William O’Shaughnessy’s WVOX and WVIP Interviews 1967 – 2013

William O’Shaughnessy’s

WVOX and WVIP Interviews

1967 – 2013

 

A gifted interviewer, Bill O’Shaughnessy is a magic miner of fascinating nuggets coaxed from a host of extraordinarily interesting people, some of them celebrities and national leaders and others previously undiscovered neighborhood gems who struggle and toil in the shadows.  O’Shaughnessy is among a select few who create magic with their words …”

– – – Governor Mario M. Cuomo

 

Bob Abplanalp … Floyd Abrams … Attorney General Robert Abrams … Cindy Adams … Andy  Albanese … Mel Allen … David Alpert … Ernie Anastos … Terry Anderson … Walter Anderson … Senator Warren Anderson … Ray Anthony … Robert Armao … Louis Armstrong … Michael Assaf, Esq. … County Executive Rob Astorino … Monsignor Terry Attridge … Angelo Badolato … Frank Becerra … Rocco Bellantoni, Jr. … Richard Rodney Bennett … Tony Bennett … Senator Max Berking … Henry Berman, Esq. … Richard Berman … Judge Jeffrey Bernbach … H. Jerome “Jerry” Berns … Robert Bernstein … Congressman Mario Biaggi … Sonny Bloch … Louis Boccardi … Barbara Taylor Bradford … James Brady … Mayor Noam Bramson … Jimmy Breslin … Teresa Brewer … John Brophy … William F. Buckley, Jr. … Josiah Bunting, IV … Colin Burns, Sr. … Jonathan Bush … William “Billy” Bush … William Butcher …

 

“Bill O’Shaughnessy’s interviews make his New York TV counterparts look like so much mish-mash.”

– – – The New York Times

 

Jimmy Cannon … Joseph Wood Canzeri … Trisha Novak Canzeri … Louis Cappelli … Governor Hugh L. Carey … Hoagy Carmichael, Jr. … Michael Carney … Commissioner Patrick Carroll … John Mack Carter … Ken Chandler … Mayor Stanley W. Church … Casper Citron … Mary Higgins Clark … Douglas Clement … Anthony J. Colavita … Kenneth Cole … Maria Cuomo Cole … Robert Coles … Dr. Christopher Comfort … John Connolly … Monsignor Edward Connors … Superintendent Tom Constantine … E. Virgil Conway … General Richard Crabtree … Guido Cribari … Walter Cronkite … Matthew J. “Joe” Culligan … Chairman Pat Cunningham … Governor Andrew M. Cuomo … Governor Mario M. Cuomo … First Lady Matilda Raffa Cuomo … Ambassador Walter J. P. Curley … Paul J. Curran, Esq. … Bernard F. Curry, Jr. …

 

“His interviews preserve Bill O’Shaughnessy’s idea of Radio as a place for education and freedom of speech.  They cover a whirlwind of issues and a colorful ensemble of characters.”

– – – Gannett

 

Senator Alfonse D’Amato … Federal Judge Richard Daronco …   Mayor Ernie Davis … Evan Davis, Esq. … Ossie Davis … Ruby Dee … George Delaney … Lt. Gov. Alfred B. DelBello … Dee DelBello …  Cartha “Deke” DeLoach … Nelson DeMille … Matt Dennis … Joe DePaolo … Fred Dicker … Congressman Joe Dioguardi … Elly Doctorow … Tom Doherty … Charles F. Dolan … David Donovan … Robert Royal Douglass … Vincent DePaul Draddy … Judge Ann Dranginis …  Brother John Driscoll … Florence D’Urso … Dr. Marc Sabin Eisenberg … Jack Ellsworth … Jinx Falkenburg … Robert Fanelli … William Fanning … James Featherstonhaugh … Michael Feinstein … Frederic Fekkai … Congressman Hamilton Fish … Hamilton Fish, Jr. … Tina Flaherty … Alan Flusser … Dr. Thomas Fogarty … President Gerald R. Ford … Arnold Forster … John Fosina … Dr. Richard A.R. Fraser … Bob Funking … Judge Samuel George Fredman … Director Louis B. Freeh … Marek Fuchs … City Manager C. Murray Fuerst … William D. Fugazy … Chris Furey …

 

“His character portraits are rather like potato chips in that you can’t stop with only one.  And his portrait of Nelson (Rockefeller) is still second to none.”

– – – Henry A. Kissinger

Former Secretary of State

 

Judge Joseph Gagliardi … Evan Galbraith … Mayor Frank J. Garito … Chairman Herman Geist … James Generoso … Sal Generoso … Arthur Geoghegan … Edward “Ned” Gerrity … Commodore George Gibbons … Dick Gidron … Frank Gifford … Judge Charles Gill … James F. Gill, Esq. … Congressman Ben Gilman … Senator Anthony B. Gioffre … Robert J. Giuffra, Jr., Esq. … Judge Howard Goldfluss … Tom Golisano … Terry Golway … Senator Charles Goodell … Senator Roy Goodman … Murray Grand … Bob Grant … E.T. “Bud” Gravette … General Alfred M. Gray, USMC … Robert Gray, Esq. … Teddy Greene … Dick Gregory … Richard Grudens …

 

 

Bill O’Shaughnessy really titillates the risibilities of the cognoscenti with his jocund persiflage, delivered in swift concatenation of anecdotal asides …”

 

– – – Bronxville Press Review

 

 

Jason P.W. Halperin … Pete Hamill … Ray Harding … John Harper … Kitty Carlisle Hart … Gordon Hastings … Carl T. Hayden … Nat Hentoff … David Hicks … David Hinckley … Milton Hoffman … Napoleon Holmes …  Harold Holzer … Monsignor George Hommel … Bishop Howard Hubbard … Ed Hughes … Judith Huntington … Bob Hyland …

 

 

“Noteworthy! Interviews that provide provocative and candid revelations often evaded or missed by other interviewers.”

– – – ForeWord This Week

book review

                          

“You know what to expect:  newsmakers and celebs … like sitting down with an eloquent New Yorker to talk about Radio, the First Amendment, indecency, politics, the great issues of the day, saloon singers, terrorism, baseball, God and, always, it seems, Mario Cuomo.”

– – – Paul J. McLane

Editor, Radio World

 

County Clerk Tim Idoni … Walter Isaacson … Michael Israel … Senator Jacob K. Javits … Marian B. Javits … Harry Jessell … Charles Kafferman … Rick Kaplar … Monsignor Charles Kavanagh … Nancy Q. Keefe … Dr. Irwin Kellner … John “Shipwreck” Kelly … Judge Irving Kendall … John F. Kennedy, Jr. … Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. … Senator Robert F. Kennedy … William Kennedy … Commissioner Doc Kiernan … Larry King … Secretary of State Henry Kissinger … Chairman Arnold Klugman … Mayor Edward I. Koch … Attorney General Oliver Koppell … Paul Kovi … Erwin Krasnow, Esq. … Senator Jerry Kremer … Pete Kriendler …

 

 

“There’s no mystery about O’Shaughnessy’s interviews.  They provide a reliable sounding board and an accurate reflection of life in the metro area.”

– – – Nelson DeMille

New York Times  bestselling author

 

Julius LaRosa … Bill Lacy … Senator George Latimer … Congressman Rick Lazio … Attorney General Louis Lefkowitz … Lewis Lehrman … Paul Lenok … Jacques LeSourd … Comptroller Arthur Levitt … Mayor John V. Lindsay … Dr. Herb London … Father Paul Lostrito, OFM … E. Nobles Lowe … Jim Lowe … Congresswoman Nita Lowey … Charles Luce … Chairman William F. Luddy …  General of the Armies Douglas MacArthur …  Mauro, Mario & Marco Maccioni … Sirio Maccioni … Father Kevin Mackin, OFM … Patrick Maines … Tony Malara … Nick Manero … Archbishop Henry Mansell … Ann Mara … John Mara … Wellington Mara … Tom Margittai … John Mariani … Alton Marshal … Ralph Martinelli … Chris Matthews … Kevin McCabe … Comptroller Carl McCall … Charles F. McCarthy … Bishop James McCarthy … Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey … Susannah McCorkle … David McCullough … Claudia McDonnell … J. Raymond McGovern, Esq. … Kevin Barry McGrath, Esq., … Mary McGrory … Bryan McGuire … Chairman Dennis Mehiel … Robert Merrill … Congressman J. Edward Meyer … County Executive Edwin Gilbert Michaelian … Joseph Migliucci … Mario Migliucci … “Mama” Rose Migliucci … Federal Judge Roger Miner … Peter Mintun … William Mooney … Garry Moore … Tommy Moretti … District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau … Arthur H. “Red” Motley … Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan … Liz Moynihan …  Tom Mullen … Federal Judge William Hughes Mulligan … Stan “The Man” Musial … Al Neuharth … Jack Newfield … Ambassador Edward Noonan Ney … Julian Niccolini … Alex Norton … Deborah Norville … Paul Noto …

 

“In an era of unparalleled public revulsion for politicians and the political process, his interviews are colorful tiles in the mosaic of observations and personal impressions that make up the written record of the Empire State in the late 20th century and those who’ve played key roles in the public life of this state, virtually all of whom he has known personally.”

 

– – – Albany Times Union

 

Jack O’Brian … Cardinal Edwin O’Brien … Father John O’Brien … Monsignor William B. O’Brien … Cardinal John O’Connor … Paul O’Dwyer, Esq. … Paddy O’Neill … Judge Andrew P. O’Rourke … James O’Shea … Congressman Richard Ottinger … Dr. Mehmet Oz …

 

“His interviews are great and done beautifully.”

 

– – – Jack Welch

former chairman, General Electric

 

Senator Bob Packwood … William S. Paley … Vincent “Big Pussy” Pastore …  Governor George E. Pataki … First Lady Libby Pataki … Governor David Paterson … Ken Paulson … Steve Pelletiere … Dr. Paul Pellicci … Speaker Nancy Pelosi … Mario Perillo … Mayor Augie Petrillo … Congressman Peter Peyser … Albert Pirro, Esq. … Judge Jeanine Pirro … Senator Joseph R. Pisani … Dr. Richard Pisano … George Plimpton … William Plunkett, Esq. … Merna Popper … Bishop Wayne Powell … Frederic B. Powers … Gabe Pressman … Assemblyman Gary Pretlow … Hugh Price … Ward Quaal …

 

“Full of the din of the fray, both past and present, the interviews offer samples from what seems like the forgotten zeitgeist of some distant generation, some strange time when commentators were respectful toward subjects they didn’t agree with and criticized ideas, not people.”

                                           – – – Asa Fitch

Litchfield County Times

 

Tony Randall … Joe Rao … Assemblyman Clarence “Rapp” Rappelyea … Ken Raske … Dan Rather … M. Paul Redd … Rex Reed … Mary Louise Reid … Ambassador Ogden Rogers Reid … Joseph Reilly … Phil Reisman … Congressman John Rhodes … Stefano Ricci … Reverend W. Franklyn Richardon … Murray Richman, Esq. … Pierre Rinfret … Col. Marty Rochelle … First Lady Happy Rockefeller … Laurance Rockefeller … Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller … Tim Rooney … Janine Rose … Alan Rosenberg … Robert Rosencrans .. A.M. Rosenthal … Kyle Rote … Bro. Darby Ruane … Justice Alvin Richard Ruskin … Dr. Natale Rusconi … Mark Russell … Tim Russert … Gianni Russo …

 

 

“Bill O’Shaughnessy’s portraiture is stunning … and provides a wonderful perspective, even on people I thought I knew well.”

 – – – Charles F. Dolan

Chairman, Cablevision

 

Howard Samuels … District Attorney John Santucci … Bill Scollon … Judge Preston Scher … Larry Schwartz … Louis O. Schwartz … Senator Hugh Scott … City Council President Paul R. Screvane … Ivan Seidenberg … Hugh Shannon … Rev. Al Sharpton … Alan Shayne … Wilfrid Sheed … Judge Judy Sheindlin … Coach Allie Sherman … Bernard “Toots” Shor … Bobby Short … I. Philip Sipser … Dan Slepian … Barry Slotnick, Esq. … Richard Norton Smith … Sally Bedell Smith … Walter “Red” Smith … Bruce Snyder … County Exeuctive Andy Spano … Brenda Resnick Spano … Domenico Spano … Mayor John Spencer … Rob Speyer … John Spicer … Dr. Robert Spillane … General Joseph A. Spinelli … Governor Eliot Spitzer … George M. Steinbrenner … Stuart Stengel, Esq. … John Sterling … Howard Stern … Martin Stone … Ellen Sulzberger Straus … R. Peter Straus … City Manager Charles B. Strome III … John Van Buren Sullivan … Bishop Joseph Sullivan … Arthur O. “Punch” Sulzberger … Frederic Sunderman … Norman Sunshine … Dr. Stephen Sweeny … Sy Syms … Laurence Taishoff … Sol Taishoff … Chris Taylor …

 

“I always look forward to reading – and listening to – the history of our times Bill O’Shaughnessy has captured in his interviews.”

– – – David McCullough

American historian and author

“John Adams,” Truman,” “1776”

 

Gay Talese … Zane Tankel … County Board Chairman Steve Tenore … Walter Nelson Thayer … Lowell Thomas … Jim Thompson … Adam Tihany … Neal Travis … Diane Strauss Tucker … Carll Tucker, Jr. … Mayor Joseph P. Vaccarella … Attorney General Dennis Vacco … Joe Valeant … Senator Guy Valella … Jerry Valenti … Congressman Lionel Van Deerlin … Mayor George Vergara … District Attorney Carl A. Vergari … John Verni, Esq. … Uncle Floyd Vivino … Joe “Slick” Vitulli … Alex Von Bidder …

 

“His interviews are a stroll through New York and America over the past 50 years … a chance to rub elbows with the elite of East Coast politics, publishing and society.”

– – – Tom Deignan

Irish Voice and Irish America

“I love his interviews.  O’Shaughnessy gets them all – and brings out their best.”

– – – Harold Holzer

Lincoln scholar and author

Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art

 

Chief Judge Sol Wachtler … Craig Watson … Jack Welch … Deacon Charles Wendelken … Donald V. West … Ambassador John Hay “Jock” Whitney … William B. Williams … Governor Malcolm Wilson … Rabbi Amiel Wohl … Minister C.V. “Jim” Woolridge … Judge Bruce Wright … Mayor Clinton Young … Whitney Moore Young, Jr. … Sam Zherka …

 

“His interviews are an education in current events, politics, media, the arts and popular culture.  They have attracted a Who’s Who of admirers.”

– – – Douglas Clement

Editor, Litchfield County Times

 

 

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.  He operates two of the last independent stations in the New York area: WVOX and WVIP.

 

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files” was released in January, 2011.  He is currently working on his fifth book, an anthology, for Fordham University Press.

Contact:

Cindy Gallagher

Whitney Media

914-235-3279 … cindy@wvox.com

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Interview With Mayor Ernest D. Davis of Mount Vernon Re: “Those Nasty Rumors …”

William O’Shaughnessy

Interview With

Mayor Ernest D. Davis

of Mount Vernon

Re:

“Those Nasty Rumors …”

 

February 14, 2013

WVOX and WVIP Worldwide

William O’Shaughnessy

Mayor Ernie Davis … I am among those who admire you, who respect you and I’m even among those who have great affection for you.  You rode out a storm some years ago and you were re-elected.  A tough battle … but you won.  I was there the night you celebrated.  I spoke a few words for you.  I saw the love in the room.   Ernie Davis … Mr. Mayor of Mt. Vernon … what the hell is going on now?

 

Ernie Davis

Well … let me go over it chronologically.   It started with Sandy, Hurricane Sandy.  As you may know, I got trapped in North Carolina for a few days.  I was running the city through the …

 

WO

You were down there … and couldn’t get back.  All hell broke loose? 

 

ED:

Couldn’t get back.  I got criticized.  To me it was unjust because I had planned just in case I couldn’t get back.  We did better in terms of any other city in terms of handling the hurricane.  But they made a big issue out of it and …

WO:

Who’s they … Mr. Mayor?

 

ED:

The Journal News … and Ned Rauch.  Right after that we had a blowout with Reisman.  I had a blowout with him. 

 

WO:

Phil Reisman … he’s your fellow broadcaster here on WVOX.  And a star feature columnist in the local Gannett paper.

 

ED:

Right … I told him I thought they were a bunch of gangsters. 

 

WO:

That’s not exactly the way to get along with the press!

 

ED:

Well … I wasn’t trying to get along with the press.  I was telling them what I thought.  I found, especially now, that there is a concentrated effort to slander my name.  And they have taken it to a maximum and to make it seem that something untoward is happening.

 

WO:

Who is after you now?

 

ED:

I think everybody seems to be after me!

 

WO:

This is the headline:  The Feds after Mayor Davis. 

 

ED:

OK … you know.  As you remember … it started with HUD.  Jerry Post was the commissioner.  I had asked Andy Spano to come in and help me out with it because I was just getting too many bad vibes from HUD on the Section 8 probe.  I call Andy in and had Andy send a person down …

WO:

He was county executive?

 

ED:

He sent him down and I took the authority from Jerry Post and gave it to the person Andy had sent.

 

WO:

Jerry Post was …?

 

ED:

The commissioner … of planning.   And I put Frank Fraley in charge, my chief of staff at the time, I put him in charge … and let HUD know what I was doing. 

 

WO:

What year was this, Mayor?

 

ED:

2007.  That was the election year … it should have been something that could have administratively been handled.  But it took on different proportions because of the election.  And somehow the Feds came in for a year and a half and I had given them some room …

 

WO:

They were all over city hall …

 

ED:      

No … they had a special place … a special office I gave them because I said … look, if something is happening, I want to know because I’m working too hard for people to be doing something that is against what I’m doing. 

 

WO:

What was the result of that … when the Feds came in?

 

ED:

Nothing … nothing happened.

 

WO:

Now they say it’s the IRS?  Who is involved now?

 

ED:

Now what happens is … I’m in my office and Ravi Batri was there that day and my corporate counsel came in with a subpoena for records.  One was for the Comptroller’s Office and one was for DPW.

 

WO:

The Comptroller ran against you?

 

ED:

Right … Maureen Walker.  Now I think she instigated this new thing we have in there …

 

WO:

What do you mean instigated?  Do you think she’s behind it? 

 

ED:

I think she’s contributed mightily to it.  The reason I say that is if you look at the last election when we had a big conference on city hall, we were going to have a press conference to explain my position on the issues.  A group came with the Katrina money … Ernie Davis:  what did you do with the Katrina money?  And there is no such thing as “Katrina money.”  There’s no Katrina Fund … there’s an Emergency Relief Fund.   But they use Katrina.  Why Katrina?  Because Katrina, as you know, was a big thing.  They had …

 

WO:

Down in New Orleans, we recall … but was it a big thing in Mt. Vernon?

 

ED:

We raised money … not for Katrina.  But that inspired us to raise emergency relief so that we can contribute emergency relief anywhere. 

 

WO:

So you had a fund.  How much did you collect?

 

ED:

$12,000.00.

 

WO:

What happened to that?

 

ED:

It’s still in place.  At the time of the election, nothing had been taken out.  But they used Katrina so that can show people in the water, on top of the houses … to show, to give people the impression something untoward was happening.

 

WO:

Who put the fund together, Mr. Mayor?

 

ED:

We had a concert and we took up money and we put it in the fund.

 

WO:

So … that’s what triggered this current bit of business?  And you’re in the gunsights of what Federal entity?

 

ED:

Yes … the US Attorney.

 

WO:

US Attorney … and what are they saying? What are they looking for?  You must know.

 

ED:

I’m going to tell you.  What happened is they came with this Katrina money … there’s no such thing.  I showed them bank statements.  I said here it is, disaster relief.  We wrote a check for $1,500.00 for this lady. They interviewed the lady.  The lady was happy … she told them.  There was nothing hidden. And the money is still there.

 

WO:

Who got the $1,500.00?

 

ED:

The lady … she had moved from Louisiana up to Mt. Vernon.  Somebody told her I had the fund.  She comes to me and applies for the fund.  I interviewed her twice.  I had someone else interview.  She was behind in her rent.  That was basically it.  And so we gave her $1,500.00.  So the fund exists, $12,000.00 minus the $1,500.00.

 

WO:

So the US Attorney now is snooping around Mt. Vernon … and they’re after you.

 

ED:

Oh … absolutely!

 

WO:

Have you hired counsel?  Do you have lawyers?

 

ED:

Yes … they have not stopped.

 

WO:

What do your lawyers tell you?

 

ED:

Not to talk to the press!

 

WO:

Ernie Davis … I had a thought this morning and I’ll lose two friends, guys I admire, but is it possible to be successful in politics – at least around here – that you’ve got to be charismatically challenged?  In other words, I regard Noam Bramson highly … I regard Paul Feiner highly … but nobody is shooting at those guys!  You’re a high-profile, fairly (if you’ll excuse me) glamorous guy.  There’s magic in the air when your friends gather to fete you and celebrate you.  But these other two guys are kind of like “nerdy” … always at the People’s Business stuff, minutiae, process, numbing detail.  Is it possible that the Adam Bradleys and Ernie Davis’s get in trouble because you are who you are? 

 

ED:

I think that contributes to it, but moreover, I was talking to this lawyer … I’ve talked to other lawyers too – this was a Black lawyer.   This is over and above – I mean you would think I had killed somebody they way they’ve gone through my properties in New York.  I’ve had this property since 1974. 

 

WO:

I just heard on the radio – so it must be true – that you own properties all up and down the Eastern seaboard.  Is that true?

 

ED:

No … let me tell you exactly.  I own my house – in Mount Vernon.  I bought the building – an office building on Fifth Avenue where I used to have my architecture firm.

 

WO:

How about your house … is it in the Bronxville section … is it a big, beautiful mansion?

 

ED:

It’s a nice house … but it would be worth a lot more if it were not in Mount Vernon.  And then in 1974 I bought a house in Harlem when it was really down.  I fixed it up and I still own it.  I also own a townhouse on Sylvan Terrace – that’s near the Jamaal Mansion

 

WO:

What town is that?

 

ED:

New York City … I own two pieces of property in New York City.  And I own a piece of property in Yonkers, a condo.  Now, I have paid for this.  Nobody has given me money.  I haven’t stolen people’s money.

 

WO:

You are an architect … your profession.  Is that how you make your money?

 

ED:

Yes … that’s principally how I made my money. 

WO:

And the investment in real estate …

 

ED:

Yes … investment in real estate.

 

WO:

Don’t you have property down in the Carolinas and in Florida?

 

ED:

Yes … I do. My mother died and left me the house.  So I have that house.

 

WO:

Where is that, Mr. Mayor?

 

ED:

In Charlotte … my aunt died and I took over her house.  And that’s in Charlotte.

 

WO:

I ain’t leaving you anything!  You’ve got enough, my friend!

 

ED:

And then in Florida I have a condo.  And that’s it.

 

WO:

Do you use the condo?

 

ED:

No.

 

WO:

It’s an investment …

 

ED:

And I’m losing money on all of them except one.

 

WO:

How does it feel when you read the headlines … and you see the stories questioning your honesty, and they question your integrity.  Are you an honest man?

 

ED:

Oh … absolutely.  Nobody can tell you I ever stole anything from them.  Nobody can tell you they paid me for all of this.  But the other thing that is paramount … I am a Black man.  And I am popular in New York State among mayors.  People who are in those positions like to bring down politicians because that elevates them.

 

WO:

You mean the investigators … the US Attorney types?

 

ED:

Yes … now they have gone to each one of my tenants and they called me and they say:  How do you pay your rent?  Now they know everything I do has a paper trail.  That’s ironic.  I show the paper, my statements, they balance.  There is no mystery.  I have a Scholarship Fund which I haven’t touched since 2007 because I wasn’t in office.  I don’t sign any of these things.

 

WO:

So … you’re a landlord.  I would say you’re not the worst landlord I’ve ever heard of. 

 

ED:

People haven’t paid me money in five years.  Now the reason that happened, I had my daughter running it and wasn’t collecting rent.  But I couldn’t make a stink because I didn’t want to be in the headlines as a slumlord and all that.  So I’m trapped.  So what I’ve had to do is take my money to pay the taxes, to pay the heat and all that.  And they know that.  There’s a paper trail. For instance, they asked my secretaries if they put money in the bank for me.  Occasionally they would.  A tenant would come over, give her a check, she stamps it.

 

WO:

They have your two secretaries in the gunsight, right?

 

ED:

Yes … five years ago.  There has to be something illegal about this.  I have been harassed and just because they can.  Something has to be illegal about this.  Every time I turn around and this guy Ned Rauch …

 

WO:

He’s the reporter for The Journal News

 

ED:

I don’t talk to them anymore. 

 

WO:

Ernie Davis, can you ride this out? 

 

ED:

Oh yeah … I have to.  I’m a Black man. 

 

WO:

What do you mean?

 

ED:

When you are a Black man and you are acquainted with the history of Black people in this country, this is nothing.  There is no leader you know of – no Black leader – who has not gone through our kind of stuff.  None.  You can’t name one.

 

WO:

I wish Ossie Davis was still around, I’d ask him about this.  He liked you.

 

ED:

Yes … the ironic thing is, I tell you what I’ve had to do … Reverend Wilson, he took me to Psalms 32 and 76 about your enemies and how you don’t have to worry about them.

 

WO:

What did the Bible say?

 

ED:

They predict there will be enemies to knock you down, but you believe in the Lord and all that. 

 

WO:

Do you believe in the Lord, and all that?

 

ED:

You have to.  They make you believe in the Lord.  If you don’t believe in the Lord now … But look at what happened to me.  Here I am minding my business and here come people who want to hurt me.  And they could not do it.  So now they are trying to go through the IRS

 

WO:

Who are the people who are trying to hurt you?

 

ED:

The US Attorney.  I’ve been under intense pressure since I left office.

 

WO:

But you got back into office.

 

ED:

Yes … I got back in.  I did not plan to run but this is how long this has been going on.  And there’s a new guy – Carbone.  There was the woman.  She left.  And he has taken this on.

 

WO:

These are assistant US attorneys?  Have you met Mr. Carbone?

 

ED:

No …

 

WO:

What would you say to him?  Right now?

 

ED:

I would not want to meet him. 

 

WO:

But he’s shooting at you … he’s “interested” in you.

 

ED:

I would not want to meet him because what I would say would not be good and it probably would not help me.  I consider them evil people.  I mean just the way they’ve done it … they’ve gone to my tenants.  They’ve taken pictures of my buildings as if I stole the buildings.  I’ve had these buildings since 1974.  And they want to give the illusion that somehow this fat-cat politician has amassed this money and he’s bought this building with dirty money.  No … I wouldn’t want to see him.

 

WO:

What does your wife say?  What do your friends say? 

 

ED:

If you’ve got friends … I’ve had calls saying I know you’re going through a tough time.  But I’m not really because the first thing you do is get angry.  But the things that keeps you sane is that you know you didn’t do anything. 

 

WO:

The second part of that is … then you get even?

 

Ed:

Well … that time will come. Because every action has an opposite and equal reaction.  And if your motives are not good – and his motives can’t be good – there is no way.  I did my taxes … and it shows.  The only building that is keeping me solvent is the one on Sylvan I’ve had for about a year and a half.  Previous to that, a guy owed me $31,000.00.  For instance, I had my architecture practice.  This guy owed me $31,000.00.  And now I’m the mayor … so I can’t work at it anymore.  So now he comes in for a loan. The first thing I do – I know this guy – he owes me money … I’m just putting this on the table so let’s get this straight.  It merited a loan, so he got the loan.  About a year later this guy Bandler, he comes and he gave a big article that I gave the money because I wanted him to pay me my money back, so that’s why I gave the loan. 

 

WO:

Mr. Mayor … Ernie Davis … I remember the night at a New Rochelle shore club you were honored, I was supposed to say a few words.  I could hardly get in the place myself.  I think I had to get a police escort.  You were surrounded.  Charlie Rangel was there … Keith Wright … and you didn’t address yourself to the politicians and the big shots.  You spoke to the young.  Do you remember what you said that night? 

 

ED:

No … I have been very privileged in my life.  But things happen.  I owe people.  Not the politicians. 

 

WO:

I see you sitting here at the station often talking to young people, you always bring them and try and encourage them.  You think they understand what this is all about?

 

ED:

They do.  And they are the reason I got elected.  People in the street.  I come from a good stock. 

 

WO:

How so?

 

ED:

Hard-working people.  I was taught to work hard and that’s what I do.   I try to do that.  And what is resentful is that you have so many evil people in high places and even when you show them the truth, they are not interested in the truth. 

 

WO:

But you have some good people too … and I am persuaded, nay I’m convinced, I’m sure … that you are among them.  The good ones.

 

ED:

You know … that’s the thing that – I can’t do this in public – but I think I was put here for a purpose.  A 74-year-old man.   And I try to be instructive to people.  And we’ve made good progress already.  We’ve taken people who are almost throw-aways with no money … we’ve gotten grants and we’re able to keep them working.  And give them hope.  And I don’t think anyone else can do that because they are in it for themselves.  This job …

 

WO:

The mayor of Mt. Vernon?

 

ED:

Yes … this job is the only one I’m interested in because it allows you – like I have the AIDS people – you touch them.  And the criminals, you touch them.  So therefore, I can go into gang places and I can talk to them because I’ve given them something.  You see, I try to give them hope and nobody else does.  They want to lock them up … kill them. 

 

WO:

So with it all .. with it all, Mayor Ernie Davis, you feel pretty good about your life and yourself.

 

ED:

Oh yes.  I’m not perfect.  There’s just some things I just don’t do.  There are people who live here and don’t pay any rent.  I’ve had to keep the taxes going.  That’s why I fall behind.  People say you make this … you make this.  Yes, but you see what’s coming in, but you don’t see what’s going out.

 

WO:

Do you have a good lawyer and a good accountant?

 

ED:

Now I do.  Sometimes you save money in the wrong places.  It’s like … for instance, the building I have on Fifth Avenue, I have only two tenants.  That doesn’t pay the lights or anything.  So now I have to get money from my pocket, because I mismanaged.  I don’t make any excuses for myself.  The one on Sylvan … I just found a couple, they pay $2,700.00 a month.  And they are wondering why I don’t charge them more. 

 

WO:

Ernie Davis … we’ve gone over a lot of this.  We’ll leave this to the accountants.

 

ED:

I’m working on them now.  This is what they are trying to do, and it is very obvious.  They are trying to, first of all, tear my reputation down so whatever else comes up, they let the public into thinking I’m a crook.  I’ve seen this and I’ve been around this too long.  Once they do that to you, they figure they can turn any support you might have.  And that’s what they’re trying to do.  For instance, they know exactly what I own.  They know exactly where the money came from.  If you researched all this … you’ve researched that, right?  It’s no ambiguity about it.  They look at those scholarships.  I don’t sign those scholarships. You’d think I was taking money from them.  I don’t have signing power for any of that.  Even the Disaster Relief … I don’t sign that.  And no money has been taken, so why is that an issue?  Except to demonize me.

 

WO:

Are they going to be successful at demonizing you? 

 

ED:

Ultimately, no, because … for instance, they’ve been at this for a while, they’ve done the IRS and Loretta Lynch, who is the US Attorney in New York, was my lawyer.  She wouldn’t take a crooked case.  She’s not that type.  She might be … if it goes, she’ll recall.  So you have a US Attorney judging all this.  And so what they want to do is find something that says I got money from them for something.  There’s a guy from Connecticut. I appointed him to a board, and they said: How much did you have to pay him for that?  See … what they don’t know is people come back and tell me what they do. 

 

WO:

Do you consider yourself an honest man?

 

ED:

Oh, absolutely. 

 

WO:

So what have you got to worry about?

 

ED:

I don’t.  They write all this stuff.  All of it is a lie.  Do I own the property?  Yes, I own the property.  Is there a law against that.  They can’t believe … I’m a southerner.  My grandparents, doing their time, bought land, built their house.  I don’t come from poverty.  My mama always told me to save your money.  When I bought the building on Fifth Avenue, I bought it from Grace Baptist.  I went to get a loan, they wouldn’t give me a loan.  I looked in the bank account, I had $80,000.00 in the bank.  I paid $76,000.00 for it, I believe.  It was torn up and all of that.  So I took the money out of the bank, paid Grace and then every commission I got, I paid my people and I put it into the building.  I kept doing this for two years.  And eventually I got it done.  Down in Harlem, I was going to have my office down there.  I paid $20,000.00.  But the mortgage was $20,000.00.  Eventually I paid that off.  I worked.  Sweat equity.  Got that done.  And so I’ve worked for every penny I have.  I don’t need to steal people’s money.

 

WO:

Mr. Mayor, we’ll leave it at that. Thank you.  I think you’ve been very candid with us. 

 

ED:

I have nothing to hide.  And I told them … why are you writing this.  I told you what it was.  You’ve got a paper trail.  If I’ve got all this money … where is it?  Every bank account, they’ve gone to the bank.  They’ve looked at my stuff.  I appreciate you giving me this time, Bill.

 

# # #

 

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.  He operates two of the last independent stations in the New York area: WVOX and WVIP.

 

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files” was released in January, 2011.  He is currently working on his fifth book for Fordham University Press, an anthology which will include this interview with Mayor Davis.

 

Contact:

Cindy Gallagher

Whitney Media

914-235-3279 … cindy@wvox.com

Interview With Mario M. Cuomo re: Pope Benedict … the Catholic Church … his own life … Ed Koch … Mariano Rivera

William O’Shaughnessy

Interview With

Mario M. Cuomo

 

Re: Pope Benedict … the Catholic Church …

his own life … Ed Koch … Mariano Rivera

 

February 11, 2013

WVOX and WVIP Worldwide

 

“It would be wonderful if we could all get one more shot at it…to be given the opportunity to go back and do it over.”

 

William O’Shaughnessy

No Pope has given up the miter or the keys to the kingdom in 600 years … but it happened this week.  Governor Mario Cuomo, you’re a great student of things theological and you’re a son of the Church … what do you think about the Pope walking away from it and hanging it up?

 

Mario Cuomo

What the Pope did, it appears to me, was a practical, selfless, intelligent decision.  He is a man who has worked very hard for a long time.  He’s now concluded that he doesn’t have enough strength to do the job of being the most important person in the Catholic Church … at least when it comes to the group, the small group – the Curia – that make the decisions about how we should deal with our religion and how we should keep it strong and how we can improve it.  It takes a lot of strength.

He doesn’t have that strength anymore.  He has the desire, I’m sure.  We witnessed that.  But he did, it seems to me, the right thing.  If you can’t do the job, you have to step aside.  Anything else would have been selfish and damaging.

 

WO

Governor, your friend of so many years Jimmy Breslin once wrote a book called The Church That Forgot Christ.  And he went to great lengths to say there’s a hierarchy and a church that now may not resemble what Jesus intended … how do you feel about that stuff?

 

MC:

Well … when you say how do you feel about that stuff, that stuff is a huge, huge amount of law and religious law that guides us – those of us that are Catholic – in the way that we should live and it’s a very difficult thing to try to sum it up in any tidy, neat and convenient way.  This probably is not well understood by people like me and other Catholics.  We have to keep in mind that the Church – although it talks about infallibility – it has adopted a rule of ineffability, that rule of infallibility – which means we can’t make a mistake if we’re talking about our religion … we’re not capable of making a mistake.  That has been put to one side.  That simply is not the working measure of the people who are making the rules.  Infallibility was adopted at a time when the Church was already not well supported because it had proven itself vulnerable in a number of ways.  To try to deal with that weakness, they suggested that this new rule – of course it’s no longer a new rule – that when the Pope  chooses, because he believes it’s a matter of very, very high importance, the Pope chooses to say something, to make a doctrine, to make a ruling.  And he does it with infallibility.  It means he can’t possibly be wrong. 

 

Well, that struck a lot of people as not intelligent and not reasonable and, in fact, it has never been exercised specifically except, I think, with respect to the Virgin Mary and the question of whether or not she was assumed up to Heaven when she passed away.  And that’s the only issue on which infallibility has been promoted by the Pope and the Church that makes the rules.  Now … that’s a very important thing because it means the Church is fallible.  It means the Church can make a mistake.

 

WO:

Are you saying the Church made a mistake with the Blessed Mother?

 

MC:

No … I’m saying that it can make mistakes and it has made mistakes.  And that’s important because it’s corrected a lot of mistakes.  And if it can correct a lot of mistakes, that suggests that maybe more corrections are possible.  At one time, you could not take any money for lending money to somebody … the interest bankers live with and a lot of other people that lend money.  It was a sin to charge somebody for the use of money. 

 

WO:

What was that sin called?

 

MC:

Usury … and … it was a major sin, let’s put it that way.  It was regarded as a very significant sin.  And of course it’s no longer the law of the Church.  And there are other things the Church has changed its mind on.  And made different rules for.  There’s a great book by an Irish Catholic judge who is a layman and has written a book on the Church’s policy, three, four or five of them.  And how over the years the Church has accepted and even promoted the reality that it is capable of making mistakes.  Usury is one of those issues.   They made a big mistake – the  Church – when they said it was a sin to charge interest.   And certainly a whole lot of people are happy they didn’t do that because there are a lot of people in this world who get a lot of money for lending money and they were very pleased with the idea of being able to do that and they didn’t want to hear the  Church saying it’s a sin to charge interest. 

 

WO:

Governor, you’ve written lovingly and also critically – if gently – about the Church.  You’re not going to like it when I remind you of this, but when you were elected governor of New York three times by tremendous margins, a friend of yours said I think Mario really wants to be a cardinal.   Forgive me, Governor … that really happened.

 

MC:

No … no that didn’t happen, O’Shaughnessy.  I could guess who it is that said that. But I’m not going to give you the name for fear that I’m shooting at the wrong target.  No …

 

WO:

Did you ever think about being a priest?

 

MC:

No … let’s stay with the governorship.  I felt capable of being a competent governor before I decided to run.  I had a lot of experience as a lay Catholic and that was useful in terms of being an active Catholic, I had a lot of experience doing that.  And in terms of governing, I had four years as Secretary of State in which I learned a whole lot about our government and traveled all over the state. And then I had four more years working with Hugh Carey as the Lieutenant Governor who would take his place if he would have to step away.  I was well armed for the job.  I was a lawyer before that and so I had the confidence I would be competent.  OK?  I never dreamt I would be more than that and when people started talking about me as a president, I could not say about myself what I could say about myself when I chose to attempt to be a governor.  And that is I know I’m competent to do this.  I did not have that same feeling about the presidency.

 

WO:

But Mario Cuomo, excuse me, you’ve always been drawn relentlessly and consistently to the great cosmic and spiritual issues of the day.  Somebody once said famously this guy is too good to be worried about how many Bob’s Big Boys you should put on the Thruway.  You’ve worked the territory that should be worked by cardinals and bishops.  You know you have.  You spoke famously on abortion. And you’ve tried to make some sense of it all.  You sure you didn’t go into the wrong business?

 

MC:

No … not at all.  If you’re suggesting I should have become a priest, I’ve already confessed I wasn’t good enough to be a president.  I’m just as sure – or surer – that I’m not good enough to be a priest.  Certainly not after I met Matilda.

 

WO:

I’m not asking you to dump Matilda.

 

MC:

The Church is a wonderful thing, Bill.  The Church – when it stays close to Christ and what Christ said and what Christ believed  and what Christ sought to teach all the rest of us – when the Church does that it’s wonderful.  Really wonderful.  It can make the world better.  And let’s stay with the Church and what it represents in terms of religious belief.  If you look very, very closely, the Roman Catholic Church is not very far separated from Judaism.  The essence of Judaism is two simple principles that can be  captured with two simple words:  Tikkun Olam and Tzedakah.  Tzedakah is, roughly in Hebrew, charity …  goodness in dealing with other people.  Fairness.  All of that.  That’s Tzedakah. Tikkun Olam  is the Hebrew principle that says God made this world but didn’t complete it.  Your mission is to begin the work He began.  And to correct some of the misdirections we have become guilty of.  Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam.  But those two principles are exactly what Christ taught.  And as a matter of fact, there’s a kind of dramatic evidence of this in the story about Christ on that night coming out of the synagogue and being confronted by people who are not friendly to Him and demanded to know from Him why it was other rabbis were walking out and expressing astonishment at your intelligence and wisdom, etc.  And what is it you said to these people in the synagogue?   And He said simply …

 

WO:

The Lord?

 

MC:

Yes … this is Christ talking simply to the people in the synagogue, the rabbis particularly.  He said:  Look … this is the Whole Law.  Love one another as you love yourself.  That’s Tikkun Olam and the Tzedakah principle put together.  Love one another as you love yourself for the love of Me for I am Truth.  And what he was saying is I am God and you should rest on that principle and that principle calls upon you to be good to one another.  To love one another.  Well, if those two principles are the essence of Christ, then what distinguishes them from the Jews?  Well, the Hebrews said exactly the same thing!  One of the great rabbis said love one another as you would love yourself, for the love of God, because that’s what God wants you to do.  And everything else is commentary.  I love that!   Loving one another is all you need to do to be right with the religion, whether it’s Judaism or Christianity.  And if we could get that clearer in our minds, we wouldn’t have spent all those years trying to blame every Jew for having killed Christ and for being the massachristis which were condemned in the Second Vatican Council.  The massacristy was a kind of slur on Jewish people to say they are the killers of Christ.  In fact, they are not the killers of Christ.  They didn’t do the killing.  But more than that, even as a matter of religious principle, they weren’t the killers of Christ. 

 

You know, you have all of that going for you.  You had the possibility at one point, we will continue to refine, to study and to discuss the relationship between the Christian principles and the Hebrew principles and get even closer together.  When that happens, then the great issue of modern religion becomes … what do the rest of the world’s religions say about a new religion that is the new Christianity and the old Judaism now making up the new religion.  Will they be frightened by it?  Will they be attracted by it?  There are more people out there that believe in the Koran and those things, than there are
Jews and Christians.  So … it’s an exciting world we’re living in if you judge it just by its religions.  The kind of pope we need is the kind of pope who will say … it’s time to look back on our history and to see we have failed in our mission because we simply have ignored opportunities.  Like what?  Well, wouldn’t it be wonderful if women who we are so eager to make equal to men in all ways that are practical, wouldn’t it be something if all the women who wanted to be priests could be priests.  And all the women who want to be capable of conducting the Mass … then all the women would be the equal of all the men.  How much stronger would that make us as a Christian nation?

 

WO:

Governor, would you want to go to confession to a woman?  It’s hard enough telling a guy your sins!

 

MC:

I’ll take your word for it, Bill.

 

WO:

At least for me …

 

MC:

OK … let’s leave it there, O’Shaughnessy.

 

WO:

Governor, you’re a politician.  That’s what you are.  A governor … a politician.

 

MC:

I’m a lawyer.  That’s what I am … a lawyer.

 

WO:

A lawyer … but governors and politicians and lawyers are not supposed to talk about things like this.  About Tikkun Olam and Tzedakah.  Soulful, religious, deep issues …

 

MC:

Why not? 

 

WO:

See … you prove my point.  You’ve always been drawn to this stuff.  So again I ask you …

 

MC:

It’s not stuff.  It’s the rules by which you lead your life. 

 

WO:

One of our callers is nominating you for Pope and Mariano Rivera for Vice Pope.  Will you serve if elected?

 

MC:

No … but I tell you, I would love to see how he throws that one pitch … I mean, it’s just one pitch this guy has … the cutter.  And I hope he hasn’t lost it to this year while he was sitting it out.

 

WO:

The Boston Globe called you the great philosopher-statesman of the American nation.  Did you ever get the feeling you’d like to get in there and save your Church? 

 

MC:

No … no.  I’m too weak to do a lot of the things I’d love to be able to do.  It would be wonderful if we could all get one more shot at it.  At one point be given the opportunity to go back and do it over.  Imagine how much better you could do it.  And that’s the way we should feel about the  Church now.  We should feel the Church is invited to have a new day.  A new week.  A new month.  A new era of the Church.  If you could find the right person to lead it, then wonderful, wonderful things can happen to our religion and to the world that’s affected by that religion. 

 

WO:

Governor … speaking of a final shot, you gave an exceptional interview with New York Magazine  about a sometimes friend, sometimes not so much a friend, Ed Koch.  Would you like one final comment on the man.

 

MC:

Final word on Ed Koch?  I’ll give you one final word … I wrote something … can I read it to you, Bill.

 

WO:

We’d love to hear it, Sir …

 

MC:

Everyone who has ever sat in the magnificence of Temple Emmanuel cannot be unmoved by the dazzling and soaring beauty that surrounds them.  Some of our great city’s greatest citizens have chosen it as the platform for their last goodbye’s as did Ed Koch on Monday, February 4, 2013.  I knew Ed Koch for most of the quarter of a century that we both became involved in politics.  During those years we had our ups and downs, but no politician I know ever equaled Koch’s mastery of the media.  All of it – television, radio, newspapers, public appearances.  It made him, perhaps, the best known political leader in New York City’s history.  That was made clearer by the unprecedented media coverage his passing received.  He deserved to be well known.  Ed devoted his life to two great loves.  The world of politics and his family.  He spent his entire adult life in public service as a soldier, mayor, congressman, writer of books and columns and as one of the best known mayors in our city’s history.  In the end he was more than a uniquely honored mayor.  He was an institution that became an ineradicable part of our city’s history like the Statue of Liberty and the great bridges.  New Yorkers will never stop answering his question which was How Am I Doing?  And they’ll answer it with their reply.  You did good, Ed.  You did good!

 

WO:

Governor, I couldn’t talk you into running for pope … but you’ve given us some great gifts as you always do.  I’m glad you’re a friend of this radio station, Sir.  Thank you.

 

MC:

Thank you for having me once again, Brother Bill.

 

 

# # #

 

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.  He operates two of the last independent stations in the New York area: WVOX and WVIP.

 

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files” was released in January, 2011.  He is currently working on his fifth book for Fordham University Press, an anthology which will include this interview with Governor Cuomo.

 

Contact:

Cindy Gallagher

Whitney Media

914-235-3279 … cindy@wvox.com

Interview with Dr. Christopher Comfort – Medical Director, Calvary Hospital

December 11, 2012

 

“Dying is something you have to do all by yourself.  There are no cohorts, no accomplices, no compadres … it’s a solo act.”

 

William O’Shaughnessy:

For the next 50 minutes while we’re in your keeping … a very tricky subject.  I’m not sure it’s the cheeriest, happy-go-lucky topic to be talking about in the countdown to Christmas, but it’s to be dealt with – sooner or later for all of us, I expect.    Our special guest is the medical director of Calvary Hospital in the Bronx.  His name  … listen to this … is Dr. Christopher Comfort.  You’re aptly named, sir.

 

Dr. Christopher Comfort:

Mr. O’Shaughnessy, thanks for having us.  I guess it’s unusual, the work I do, working at a place that takes care of loved ones who are dying and they do come to us, I guess, for comfort.


WO:

Doctor Comfort, we’ve heard about Calvary over the years … a palliative care place.  And what does the word palliative mean?

 

CC:

Calvary is fairly unusual.  It is the only place quite like it in the country.  It’s a hospital … a place where people come very, very ill … usually at the end of life requiring very sophisticated kind of care, not with the intent of cure, but with the intent of keeping them comfortable until their very last days.  And I think in some ways that defines what palliative is all about. It’s a new term in medicine – palliative comes from a strange derivation of  Latin … meaning to cover or shadow.  The thinking is that no longer is there the possibility of a cure of illness or disease, but what we do is cover up those symptoms that are distressing to individuals.  We deal with the suffering individuals go through, either during the last stages of their illness or perhaps even before that.  It’s a new discipline because it also says in addition to symptom control or taking care of difficult, egregious symptoms, we also include loved ones in the care.

 

WO:

Doctor … you’ve been at this for 17 years.  Do you ever go home drained?  You’re a Westchester guy.  You were in the Bronx as a regular general practitioner.  How did you get over to Calvary full time?  You’re now the medical director …

 

CC:

I was involved with Calvary while in practice.  I used the facility for the excellent care of some of my patients and slowly made the migration to work at the institution including directing the medical program.  I had the honor of working with some wonderful people … Frank Calamari who is the president of the hospital … Dr. Michael Brescia, who began this work some 50 years ago, a real pioneer in the concept and implementation of palliative care.  So for me it was a transition that really was an honor not only for the patients I’ve been able to work with, but the professionals I’ve been able to associate with. 


WO:

You mention Calamari … we hear him everywhere on the airwaves.  Is there really a Frank Calamari, or is that an actor? 

 

CC:

There really is … and he sounds exactly like that in person.

WO:

And what about Dr. Brescia … he’s a legendary guy … been there for a hundred years.


CC:

He’s an amazing individual.  In fact, the history is almost a Bronx/Westchester story in terms of Dr. Brescia.  His beginnings were actually in the Bronx VA program.  And, in fact, his real claim to fame is not starting a world-famous program in terms of palliation.  He and Jack Cimino, who was a compatriot of his, actually developed and implemented the arteriovenous shunt which is the access device used by every individual on dialysis.  50 years ago he and Jack developed the technology.  It revolutionized dialysis for literally the whole world.  This is Dr. Brescia who then, after developing that, said he needed to move on to something I guess he thought had even more meaning.  And so he came and worked in the South Bronx with a group of nuns and established the medical program at Calvary that has grown into what it is today. 


WO:

Dr. Comfort … you told us Calvary was the only one of its kind in the country.  Why doesn’t Chicago have a Calvary?  Or Houston?


CC:

Our country and my profession has been very slow to develop in terms of recognizing the benefits of palliation and palliative care.  This is a field that has developed over the last 15 years and only in the last five years has become popular.  New York has had the honor and luxury of having this kind of program for about 110 years. 


WO:

Is it a Catholic thing? 

 

CC:

It may be rooted in faith because the mission of the institution to take care of individuals in their last days is really a compassionate mission.  And it is a mission began 110 years ago actually out of the work of widows of the New York City Fire Department who began a program in Manhattan which in the 1930’s and1940’s moved up to the Bronx.  The Archdiocese of New York has been involved in this work for years.  And through both the Sisters of Faith and Archdiocesan individuals the mission has grown through its infancy to a true medical program as it exists today.

 

WO:

Cardinal O’Connor used to say he does bedpans.  Did O’Connor come to your joint?


CC:

We have had all the cardinals over the last 50 – 60 years come and actively participate.  Some have come to witness what goes on.  Some have come to actually participate.  Some had loved ones who have come and died with us. 

WO:

Doctor, Calvary is right over the line.  We’re in New Rochelle,  but our ravings are also going worldwide at the moment.  I was down at Calvary the other day, a friend of ours – a very famous and beloved one:  Judge Andy O’Rourke, the former Westchester county executive – is in your care and keeping.  And it’s in kind of a drodsome section of the Bronx.  Almost a factory section.  I’ve got to tell you, your building on the outside is not the greatest architecture I’ve ever seen.  But inside … it’s a magical place.  It’s wonderful …

 

CC:

We’re in the East Bronx literally across the street from the Weiler Division of Einstein near Jacobi Hospital.  Those of us in the medical field, look at it as “hospital row” in the Bronx

 

WO:

But there sits Calvary … sort of apart.  The other ones seem like big medical centers.  Calvary is sort of … I’ve never seen a building like that. 

 

CC:

And I think it is symbolic of what it represents.  It represents a place that is different.  It is unique.  It has a very special and very identifiable place in the medical community. 

 

WO:

Thank God the sun is struggling to come out … we’ve had some pretty awful, rainy, nasty days around here and our guest today is Dr. Christopher Comfort.  He’s medical director of Calvary Hospital ..  a great resource for Westchester and the New York area.  Doctor … do you ever see miracles.  Did you ever attend a miracle or witness one?


CC:

There’s no question.  Miracles come in a variety of different forms.  Miracles arrive with individuals who come extremely ill and actually get well and go home.  For weeks … and maybe for months.

 

WO:

You’ve seen it?

 

CC:

Absolutely.  Miracles happen with families that have been fractured or estranged for years and at a tragic time in the life of the family they come together to witness a very difficult event.  And the healing that occurs for families is nothing short of a miracle.

 

WO:

But when they come together like that … is it for real?  Do you believe it?

 

CC:

My view on it is that it is the last chance we have …  the last chance for a family to come together with a loved one.  It really is a sacred time for them. 

 

WO:

Do people in your care and keeping, when they hear they’ve got to go to Calvary … is that like a death sentence?

 

CC:

The difficulty with the name Calvary is … yes … it is associated with the idea of dying patients. 

 

WO

You’re a Roman, right?

 

CC:

Yes.

 

WO

So … Calvary … what was that all about?

 

CC:

The story of Calvary is the name of the hill where Jesus was crucified.  It is a place of salvation.  I think we’ve changed the concept of it being a place of death to where it is a place where someone comes that is a stepping stone to what comes next.  I know Dr. Brescia likes to talk about it as entry into a special vestibule.  In fact it is the waiting room … or vestibule of Heaven.  And I think for many of our patients who have my belief … or may not have my belief … it is truly a place where they await a better life, a better time for themselves.

 

WO:

You’re the physician, you take care of them and make them comfortable.  Do they tell you their mistakes, their sins, their errors, their transgressions?  Do they try and make a priest out of you?

 

CC:

Most people actually have a wonderful gift they give me.  They give me their story.  Some of that has to do with mistakes.  Some of it has to do with transitions … and some has to do with great joy that has occurred throughout their life. 

 

WO:

So you’ve heard these stories, Dr. Comfort, for 17 years.  Why don’t you write a book about it.

 

CC:

Well, Dr. Brescia is.  So I don’t want to usurp his fire regarding the wonderful experiences we all have had at Calvary over the past many years.

  

WO:

There’s a calmness about you.  Do you ever get crazy and excited and speeded up?  You have a peaceful face, a nice countenance.  It feels good being around you.

 

CC:

Well … I think that’s the way it should be. 

 

WO:

Do you ever get speeded up?

 

CC:

Every once in a while.

 

WO:

How do you calm down?

 

CC:

I actually go upstairs to the patient floor, sit down, have a discussion, observe a family and realize the great blessings I have … not only to have the things – health, intellect – I have, but to realize what I’m able to give.

 

WO:

Does it make you feel better to see someone worse off than you are? 

 

CC:

I’m not sure it’s exactly that, Bill.  I think more it is the honor of being able to make a difference at such a difficult time with people.

 

WO:

Do you get the family involved with the care of your patients? 

 

CC:

That’s an excellent question.  The family is important to us.  The question is how does that really happen?  It really happens in two ways.  One is that we strive to actually involve the family in much of the actual hands on things in terms of care more than just educating families about what is going on … more than just explaining the time course that may go on.  But we  actively involve the family and invite them to involvement in what’s going on … for choices of medications …  and inviting families for activities.  We actually have very extensive recreation therapy programs where patients who may be quite ill involve themselves in activities such as arts and crafts, Bingo, where families get to participate and realize it might be the last time a family sits down with a loved one in a usual and normal social situation.  More importantly, we really do feel that the experience is not limited to the patient themselves.  A patient may die.  I have not seen resurrection yet.  I may be wrong, but I know that families, as they watch them go through what they go through, die as well.  The difference is that the family does resurrect.  And so we feel it is important for us to be involved in that process of resurrection that goes on with the family as they live through the reality of losing a loved one.

 

WO:

Do you find families, Dr. Comfort, who just can’t handle the whole thing? 

 

CC:

I think it is an immense burden to put on any family to have to watch the death of a loved one.  I don’t think it is different watching a child die or a parent …  whether that parent is 30 years old or 90 years old.  It’s a difficult event in a family’s life and it is certainly important to make sure it is as bearable an experience as possible. 

 

WO:

Dr. Comfort, what is a perfect death?  You just slip away?  Mario Cuomo said to me once … you just swoon.  What’s a perfect death?

 

CC:

I’m not sure I can define it for you … I’m not sure I’ve experienced or watched a perfect death.  I know I have watched a lot of different ways for death to occur.  I think the most important part and one of the things we strive for is to recognize if they’re suffering and to relieve that suffering because that is the mission we have.  We’re not going to change the time course.  But we can make a significant difference in making sure the suffering is treated. 

 

WO:

How many people are suffering down in Calvary as we speak?

CC:

We have 225 patients we’re taking care of right now.

 

WO:

How many are in there because of cancer?

 

CC:

About 80% of the patients we’re taking care of have a primary diagnosis of cancer. 

 

WO:

Do you take AIDS patients?

 

CC:

We take other diagnoses so we take patients who have diagnoses such as AIDS, also end-stage cardiac disease or end-stage lung disease.  The care of those patients is very similar to the kinds of care necessary for the treatment of cancer patients.

 

WO:

Doctor, you said you will counsel with the family about the kind of medication.  What is someone says … look, I know the hand I’ve been dealt, I’m here.  But I would like to stay lucid.  I’d like to think and be as productive as I can be laying here in this bed.  I don’t want you to zonk me out.  You don’t, in that case, just keep pumping them with feel good stuff, do you?

 

CC:

You know, it’s interesting to look at that question because it’s excellent.  The purpose of the treatment we give is to maintain the integrity and dignity of the individual as long as it can be maintained.  And that includes maintaining the awareness and thinking and the communicating capacity of that loved one.  That time, as you know, is a special time for both patient and family.  So it is extremely important to respect not just the wishes of the patient who might not want to have a grogginess or sedation related to medication, but realizing we strive for every patient to have good, meaningful time with loved ones. 

 

WO:

You make it very easy to get in and out of the place.  You don’t have to show your passport or sell your soul to get in the place.  And you have visiting hours 24 hours a day?

 

CC:

We’re, as I’ve said, a little “unusual.:  We have visiting 24 hours a day.  There is no age restriction on visitation.  You may come and visit and lo and behold you see children running around, coming to visit a loved one.  You may come downstairs and see pets of patients that have been brought in to say final goodbyes.   You may actually see occasions and events come to us such as weddings because loved ones are sick and can’t get there so they bring the celebration to us. 

 

WO:

Do you ever see anybody come in there with a hip flask?  Can you have a little cocktail?

 

CC:

We actually have a “Friday Night Cocktail” and we have volunteers who go around on Friday night to the patient rooms …

 

WO:

You can have an Absolut?

 

CC:

Those who have the doctor’s permission to have a stiff one on Friday are offered that. 

 

WO:

 

Who started this?  Frank Calamari, the boss man?  Does he know you do this?

 

CC:

It happened long before him, I’m sure.

 

WO:

Doctor Christopher Comfort is his name.  Let’s go to the phones again …

 

 

Caller:

Doctor, my Uncle Jimmy was a World War II veteran.  He died young at Calvary back in the mid 60’s.  And he got wonderful care, I still remember.  I want to also thank you, your staff and the Catholic women who make bandages that you use there.  It’s just a wonderful institution … 

 

CC:

We have a lot of volunteers.  In fact, we have an event coming up on Wednesday we call “Cafe Noel,” an entirely volunteer event.  We bring Christmas to 225 loved ones, including their families.  We take downstairs and turn it into a performance area.  We bring in volunteers who serve food and merriment and as many patients who are able can come down to a nightclub setting to spend time with their loved ones for the performances.  We repeat that in Brooklyn.  We have 25 beds in Lutheran Hospital.  That’s an off-shoot of Calvary and having driven out to Brooklyn weekly for the last ten years, I can tell you that sometimes the trip from Brooklyn to the Bronx or the Bronx to Brooklyn is like going to a different state.  And so we realize that to provide Calvary services only in the Bronx limited the access to what we thought was wonderful care for other parts of New York City so we began a program at Lutheran Hospital with 25 beds where we have a Calvary within Lutheran and that has served the Brooklyn community for the past ten years.

 

WO:

You know, I’m sort of figuring this out that Calvary is not such a heavy, heavy what hangs over place.  Life goes on it seems …

 

CC:

This is where life continues.  In fact, I’ve often thought the difficulty is not dying.  The difficulty is the fear of what will happen as you lead up to dying.  So our concept is very simple.  Calvary is a place where the prognosis or event may occur, but it is also a place where we allow life to continue as long as it can continue and the meaningful things that can be done during that time are maintained.

 

WO:

You know … you are more articulate than a lot of priests I know.  Do you have guys with Roman collars walking along your halls?

 

CC:

We actually have about 25 full time pastoral care staff who take care of patients.  Not only Roman collars, but we have a significant number of all religious persuasions.

WO:

Do you have a rabbi on your staff?

 

CC:

We have two.  We began a program over the last couple of weeks with Yeshiva University, through our friends at Einstein, where we are doing work for the Orthodox Jewish community.  We receive referrals from Brooklyn and Rockland County for the care of dying patients of the Orthodox Jewish religion addressing the very particular needs belief systems of that group in an effort to have that life continue as long as it can.

 

WO:

How about Muslims?  Do you have any Muslim patients?

 

CC:

In fact, we do.  It’s amazing to look at different ethnic groups and realize each of us as communities deal with life and with death differently.  The practices of a Hindu … a Muslim … a Jewish individual … or a Catholic … there are some similarities.  But there are some nuances, some differences in terms of both beliefs and the way individuals go through the experience of illness. 

 

WO:

What is the best thing a friend can do if somebody is at the end of his or her life?  Do you say … you’re going to be alright.  You’re going to be out of here soon … ?

 

CC:

We’ve learned … and it’s been painful.  But we’ve learned you don’t make promises you can’t keep.  At a time when people are quite ill … and patients suffer, that is not the time for a promise to be made and those of us in the medical profession often do that.  Let me give you an example:  If you had the misfortune of having to accompany a loved one to a doctor’s office for a visit and bad news is given … the doctor leans over and says I’m sorry, sir … but I have to tell you you’ve got lung cancer and you who are merely accompanying them are sad and begin to cry.  It’s not uncommon for the doctor to lean in and say, it will be alright.  The problem is for you at that point and time and the meaning of that experience, to know and accept that it’s not going to be alright.  In fact, your life and the life of the loved one is changed forever.  So, my advice for family and friends is that the most important thing you can do is to simply witness.   To witness … that is to be there.  Be a physical presence.  Be an emotional presence.  And a spiritual presence, not to have any expectation that magically you can make anything better.  But that it is enough to actually witness the event.

 

WO:

It would appear, I would opine, that you’re doing the Lord’s work.  Are you a pretty religious guy?

 

CC:

Not really … I have a belief system in making sure suffering is relieved.  I have a belief system in making sure attention is paid to the needs of loved ones around a dying patient.  But I make no firm promises regarding what comes thereafter.  That is certainly an individual perspective. 

 

WO:

Nobody knows …?

 

CC:

No one knows. 

 

WO:

Doctor Comfort … do you tell people, you’ve got three days or you’ve got a month.  Or you’ve got six weeks?

 

CC:

Well, it’s kind of interesting to look at the accuracy of physicians in determining prognosis.

 

WO:

Can you tell?

 

CC:

I can’t.  Having done this work for an extensive period of time.  I can clearly identify decline in individuals so there is an expectation of dying let’s say within a 24-hour period of time.  I think most physicians are pretty accurate with that.  But past that, when you get to two weeks.  Or you’ve got six weeks or six months … it’s very, very difficult for the physician.

 

WO:

But when they try and pin you down … what do you tell them.  How long have I got, Doc?  How many times have you been asked that?

 

CC:

Probably thousands. 

 

WO:

What do you tell them?

 

CC:

I tell them it could be a short period of time.  It could be a long period of time.  But I guarantee you, I’ll be here with you through the whole process. 

 

WO:

You say you’re not religious, I don’t believe you.  Not for a minute.

 

CC:

Well, I think I’m spiritual.  And I think Calvary is spiritual.  And I think this is important because the patients we take care of and those we minister to, some may be Catholic, some Christian, some Jewish, some Hindu, some Muslim, and the common experience for that is not a particular religious belief, but it is the spiritual nature of what goes on.

 

WO:

How do you get through to the patients the realization that they may never be leaving the hospital? 

 

CC:

That’s a very, very good question.  Let me take it from a couple of perspectives.  One I don’t think people have thought about is that, sometimes the experience of advanced illness or severe illness is so difficult for the patient that it is a relief for them to know they will be taken care of and they will not suffer and the last thing on their mind is the idea of being home or being in a hospital.  It is being taken care of.  Secondly, and it is a sad kind of commentary on the way we take care of patients these days – and this isn’t so much a medical issue, this is a social issue.  As we decline, as we get sicker, many times it becomes impossible for the care of the patient at home because the way things go here in our country, the burden of the care falls upon family.  And there are many, many people who don’t have either involved families or a sophisticated enough structure where they can maintain themselves at home.

 

It’s an amazing thing … when you think about 100 years ago all of us would have said to that question – I’ve seen it.  And I see it all the time.  Because death and dying was a usual part of life.  Now, it is something sequestered and something separated from our experience.  I do teaching of medical students and residents and I’ll ask medical students … have you seen someone die?  And they will tell me they never have. 

 

WO:

There’s an old line … I used to attribute this to Jimmy Cannon, the great Hearst sportswriter, or the great Breslin himself.  But it may have been Pete Hamill:  Dying is something you have to do all by yourself.  There are no cohorts, no accomplices, no compadres … it’s a solo act.

 

CC:

It is also a process.  It is like birth, isn’t it?   Out you come and you’re alone as you go through what is a difficult process.  I don’t remember the process myself.  But it’s clear the final goodbye … the final exit is an exit that has to be accomplished alone.

 

WO:

How do you and your colleagues at Calvary decide who needs to go to a nursing home?  Or who needs to stay at home?   

 

CC:

We also have a very extensive home program.  It’s divided into two parts.  One is a home care program that takes care of patients in the home setting.  And those patients may be very ill with advanced chronic disease and may be needing those services for just a short period of time. 

 

We then have a hospice program.  Hospice is a program that takes care of patients who have advanced disease and typically are dying.  And the intent is to maintain those patients at home.  And so we have a full division of Calvary known as Calvary At Home which is our hospice program that takes care of thousands of patients in the New York City area.  But not in a hospital setting. 

 

WO:

Who pays for all this?  Insurance?  The Archdiocese?  Rich benefactors?

 

CC:

There are a variety of ways.  Some of those are by insurance.

 

WO:

Are the insurance companies hip to this palliative stuff you’re doing?

 

 

CC:

It’s getting better. There is more of an understanding of palliation and palliative care as an “entitled” benefit for those who have insurance.  I think actually all have come along and really stepped up to the plate to make sure they are at least addressing the issue of providing that kind of care to patients.  And really it’s a credit to not only the medical community, but to the community of those who are insured who have been able to advocate for themselves. 

 

Caller:

I want to say thank you to you, your staff and to WVOX for this opportunity because I didn’t know how to reach out to Calvary beside writing a letter … but I just want to say thank you.  I had my first experience going to Calvary when a good friend of the family passed away over Thanksgiving.  She was there for a couple of months.  I had my first experience going to Calvary.  I have to tell you, I was very reluctant.  You hear about people and their last days.  As soon as I walked through that door – the security, the people at the desk, they made me feel comfortable.  Then I went up to the floor, the nurses and staff, everyone was terrific.  Then I went into the room, it made me feel better that my friend was so much at ease and the care and how clean the place is.  I was very impressed and I felt very good.  My friend was there for a couple of months and I really didn’t know what to expect.  You think of dying … you don’t know what to say, what to feel …   

 

CC:

One thing we’ve come to realize is we appreciate words of thanks.  We send it the other way.  It is always an honor to take care of someone and the thanks don’t really reside with us.  The thanks resides with the confidence people put in us to be able to take care of people at such a difficult time and also take care of those around them.  It’s a great honor.

 

WO:

Doctor Comfort … I asked you this in one form earlier but I want to have another whack at it.  You’ve been at this 17 years.  You’ve got a couple of hundred patients in your care and keeping at any hour of the day or night.  Have you become sort of inured to suffering, pain and death?  Do you ever go home and say … this was a really tough day?  Or do you ever become attached to the patient and say I lost one of my favorites? 

 

CC:

I think we become attached to each of the patients because what happens is rather more than taking care of some 200 people or 225 people.  We’re taking care of this one person at a time and then this other person … and we’re listening to that story.  And we’re experiencing that experience and it becomes very personal in terms of what goes on.

 

WO:

John F. Kennedy, Jr. once sat at that microphone quoting Mother Theresa:  “You save them one by one by one …” But do they, I wonder, all go gentle into that good  night?  Or are  some people just raging and fighting it off? 

 

CC:

There are some people who fight to the end.  We fight with them.  Because if it’s important enough for them to fight, then it’s important enough for us to stand by them in that last effort they make.  Remember … it’s how life continues. Not how I define how it continues.  But it’s how that life really does continue.

 

WO:

So … you’ve got the fighters.  Do you have the accepters? 

 

CC:

You’ve got both. 

 

WO:

Which are you going to be?

 

CC:

I’m not sure … it will be interesting to see.

 

WO:

Doctor … it has been an absolute joy.  I can’t believe I’m applying that word to this topic and this subject.  But I’ve admired Calvary and the work you do from afar for many years.  And we’ve had some friends of this radio station, good friends, in your care and keeping.  The late Monsignor Terry Attridge was one.  So it’s an honor to have you.  I’ve been sitting in front of this microphone for 50 years and I usually don’t get choked up by anyone.  But you’re an inspiration to me and to all of us.  When is your cabaret, your cafe?  Tomorrow? 

 

CC:

We have Cafe Noel on Wednesday night.

 

WO:

And when is cocktail hour?  Or “high tea?”

 

CC:

Cocktail hour starts at 3:00

 

WO:

If someone wants to volunteer, how the hell do you do that?

 

CC:

We actually have a program of volunteers with very specific training.  We have volunteers that deal with the institution itself, clerical work, secretarial work.  But we also have a number of individuals who are directly involved with patients.  That includes spending time with patients, feeding those patients who in fact can’t feed themselves.  We also have a program of volunteers who visit those patients who are admitted to us without a family.  And those volunteers become family for the patients.  So if you’re admitted and you have no family or there aren’t visitors coming to see you on a regular basis, we assign a volunteer to you who then is your family and has been instructed that they spend their time being the family  you don’t have coming to see you.

 

WO:

If you’re visiting someone … should you bring them books or newspapers?  What should you bring?

 

CC:

Newspapers are good.  Good food is always welcomed by loved ones.  Feel free to bring it in.  Feel free to share it.  I guarantee you it will always be appreciated.

 

WO:

Christmas beckons … and I’m not sure we’re ready for it.  I wanted to share with you something Father Kevin Mackin, a Franciscan.  Franciscans will get your head crazy.  You know, these are three Hail Mary’s for a homicide priests.  He’s president of Mount Saint Mary College and he sent out a Christmas card:

 

“My hope for you during this Christmas season is what better season for wrongs to be righted, and friends to be reunited, for new dreams to start? What better season for mending, healing, for saying and feeling what’s in the heart? What better season for love to keep glowing, for hope to start growing, for troubles to cease?  What better season for sharing and giving, for once again living in joy and in peace.”

 

I think you guys do that all the time down at Calvary.  And will you give our best to the great Calamari and Doctor Brescia. 

 

CC:

What a pleasure to be with you.  We’re grateful for your support and  for the support of the community at large. 

 

WO:

Calvary Hospital in the Bronx.  It’s a great resource … and it’s ours.  Sooner or later.

# # #

 

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.  He operates two of the last independent stations in the New York area: WVOX and WVIP.

 

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files” was released in January, 2011.  He is currently working on his fifth book for Fordham University Press, an anthology which will include this interview with Doctor Comfort.

 

Contact:

Cindy Gallagher

Whitney Media

914-235-3279 … cindy@wvox.com