Long a staple of the Friday-night Public Broadcasting lineup, Wall $treet Week’s Louis Rukeyser was noted as a master of puns. Or should that be groanster? Or even monster?

So in his presence for lunch one day, I piped up. “You know there are no good puns, only bad ones and worse. So who do you look down to for inspiration?”

He took it in good stride, knowing the sneer puns often earn, and replied calmly that when he was growing up, one of his father’s best friends was Random House cofounder Bennett Cerf – and young Louis gobbled up all of the literary publisher’s pun-filled volumes. I think he said he memorized 14 books in all. Not a bad foundation, for starters, and probably better than the jokes at the end of each month’s issue of Boys’ Life magazine.

Toward the end of his career, Rukeyser increasingly resembled the man on America’s one-dollar bills, an image he no doubt curried with a bit of tongue-in-cheek. Get a shtick in life, you might as well run with it. And how!

He was also an early example of the multimedia celebrity, something I detested in my role as a newspaper editor. I saw enough examples of television or radio personalities who tried their hand at simultaneously writing regular columns for print media, and our side of the equation was obviously the one being slighted. Let’s be frank. Anybody in the spotlight has only so much first-rate material to go around.

(That makes me recall a second-rate Boston newspaper columnist who took on TV features too, and pretty soon you couldn’t understand his content unless you’d seen the show he was amplifying. And then he was unmasked as a disgrace.)

Still, Rukeyser was candid about what we now call a “platform.” His career started as a reporter the Baltimore Sun, and he maintained a newspaper column throughout his run. “It established my credibility,” he said, back in the days when print carried clout.

The TV series, he added, gave him exposure and fame.

But the money came largely from his in-person appearances as a convention speaker. Everybody, after all, knew who he was – and that he could make the “dismal science” of economics and finance a lively, even humorous, topic.

Not every editor, I should note, bought into the argument that his fame as a public television celebrity would translate into newspaper readership. I still share their conclusion.

And then we had Andy Rooney.

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