Most obnoxious author award may be revived

Calvin Trillin urges a comeback for the Golden Dartboard Award, once bestowed by book-tour escorts on jerky writers.

Topics: Martha Stewart, Books,

In the September issue of Brill’s Content, humorist Calvin Trillin mourned a lost love. “Whenever I hear people lament the passing of a beloved tradition, I find myself growing nostalgic for the days of the Golden Dartboard Award.” Bestowed annually upon the most obnoxious author on a book tour by the media escorts charged with schlepping those authors around, the award met its demise six years ago. Trillin should take heart, though. His wistful words may help raise the dead.

Emily Laisy, the Baltimore-area escort who co-founded the Golden Dartboard, may resurrect the award, whose previous recipients include Martha Stewart and Jeffrey Archer. Before she takes any concrete steps, however, Laisy wants to gather some grass-roots support. “I’m in touch with some of the major escorts, so I’ll ask them,” she said. “In fact, I might send out a little fax to a lot of them to see if they’d give an opinion.”

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Before the award was phased out, Laisy and her San Francisco co-founder, Kathi Goldmark, chose the winner based on reports from various escorts around the country. The winner’s mug would then be pinned to a dartboard and displayed at a gathering of the Media Escort Network, a trade organization, during the annual American Booksellers Association convention. The dartboard would then be carried high by Goldmark, the group’s official bearer.

In the award’s final year, the judges debated giving the award to “Fountain of Age” author Betty Friedan (whom some escorts dubbed the “Fountain of Rage”), but in the end, the group couldn’t reach a consensus. Some of the escorts (most of whom are women) felt that Friedan’s contribution to the women’s movement precluded this kind of lampooning. After that impasse, the award was discontinued because of concerns that the press had infiltrated the private event and the results had become too public, damaging the relationship between the escorts, publishers and authors.

Sally Carpenter, a major-media escort in the Boston area, will most likely vote against the Golden Dartboard’s return. “I’m the wet blanket,” she said. “Ninety percent of the authors are great. If there were so many problems, we wouldn’t have been doing this for so long.”

But didn’t the Golden Dartboard give their profession a little color? “I think it was funny,” she conceded. “But it wasn’t a help to media escorts.”

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books.

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