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Take Five: Newsman Don Marsh on his new book, 'How to be rude politely'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 23, 2010 - Ever wonder how to get out of an invitation to something you don't want to go to or get rid of the pesky neighborhood kids at your pool or get around forgetting an anniversary or birthday? Don Marsh's new book, "How to be Rude Politely," solves all those problems and more with its witty charm and playful way of bending the truth.

With 12 Regional Emmy Awards, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Don Marsh, host of St. Louis on the Air on KWMU, St Louis Public radio, has long been known as a hard-hitting news man.

"I've spent 50 years in the news business trying to convince people that I was honest and serious, that I should be believed," said Marsh. "Maybe I've destroyed those 50 years with this book. As I said, it's all in good fun -- and for the most part make believe -- and I hope people get a kick out of it."

Broken into 24 helpful chapters that lay out exactly how to weasel your way out of anything, Marsh reveals the true importance of the fib. By fibbing with self-confidence, you can talk your way out of anything unpleasant, such as your dog violating your neighbor's yard, a family friend dumping their baby upon you, or a fight with an unhappy driver following you. In a witty banter that left this reader in fits, Marsh reveals the keys to being rude, politely.

How did you come up with the original idea for this book?

Marsh: Actually it's a very simple story. Last August, I had open heart surgery, and I was more or less immobilized. For weeks after that, I could walk around but I couldn't drive. So I was bored and depressed and I just sort of got this idea, started to work on the word processor and this is finally what came out. I was looking for something to cheer myself up, and frankly I found myself laughing at my own stuff, which is a terrible thing to say. But I thought, well if I'm laughing, maybe someone else will. So that's how it all got started.

The book has countless hilarious anecdotes and stories. How did you accumulate so many funny life experiences?

Marsh: Because I have an active imagination. It's just spoof. You know it's really just taking situations and having fun with them. Actually, I should say that the very first chapter deals with getting two desserts. That was actually inspired by my wife -- she would do anything to get more than one dessert, whether it is at a picnic or a swell event. She's a very petite lady, but she loves sweets, so that just kind of kicked this whole thing off.

We went to an event once at the Art Museum, and it was clear that all of the desserts had been carefully calculated to one a customer. I can't even tell you what it was, except it was very fancy -- ice cream, chocolate sauce, nuts, fruit. And she wanted more than one. She already had mine -- that was two -- but she was not (satisfied) with that.

Anyway, that [chapter] was an extrapolation from that incident. Others just kind of popped into my head. We've all been through these kind of incidents. I'm sure that you have been in positions where you have been asked to go places you didn't want to go or forgotten someone's name. But it's just fun. It's spoof; it's not to be taken seriously.

Do you worry about a mass breakout of fibbing after people read it?

Marsh: There's already been a mass breakout of fibbing. And, I would say, it should be called a mass breakout of lying. Look at our politicians. Who was the guy a couple of weeks ago who said he served in Vietnam and was the captain of his swim team at Harvard? He didn't, and he wasn't; he never did any of those things. Nixon said "I am not a crook." Bill Clinton said, "I did not have sex with that woman." I mean, look at the politicians they've been lying since day one, and they still are. And a lot of other people are, too.

But I try to differentiate between lying and fibbing. I think lying is an attempt to really deceive. Fibbing is more like you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings and you want to extract yourself from a situation.

Many of your tricks of the trade apply to one's significant other. Has your wife read this book?

Marsh: We've been married for 33 years. Do you think there is anything about me she doesn't already know? No, she read it, she actually made suggestions. So no, that was never a problem, and I'm not concerned about it because she's on to all of my tricks.

Have any people realized they are in the book?

Marsh: There's a little bit of everybody in all of it. As I say it's really a spoof, not a compilation of tricks I have pulled over the years. It's just my imagination thinking if I were put in these situations what would be a clever, i.e. funny, way out of it.

Well, I have to admit there is some basic advice that is valuable to people -- that is to have a story ready if you are put in (an awkward) position. You want to have stories ready, and my best advice is to set the story up in such a way that you can make people feel sorry for you at the same time. That accomplishes so much. You get their pity, and you get out of a situation you don't want to be in.

Lauren Weber, a student at Georgetown University, is an intern at the Beacon.

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