chaos Rolly is going to create Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Good luck, Paul, and congratulations on your 20th anniversary! You deserve that medal!
Note to readers
Columnist Paul Rolly hits a milestone Friday. His former co-columnist, JoAnn Jacobsen-Wells, takes the reins of the column to mark Rolly's accomplishment.