WO Interview w/ Angelo Martinelli

And now we lose Angelo Martinelli.

It’s happening with greater and greater frequency.  (There’s an entire Eulogy section in my new book RADIOactive coming out next year).

I spoke with the patriarch of the Martinelli clan just last week about his ailing son.  He was on his way down to New Jersey to visit him.

Here is a transcript of an interview we did a few years ago with Angelo … a Westchester Legend who easily answered to the name “Mr. Yonkers.”

William O’Shaughnessy

Interview

with

Angelo Martinelli

August 24, 2015

 

 

William O’Shaughnessy:

The legends are out today at our community station.  We just saw Mr. Justice Samuel George Fredman.  He is all of 93 and he’s just now heading down the hall into a studio.  I’m in Studio 1A with another certifiable Westchester legend. You know the name for years and years and years.  He was the legendary lord mayor of Yonkers … where true love conquers … and you ask anybody on the streets of Yonkers and they think he’s still the mayor.  He’s a multi-millionaire publisher and I just found out he was also a broadcaster.  His name is Angelo Martinelli.  Mr. Mayor … they’re making a new career for you on television – on HBO … with a mini-series.

 

Angelo Martinelli:

This is my last hoorah!  They regurgitated the whole desegregation thing in Lisa Belkin’s book Show Me A Hero.  In that book I play a very small role.  But they expanded it in the series and they have Jim Belushi – the actor – playing me.  I sent him an email: “you’re a better Angelo Martinelli than I was!” 

 

WO:

You’ve been a larger than life figure in Westchester for years.  How old are you now, Angelo?

 

AM:

87 years old!

 

WO:

Do you feel 87?

 

AM:

No … I feel about 37!  I don’t feel 87 … you look in the mirror and you’re 87 years old.  That’s an old guy!   But I really don’t feel that old. 

 

WO:

Mr. Mayor Angelo Martinelli … your son and heir Ralph Martinelli – publisher of one of your magazines, actually all of them – he tells me you have holdings in the State of Delaware – in Joe Biden country – and you drive down there all by your lonesome!

 

AM:

Oh, sure.  Not only do I drive to Delaware, I drive to Florida for three months every year.  I drive to Florida in my own car!  My wife passed away last November and she would drive with me.  Actually she never drove.  She slept.  But God bless her. 

 

WO:

Do you miss her?

 

AM

I miss her terribly.  But do you know something, Bill, God was good to me – he’s always been good to me – and he gave me 65 wonderful years with a woman that was “the wind beneath my sails.” 

 

WO:

What was Mrs. Martinelli’s first name?

 

AM:

Carol …

 

WO:

I hear she was almost as vivid a personality as you are.

 

AM:

She was in the background.  She was never was out front.  But she did a lot.  She raised six sons and we have 13 grandchildren and four great grandchildren and more on the way!  But she was the matriarch of the family and she did a fantastic job.  When she passed away there were tributes paid to her at the wake.  So many people came I was shocked.  So many people said nice things about her because she was a nice person.  Maybe I wasn’t so nice at times … but she was a nice person.

 

WO:

What’s the secret of 65 years together with the same woman? 

 

AM:

You’ve got to love each other.  And I mean you’ve really got to love each other.  The secret of it is that she was always there for the family … because I was out all the time, doing my thing.  My thing was the mayor and the owner of Gazette Press and then starting my magazines.  All the magazines I started.  I did a lot of it and she was home taking care of the family and I think we knew our role and we were very, very compatible.  We had our arguments … there’s no doubt about it.  That’s the fun of it all … getting over the argument.  So I was blessed.  I was honestly blessed to have had 65 years.  And some people say you must feel bad.  I say no … I don’t feel bad.  I feel thankful to God that He gave me that time with her.

 

WO:

Are you pretty religious?

 

AM

I’m very religious, Bill.  Very, very religious and I’m not ashamed to say it. 

 

WO:

Mario Cuomo used to say he prays for “sureness.”  Are you sure about all the Church teachings and an afterlife? 

 

AM:

I have full faith in the Church teachings and an afterlife and everything.  I am fully committed.  I believe in God … I say my prayers everyday.  People don’t think I do.  But I have a prayer book and I say it everyday. 

 

WO:

What’s the most powerful prayer?

 

AM:

Do you know what the most powerful prayer has been?  Here’s what it is.  I’m not ashamed to tell you.  “Dear Lord … thank you for giving me the strength and health to carry on.”  That’s the first thing.  Then I say! “Thank you for giving me 65 years with a wonderful woman. And thank you for the family you gave me through that woman.  And thank you for the graces and blessings you have bestowed upon me and my family.”  That’s basically the start of my prayer …

 

WO:

We’re talking today – a great privilege for us – just walking in the door we could feel your energy even at the age of 87.  But you know, I almost called you Ralph Martinelli. 

 

AM:

My brother …!

 

WO:

Tell us about him.

 

AM

Ralph was one in a million. 

 

WO:

You’re Angelo and he’s Ralph.

 

AM:

My brother Ralph.  He was one in a million.  He really fought hard.  You know … we disagreed because he attacked many of my friends. 

 

WO:

He was a little more “conservative” … shall we say?

 

AM:

Well, it’s often been said he was very much like Genghis Khan!  We disagreed because he attacked my friends.  And after he died … I got called up by the newspaper asking if I was ever embarrassed by my brother.  I say yes.  I was embarrassed when his newspapers attacked my friends.  A lot of my friends … Governor Pataki … and others.  I said to them that didn’t mean I didn’t love him.  I loved him with a passion …

 

WO:

Your brother Ralph Martinelli was publisher of a string of weekly newspapers and my favorite was The Eastchester Record.  Do you remember Vinny Bellew?

 

AM:

Absolutely!  A banker … a former banker.

 

WO:

He used to write fabulous, graceful, passionate articles.  And as I recall he was also the recreation superintendent in the town.  Has Westchester changed Angelo Martinelli?  From when were you mayor?

 

AM

I was mayor from 1974 – 1987 – except for two years.

 

WO:

Those were also the days of Malcolm Wilson, of sainted memory.

 

AM:

Malcolm was my mentor!  Malcolm Wilson did something for me in 1974 when I got inducted as mayor outside city hall, on the steps … Governor Malcolm Wilson swore me in.  Now you have to understand … on New Years Day … the custom of the new governor – because Rocky had left and Malcolm became governor for one year … and on New Year’s Day the governors open their home, the Mansion, up in Albany to the public. He had to forego that and came down and swore me in.  I was on the front page of the New York Times only because Malcolm swore me in.  Otherwise if he didn’t come down maybe I would have been on the front page of the Herald Statesman, the local paper.

 

WO:

They called Malcolm Wilson the greatest orator Fordham ever graduated. Mario Cuomo used to say ” In a debate … Malcolm would defeat you in English … and then finish you off in Latin!”

 

AM:

Absolutely … he was a champion debater, the greatest I had ever heard. And there was another one from Fordham … Bill Mulligan. 

 

WO:

William Hughes Mulligan … a Federal judge and great after-dinner speaker.

 

AM:

Judge Mulligan is in Show Me A Hero because there was an incident that happened after I lost the election to Wasicsko and before he took office – between November and January – these four people, Wasicsko, Longo, Spallone and Chema and maybe Fagan –

 

WO:

Those are legendary Yonkers names …

 

AM

They wanted to hire a new attorney.  We were wasting money.  We wasted already $15 – 20 million on attorneys.  And I said why should we waste any more money? 

 

WO:

Why were you hiring all these lawyers?

 

AM:

Because they thought they could get a lawyer to win the Desegregation case.  And so they hired Bill Mulligan because he was a constitutional attorney.  There was a little break in the meeting because they were going to vote  – I said, Bill I came here not to vote for a new attorney because it’s just a waste of time and money.  But I said I can’t ever vote against Bill Mulligan.  I just can’t.  If you tell me there’s a constitutional chance we can win this case, I will vote for you.  He said there might be a constitutional way to do it.  So I said I’m going to vote for you.  But I’m not as old as you are and not as learned as you are.  But I’m going to give you a little advice.  I said there’s an old saying that if you lay down with dogs you’re going to come out with fleas.  I said you’re going to be laying down with the worst dogs you ever saw when you take on this case because I will be out of office January 1st.  But you’re going to have to be here.  He said … why do you say that?  Well, I’m just telling you.  And let me tell you about another event.  There’s a portion in Show Me A Hero where the Cardinal – Cardinal O’Connor – actually says he would give a piece of the Seminary property at Dunwoodie for low income housing.  He told that to Bill Mulligan who was a trustee of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. And Bill Mulligan referred that to Judge Leonard Sand and Judge Sand called up – in the show – Cardinal O’Connor – and asked him did you really tell him this.  And he said for poor people I will do it.  Now what happened is the people from Saint John’s Church – which is right around the Seminary on Yonkers Avenue – they said we’re not going to give any more money in the basket  and we’re not going to give to the Cardinal’s Appeal and we’re going to go to other churches because what the Cardinal is doing is wrong – giving this piece of property.  The Cardinal – after this pressure on him – then said he was “mislead” and he backs off.  In fact, he calls Bill Mulligan a liar … and insisted that he never said that.  But he said it.  And I believed Bill Mulligan. 

 

WO:

Is that all in the movie …?

 

AM:

That’s in the movie. 

 

WO:

I just felt Saint Patrick’s Cathedral shake, rumble as you’re telling that story … that’s where His Eminence John O’Connor is buried. 

 

AM:

I’m just saying  that was not good.  And then Spallone became mayor and they owed Mulligan’s firm a lot of money – maybe $600 – 700,000.00.  He told Mulligan I will never pay you.  And he made Mulligan’s firm drag.  They finally did get paid after awhile.  But he gave them ulcers.  I met Bill Mulligan after that.  He said to me … boy were you right about laying down with dogs. 

 

WO:

William Hughes Mulligan was a huge name around here and in the judiciary.  Mr. Mayor Angelo Martinelli … it’s so wonderful to re-visit these things.  You can see a lot of this on television these summer nights – on the HBO Show Me A Hero.  You’re played by Jim Belushi. 

 

AM

Yes … a great actor. 

 

WO:

Did he do right by you?

 

AM:

He did.  As a matter of fact, he called me from London a while back.  He said I’m coming in tomorrow and maybe we can get together.  I said why don’t you come up to Yonkers and I’ll take you to Peter Kelly’s X2O and we’ll have lunch.  He brought his brother Billy with him.  He was dressed very casually, I have to tell you right now … when you meet Jim Belushi it’s like meeting a member of the family.  He’s just a down-to-earth guy.  And we got along.  We spoke for two and a half hours.  And what he wanted to find out is my feelings during the time this happened.  He wanted to get into me so he could play me.  And I have to tell you something, from what I see portrayed, he’s playing me even better than I am!

 

WO:

Yonkers … where true love conquers.  It seems like you had your share – more than your share – of colorful characters over the years.  You come from a time – Angelo Martinelli – we put you back with Nelson Rockefeller … and as I’ve said, with Malcolm Wilson, with Edwin Gilbert Michaelian and Bill Luddy, the Democrat war lord … and Ogden Reid … and Herman Geist … and Sam Fredman …

 

AM:

And don’t forget Sal Prezioso who became my city manager.  I brought him in.  What a wonderful man.  And he did something for me that as a politician nobody else did.  I was known in Yonkers as something of a bull in a China shop … a pit bull, at that … and … I have to tell you right now … I had all that energy.  And so what happened is when I brought Sal Prezioso in as city manager he opened up Westchester County to me. He knew everybody in Westchester County.  And people who had said “Oh … that Martinelli … he’s just going off the deep end.  But he said to them Martinelli is a great guy.  And he made me better than I am.  He made me better known and better liked all around Westchester County because that’s how strong and respected Sal Prezioso was. 

 

WO:

It’s no surprise that you’re a Republican, Mr. Mayor.  Tell me what’s going on in your party now nationally … Trump and company, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz … Chris Christie, George Pataki (I like him a lot!)  You’ve still got a lot of juice in the GOP tribe … so predict for us.

 

AM:

Well, let me tell you something.  I think Trump is saying things people want to hear.  You can get elected – like in Yonkers – if I told people what they wanted to hear – that I was going to fight this case – I probably would have gotten re-elected.  But if you tell them the truth of how things are really going to happen – you’re not going to get elected.  Trump is telling people what they want to hear.  Some of the stuff he says is true.  But he is killing himself with other things  he says.  Things I think are not good for him as a politician. 

 

WO:

Like what …?

 

AM

When he criticized John McCain … when he criticized that woman, the moderator Megyn Kelly at the debate. If you criticize him … he’s going to come back at you and you don’t know what he’s going to say because he can say the most awful things that should not come out of the mouth of a politician. While he says some good things about immigration and all that … he says other things that really knock him down.  He doesn’t become viable to me even though he’s getting the vote from people.  I don’t think he’s a viable candidate.  And remember something.  You have like 20 people in there.  He’s got 20%.  What’s 20% of 100%.  It’s very small.  So when you start to narrow the other people down, if he keeps his 20%, somebody is going to get  80%.  Somebody else is going to get 80%.  I don’t think he’s going to be around …

 

WO:

You still know how to count votes, Angelo.

 

AM:

That’s the secret of it.  One time when I was mayor – as a Republican – Conservative – early on in my administration I got to support the tenants and I had a lot of landlords who were good friends of mine.

They said to me, Angelo, you’re a Republican-Conservative.  That’s a “Democratic view” you’re supporting with the tenants and the Tenant’s Protection Act.  They said, why?  I said I learned how to count.  There’s 80,000 tenants.  There’s four landlords.  Where am I going to get my votes from?  Tell me where I’m going to get my votes!  But, in truth, I didn’t do it just because of that.  I supported the tenants and I actually became the champion of the tenants.  I was the first one to have a tenant advocate in my office as mayor.

 

WO:

At the age of 87, Angelo Martinelli, Mr. Mayor, you’re quite entitled to pick the next president for us … because you’re also to this day a baron of the Republican Party.  Who do you want?

 

AM:

I can’t pick anybody right now, Bill.  I like Marco Rubio.  I think he’s good.  I like Jeb Bush, to tell you the truth.  I know a lot of people don’t like him.  I thought he was a good governor of Florida.  And I like Carly Fiorina, from California. 

 

WO:

What about George Elmer Pataki?

 

AM

George Pataki is a great guy.  I don’t think he’s going to get anywhere.  I like George Pataki.  He’s got a good message out there.  This is not like the time he ran against Mario Cuomo.  Do you understand.  I know Mario Cuomo was very close to you and he was close to me too.  I loved him too.  But when Pataki ran against Mario Cuomo, people voted against Mario Cuomo … they didn’t vote for George Pataki.  He didn’t realize that the first time when he got elected.  Now he got elected again.  This isn’t going to be a time when they are voting against somebody that George Pataki has an opportunity.  I don’t think he’s got the support generally throughout the country. 

 

WO:

I think he’d make a great vice president.

 

AM:

I think he would.  Yes.  But I don’t think he’ll ever be president.  He may never be vice president. 

 

WO:

Forgive me, but there’s a Democrat I kind of like … named Joe Biden.

 

AM:

I shouldn’t say this to you on the Radio but I always thought Hillary is going to implode before she gets the nomination.  I think something is going to happen.

 

 

WO:

When did you say it?

 

AM:

Months ago … when all this thing came up about the emails and all that.  I think they’re going to go after her.  And if Joe Biden gets into this election … I think you’re going to see Obama really step up against Hillary … against Hillary.  And I think Joe’s a good guy.  I know Joe from the Delaware magazines we own and he’s very close to my son Rob down in Delaware.  He comes to all the Delaware magazine things.  I think he’s very, very good guy.

 

WO:

Angelo Martinelli we’ve taxed our friendship of many years too much today.  You’re a popular figure on every street in Yonkers and beloved in some.  Every talk show host is trying to grab you.  And I’ve kept you too long.

 

AM

I said this is my last hoorah! 

 

WO:

At 87 … I’m fascinated.  Before I let you go … tell me again … you drive to Florida alone!  Do you take vitamins?  What are you on?

 

AM:

I came back from Florida and they found I’m anemic.  They started giving me iron pills.  I’m taking iron pills.  I’m being checked up on pretty well.  Most everything seems to be running well! 

 

WO:

Mr. Mayor … do you ever get stopped by the troopers between here and Florida?  That’s a long drive.

 

AM:

No … I got one ticket in all the time I’ve done this.  And I’ve done it many, many years.  I got one ticket.  I was going 80 miles an hour coming back and they stopped me.  I paid it and that was the end of it.  Most of the time I’m going around 70 or 75 and they leave me alone.

 

WO:

Don’t you have your old badge as mayor.

 

AM:

I’ve got my old badge, but I don’t use it.  I have a little sticker that I support the police.  I haven’t been stopped since, so that’s good.

 

WO:

You’re a delight, sir.  You’ve perked us up and given us hope that maybe Yonkers will make it after all … and that maybe this County of Westchester … will make it.

 

AM

Yonkers is a great city. It’s a great city.  It has all the ingredients.  And I think Mike Spano is doing a great job as the mayor.

 

WO:

You do …?

 

AM:

Yes I do.  I think he’s doing a good job as mayor of Yonkers … he’s really bringing people together.

 

WO:

The Spanos and Martinellis … ever any tension there?  These are the two big political families in your home heath.

 

AM:

Well, I think the father of that other family – Lenny – and I get along very well.  And my wife and Josephine Spano were honored by the Exchange Club together.  And to honor my Carol and Josephine Spano together was very nice for both of them.  But I don’t think we’ve ever gotten into anything difficult or unpleasant.

 

WO:

You’ve never bumped up against the Spanos?

 

AM:

No … never bumped up against them.  No.

 

WO:

Sir, you honor us with your presence and with your entire life of 87years. If Mario Cuomo were here he’d tell you to “Keep Going!” 

 

AM

Mario Cuomo did some great favors for me, Bill.  And he was a good guy, a really good guy.  I met him when he was secretary of state and he was on the Control Board with me back in the 1970’s.  And we became friends.  He was a good man.  A good honest man.  That’s what he was.  A … good … honest man.  I liked him for that.  Now there’s a lot of people who didn’t like his liberal leanings, you might say, and things like that.  But he told it like it was, I thought.  And because he told it like it was, he lost the election.  I told it as it was and I too lost an election.  So there’s actually some similarities between us.

 

WO:

You’re 87 … do you know what Mario would say to you right now?  “Per cent’anni.” 

 

AM:

Yes … for 100 years.  That’s right!  Live … for a hundred years …

 

 

 

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 56 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 which has just been published.  He is currently working on his fifth book RADIOactive for Fordham University Press, another anthology with interviews, commentaries, speeches and tributes.

 

Contact:

Cindy Gallagher –
Whitney Media
914-235-3279
cindy@wvox.com

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