New York Yacht Club
New York City
October 7, 2019
Thank you Mark Simone … Donald Trump’s favorite broadcaster! And mine. Did you have a falling out with Catsimatidis! I rarely see you without him … or about 100 high-ranking cops!
At a lot of book parties, the authors get up and read passages from the product of their genius. I’m not going to do that. But I do hope you’ll read the damn thing.
I’d like to thank all those who’ve left their hearth and home to join us tonight … and I’ll try to do this very quickly. Thank you for coming out on this rainy, drodsome night as we launch our seventh book.
For my previous books … it was pretty easy. Those who indulged us on those nights will recall that it was my custom to almost immediately turn the microphone and podium over to a magnificent friend of sainted memory … a failed baseball player with “too many vowels in his name” … GOVERNOR MARIO CUOMO.
In years gone by … at these book parties we’ve had some exciting moments as when Mario Cuomo was at the podium … and he looked toward the back of the room and shouted “OUT! Don’t let them in! No real writers allowed! (They were, as I remember … the late Peter Maas, Jimmy Breslin, Ken Auletta and Gay Talese!) Don’t let them in? No real writers? They’ll expose O’Shaughnessy for the fraud he is!” (laughter).
# # #
And at another book party … there was a commotion at the door and a young woman tugged at my sleeve! “There’s a LIZ SMITH and a man named WALTER, uh, CRONKITE wanting to know if they could join you!”
“Yeh, you can let them …!” (laughter).
And ladies and gentlemen … an authentic angel just walked in – right on time … Mario Cuomo’s favorite daughter. I know this because Andrew told me it was so … as indeed did Mario himself … on many occasions. She’s a filmmaker, philanthropist … and my favorite Cuomo (but for one: her spectacular mother Matilda!)
Maria we received a lovely note just this afternoon from the Executive Chamber. Would you read it:
Dear Friends Here Assembled:
I’m proud to join in sending warm congratulations to my dear friend Bill O’Shaughnessy on celebrating the publication of his new book, RADIO ACTIVE.
My family and I have been proud to call Bill a cherished friend for many, many years, and we’re happy to see him continuing his legacy as a true New York institution and an invaluable inspiration to us all with this new book. My father and Bill shared a very beautiful friendship, and I’m honored to see it reflected in RADIO ACTIVE alongside Bill’s inimitable insights and wit.
On behalf of my family and all New Yorkers, our warmest congratulations again to Brother Bill on this latest achievement and many thanks for his ongoing contributions to New York and all our lives.
Andrew M. Cuomo
With Maria is the great international designer and philanthropist … my friend Kenneth Cole. As you know, he’s raised many millions for AIDS campaigns. A lot of designers – worldwide – are taking up causes. But Kenneth was the first. He’s a wonderful young man. Mario adored him. As I do.
# # #
In this new book, I’ve written of many folks you know, people we’ve had before our microphones … and those I’ve encountered at table during my 81 years.
Many are here in this room tonight. And in the books 600 pages, I’ve also written of Jack Kennedy … The Bush Family … Rush Limbaugh and a story of his incredible and stunning generosity … also, reluctantly, I’ve written of the horrors known as Abortion and Capital Punishment.
I’ve even included a list of romantic songs … and a list of the best interpreters thereof. And I could not resist a brief compilation of those singers I’m not really crazy about: Streisand … Harry Connick, Jr. … and that gravelly-voiced guy who dares to sit at the piano where once Bobby Short wove his magic at the Carlyle. I think the guys name is Steve Tyrell.
We also included a list of great saloonkeepers and restaurateurs … from Toots Shor to the folks at “21.” And also my delightful friend Julian of the Four Seasons … and Joseph and Barbara from my beloved Mario’s. The Migliucci Family is celebrating their 100th year on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. There are notes I made late at night with marvelous and candid observations from the great Sirio Maccioni, ringmaster of Le Cirque.
And, as in all my books … I’ve included “The Obligatory Mario Cuomo Section in Every Bill O’Shaughnessy Book.”
# # #
You’ll also find too many eulogies, I’m afraid. I’ve included Andrew’s for his Dad … George W. to his Dad … and some farewells to the great Jimmy Breslin … and Philip Roth, who I met late in life. I collected his novels. But I never read one of them. He said he didn’t particularly like novels either. But he was a delightful guy of an evening.
And Don Rickles. (How the hell did he get in there!) (laughter). I think you’ll enjoy the conversation between Rickles and “The Focaccia Kid” at Le Cirque of an evening.)
I just want to mention that the Foreword is very meaningful and dear to me. It was written “for my next book” by Mario Cuomo himself. After being treated for 38 years to his inspiration and friendship … these few, lovely pages of which I’m not at all worthy, were his Last Great Gift to me … and I treasure it. (applause).
# # #
That’s at the beginning – the Foreword. At the end … you’ll find a very extensive and comprehensive Index. In insisting on an Index … I was again yielding to the advice and wisdom of the great bar room philosopher and man of letters Mr. Bernard “Toots” Shor who told me, one day at the bar years ago: “If you ever write a book. … with our kinda friends … you gotta have an Index so they can look up their own names and then they don’t have to read the whole damn book!” (applause).
# # #
And I begin with a chapter, a whole section really, on our precious and aptly named First Amendment.
I should also admit that the Cuomo memoir sold better than any previous book. The great Leonard Riggio, a dear man, and chairman of Barnes & Noble (don’t worry: he still runs the place!) said the reason our Cuomo book is doing so well (they just ordered another thousand copies) is because it’s the first book without my picture on the cover!!!) (laughter).
And so tonight, I stand here alone … without the late, great Mr. Cuomo to thank all of you for coming. But first let me tell you that these proceedings are greatly enhanced by the presence of the First Lady of New York … times two! She’s still our First Lady. Please welcome my beloved friend … the Chairman of Mentoring USA … MATILDA RAFFA CUOMO.
I know I’m supposed to talk about the book … and I’ll get there soon, I promise you. I should probably start with the Cover which has received almost universal acclaim because it was instantly recognized as the genius of the great ROBERT RISKO, the world-famous caricaturist of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker whose iconic drawings are known all over the world: ROBERT RISKO. He’s immortalized every public person and celebrity we’ve ever heard of. I hope you will find the book worthy of his brilliant cover … as I also hope it is worthy of your presence tonight.
And I should also thank PROFESSOR RICH HENDEL who actually wrote the Bible on book design … taught in every college.
FORDHAM UNIVERSITY PRESS
I owe a great deal to the elders and scholars at Fordham Press, the great Jesuit University Press in the City of New York. And, once again, I have to tell them of my great hope that my poor efforts will again not do too much damage to their national reputation for scholarship.
FRED NACHBAUR, is here tonight … the brilliant, young director of Fordham Press, a rising star in the publishing world. I now want to thank you publicly, Fred, as I have so many times on the phone and in my prayers.
ERIC NEWMAN is here. He’s the patient and forgiving – and stunningly brilliant – managing editor of Fordham. And MARK LERNER who got it to press and produced a handsome book, if I do say so.
Also please welcome my friend MARGARET NOONAN, manager of business affairs (who is the only woman who can shut down the entire campus of this great Jesuit University, the entire college, law school included … she can do it just with the nod of her head or a mere wink because she is the head of the labor union on campus which means her colleagues love her … as I do.)
And one more from Fordham – KATE O’BRIEN who finds shelf space for our erratic, struggling efforts.
# # #
This book would not have seen the light of day without my Litchfield neighbor DOUGLAS CLEMENT who for many years was editor of the Litchfield County Times which in its day was second in the nation only to the iconic Vineyard Gazette in reputation and scholarship.
THE REAL WRITERS … Some Giants in the Literary Life of New York
First of all we also welcome some real writers: As you hear these names, you will instantly know I’m not worthy to loose the strap of their sandals: KEN AULETTA, the author of many, many best-selling books and long-time feature writer for The New Yorker. He’s also a great friend … and we go back to trying to run Howard Samuels for governor.
Also a great man of letters who was one of the first to encourage my clumsy, struggling efforts and difficulty with the mother tongue (the English language) Professor SIDNEY OFFIT, president of the Authors Guild Foundation. He’s worked with and encouraged Caro, Ellison Heller and Vonnegut. Why the hell he’s hanging around with me!
And we’re so honored by the presence of a great journalist, editor and reporter (he’s also a television star in New York!) the great, respected MR. SAM ROBERTS of our beloved New York Times!
And my attractive pal from “Down Under” … LACHLAN CARTWRIGHT – feature columnist with The Daily Beast!
I’d also like you to meet perhaps the greatest essayist in the nation: The incomparable LANCE MORROW, a Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and columnist for the WALL STREET JOURNAL and CITY JOURNAL. And for many, many years, he also wrote those legendary and beautiful essays for TIME Magazine. (I knew his father HUGH MORROW, of sainted memory, who was a close, personal advisor to Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller!) His son and heir Lance writes like an angel. And we are all his students.
And I’m sure you spotted her: My friend of many years: shy, modest, retiring and never dull JOAN JEDELL, publisher of The Hampton Society Sheet!
And I see in the room a very bright guy from our home heath who writes and sustains the COUNTY PRESS, Westchester’s black-owned newspaper. They’re approaching and going for a hundred years. I won’t be around, but MICHAEL DANDRY will be!
There are a lot of famous names in the place … including the author, historian and international affairs specialist who is a famous son of a famous father: STEPHEN SCHLESINGER, son and heir of the great historian ARTHUR SCHLESINGER. When he is not lecturing at the UN, he writes great books. He also banged around words for a time with Mario Cuomo himself.
And I’m so glad to have someone who is the entire New York Post, their longtime editor, feature writer, restaurant critic, real estate columnist. And no one is supposed to know this: but he edits Cindy Adams and Emily Smith. STEVE CUOZZO. (Cue-zzo) And his wife, the former editor of Women’s Home Journal JANE HERSHEY CUOZZO, the famous writer of a famous mother.
THE ELDERS OF MY BROADCASTING TRIBE ARE HERE.
Welcome some of my colleagues: The great MARK SIMONE, Donald Trump’s favorite broadcaster, from WOR Radio! I listen to him every day from ten to noon on my way to Litchfield. (applause).
Also one of the great leaders and philanthropists of our profession, the Chairman Emeritus of the Broadcasters Foundation of America and Chairman of Citadel Television – our friend and Leader and inspiration: PHIL LOMBARDO! (applause).
From Albany, the capitol, we’re very glad to see perhaps my oldest friend in our tribe, JOE REILLY and his LYDIA. Reilly is not quite into the 80’s as I am, but I’ll be damned, he’s still doing a music show called “Reilly on the Radio” in the Capitol District, even today! Joe ran the New York State Broadcasters for three decades and is a beloved figure in our profession.
Also … the distinguished president of our Broadcasters Foundation of America, a nationally known statesman, JIM THOMPSON.
THE LEGAL EAGLES …
I’ll now introduce some very smart guys from the Judiciary and some legal eagles: First my friend and his spectacular wife KAREN, who have both been watching over our radio stations and yours truly for many years: JUDGE JEFFREY BERNBACH!
Another brilliant man of the Law (we don’t agree politically (these days I hardly agree politically with anybody!) I discovered him late in life. He’s not only stunningly brilliant, he’s possessed of a magnificent soul: MICHAEL ASSAF. (applause).
Also KEVIN BARRY McGRATH of Louis Nizer’s firm who is a legend in New York judicial circles!
And I’d also like you to meet one of our talk show hosts, speaking of legends: Perhaps the greatest criminal lawyer in America: MURRAY “Don’t Worry Murray” RICHMAN (who specializes in murder trials. He likes them … because “There’s one less witness!”) (laughter).
And with Murray is a young woman who has been in the DAILY NEWS only five times this month STACEY RICHMAN. It’s funny how Murray represents the very “interesting” types and his daughter Stacey represents all the music rappers. (Many of them also pretty “interesting!) (laughter).
I’ve used the word legend about five times now, but there’s a woman from Connecticut, the former presiding justice of the Superior Courts in that state, JUDGE ANNE DRANGINIS. (She’s now the preeminent matrimonial lawyer in New England. Judge Annie, where the hell were you when I really needed you?) And she’s a Selectwoman of our historic town.
With the judge is a woman I just met recently: JOYCE SHARKEY. She is now one of the most powerful women at NBC and MSNBC. When I asked Judge Annie what the hell that means, she said “Let me put it this way: She’s Willie Geist’s mother–in–law.” I got it … right away!) (laughter).
I know you’re getting hungry and I think it’s time I introduced some legendary restaurateurs: First of all, the great JULIAN NICCOLINI. You know him from the various iterations of the iconic FOUR SEASONS restaurant. (He’s on his best behavior tonight!) But the night is young … (laughter).
And also, my dear friends of so many years, celebrating their 100th Anniversary, JOSEPH and BARBARA MIGLIUCCI of MARIO’s iconic restaurant on Arthur Avenue in the Little Italy section of The Bronx! (Joseph, you haven’t been around for all those 100 years?)
And the greatest maitre’d in this town from HARRY’s BAR in Venice, LE CIRQUE and CIRCO and now MILOS, my friend Maestro BRUNO DUSIN! (applause).
Also speaking of Food, the good-looking blonde is MARIA VON NICOLAI who was the longtime amanuensis to SIRIO MACCIONI. She now runs the ILLY Coffee Company.
MY FAMILY …
(Not your kind of “Family,” Gianni Russo!)
Allow me to be a little personal and introduce some “family.” From Pennsylvania JULIE O’SHAUGHNESSY who is devoted to the memory of my late brother JACK … My only nephew JOHN and his KELLY. My son DAVID who is President of Whitney Global Media and runs our radio stations so well: DAVID TUCKER O’SHAUGHNESSY … And his attractive brother MATTHEW O’SHAUGHNESSY with his friend CLARE LAWRENCE. (In the family, we call her Saint Clare)!
Also my dear and beloved and devoted compadre of over a decade GREGORIO ALVAREZ (applause) … and his wonderful sister MIO ALVAREZ.
# # #
I’d also like you to meet some extraordinary people also dear to me: CINDY HALL GALLAGHER, my amanuensis of some 42 years. You can see what I really think about this wonderful woman without whom my life would resemble a seven-car pileup in the Acknowledgements section. (She’s right there ….)
And my young, brilliant and talented associate KEVIN SCOTT ELLIOTT who I think would take a bullet for me. And I for him.
Our Chief-of-Staff at the radio station: DON STEVENS … who runs WVOX and WVIP and MAGGIE CERVANTES who runs our office (and she’s pretty good behind the microphone as co-host with my beloved compadre GREGORIO ALVAREZ)!
JUDY FREMONT … she’s a woman of great culture and substance and why she hangs around with me I’ll never know. She’s also a killer on the golf course!
# # #
I also want you to meet a man has kept me going in all the seasons of my life. I recently spoke just a few weeks ago at the 75th Anniversary of his Natal Day! DR. RICHARD ROCCO PISANO, the smartest damn physician in Westchester and his beloved wife KATHY PISANO who runs his practice and life! (applause).
# # #
I was introducing broadcasters earlier, I should have introduced FATHER CHRIS MONTURO who is not only a beloved priest and pastor in our home heath, he’s also a radio star … and for his first show he wouldn’t tell me who his guest was … when in walked the Archbishop of New York TIMOTHY CARDINAL DOLAN. (Father Chris is another one of those “three Hail Mary’s for a homicide priests” (in case there’s anything you want to, uh, talk to him about!) He’s here tonight with this handsome brother Mark, a Jet Blue captain.
# # #
I see another of my Connecticut neighbors who also lives in the nicest apartment building in this town: One Beekman, a very generous guy PAOLO MARTINO …
And finally one of the ranking experts on Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Power in America, my great friend JIM CUNNINGHAM who in an earlier life ran the State of New York as chief of staff to Governor Hugh Carey. (applause).
THE ENTERTAINERS …
We should have had some music tonight, because some great artists have joined us: GIANNI RUSSO, the actor and crooner, star of the Godfather (he played CARLO RIZZI, Michael’s brother-in-law). And author of the bestseller “Hollywood Godfather!”
And a guy who made a ton of money and late in life decided he could sing like Chet Baker – my friend NORMAN DRUBNER and his Nancy. (He’s done seven albums.)
The great impresario LEE ELMAN who has maintained his sprawling castle in the Berkshires in Great Barrington as a lovely forum for classical musical performers. And I see with him an old friend on whom I’ve had a crush for many years: Mrs. EDWARD NOONAN “JUDY” NEY! Her husband was the Ambassador to Canada and chairman of Young & Rubicam. I called Ed Ney the “Fred Astaire of Madison Avenue” and Judy is a dazzler in every season! (applause).
Also my dear and beloved neighbors THOMAS McKNIGHT, the internationally known artist and his spectacular wife, RENATE McKNIGHT, the most vivid woman in Litchfield (who presides over Tom and the nicest historic house in Litchfield.) She’s also a pilot of her own plane!
And just back from Paris (he’s always just back from Paris … or Palm Beach,) ZAHIR ZIANI, the great designer and stylist from The Salon at Bergdorf. (I’ve been telling him he should write a book about all his “swans.” They’re all rich … and crazy about him!) Speaking of which: please welcome a philanthropist and wonderful woman: Mrs. Joanne Payson of Maine, New York and Hobe Sound!
# # #
This book has so far had four – actually six – very favorable reviews from reviewers who have clearly weighed my book’s many inadequacies less diligently than they assessed what they might find commendable in its pages.
As I approach Senility … I keep thinking about Phillip Roth when late in life he closed down his desk and computer. Put a post-it note on his computer: “The struggle with writing is done.”
“Old age isn’t a battle. It’s a massacre” said Roth.
He inveighed against the “diminishments” which assault us as we confront old age. It’s a great word: diminishments. I first heard it from my beloved friend Mr. Cuomo (who stole it from the Jesuit philosopher and paleontologist Father Teilhard de Chardin.
My Jesuit friends don’t know this … and Fred Nachbaur hasn’t given his blessing or bestowed his imprimatur … but I’d like to do one more … before I hang up my spikes.
It’s to be called: “Townies” … those neighborhood characters who were sidemen in orchestras long dispersed. I’ve written of governors, presidents and cardinals! It’s time I think to celebrate the “Townies.”
Before I yield … Id like to thank Mr. Tim McCormick who runs this landmark club with perhaps the most beautiful room in the city. I knew Mr. McCormick when, for many years, he presided over the American Yacht Club in Rye. For my previous books we tucked into Le Cirque and the Four Seasons – both now shuttered. Tim: thanks for taking us in … after we put those two iconic venues right Out of Business! (laughter) (applause).
The New York Yacht Club was founded on July 30, 1844 … 175 years ago. I hope we haven’t done too much damage to its lineage, history or its wonderful reputation … but we’re very grateful for taking us in and giving us shelter and protection in such great style.
“It’s worth its weight in words … and if you like great thoughts expressed in good writing … RADIO ACTIVE is not only a good read, but it serves as a textbook of interviewing skills, powerful ammunition for defending the First Amendment and an object lesson in respecting, reconciling widely different points of view.”
– – – Radio Editor Jay Mitchell
“O’Shaughnessy’s compassionate, evocative language gets into the heads and hearts of his subjects with his engaging radio interviews … a glorious hodgepodge of snippets from his radio files. New Yorkers will recognize and appreciate the many local voices. Foremost among them, the singular voice of Bill O’Shaughnessy.”
– – Foreword
“O’Shaughnessy has strong opinions on issues such as abortion and the death penalty (he’s against both). His collection is full of statements that are sure to raise the hackles of some readers and warm the hearts of others. He speaks passionately about the First Amendment, denouncing the Fairness Doctrine and corporate censorship of individual broadcasters. He’s also quick to defend controversial subjects, including the conduct of Bill O’Reilly, Don Imus, Rush Limbaugh and Billy Bush. One particular figure seems foremost on the author’s mind: the late Mario Cuomo. Indeed, his esteem for the former New York governor pervades this book. An anthology that, at its best, offers striking cultural, political and religious discussion.”
– – – Kirkus Reviews
“RADIO ACTIVE gives readers insight into one of the most revered journalists and political writers of our time … a book for anyone who enjoys good political commentary, insight on social issues and discussion on important topics of the modern era. The author’s works are insightful and honest … a great testament to the distinguished career of a renowned writer, author and journalist … a must-read book.”
— – Pacific Book Review
“In an era where social media creates echo chambers of thought, O’Shaughnessy’s style is his own and he owns it; Yet it makes the reader nostalgic for an older style of political discourse that was inclusive and civil. The private moments, personal stories and fond memories here further establish that beyond every opinion is a human being. We ought to listen to what they have to say.”
– – US Review of Books
“I always enjoy Bill O’Shaughnessy’s writings.”
– – Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York
“I always look forward to reading the history of our times Bill O’Shaughnessy has captured.”
– – David McCullough
Historian and author
“I’m the Voice of the Yankees … but he’s clearly the Voice of New York!”
– – -John Sterling
New York Yankees
“I enjoy Bill O’Shaughnessy’s ‘character’ portraits. They are like potato chips … you can’t stop with only one!”
– – – Henry Kissinger
Former Secretary of State
“I applaud the white-haired mogul’s editorials. So many remain silent. He has always been there for me.”
– – – Howard Stern
The Howard Stern Show
“His listeners love him – and his radio stations. O’Shaughnessy really understands.”
– – – Rush Hudson Limbaugh, III
“Bill O’Shaughnessy is a commentator of insight, wit, uncompromising honesty and overwhelming persuasion.”
– – – Congresswoman Nita Lowey
Chair, House Appropriations Committee
“What a terrific pen Bill O’Shaughnessy has. His writings are touching and strong.”
– – – Jonathan Bush
Brother of President George H.W. Bush
“O’Shaughnessy’s commentaries are great and beautifully said.”
– – – Jack Welch
Former Chairman, General Electric