‘The Tragedy Is That Elmer Only Wanted Dramatic Roles’

After David Mills, the former journalist and Emmy-winning screenwriter, died earlier this week, HBO distributed a lengthy obituary penned by his longtime friend and colleague David Simon. The Times-Picayune, which has been providing heavy coverage of the upcoming, New Orleans-themed “Treme,” on which Mills and Simon collaborated, has posted the complete text. This bit, about an episode shortly before Mills’s ascent from the Washington Times to the rival Post in 1990, is too good not to share:

His leap to the Post followed a remarkable parody of the classic Post Style celebrity profile – one in which some celebrity is interviewed for an hour or so in some suite at the Willard Hotel, with the celebrity’s every physical act and verbal tic highlighted by a reporter who has been offered minimal exposure to his subject.

Mills pretended to interview Bugs Bunny at the Willard, offering up the sort of gossipy, aside-laden snark for which the Post’s arts section was then known. Bugs bemoaned the fallen state of cartoons, reflected on his various costars – “of course, the tragedy is that Elmer only wanted dramatic roles” – and then shilled for the Humane Society, horrified that actual rabbits often lost their feet for human trinkets. It was a glorious sendup.

The Post hired him soon thereafter, assigning him to cover race and popular culture for the features section, a beat that Mills made into his own.

Sadly, a quick Google search failed to turn up the full text of the parody profile. But the Post has republished on its site one of Mills’s best-known stories before he left for the TV world, an interview with the rapper Sister Souljah in the wake of the Rodney King verdict and the LA riots. Also worth reading is the TV critic Alan Sepinwall’s account of his friendship with Mills, which provides links to Mills’s blog posts on the “Misidentified Black Person of the Week” and “Attack of the GIANT NEGROES!!” Rest in peace.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.