“Do We Really Need Another Apartment Building?”

A WVOX Commentary
By William O’Shaughnessy
November 25, 2020

The city development commissioner Luiz Aragon is leaving.

Time to see what he has left in his wake.

He leaves an urban landscape once loaded with potential and opportunity, now littered with concrete and glass buildings with no lineage or character … and urban architecture without style, dignity or reference to the City’s hallowed background or its remarkable multi-cultural history.

These soulless structures could exist in Tulsa, Jersey City, Dayton, Flint, or Oklahoma City. They don’t belong here. Which is not to say the City hadn’t slipped into a slow, inexorable decline over the years as we turned away Lord & Taylor, Ikea, the United Nations and other suitors.

The rents for these behemoth boxes are still out of reach for cops, firemen, nurses, first responders, waiters, bus boys and teachers who don’t need or require “concierge” service when they come home spent and exhausted after a hard day’s labor.

Mr. Aragon, Mayor Bramson and the desperate, needy city council of the last several years bought in hook, line and sinker to the blandishments of a posse of high-rolling “What’s in it for Me?” developers who pushed generic designs and plans appealing to the lowest common denominator. They dazzled the elders at City Hall with developer-speak phrases like “crowdsourced placemaking.”

The great international architect Renzo Piano once memorably said, “You can put down a bad book. You can avoid listening to bad music, but you cannot miss the ugly tower or that block of concrete that despoils the skyline of the city.”

There was no concept or mandate to innovate or be bold in all of this. A design concept, no matter how large or small, is the catalyst for a project and its development. In our downtown especially there is no music, no narrative, no intellectual public engagement for these soulless buildings, except gobble-de-gook like that “crowdsourced placemaking.”

It’s been observed that “Architecture is a social act and the material theatre of human activity.” But we showed no concern when confronted by drab aesthetics with drab, multi-cultural faux brick, plastic mullions, fake and weird styling cues – both inside and out. Sadly New Rochelle has become a ubiquitous bastion of bad architecture. We’ve become a victim of homogeneous planning.

Across the country we know that passionate civic activism has helped put an end to some very bad projects, private, as well as public. But not in New Rochelle where we begged developers to “Roll over and Pet me …”

In recent years, our bourgeois mentality and perceived materialistic values stifled any unconventional or creative approach.

Blame it on the seeming paucity of urban planners today and speculators who are lacking in courage and vision that once distinguished the urban planning profession. Mind you, I’m not trying to urge or impose any pinched restriction or “artsy-fartsy” approach to the downtown opportunity.

But shouldn’t the City, when contemplating Renewal, be allowed to have its surprises and contradictions in the dull, colorless urban landscape?

I’m not saying we should only have done business with developers who covet, understand and appreciate the architectural and conceptual genius of the likes of Renzo Piano, Santiago Calatrava, Enrique Norton, Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Lord Norman Foster, Richard Meier, Robert A.M. Stern, the late Eero Saarinen, Michael Graves, James Polshek, Oscar Niemeyer, Costos Kondylis or Ren Koolhas.

Thanks to my compadre Gregorio Alvarez, we’ve actually met and spoken with Santiago Calatrava, Lord Foster, Richard Meier and the late Costos Kondylis. Although they have designed brilliant buildings all over the world, they would gladly have taken a shot with poor, desperate, needy and too long ignored New Rochelle. But the greedy developers selected by the mayor, Luiz Aragon and our genius Council thought your City was not ready for prime-time creativity and the brilliance of a quality, imaginative urban architect.

As it struggled in years gone by, we were able to observe the genius and dedication of Mayor Alvin Richard Ruskin for many years as he fought to retain Bloomingdales, Arnold Constable and build a Macys. The liberal Republican was admired by both sides … even by the Teddy Green-led conservatives. He was also encouraged by Hughie Doyle, Joe Evans and Elly Doctorow, Rocco Bellantoni, Joe Fosina and other Forward-looking people on the high council of our city.

Some blame has to go to the Board of Education of the day and age. When it was appointed by the mayor it was populated with lawyers, judges, successful business executives and wonderful women like Mary Jane Reddington and Ruby Saunders. 

It should not be a popularity contest as it is now for the one who can get the most votes … and run by a superintendent answerable to no one.  Once a year they come around and show themselves only at Budget time.

We have very high regard for several of those in City Hall … starting with our skillful, dedicated and hard-working city manager Charles Bowman “Chuck” Strome. He knows the levers, the buttons and the tedious minutia of government better than anyone. Only Paul Feiner, George Latimer and Andrew Cuomo, the Governor himself, and very few others are in his league. Nita Lowey certainly is. Chuck is certainly a great recruiter. He finds talented people and protects them from the political winds. There are several other stellar players in City Hall, even to this day, including Police Commissioner Joe Schaller who succeeded the legendary Patrick Carroll.  And Fire Chief Andy Sandor.  And thank God we have a wonderful individual like “Don” Dominic Procopio heading up the Civil Service Commission. And our City Court, headed by Judges Anthony Carbone, Susan Kettner and Jared Rice. Jimmy Generoso is perhaps the best court administrator in New York State. We also have high regard for Paul Vacca, our longtime building inspector.

The Board of Education? Forget it! We’d need Jimmy Breslin (The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” to describe that group.)

Who then to blame for the very bland stew of unimaginative apartment behemoths that development commissioner Luiz Aragon leaves behind?

We blame the city council. What we wouldn’t trade for a Walmart, a Target, a Wegman’s, a Bed, Bath and Beyond or a Best Buy! We’d even settle for a good deli!

In recent years there has been occasional glimpses of taste, sophistication and genius provided by Louis Cappelli who gave us a splendid example with his Trump Tower, still the most attractive downtown structure. Cappelli is also doing the right thing with his new building where the Standard Star and Marty & Lenny’s once stood. There is another attractive building in the hood: the Valenti-Montefiore building is a worthy structure built by John and Charles Valenti and their father Jerry of sainted memory. 

We even look back on those heady days when developers Norman Winston, David Muss and a marvelous character named Spencer Martin (who worked out of our office) at least gave us a Macy’s and, for a while, a mini-shopping center.

And what of David’s Island that lays forlornly rotting in the sun? We lost The Edison Company.  And even Donald Trump because they wouldn’t give him a bridge which would connect to overgrown and crumbling Fort Slocum out in Long Island Sound. It’s a prime piece they still don’t know what to do with.

The problem is not just downtown with all the dull, boxy, high rise apartment buildings.

We have been richly endowed by our Creator with nine miles of natural shoreline. We’re not landlocked like poor Mount Vernon. But the elders of the City have done nothing about that precious waterfront resource. Davenport Neck is slowly disappearing, and Five Islands Park is underutilized, while Premium Point remains a guarded and pristine haven for the wealthy.  Even Mamaroneck has done better with its waterfront via Harbor Island Park.

We also have a rich cultural heritage that once attracted Norman Rockwell and America’s greatest artists and illustrators.  Among the City’s prominent citizens were Lou Gehrig, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Frances Sternhagen, Lee Archer, Don McLean, Andrea Mitchell James Fenimore Cooper, Thomas Paine, Carl Reiner, Ken Chenault and three other chairman of AMEX, Vin Draddy, Richard Roundtree, Peter Lind Hayes, Robert Merrill, John Jay, Farouk Kathwari, Tom Rogers, Joe Klein, Governor Malcolm Wilson, Whitney Moore Young, Hugh Price, Willie Mays, Ben Ferencz, Frankie Frisch, Eddie Foy and the Seven Little Foys.

And … YOU … who subsidized all this with lavish tax breaks!

Unfortunately, all this was lost on Luiz Aragon.

And Noam Bramson.

# # #

Postscript: We’ve been pretty tough on Mr. Aragon. It’s not personal. He is, in every telling and by every account, a very nice man with good intentions.

Let us just say … he got what he could.

The same for Bramson.

However disappointing.

William O’Shaughnessy, a former president of the New York State Broadcasters Association, was chairman of Public Affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington.  He has been a point man and advocate for the broadcasters of America on First Amendment and Free Speech issues and is presently chairman of the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America, the national charitable organization.  He is also a longtime director and member of the Executive Committee of the Foundation. He has operated WVOX and WVIP, two of the last independent stations in the New York area, for over 60 years as president and editorial director.

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … and “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files,” released in January, 2011. He has also written “Mario Cuomo:  Remembrances of a Remarkable Man,” a tribute to his late friend Governor Mario M. Cuomo. His newest book RADIOactive for Fordham University Press, another anthology with interviews, commentaries, speeches and tribute was published in 2019. He is presently working on Townies, a paean to those without wealth, influence or high estate in suburban Westchester County, the heart of the Eastern Establishment.

Contact:

Cindy Hall Gallagher
cindy@wvox.com
914-235-3279

WO re: Michael Scott Shannon // The Legendary “Z Morning Zoo”

Michael Scott Shannon

Notes

Re:

The Legendary “Z Morning Zoo”

I’m a Radio guy.

I write books, editorials and commentaries about the great issues of the day. And I’ve occasionally been introduced as an “author.” But I flee from that lofty description.

Breslin was a writer. So too are Malcolm Wilson, Sam Roberts, David Hinckley, Daniel Silva, Robert Harris, Pete Hamill, Lance Morrow, Bill Saroyan, Tracey O’Shaughnessy (no relation), Michael “Lionel” Lebron, John McKenna and Mario Cuomo. They were writers. Also a lawyer named Michael Assaf.

I am a hack writer who struggles mightily and unsuccessfully with the English Language.

But I’ll gladly embrace the appellation “Radio Guy” any time, even in my dotage.

And I’ve always had great respect for disc jockeys who get up each day to strap on earphones and go in a radio station to entertain and inform.

Some of them view the instrument of communication over which they preside for a few hours each day as more than a jukebox.

A few even resemble social commentators and, lacking that, they aspire to be agreeable companions.

In high school in Buffalo I loved Fred Klestine and the five guys who all used the moniker “Guy King.”

And then, much later I discovered a guy from Babylon, N.Y. named William Bernard Breitbard, which name he didn’t use. Instead, he addressed the microphone as William B. Williams.

He went to work in a place called the “Make-Believe Ballroom” which was housed at an iconic radio station with the legendary call signs WNEW.

William B. became a great and wonderful friend.  And it was a sad day when Variety asked me to eulogize him when he left us with the music still playing.

And then, speaking of legends of the air, I became a fan of one Michael Scott Shannon who presided over an obscure New Jersey station Z-100.

Scott is a lot more than a hippy dippy, finger-snapping “Rodney Radio” disc jockey.

In his best moments he’s also a gifted and skillful social commentator, very knowledgeable and worldly about the great issues of the day.

And so he assembled a marvelous and beguiling cast of characters to populate his now legendary Z Morning Zoo.

They played Cindy Lauper. I had no idea who the hell Cindy Lauper was. I still don’t … but I understand she’s pretty talented and a big deal on Broadway.

Scott, who has become the pre-eminent Radio guy of our time was the ringmaster, the interlocutor, the glue and seasoning that drove the inhabitants of the “Zoo,” and his genius held it all together.

I can still remember some of the most delightful off-beat personalities from that show. Everyone on my block … including Yours Truly … was in love with a dame named Claire Stevens!

And the most beguiling of all, of course, was one absolutely outrageous, but endearing character named “Mr. Leonard,” who wore a lime green leisure suit and cherry red pumps. He was always getting in trouble …  like when he covered the visit of Princess Diana “on assignment for Mr. Scott Shannon” and got rousted by the British Secret Service when they caught Mr. Leonard hiding in the bushes with his “Z Morning Zoo” microphone! (“Don’t you know who I am … ?”)

And we remember when he charged out the radio station door in high dudgeon to “have a word” with someone who had the “audacity” to take his personal parking spot.  The confrontation didn’t last long, however, when Mr. Leonard found out the car belonged to Hulk Hogan!

“Oh, sorry, so sorry Mr. Hulk Hogan … I didn’t mean nothing by it when I said those terrible things to you and threatened to beat you … I was just kidding! Hah, hah, hah …”

So many delightful moments …

So much fun.

Such great Radio.

I didn’t just enjoy their antics. Many nights I would stand at the “21” bar and pummel one and all who would listen with my admiration for this Scott Shannon.

Apparently, I was not alone in my enthusiasm. In a short time, the station had a meteoric rise and went from “Worst to First” in the New York market.

Scott then moved on to also program WPLJ and re-invigorate WCBS-FM.

He is the best of what we are.

And he is equally at home with high rollers like Ken Langone, the late Jack Welch, his “patsies” at Westchester Country Club and the swells at Lost Tree in Palm Beach.

Shannon is also possessed of those generous genes which inhabited William B. Williams. Scott has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Blythdale Children’s Hospital and he tees off with his sketchy, 18-handicap at our Broadcasters Foundation of America, and many other, charity golf tournaments.

# # #

An observation: You’ve heard the phrase “He’s got a face for Radio.”

I don’t want you to think I’m “sweet” on the guy. But, Scott Shannon, with those beautiful cheekbones and exquisite jawline indeed has a face for … Television.

But maybe, just maybe, that would ruin everything. He’s so damn good at what he does.

I’m glad he’s my friend.

He’s a great entertainer.

And a class act in every season.

(Oh, and his daughter works in the White House for the President of the United States.)

William O’Shaughnessy, a former president of the New York State Broadcasters Association, was chairman of Public Affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington.  He has been a point man and advocate for the broadcasters of America on First Amendment and Free Speech issues and is presently chairman of the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America, the national charitable organization.  He is also a longtime director and member of the Executive Committee of the Foundation. He has operated WVOX and WVIP, two of the last independent stations in the New York area, for over 60 years as president and editorial director.

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … and “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files,” released in January, 2011. He has also written “Mario Cuomo:  Remembrances of a Remarkable Man,” a tribute to his late friend Governor Mario M. Cuomo. His newest book RADIOactive for Fordham University Press, another anthology with interviews, commentaries, speeches and tributesWVOX_logo_final was published in 2019. He is presently working on Townies, a paean to those without wealth, influence or high estate in suburban Westchester County, the heart of the Eastern Establishment.

Contact:

William O’Shaughnessy
wfo@wvox.com

He Is Who He Is – A WO Endorsement

  “He Is Who He Is”

President Trump for President!
A Whitney Global Media Editorial of the Air
Broadcast on WVOX, WVIP and wvox.com
by William O’Shaughnessy, President & Editorial Director

October 23, 2020

We decided long ago that a radio station could be more than a jukebox. And thus we envisioned WVOX as a platform, a forum to let our neighbors discuss the great issues of the day on our community soapbox.

So we’ve sat in front of a microphone at our Westchester studios for damn near 60 years, during which time the loyal listeners of this unique and influential community station have indulged and tolerated our enthusiasms as they were broadcast into the ether via countless editorials and commentaries also heard worldwide on wvox.com. They’ve also been acknowledged, preserved and memorialized in seven well-received volumes by Fordham, the Jesuit University Press.

Our portfolio as the hometown broadcaster in the very heart of the Eastern Establishment gives us a unique, first-hand look at governors, even presidents, as well as local officials. 

As passionate and dedicated stewards of the People’s Business we’ve registered our approval for a great many public servants who strive to improve and ennoble our home heath and the great State of New York, or to elevate our nation to a higher plane. And we’ve also told you about some who were less than stellar.

Over the years we’ve shared our great admiration for Nelson Rockefeller, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Jack Javits, Malcolm Wilson, Hugh Carey, Howard Samuels, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush … and the incomparable Mario Cuomo, of sainted memory. We’ve also learned from personal experience that his son and heir, Andrew Mark Cuomo, would one day make a hell of a president.

Along the way we’ve also sung the essential song of the precious First Amendment and the free speech that results from that magnificent instrument.  And we denounced Abortion and the Death Penalty in every instance.

Closer to home, we’ve also told you of the great many worthy local politicos we admired: Alvin Richard Ruskin, Edwin Gilbert Michaelian, George Latimer, Ernie Davis, Max Berking, Tony Colavita, Andy O’Rourke, Ogden Rogers Reid, Sam Fredman, Bill

Luddy and Nita Lowey.

For President of the United States, we’ve recommended Nelson Rockefeller, Mario M. Cuomo, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, John V. Lindsay and a man named John Anderson.

Some were Democrats.  And some Republicans. Anderson was an Independent. Some might label that inconsistent. The unifying thread is this: We always come down on the side of principles and greatness in the service of our great nation.

Now again – with great respect – we offer our view on the contentious, nasty and mean Presidential Election of 2020.

We’re for President Donald J. Trump.

He is who he is.  Accompanied as he is by a rich admixture of arrogance, egotism and overweening self-confidence, the President is far from perfect. He is dynamite in front of a crowd and loaded with charm, but he’s got no damn “couth,” to be sure.

In his worst moments, President Trump can be boorish, rude, ill-mannered, lacking in civility, refinement or “polish.” He’s never paid attention to the word “decorum.”

But we wouldn’t change a God-Damned Thing about Him!

He is, with all his obvious flaws and rough edges, one of the greatest Presidents of our lifetime!

He’s certainly the most available and accessible president we’ve ever had.  (Perhaps too available and too accessible.)

We don’t like where he is on Fracking … or on the Death Penalty. 

Here is what we do like about his flamboyant and sometimes erratic stewardship. He’s Upbeat … and Inexhaustible … with unlimited Optimism and unbridled Enthusiasm

To those who trumpet the diminution of our standing and stature abroad … we see the exact opposite. Do you not think our foreign enemies, those who don’t wish us well, when they come up against Mr. Trump are not saying … “Don’t mess (I had another word all ready to go) with this guy!”

Trump gave us Judges Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh … and, we hope, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a distinguished scholar, great jurist, and woman of impeccable integrity.

On the fundamental Life Issues alone … we recommend the President, without hesitation, on behalf of those thousands of vulnerable and innocent babies who deserve Life, love, and families who will celebrate the miracle of their existence and the promise of potential that lights up like a beacon pointing toward a better future from the moment of conception – rather than the fate that awaits at abortion clinics.

As the late, and truly great, Pope John Paul II sagely advised his fellow Catholics and citizens of nations the world over, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”

Also on the Plus Side of the President’s ledger, you have to place his relentless efforts at peacemaking in the Middle East and for persuading European nations to pony up for their own defense. He also knocked out ISIS, which was beheading Americans, before he became Commander in Chief. The peace agreement he brokered between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain is an inspired, stunning piece of diplomacy deserving a Nobel Peace Prize precisely because it’s a signpost toward an enlightened state of existence No Other President has even come close to achieving – a prevailing and lasting peace in the Middle East.

The President also freed us from many unfair foreign trade deals and entanglements through a bold vision and policies that may not be broadly understood but benefit every segment of American Society.

He also gave us a brave and brilliant Attorney General in William Barr who is standing up to street thugs, agitators, rioters, hoodlums and looters. And we now have astute economic advisors in Steve Mnuchin and Larry Kudlow. We’ve also come to admire Vice President Mike Pence who, during the campaign, has shed his automaton-like demeanor. When Pence speaks on Life issues, he does so with clarity, conviction and compassion. Trump has also made it clear he’ll have absolutely no part in discriminating against Catholics.

And with it all … Mr. Trump has rebuilt our Military and strengthened Law Enforcement with solid support for our Police as he tightened up on illegal Immigration. 

He’s damn tough on Iran … where his predecessor conveyed billions to the ayatollahs. He’s also been resolute on behalf of the State of Israel, as we have been for many years.

And you don’t want to be caught pulling down historic statues like those of Christopher Columbus or Winston Churchill or Robert E. Lee when he is in the hood! The President knows, as too many don’t, that attempting to rewrite history through criminal disobedience is nothing but a path to amplifying discord that will reverse the nation’s accomplishments on rights and equality – the opposite of what the protestors seek.

As I’ve said, he’s wrong on Fracking and the Death Penalty. And he ought to take his sons to the woodshed and advise them to cut out their terribly unbecoming “Big Game Hunting” antics. Clearly they need a new hobby.

I’ve told the President he perhaps made a mistake trying to “demonize” his opponent, Joe Biden. All he would have to say, in the unlikely event Mr. Biden should prevail, is that he will come accompanied by Maxine Waters, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Chuck Schumer, Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, The Squad, Mazie Hirono et al. And by Kamala Harris, who is absolutely going to cause a lot of “trouble” for Mr. Biden. And for the country. Of this we’re sure. He should also ease up on Dr. Anthony Fauci, a great New Yorker and great public servant.

The elites have demeaned and made fun of his followers. But the undeniable truth is that the President connects with The People. We should highlight the hubris of The Left in presuming to declare academics and other approved elites as The People who count, but the President, in a socio-demographic magnanimity that goes uncredited, embraces all of the nation’s People as a true leader should. (He even embraced Chuck and Nancy when there was a brief glimmer they might work constructively for the good of our fine nation and all of its People.)

Our Hispanic friends will tell you Donald Trump has “compechano” which means he is “good-natured, cheerful, genial, frank, open, generous, and comradely,” which explains his great appeal among the “untutored” or, as Hillary called them, “The Deplorables.” And, incidentally, Hispanic support for the Republican is going to surprise you this time.

He has been attacked relentlessly by the Public Press … the worst being MSNBC, whose distinctive “marque” and Mission is to attack, attack, attack the president every day and every night, the worst, most mean-spirited and angry among them being Joy Reed, who replaced the great Chris Matthews. Nicolle Wallace, who once served in the Bush White House, has also climbed on board the attack squad.  Even our beloved New York Times has been piling on almost since the day he was elected. 

Speaking of MSNBC … my mind drifts back to a hazy afternoon long ago as I sat in Costello’s Bar on the East Side with James Earl Breslin, who was in one of his legendary foul moods. Jack Kennedy, his brother Bobby and Martin Luther King had been murdered and Winston Spencer Churchill lay dying (Jimmy had once called him the last great statue of the English language): “Who’s to write about … ” the great writer asked … “except for Mario (Cuomo)?” It now occurs to me that our colleagues at MSNBC – and some over at CNN – had better polish their resumes.  If Trump goes down … it is to be expected that the whole damn lot of them will soon be sitting in a saloon somewhere repeating Breslin’s bleak question: “Who’s to write about … ?”

All the writing about the President is, not inconsequentially, part of Donald’s Trump’s perception problem. A statement of the obvious, you may think, but in fact it’s the opposite. The President’s great achievements in his first term are ignored or diluted by the torrent of trenchant tirades tallying up his tics, his Tweets, and his turnabouts against those who stray from the mission of Making America Great Again. In short, the Press broadly refuses to respect and reflect how brilliantly the President reflects and implements the Will of the People.

And we have always believed all Wisdom resides with The People.

And that’s why … despite the “polls” … WVOX and WVIP confidently and proudly endorse President Donald J. Trump for Re-Election.

As has been our unique custom for five or six decades, we also gladly encourage and broadcast opposing viewpoints via our famous “Open Line” programs and with quite often spirited commentary from those who disagree with me and mine.

So have at it, my friends …

Your turn at the microphone in this presidential election.

This is a Whitney Global Media Editorial of the Air. This is William O’Shaughnessy.

P.S.  We know this will cause some “agita” among many of our friends.

But I mean every damn word of it!

Contact:
Cindy Hall Gallagher
cindy@wvox.com

Rick Buckley – An Appreciation

Rick Buckley came at your with great lineage.  His father Richard Dimes Buckley owned the legendary WNEW of sainted memory all the way back in the days of Arde Bulova, John Jaeger and Bernice Judia. One of young Rick Buckley’s first assignments was to pick out the records to be played on the “Make Believe Ballroom” program. 

The Rick Buckley who slipped away from us on a warm, summer Sunday was himself one of the giants of our tribe.   Although Rick presided over a collection of stations in other states, including the estimable WDRC in Hartford, he will always be remembered as the permittee of the mighty WOR, an urban powerhouse known as one of America’s “heritage” stations which sends its signal throughout the northeast from New York, NY.

In every season Buckley was in love with that notion, subscribed to in these parts, that a radio station achieves its highest calling when it resembles a platform, a forum, for the expression of many different viewpoints.  And for many decades, while so much else was changing in the great city, WOR, never did resemble a jukebox. 

For decades he kept this instrument of communication away from the speculators and absentee owners with a fierceness and relentless devotion that surprised even his friends.  And they were legion.   He saved it harmless even during the allurements and temptations of Consolidation. 

Buckley carried himself with a shyness and a self-effacing wit that endeared him to so many of our colleagues. 

Rick lived like a country squire and had homes in Greenwich and Quogue and out in the desert in California.  And he was quick, this Buckley, to grab a check in every circumstance and venue.  

Just one month ago, Rick Buckley stood in the glow of the lights at The Sagamore in upstate New York before 600 of his colleagues there assembled by Joe Reilly to welcome him into the New York State Broadcasters Hall of Fame as plaudits and encomiums rained down on the honorees.  Brian Williams … Regis Philbin … Deborah Norville … my friend Joe Reilly and others stepped up to the microphone.   Norville and  Williams did a dazzling turn.  Reilly was superb.  And Regis was, well, Regis.  But the most touching, heartfelt response came off the lips and from the heart of Buckley. 

And no one who heard it will ever forget the words he used to describe his love for the profession he distinguished for 50 years.  And the enormous pride which was his as a result of WOR’s independence, standing and stature.

He also spoke movingly on that summer night on the shores of Lake George of his great love for his family, in whose care and keeping WOR is now entrusted.   So there’s a great sadness in our profession this August morning, a Monday.  But nowhere is that sadness more profound than among those of us who served with Rick on the Board of the Broadcasters Foundation of America.  He was our Treasurer, a member of the Executive Committee and one of our strongest Directors who was unfailingly generous with his wisdom, his counsel and his purse.

The Foundation’s humanitarian mission of helping those for whom life has turned sad and difficult always resonated and had an effect on Buckley.  You could see it in his face as we would review the pleadings and importunings from those unfortunate souls who have fallen through the cracks.

He had a great family.  And when Rick and his dazzling Connie – or his crackerjack daughter Jen – entered the room at one of our events and high councils, you knew something good was coming at you. 

He amplified the voices of the fabled Gambling family, Bob Grant, Mayor Bloomberg, Joan Hamburg and Joey Reynolds.  And WOR, in its best moments, resembles one of the soapboxes favored by street corner orators in London’s fabled Hyde Park Square. While almost every other station in the great city was rocking and rolling, Rick Buckley used his franchise to amplify the disparate voices of his New York neighbors.  Some of them were raucous, many unsettling and a few were even sweet.  And Buckley made it very easy for all sorts and types of people to get on the radio. 

He had absolutely no interest in presiding over a jukebox.  Rather he was powerfully and irresistibly drawn all the days of his life to Vox Populi, the real music of America.  Not a bad legacy.

Re: The Thought Police vs. Facebook and Fox News

Statement by

William O’Shaughnessy

Re:

The Thought Police vs. Facebook and Fox News

June 22, 2020

 

We’re against the Police.

The Thought Police.

When I hear of attempts to intimidate and put pressure on Facebook and other social media platforms as wel as that glorious, old punching bag FOX News … my mind drifts back to similar attempts to stifle and intimidate CBS and other media outlets during a long-ago era. 

In those desperate days, we defended William S. Paley and his colleagues at CBS when Harley O. Staggers, a right of way agent from Mineral County, Virginia wanted to throw Mr. Paley, Frank Stanton and Walter Cronkite … including the elders of my beloved  New York Times … in the slammer.

And now, in 2020, we rise from our Westchester community radio station with its 500 pulsating watts in the Heart of the Eastern Establishment to defend the son and heir of a dentist from Ardsley, New York, a billionaire with a nerdy haircut named Mark Zuckerberg. 

Zuckerberg deserves the same enthusiasm and support from all of us as did Mr. Paley of sainted memory and his rich friends Jock Whitney, Walter Nelson Thayer and Ogden Rogers Reid who collaborated – with the help of Broadcasting magazine and Variety – to shut down Mr. Staggers on the floor of the House of Representatives. 

The Thought Police are not threatening a jail cell for Mr. Zuckerberg (yet). But they are trying to intimidate him by bringing pressure on his advertisers. 

So we stand with Zuckerberg. And those who want to intimidate The Dentist’s Son ought to think long and hard before they stifle Free Speech.

We plead for the same protections for Mr. Zuckerberg that we demanded for our own colleagues Rush Limbaugh, Don Imus, Bill O’Reilly, Howard Stern, Bob Grant, Billy Bush, et al.

Speaking of which …we also have to again be on full battle alert against those holier-than-thou corporate geniuses on Madison Avenue presently threatening Tucker Carlson’s opinions and his livelihood. But in that predictable instance they’ll also have to tangle with the formidable Rupert Murdoch and his son and heir Lachlan, who need no prompting to stay the course against the economic crosshairs of the censors as they have in London and Australia for many years.  

The Supreme Court ruled in Packingham v. North Carolina that social-media platforms are the new “public square” and access to them are protected by our cherished and essential First Amendment. 

And a federal appeals court ruled that a Facebook “Like” is indeed a form of expression and that clicking a “Like” button is a protected form of speech. The courts have also looked with hostility and lack of enthusiasm on the use of speech which encourages force, fraud or defamation. And we quite agree. 

But the rest of it, in all its unpleasantness, raucous vulgarity, imprecision, and even meanness must be protected. 

Some many years ago we published a poster with the help of Mario Cuomo and some other First Amendment voluptuaries. 

Free Speech

 

 

Contact:
William O’Shaughnessy
wfo@wvox.com
914-235-3279

Lacey – A Remembrance

“Lacey”

July 13, 2010 – May 8, 2020

A Remembrance

by

William O’Shaughnessy

Lacey

(Litchfield, CT) – – I’ve written of a marvelous cast of characters we’ve been privileged to encounter as community broadcasters. Among them were politicians like Nelson Rockefeller and Mario Cuomo of sainted memory and his son and heir Andrew Mark Cuomo, Bobby Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Jr., George Latimer, Edwin Michaelian, Gerald Ford, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Hugh Carey, Pat Moynihan, Henry Kissinger and Jack Javits; as well as entertainers like Fred Astaire, Mabel Mercer, Hugh Shannon, Louis Armstrong and Bobby Short among them. 

I’ve also admired media players and journalists who were more graceful and articulate than yours truly … William S. Paley, Walter Thayer, Jock Whitney, Lance Morrow, Chris Ruddy, Mark Simone, Neal Travis, Jimmy Cannon, Phil Reisman, Philip Roth, Pete Hamill, Jimmy Breslin, Don West, Sol, Larry and Rob Taishoff.

I’ve tried to remember my pals: Jeff Bernbach, who is still with us, Joseph Migliucci, Sirio Maccioni and the great Mario Cuomo. I once almost wrote about a horse, a quarterhorse, who, I think, loved me.

But I’ve never written about a dog.

Her name was Lacey. She was a cockapoo. And my compadre Gregorio and I loved her unreservedly. She was 10 when her heart stopped beating over the weekend at 4:30 in the morning at an animal hospital in Newtown, CT after a central casting veterinary Chief Doctor Adam Porter, with help from a surgeon Jason Headrick and another amazing doctor Tracy Zeldis who tried to save her from bleeding and a tumor.

Actually, we have two other cockapoo puppies (I hate the word “dog”). Their names are Coco and Jack and they have the same provenance as Lacey, having come from a litter of the legendary breeder Carol Bobrowsky of Mulberry Farm in the Hudson Valley.

Lacey was a daughter of Izzy and Kandi Kane. She was born on July 13, 2010. In the 10 years we had her never once did she ever bark. Lacey was a hugger and a lover. I mean she wasn’t a “rollover and pet me” girl like our Coco. But she was a lover too and had a great following among our friends who were always taken with Lacey’s civility and those big, gorgeous eyes.

She would sit on Gregorio’s lap while I drove and loved to play with our niece Briana Alvarez and my grandchildren Lily, Izzy, Amelia, Flynn and Tucker. She also had pals at the radio station: Irma, Maggie, Gregg, Cindy, Don, Judy and Kevin. They recognized Lacey as a “real lady” and friendly as all get out when she would come to visit.

Mario Cuomo once accused me of always trying to find something good or, as he put it, “sweet” in everyone I meet. Unfortunately, I sometimes fail to find that goodness. I often have the same reaction to animals, with all due respect, recognizing that all pets are beloved by their owners. The Carpenter’s Son would not like this observation … but I don’t really like all people or even all babies. You can often imagine they’ll grow up to resemble their parents. Maybe it’s the same with our four-legged friends, some of whom, it is said, actually begin to look like their owner.

I’m just trying to tell you how really extraordinary this little girl Lacey was and I beg you to believe there was something special, something very special about her.

My friend Judy Fremont, a great woman of the theatre and a Radio legend, who is also a killer on the golf course, called Lacey “an elegant lady.” Judy would know.

During her brief time among us, Lacey was also our “Weather Forecaster.” Whenever a rough patch of weather started coming in from east or west, my girl would know and warn us of any approaching rough weather by shaking or shivering. She was our Flip Spiceland, Al Roker and Joe Rao combined. (Whatever happened to Flip Spiceland?)

Lacey the puppy also loved the outdoors with its wonderful and fragrant whiffs and smells. And she loved the flowers that bloomed around her swimming pool every spring. And she would also carefully check the smells and fragrances of the emerging fresh summer vegetables and plants in her garden every year.

She loved her “sister” Coco, who is that “rollover and pet me” type cockapoo who also loves me unreservedly. And who could not love our Jack Alvarez who is the “guard dog” of the neighborhood and watches over the entire historic district of Litchfield. Jack weighs in at a mighty 17 pounds. He is fearless and barks at every bird and rustle of wind just to let the wind and birdies know that he is The Boss of the ‘hood.  Coco and Jack are also beloved, irreplaceable characters in our lives.

And speaking of which, my wonderfully bright daughter Kate O’Shaughnessy, under whose west coast roof resides a “Shirley” and a “Potter,” two adorable mutts and real “colorful” types who were adopted without benefit of Carol Bobrosky’s, shall we say, proper lineage or breeding, but adorable nonetheless. When my brilliant Kate heard we lost Lady Lacey last weekend she said: “That’s really sad, Daddy … she was the only one with all her marbles!”

I love the line. And I loved Lacey.

That’s why I had to put down my pencil many, many times as I tried to get through these reminiscences of a little puppy I loved and miss so much.

As I read back over these notes … I’m thinking I may just keep them to myself and not let anyone peruse these overly sentimental meanderings and certainly not permit my distinguished publisher Mr. Fred Nachbaur or any of the brainy Jesuits at Fordham Press in the City of New York to see them because, after all, she was … just a doggie … just a pet … just a puppy.  Her name was Lacey.

That Fremont woman told me all doggies go to Heaven. Well, just to make sure … I also know a priest named Robert Tucker who is very beloved in these parts and was just made a big-time monsignor. I am going to ask the Reverend Monsignor Tucker to pray over Lacey. He knows that a somewhat “unusual” Italian named Francis from the hill town of Assisi became the greatest saint in the entire history of the Roman Church and that he, this Francis, being somewhat unusual himself, talked to animals and the sun and the moon and fire, even the wind. Tucker will understand all this.

I hope you will pray for our Lacey too.

Gregorio and I will have a talk with Coco and Jack about where their sister went. 

But I think they already know …

She was a great puppy, a great lady.

Contact:

William O’Shaughnessy
914-235-3279
wfo@wvox.com

Pete Wells Letter re: Le Cirque

September 20, 2012

Pete Wells
c/o The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY  10018

 

Dear Pete:

 

I’m a Pete Wells fan.

 

But I do have some concerns and a few urgent thoughts about your Le Cirque piece.

 

My very first reaction was to wonder how the hell you could do this to Sirio Maccioni.  And I even started to dash off a letter to Arthur Sulzberger asking the publisher of my beloved Times the same question I put to you.  Indeed, I’ve often seen your own publisher in Sirio’s care and keeping and he always seemed to be enjoying himself … as did his father before him.

 

However, after several more readings of your review, I realized that you did indeed endeavor to be respectful of this great man.  Sirio is not only the most graceful and attractive individual in his profession, he is also the most generous and inspiring.

 

I was also pleased to note that you bestowed on the Le Cirque captains, waiters and staff the approval they rightly deserve.  But I have to note that you quite missed the glamour and vibe of the place and the fun to be had of an evening at Sirio’s beckoning tables.  And I’m afraid I found, in general, a lack of respect for Le Cirque itself as a beloved, enduring and endearing New York institution.

                                       

We can argue over starsI would have given them at least two even if I had written your particular piece.  But I must share with you my very real disappointment that a professional journalist and critic of your stature and standing would lay off on one of your “companions” that devastating, bleak, cutting – and not a little mean-spirited – observation: “They’ve given up.”  That one deeply hurt all of Sirio’s friends and admirers.

 

And it surely had to have disappointed not only Sirio, but his wife Egidiana and their sons as well who work so damn hard to provide an agreeable and welcoming venue for – as you have pointed out – all comers.

 

They really are wonderful people, Pete.  And although I too had my own “issues” with the current chef, I don’t believe the Maccioni Family deserved the savage pummeling you gave them … or the humiliation of losing two stars by your hand.

 

FYI:  I stopped in for a quick drink just last night and to see if I could detect any “damage” to the place.  Eighty-year-old Maestro Sirio was as always beautifully attired and sitting by the coatroom signing copies of the new Le Cirque cookbook and missing nothing in a low-cut dress or with shapely legs coming through the door.  He was also dictating to his new amanuensis – a spectacular blond woman (who, I’m told, is an authentic baroness). 

 

A vivid and immensely popular New York character named Gianni Russo, one of the stars of “The Godfather,” was swanning about the place fielding compliments on his sold out turn the night before in Le Cirque’s Wine Bar lounge which was packed with not a few Park Avenue dames with blueing in their hair and also some very “interesting” and colorful Las Vegas, bada-bing types (and it’s probably better if I don’t tell you any more about their background or lineage). 

Russo does his crooner act featuring Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart and Johnny Mercer songs once every month with four marvelous musicians in black tie, and all of them of a certain age.

 

And, as occurs most every night, with it all, everybody was having fun in a perfectly luxe setting.  So, in addition to the greatness and goodness of Sirio, that, I think is really what you missed in your review.  Sure, there may be better, more exquisite, pristine offerings of food to be had abroad in the land.   But in most other venues of the type, nobody is having any damn fun at their serious tables.

 

And, to be sure, there are some tired old loreleis around still hanging on to faded reputations.  Sadly many now resemble sidemen in orchestras long dispersed.  But Le Cirque is still a vibrant, exciting and altogether unique venue.  Is it then the “charm” of Le Cirque you missed?  Or perhaps the “charisma” of the place?

 

Anyway, The Great Sirio remains a beloved – and universally respected – icon of the profession you usually cover with such grace and brilliance.  And Le Cirque itself remains sui generis.

 

I’m only sorry a bright guy and gifted writer like you didn’t pick up on its music.

 

But one day, like Ruth Reichl, maybe you will.

 

We all hope so …

 

Yours,

William O’Shaughnessy
President & Editorial Director
wfo@wvox.com

Remarks of William O’Shaughnessy on the occasion of Sirio Maccioni’s 80th Birthday

Remarks

of

William O’Shaughnessy

on the occasion

of

Sirio Maccioni’s

80th Birthday

 

April 5, 2012
Le Cirque
New York City

 

 

“Maestro … another distinguished member of your tribe (also with a considerable number of vowels in his name) Mario Cuomo, who himself will soon reach the milestone you have achieved this day, once said he prays for “sureness.” 

 

Well, I’m not sure of too many things in my own already long life.  But of this I’m very sure:  You … are …  a … great man.

 

You have been a class act in every season of your life and we have repaired to your tables and to your care and keeping in every season of ours.

 

So keep going, Sirio … because we could not imagine New York – or our own drab lives – without you to paint color and style in all of it.

 

And so we congratulate you on this – the 80th Anniversary of your Natal Day.

 

And just one other thing:  we love you.

 

All of us …”

 

Sirio, the Brightest Star

Sirio, the Brightest Star
(Waiting for Frank Bruni)
A Whitney Global Media Commentary
WVOX and WVIP
February 7, 2008
By William O’Shaughnessy

 

New York is loaded with eateries where you are greeted when calling for a reservation by a Debbie, a Jennifer or a Tiffany.  And when you arrive one is immediately confronted with a bevy of bimbos flanking a dour, sour, self-important “maitre’d” standing imperiously behind a podium punching numbers into a computer.  Think BLT Steak on 57th owned by money man Jimmy Haber or Quality Meats on 58th Street and its cousin the Post House where once stood the venerable Quo Vadis.

 

Now the Good News: there still remain in this town real, authentic restaurants with warm, friendly, beckoning proprietors untouched by speculators, “investors” or the fast money guys.  The permittees of these most agreeable places have names such as Arpaia, Burke, Niccolini, Carravagi, Von Bidder, Zuliani, Selimaj, Cipriani, Lomonaco, Masson, Tong, Neary, Dussin, McGuire, Viterale, Suric, Bruno and, up in the Bronx, Migliucci.  Among these old school purveyors of food and hospitality, there is also one named Sirio Maccioni who is the best of what they are. 

 

The great Sirio sat on this recent winter night at a small round table near the coat room of his dazzling Le Cirque restaurant off 58th Street on the eastside of Manhattan.  The table has no number and it is far from the best in the house.  But it is known to every busboy, waiter, captain, bartender and sommelier as “Maestro Sirio’s table.”

 

The location of which does have its strategic charm for it affords the world’s greatest restaurateur an unobstructed view of any shapely legs coming right through the revolving front

door or enticingly entering the dining room in a dress cut low.  The Ringmaster of Le Cirque is 75, but misses nothing well put together.

 

For most of this February day, the handsome Tuscan has resembled an angry lion in the middle of winter as he awaits the latest review by the Times’ gifted food critic Frank Bruni who, two years ago, denied Maccioni three stars.

 

The brilliant Bruni’s previous postings for the Times included a stint as Houston Bureau Chief when George W. Bush was governor of Texas.  He was also Rome Bureau Chief in the Eternal City.  And now he is the most powerful food critic in America.

 

No one approached the man in the elegant velvet dinner jacket at the round table near the coat room.  Even his comely wife Egidiana and his attractive sons Marco and Mauro gave Sirio a wide berth on this tense night in New York City while they sweated out the wait for Frank Bruni’s findings on the latest incarnation of the famous Le Cirque.  They are the royalty of the restaurant and hospitality profession.  But even the Maccionis must submit to Mr. Bruni’s scrutiny and pronouncements as to the worth and merit of their genius and enterprise.  The only member of the Maccioni family oblivious to this tension in the air this night was 2 ½ year old Stella Sofia Maccioni, who was using all her wiles to distract “Nonno Sirio.”

 

Wednesday’s New York Times daily newspaper would not slap sidewalks all over the world until dawn the next day.  But at precisely 8:45 on this Tuesday night in New York City, as Sirio Maccioni waited for Bruni’s verdict, Christophe Bellanca, the new head chef in whom the Maccionis are so well pleased, burst from the kitchen, rushed through the dining room and moved toward his patron at the round table with an Internet posting: “Maestro … three stars!” Which means “Excellent.”

 

And then all over this fancy place imagined in the mind of Adam Tihany to look like a circus, the corks started popping and the champagne flowed.  As the excitement built around the man in the velvet jacket … the 2 ½ year old little girl with the bright Italian eyes pushed her way through the crowd now assembling near the round table.  She held aloft a single red rose retrieved from one of the tables in the packed dining room.  Stella Maccioni held it high and proffered it directly to her grandfather:  “Bravo, Nonno!”  And then she kissed the world’s greatest restaurateur whose own tanned face was wet with silent tears of gratitude.

 

The 75-year-old man gave his granddaughter a hug and shook hands with Marta, the coat check girl, and Mario Wainer, the cordial and very correct maitre’d.  Both were smiling for the first time all day.  Sirio gathered himself and moved toward the dining room to once more perform his courtly magic.

 

He once fed Sinatra, DiMaggio and a pope and most of the ladies who lunch in every season.  Some of the old dazzlers like Marietta Tree, Brooke Astor and Kitty Hart are gone.  And Gianni Agnelli, Bill Paley and Nelson (you have to ask?) are only memories of what this town once was.  But the great Maccioni is still in the game.

 

Tomorrow Mr. Maccioni will receive congratulatory messages from Silvio Berlusconi, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Rudy Giuliani, Edward Cardinal Egan, Liz Smith, Tony Bennett, Cindy Adams, John Fairchild, Barbara Walters, Mario Cuomo, Donald Trump, Ron Perelman, Barbara Taylor Bradford, David Patrick Columbia, Carl Icahn, Woody Allen and Robert DeNiro.

 

He will even receive calls from some of his restaurant colleagues who idolize him.  Julian Niccolini of the Four Seasons and Gerardo Bruno of San Pietro are among those competitors who consider him an icon of their tribe and will be pleased.  And Bruce Snyder and Bryan McGuire, the “21” legends, and Michael Lomonaco of Porter House will send congrats to the Italian who elevated their calling with a restaurant with a French name.

But, for tonight, fortified and validated by that third star from Bruni and the kiss from Stella, Sirio Maccioni straightened his jacket and was once more up and moving through his high class saloon and flirting with beautiful women.

 

In a rather glib headline for the glowing review, the Times called what Sirio dispenses so effortlessly as “decadence.”  Others who have known the fun and haze of an evening in his care and keeping, however, find him possessed only of considerable grace … style … glamour … class … and a relentless generosity of spirit.  All of which are in short supply in this town.

 

As the man Sirio moved from table to table this night, Egidiana Palmieri, who came out of Montecatini so long ago and gave up a singing career to be his wife during all those early years in New York at the Colony, La Foret and Delmonicos, was telling someone, “Sirio means ‘star’ in Italianhe was named after the brightest star … the north star.”

 

William O’Shaughnessy

 

is president of Whitney Radio and editorial director of stations WVOX and WVIP, Westchester, N.Y.    He is a former chairman of Public Affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters and served as president of the New York State Broadcasters Association.  During his 18-year service at NAB, he specialized in free speech and First Amendment issues. 

 

He is a director and chairman of the Endowment Committee of the Broadcasters Foundation of America, based in Greenwich, Connecticut.

 

A self-styled “Rockefeller Republican,” he was active in the presidential campaign of President George H.W. Bush and served as chairman of Republicans for Mario Cuomo during each of the Governor’s three successful campaigns for governor of New York.

 

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) and “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001), collections of his radio commentaries, essays and interviews, published by Fordham University Press.  “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” was released in April, 2004.  He has just started his Fourth volume “AGAIN!  Run That By Me One More Time.”

 

Contact:

Cindy Gallagher

Whitney Media

WVOX and WVIP

914-235-3279

cindy@wvox.com

Maestro Sirio

Maestro Sirio

 

Sirio Maccioni is America’s greatest restaurateur.  This piece was done on the 25th Anniversary of LeCirque 2000…

 

He came with his slim hips and impeccable manners from Montecatini, the spa town in the hills of Tuscany.  His name was Sirio and above the village where he grew up was the most splendid of all the spas, famed throughout Europe along with Marienbad and Baden-Baden, and frequented since the 18th century by the grand and leisured.

His father was a farmer.  And, many years later, moving through the brocaded dining rooms of America’s greatest restaurants, they would say Sirio Maccioni looks like a courtly Italian version of John Wayne.  But in those days, some 50 years ago, the young man on the fast Vespa resembled an Etruscan noble as played by Tyrone Power.  He observed the rich and titled as they came to take the baths and taste the waters in his hill town and his first job was running the lift in the Hotel Grand La Pace.

The graceful, young Italian with the fierce eyes and restless spirit also charmed a beautiful neighbor girl – Egidiana Palmieri – of somewhat more substantial means and considerable talent in her own right.  Miss Palmieri, already known as far away as Florence and Roma for her winsome looks and spectacular voice, was promptly advised by her well-founded family to pursue a promising singing career and forget the dashing Maccioni fellow…despite his cordial manners and “correct” bearing.

But strong-willed, patient Egidiana had other ideas.  And so did Sirio who proceeded to work his way to America as a dancer on cruise ships with stopovers in Germany and France.  He also assisted in the dining salon and in the ships’ galley.  After the shortest apprenticeship on record, the gifted Tuscan became a captain and, just as quickly, a maitre’d in some of New York’s greatest restaurants: Delmonico, The Colony and The Café Pierre.

Egi Palmieri soon joined the rising young star of the restaurant world, rejecting an incredible $25 thousand dollar signing bonus to tour Italy singing operatic favorites, love songs and ballads.  Her songs would now be sung only for Sirio.  They married and soon followed a Mario, a Marco and a Mauro, who would all follow their father into the restaurant and hospitality business.  To support his growing family Sirio struggled and sacrificed to open his own restaurant on the corner of 65th Street and Park Avenue.  The sign on the door said: Le Cirque.

That was 25 years ago in New York City, one tough, unforgiving town (“If you can make it there…”). Since then many fabled eating and drinking establishments have up and disappeared: The Stork Club, The Colony, The Copa, The Latin Quarter, Delmonico, Romeo Salta, Mike Manuche, Jimmy Weston’s and the incomparable Toots Shor, a most glorious place.  Le Cirque not only survived, it prospered…becoming the most celebrated dining venue in America.  The restaurant with the French name was a perfect stage for its dazzling Italian proprietor from the hill town in Tuscany.

The French restaurateurs never did learn his magic and to this day they think it is about food.  But Sirio, the beguiling showman who moved like a dancer, gave his patrons other enticements: glamour, style, romance and, always…fun.  There are thousands of restaurants abroad in the land, most of them French (and even some pretentious ones with Italian names).  But…nobody…is having any fun…at their serious tables.  Even kings, prime ministers, dictators, presidents and popes like to have fun on occasion.  And so they come to Le Cirque of an evening to be with Sirio, to be fed by him and waited on and cared for by Le Cirque’s host and ringmaster.  He is now the quintessential restaurateur in the American nation and, perhaps, the world.

The New York Times, Forbes and Wine Spectator each bestowed 4 stars, making Le Cirque, I suppose, a 12-star restaurant!  But it came time to move.  And so, two years ago, the Maccioni Family transported their genius 15 blocks south, right into the heart of mid-town Manhattan, to the historic Villard House, now part of the New York Palace Hotel.  Famed designer Adam Tihany, unable to violate the stately ceilings and walls, designed a “traveling circus” in the Palace Hotel…a “palace” fit for a Sirio.  The sign now said: Le Cirque 2000.

It has become the hottest ticket in the hardest town.  And so, next Monday evening in The Big Apple, Sirio Maccioni will celebrate Le Cirque’s 25 spectacular years by having a few thousand of his best, “most correct” friends for cocktails in the courtyard of the stately Villard House.

You may expect the King of Spain, the Mayor of Rome, the Cardinal Archbishop of New York (who merely has to walk out the front door of his residence and stroll across Madison Avenue), Nancy Reagan, Rudy Giuliani (another proud son of Montecatini), some people named Churchill, Uzielli, Cuomo, Trump, Ricci, Zanella, Astor, Rockefeller, Kissinger, Liz Smith, Cindy Adams, Zeckendorf, Lillian Vernon, Don Rickles, Molly O’Neil and her brother, the baseball player, Sulzberger, the publisher, Bernard Kruger, the brilliant society physician, Ruth Reichl, who now “understands” about Sirio, John Mariani, Bill Cunningham, the Times’ legendary lensman, Toni Suzette, the flower lady, Paolo Biscioni who runs the best hotel in Rome, James Brady, Frank DiGiacomo,  Ronald Perelman, Bruce Snyder of “21”, Bob Lape, Susan and Jack Rudin, the Brudners, Woody Allen, Nancy Curry, Teddy Forstmann, Lee Iacocca, Sirio’s faithful managing director Benito Sevarin and their maitre’d Mario Wainer.  Also Warren Alpert who owns a little real estate (actually, an entire block!) on Park Avenue.  As Mr. Alpert dines, usually solo, at Le Cirque every evening he might pause in the courtyard for just one cocktail on the way to supper at his regular table.  There will also be any number of archbishops, ambassadors and Patrick Walsh, a world-famous surgeon from Baltimore who will receive an especially warm greeting from Sirio.  They will come – all of them – to celebrate an endearing and enduring American institution with a French name, run by an Italian.  Their presence will also reflect their affection for the child of Montecatini who became the most famous and respected restaurateur in the world. 

You don’t have to take my word for all this.  Or even the encomiums heaped on Mr. Maccioni by the public press.   Rather you might want to consult those who presume to compete against the Italian.  Greatness in any form almost always arouses envy.  But even Sirio’s competitors will affirm his genius and confirm his standing and reputation.  Bryan McGuire, who heads the invincible “21”, says, simply, “Sirio is the best there is.  He deserves his success.  He is the most generous man in the business.”  And Julian Niccolini of The Four Seasons (himself a charismatic dining room dazzler) will swear, “There’s never been anyone quite like Sirio move through a room!” Lello Arpaia of Bellini will tell any and all who will listen, “in all my years in New York…there’s only one Sirio.”

Listeners to these radio stations are advised that Maestro Maccioni will soon be moving through a few more dining rooms with his slim hips and easy style.  He opens in Las Vegas at The Bellagio on October 15th and the restaurant world is abuzz that London and Paris are next.  And maybe even Japan.  So you can now just go and read all about the 25th Anniversary Cocktail Party in Neal Travis’ New York Post column on Tuesday next.

Of only this I’m sure:  Sirio’s sons will be there with their father for the celebration.  Egidiana Palmieri will be home babysitting for the grandchildren. After which she’ll probably sing again…just…for…Sirio.

Happy Anniversary, Maestro!  Per cento anni!

                                                                                                                                                September 10, 1998