Benito Mussolini Stealing Pete Reilly’s Stuff

Westbrook Pegler

Evansville Press/July 12, 1935

In “Hot Foot” Trick He Is Planning for Ethiopia.

Always Clowning, Benito Mussolini has introduced a note of low humor into his great defensive war against Emperor Haile Selassie’s barefoot Ethiopians The Italian defenders of the Eternal City are experimenting with a chemical preparation which will give the Ethiopians not only the hot foot but the hot seat in one operation.

The chemical is sprinkled over the battlefield, and when the Italians are ready to spring the joke their gallant commander sends a message to the Ethiopians saying, “You chase us.”

The Ethiopians naturally see nothing suspicious in this. They have often chased the Italians, so they leave their positions and dash over the battlefield. Before they have proceeded far the chemical begins to burn their feet, and when they sit down to fan their feet the chemical burns thru their uniform nightshirts.

Just what the Ethiopians do next has not been developed, as the maneuver has not been tested in practical warfare. But it is presumed that the Italian patriots burst into coarse laughter, as is always the case with those who perpetrate the hot foot and hot scat on unsuspecting victims.

Introduced by Mr. Pete Reilly

The exact origins or these pranks are not known. They were first introduced to modern humor by Mr. Pete Reilly of Brooklyn, when he was manager of Jack Delaney, the pugilist, who used to be greeted by the customers at the old Madison Square Garden with spontaneous cries of “Delaney is a bum.”

This was about 10 years ago. Mr. Reilly, though white-haired, was remarkably agile and had an elfin sense of humor which was always devising innocent foolishness. He introduced the hot foot at a formal banquet of the National Sports Alliance, or Fight Managers’ Friendly Society. His victim was the august Mr. Abe (Singletooth) Yeager, who was in the act of addressing the assembled sportsmen on “Chivalry and Square Dealing.”

Creeping under the speakers’ table, Mr. Reilly wedged a paper match between the upper and the sole of Mr. Yeager’s shoe and lit the match. As the flame reached his toes Mr. Yeager departed from his prepared text with an anguished cry of “Oy!” and poured a pitcher of Mr. Owney Madden’s beer over his suffering foot.

Soon the hot foot swept the prizefighters’ training camps like a conflagration, and Mr. Reilly introduced the hot seat. This happened at Goofeycrest, Mr. Gus Wilson’s training camp at Orangeburg, N. Y., which was the Piping Rock and the Meadow Brook of pugilism in those days. 

Mr. Jack Sharkey was training there at the lime and was selected for the first demonstration because he had a great sense of humor himself, delighting to scatter sneeze powder in the breeze of the electric fan at the pinochle game. Mr. Reilly wired one of the armchairs at Goofeycrest, induced Mr. Sharkey to sit down for a chat, and closed the switch.

Obvious difficulties prevent II Duce from giving the hot fool and hot seat to the Ethiopian army by Mr. Reilly’s primitive method, but the principle of his scheme is the same. Possibly Mr. Reilly could sue II Duce for a royalty on every treatment administered to the Ethiopian army. But more likely he would prefer to accept a commission as general in the Italian army if the great defense of Rome is to be conducted in a spirit of good-natured fun. He could organize other mass pranks on the Ethiopians. 

Phone Jokes Impractical in This Case

Another joke of Mr. Reilly’s involves a large supply of limburger or asafetida. Mr. Reilly has had great social success with this one, placing a small deposit of limburger or asafetida in the hatband or pocket of the subject.

He has also been known to place an egg in the victim’s pocket and break it with an accidental nudge and has distributed hundreds of explosive cigars, soap candies and trick matches which go off like firecrackers, causing great amusement. He has achieved fine results with a leaking beer glass which drools on the victim’s vest.

If it were possible to get the Ethiopian army to answer the phone en masse Mr. Reilly could perpetrate two telephone jokes which have always served him well. His favorite telephone trick is to smear the receiver with axle grease and tell a friend that a lady wishes to speak to him. 

The results when the friend places the receiver to his ear are ludicrous in the extreme. But the Ethiopians would take a lot of telephones and axle grease. In the other telephone trick Mr. Reilly selects a number at random about 3 a.m., routs a total stranger out of bed and says: “This is the National Disturbance Corporation. A client of ours has given us a commission to disturb you at this hour and every 15 minutes until 6 o’clock. Are you disturbed? And, if so, will you recommend our disturbance service to your friends?” 

This one drives them crazy. But here, again, the equipment seems prohibitive. 

Yet who would ever have thought it possible to administer the hot foot and hot seat on a quantity scale? 

Prerhaps, though, out of national pride II Duce would prefer the bag trick which was played on many late bootleggers in the prohibition era with a record of 100 per cent success. The victim of the bag trick is placed in a burlap sack with ropes attached to his ankles and neck. When he struggles to get out of the bag he tightens his own noose and commits suicide, although he does not want to commit suicide at all. That is the joke of it. 

Anyway, II Duce is to be thanked for introducing the comedy relief in war.

Anything for a laugh.


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