From the pages of

Lady Dot still telling it like it is

Battered and beat. Ironically, it's probably the only two words that can't describe the ageless matriarch of The Dispatch and Rock Island Argus.

Sitting at her computer, eyes scanning from screen to a haphazard collection of notes on her desk, she taps out another column for the twin papers. Lady Dot to most of the newsroom, Dot to her friends, and Dorothy Buresh to the thousands of loyal readers, is hard at it, doing what she does best -- telling it like it is.

``If you worry about what everybody thinks, you might was well not even think about writing a column,'' Lady Dot said, holding court in a small conference room in the midst of the Dispatch's working day din. ``You will be ridiculed, screamed at and hollered at, and you have to let it fall where it falls. I never think about that. It takes me about 10 minutes to write my column. If it doesn't flow out, why, you better forget it.''

She probably knows your parents, and they probably like her more than they like you. She has pounded the terra firma of the Quad-Cities area newsbeats more than four decades and, in the profession's quirky vernacular, she ``knows where all the skeletons are buried.''

``I can remember when I first started back in the 1940s (our editor) said to me, `You don't look like a drunk or you're promiscuous,' and I told him that I could learn. He taught me a lot of stuff. Back in 1965, I became a columnist. I was sitting right back there and (our editor) came over and said she needed 20 inches to fill a spot and needed it in 15 minutes. I became a columnist. She said we were just `battered and beat,' and that's how it got its name.''

To an outsider, she could almost appear grandmotherly -- silver mane, glasses and an ever-present smile. She is quick to laugh and not a soul goes by with out a wave or comment. Spend some time with her, and you'll learn that's where the comparison pretty much ends.

At ``old enough to know better'' (confidential sources place her age around 80), she can curse like a sailor on a three-day binge and, when necessary, make her point with all the delicacy of a swift kick in the rear.

``Getting the money,'' was her initial response to what she likes best about her job. However, she followed it up by saying, ``I also like being with the young kids and being in the thick of everything. After so many years, I am surprised at practically nothing.''

Sit down with her for an hour and she will know more about you than you know about her. If you are going to ask a question, be prepared for the answer; the lady pulls no punches.

Her reporting has been lauded with numerous awards from various professional organizations. She has interviewed foreign dignitaries and American presidents, including John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, and Gov. George Wallace.

She has interviewed such celebrities as Pearl Bailey, Louie Belson, Hubert Humphrey, Betty Grable, Vincent Price, and even Morris the Cat and Lassie -- all five of them.

Although she claims an Irish heritage, she was knighted by the King of Belgium and named the official Mayor of Moline's 7th Street.

Her friends swear store clerks not only know her by name, but most have committed the first digits of her charge cards to memory.

``I love to shop, shop, shop,'' she said. ``I also have a few close girlfriends, and we go have lunch out or take the occasional four- or five-day junket. We just call the travel agency and see what they have tickets to. We have made it to some pretty unusual places that way, but it is always fun.''

Her supporters and detractors trade jabs in Speak Out, with equal parts venom and verve. She pays little heed to the opinions of the anonymous, but does confess to the occasional sting.

``Oh, you can't pay attention to what they say,'' she said. ``Occasionally, one will sting, but when (the job) is over, it's over. I don't worry about that. If you are going to take everything to heart, you don't belong in this business at all.''

Rest assured, loyal readers, Lady Dot has no immediate plans for retirement and intends to keep at it as long as she's having fun.

``My future plans? How much more future do you think I am going to have?'' she asked, laughing. ``I like doing my job, if I didn't I would be somewhere sitting in the sun. I would like to do more, but the powers-that-be think I am too senile. Senile like a fox. I have seen so many people retire and get so bored and just give up and die.

``I like writing about the little things that people can associate with. People will stop me in the mall and say `I had that same thing happen to me,' which amazes me that people actually recognize me.''

Although it defies today's politically correct notions, one has the urge to call her what she no doubt is -- a Dame -- in the grandest sense of the word. However, if you spot a certain Dispatch/Argus staffer walking with a limp, you'll know Lady Dot, no doubt, disagrees with the word.

``When I first started, I was told by our boss that I would never get rich in this business, but that I could make a lot of people happy,'' she said. ``Well, I never got rich and I hope I made some people happy.''

-- By Todd Welvaert (February 2, 1998)

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