The Silencing of Imus

Statement by 

William O’Shaughnessy
Chairman, Whitney Radio
Editorial Director, WVOX and WVIP
Westchester, New York

April 16, 2007

Re:  The Silencing of Imus

 

“Censorship which results from corporate timidity in the face of intimidation or coercion is just as dangerous as the stifling of creative and artistic expression by government fiat, decree, sanction or regulation.”

“Howard Stern … Opie and Anthony … Bob Grant … Bill Maher … Chris Rock … George Lopez … and even – God forbid! – Rosie.  We’ve always had terrible examples to defend.  And Don Imus has given us another terrible example.  But defend it we must.

Not the hateful and discomforting words.  But the right of the social commentator and critic (read:  performer) to be heard … and the right of the people to decide.

Don Imus is a performer, a disc jockey, a humorist, a social commentator and a provocateur with a rapier sharp wit.

Unlike several of our colleagues, he does not deal in raucous vulgarity or incendiary right-wing rhetoric directed at immigrants, illegal aliens and other familiar targets of our tribe. 

Throughout his brilliant career, Mr. Imus has been an equal opportunity offender … poking fun at the high and mighty as well as the rest of us for our foibles and pomposity.

He may have on occasion gone too far during a remarkable 30-some year career.  Were his comments about the Rutgers basketball team racist or mean-spirited?  Only Imus knows for sure, but we doubt it.  Were they funny?  No.

His mea culpa and apologies seemed sincere.  We had thus hoped his sponsors and the elders at CBS, WFAN, MSNBC and all those many stations across the country that carry the I-Man would stand up to the intimidation and pressure we’ve read about.

So many performers who have achieved his kind of success take … and put nothing back.  Imus has been extravagantly generous to a number of worthy causes – some of it publicly known and some of it done very personally, anonymously and without fanfare.

Imus says he’s been active in our profession for 30 years – actually, it’s more like 40 since he came roaring out of Cleveland.  By our calculation, that’s about 8,000 broadcasts, during which he has probably uttered some 2,400,000 ad libs.  Not all of them as inartful, insensitive and wide of the mark as his fleeting reference to the Rutgers team.   

There’s no question this was a misfire.  And it was to be hoped that the elders at CBS and NBC would see this for what it is. 

I’ll give you a baseball analogy.  Let’s say you had a pitcher, with remarkable stamina, who threw 8,000 innings:  many of his pitches are going to be wide of the plate, some way off the strike zone.  A few may even hit the poor batter.  And in the course of those 8,000 innings across 30 or 40 seasons, he may even bean the damn umpire on rare occasion!  But he’s still … a great pitcher.

With the possible exception of overnight work from dusk till dawn, morning drive is the toughest shift in Radio.  And when Imus plops those well traveled bones into a chair, straps on his earphones and throws his voice out into another dawn armed only with his humor, wit and irreverence, he is not, I think, unlike a Franciscan priest dragging himself up into a pulpit after 30 or 40 years to pronounce the Good News or at least make a passing attempt at Pure Truth before a sparse, sleepy congregation at an early Mass.  

Imus’ mission is not quite as noble or majestic.  He has only to make us laugh and make us think.  I think that’s a pretty good way to make a living.  And he should thus be protected from those unforgiving critics abroad in the land who heaped scorn and derision on the I-Man as a result of this controversy.

However it plays out, it is very much to be hoped that the contretemps will not impede or diminish this particular performer’s brilliant – if occasionally irreverent and provocative – mind and tongue.

The guy misfired.  But he should not have been … fired. 

I’ve spent an entire lifetime defending the raucous vulgarity of Howard Stern … and even Bob Grant (after he called Mario Cuomo – the man I most admire in public life – a disgusting name).  One should remember Imus is essentially only a performer, an entertainer  … nothing more … or any less.

As this thing has evolved … many are growing more and more concerned about coercion via economic sanction or boycott which was orchestrated against a performer and his corporate masters.

Censorship which results from corporate timidity in the face of intimidation or coercion is just as dangerous as the stifling of creative and artistic expression by government fiat, decree, sanction or regulation.

That’s just as treacherous as any racism, sexism or bigotry –  real or imagined.

 

###

 

The Undoing of Don Imus

 

The following is by Jonathan Bush, brother of “41,” uncle of “43,” and father of television and radio star William “Billy” Bush.

Much has been written and much said about the firing of Don Imus.  After the recent appearance of Hillary Clinton at Rutgers, opportunistically pandering away, if a little late, about rising up against those who might disparage minorities or women.  I felt compelled to speak up.  So here goes.

About ten years ago, my company moved from New York to New Haven, and I commended the daily grind of a forty-minute morning drive to work.  In that first year I turned my radio to Don Imus and have listened to him at least two or three days a week ever since.  At times I found his show funny; at other times I would turn off the radio violently as he talked to politicians that did not exactly share my point of view.  The show offered a welcome escape to the caged listener.

From laugh-out-loud funny skits to serious political discussions to interviews with politicians to authors of books to country and western singers, no show presented an attention-getting format remotely close to Imus in the Morning.  Through it all the mercurial Imus rode with effortless charisma, guiding the program with a sure hand and a deft instinct for humor.  His long-suffering support staff stood ever at the ready to bail the chief out if he had gone too far.

Part of the shtick centered around Imus’ fecklessness, such as a recent episode which focused on an invitation to Imus from Brain Williams to join him on a trip to Iraq.  Naturally the cast of characters took up a dialogue around the idea that Imus was afraid to go.  Imus, in a sense, was playing the role of everyman but with one exception:  Imus’ equivocating was delightfully funny.

Occasionally Imus, speaking probably ten million words a year or more, would stray close to the line of decency.  But listeners didn’t particularly care.  They turned in to hear Imus’s wit, Imus’s charm, Imus’s intransigence, Imus’s melodic baritone voice – in short, Imus, warts and all.

Now on Thursday April 5th, Imus, in a brief snippet of humor, let slip a demeaning phrase.  He referred, jokingly, to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as nappy-headed hos.  Could any sensible person think he meant this disparagingly?  Of course not.  However, he immediately apologized, subsequently almost falling over backward apologizing, even going on the radio show of one of the nation’s leading mountebanks, the Reverend Al Sharpton.  (As an aside, has anyone yet heard Sharpton apologize for his hand in the deplorable Tawana Brawley affair?)

So what happened?  NBC turned off the cameras on MSNBC.  Then CBS suspended him for two weeks.  Then, knuckling under to pressure from a few big advertisers, themselves afraid of losing African American customers through a threatened boycott by Sharpton and the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Les Moonves of CBS cancelled the entire show.  Poof!  Gone.

One thing amazes me:  that in a country which prides itself on free speech, a gifted performer who brightens the lives of millions of listeners every morning could be snuffed out in an instant.

Of course cowardice gained the victory – cowardice by Mr. Moonves for knuckling under and the cowardice of the advertisers who feared a boycott if they continued to sponsor Imus.  However, far worse seems the cowardice of all those who fed at his table only to abandon him when the tables turned against him.  Where were those men and women whose voices should have spoken out against the firing?

On his program Imus frequently used the term “weasel” to refer to those of whom, for one reason or another, he was being critical.  Little did he know that the term would apply to all those people who toadied up to him, who leapt at the opportunity of appearing on his program, only to run from him when their support was called for.

There exists one vast constituency who would gladly speak up for Imus had they but a voice so to do so, namely, the millions of listeners who have been denied the joy of hearing Imus in the Morning and are wondering what happened to the idea “Let him who is without guilt among you cast the first stone.”

 

 

 

Mayor Bramson for Mayor – 2019 Election

Mayor Bramson for Mayor
A Whitney Global Media Editorial of the Air
broadcast October 30, 2019
by William O’Shaughnessy, President

 

We said it before.

Noam Bramson is a brilliant, precocious young man and a very gifted public servant. But as we approach our senior years, we also have to tell you of our regret that we’ve never been able to establish a mutually supportive relationship between Bramson’s City Hall and our nationally-known community radio stations. 

He’s also not the kind of guy you’d want to ask a favor for your brother-in-law.

I mention this because we’re even now at work on yet another history of those marvelous, down-home “Townie” politicians of years gone by that you could petition for a “favor” to help someone.  A few leap to my mind: Hugh A. Doyle, Alvin Richard Ruskin, Tony Colavita, Valerie Moore O’Keefe, Ed Michaelian, Andy Albanese, Herman Geist, Bert Campbell, Nita Lowey, Miriam Jackson, John Fosina, Jim Maisano, Len Paduano, Ron Tocci, Steve Tenore, Tony Gioffre, Vinnie Rippa, Louis Barone, Fred Powers, Rocco Bellantoni, Mario Biaggi, Tim Idoni and Joe Vacarella. And there were more … politicians the way the men of our fathers time imagined them to be. But Noam Bramson is just not “gaited” that way.

In the last several years, Mr. Bramson has fashioned himself as “Bramson the Builder” with many huge, sprawling buildings rising up where once there was urban chaos and decay. That is to his great credit. 

We’re not crazy about some of the “developers” Mr. Bramson and his highly-regarded Commissioner of Development Luiz Aragon have charged with re-building our fading lorelei of a suburban city.  With few exceptions, like Louis Cappelli and Joe Simone, many of the speculators now operating in our city have absolutely zero interest in Mario Cuomo’s admonition to “build up a community, make it stronger and – sweeter – than it was.” 

These are hard, take-no-prisoners, no-nonsense, show-me-the-money guys we’ve fallen in with.  And what Bramson and his cadre have done is accommodate them with huge, huge tax breaks spilling over many future decades. 

The success or failure of all this will be determined well down the road. But questions have already emerged.  Where the hell are these people going to shop? And probably the most pressing consideration of all: has Mr. Bramsom’s dynamic projectory taken the heart and soul out of the city?

With all the concrete being flung around, no one, it seems, has yet figured how to get people downtown. 

Bramson’s dynamism is enhanced by the wonderful, intelligent, hands-on City Manager Charles Bowman Strome. Chuck Strome’s very existence reassures the “townies,” and those with roots in our community. He takes the edge off Mr. Bramson’s “dynamism” by providing a grounding and respect for the city’s history and lineage.  Mr. Strome understands those townies with roots in the community to whom Mr. Bramson sometimes appears tone deaf. 

These new developers have tried to dazzle the local gentry with incredible urban-speak concepts like “crowd-sourced placemaking” which made absolutely no sense to the locals. And what did it mean? Unfortunately it’s the kind of meaningless Harvard-esque phrase that Mr. Bramson is so comfortable with. 

We’ve recently had three national writers call to ask us if his abilities and talents would fit a congressional seat. Our answer:  He would make a hell of a congressman.  But I did have to add that he’s not going to do any favors for the pro-life people.

But today he’s to be judged only on his stewardship as mayor of New Rochelle.  And on that he is entitled to very high marks.

We genuinely regret that the Republican candidate Brendan Conroy is just not at all in the Democrat’s league.  Mr. Conroy carries great lineage.  We adored his grandfather of sainted memory Governor Malcolm Wilson, the greatest orator Fordham ever graduated.  Mario Cuomo used to point out that in a political debate “Malcolm would beat you up in English … and finish you off in Latin!”

And lest we forget Mr. Conroy’s formidable mother is Katherine Wilson Conroy.  So the Republican comes at us from good genes and is a very nice man.  We look forward to seeing Brendan Conroy running for a seat on our Council one day.

But now in 2019 … for Mayor of New Rochelle WVOX and WVIP endorse the Democrat incumbent Noam Bramson.

He is who he is …

He has some wonderful qualities.  But just don’t ask him for a favor for your brother-in-law … or your old maid aunt.

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

Remarks of WO re: Dr. Richard Pisano 75th Birthday Celebration

May it please you Monsignor Petrillo, beloved pastor of Saints John and Paul …

Welcome to our celebration of the 75h Anniversary of Doctor Richard Rocco Pisano’s Natal Day.

First of all, thank you to his remarkable … and indispensable … … devoted and dynamic wife, Kathy Pisano, for this lovely party. She is essential to his practice, his career and his life. He knows it … and so do we all!

There are all kinds of people here tonight, other physicians and doctors – his colleagues – city officials, relatives, hospital and healthcare administrators, in-laws … and even a few outlaws.

So please humor me as I recount just a few things you may not know about Kathy’s great husband.  And our beloved friend.

He was born August 16, 1944, on the Feast of Saint Rocco.

Saint Rocco, was a Frenchman, (he can be forgiven for that!) who traveled to Italy to win eternal glory through miraculous healings of people afflicted by the Plague. Thus, the Church of Rome venerates his Birthday for protection against disease.  

So Dr. Richard Rocco Pisano is aptly named.  For a healer.  And a saint!

Some of you first encountered him as a young man at Xavier, the famous Jesuit high school in Manhattan. After graduation, he returned to the Jesuits at Fordham when it was truly a great university, before they began publishing my books!

He trained at the prestigious University of Bologna in Italy and interned at Fordham Hospital, St. Barnabas in New Jersey, and our dearly departed New Rochelle Hospital and Medical Center.

And the rest is history as he became the most respected general practitioner in Southern Westchester and rose to president of the Medical Board of Sound Shore, now known as Montefiore – where his colleagues and caregivers will confirm Dr. Pisano’s genius and dedication. But there’s more.

He’s essentially an ontologist. Now I know that’s a high-sounding word … that doesn’t quite fit in all the disciplines, specialties and categories by which practitioners of modern medicine cast themselves. But that’s what Mario Cuomo called him at one of my book parties.

He’s into Being. He’s into Life. And like his namesake from the 13th century, he has dedicated the past four decades to encouraging Life … to prolonging Life …  to enhancing Life … to protecting Life.  To fighting for it and sustaining it.

He’s also a diplomat and a role model for his profession. Sometimes, you can size up a doctor by the shingle outside his office. If there’s a P.C. after the name, it stands for “Professional Corporation.” If there’s an “LLC” after the moniker, it means “Limited Liability Corporation.” And if you see either abbreviation, you know you’re in trouble!

Some of those physicians practice Business instead of Medicine. But not Rich Pisano. He examines, diagnoses, recommends, prescribes, lectures, treats, heals, ministers, counsels … and … loves. 

He’s at his office day after day or at Montefiore New Rochelle, making rounds, visiting, evaluating, inspiring and teaching. 

His patients include the young, the old and infirm, our families, our parents and those we love.  And, Kathy tells me we are joined and honored by the presence tonight of many of Dr. Pisano’s patients!

Finally, we think back to the 1970’s in our city. There were only really three top doctors in the region in those days, Ira Gelb, a great man … and a kindly white-haired doctor named Dan Sherber … and a beloved pediatrician, Irv Samuels. And all retired the very same year … in the early 70’s!

So we looked for a suitable replacement. And all the recommendations said the same thing.  There’s a wonderful, bright, dedicated and hard-working young man … a general practitioner we recommend very highly.

His name is Pisano.  Dr. Richard Pisano.

And so, he’s healed and comforted us for the last 46 years. As we came to love and trust him … with our very lives.

Before we hear from our great friend, counselor, and physician, who was so aptly named 75 years ago on that August day, the Feast … of Saint Rocco … I’d like to bring up four very special individuals who know intimately of Dr. Pisano’s unique goodness and his sweet attributes far better than I.

Jennifer Pisano … Captain Nicholas Pisano … Elizabeth Pisano and Sergeant First Class Richard Pisano.

 

September 6, 2019
VIP Country Club
New Rochelle, NY

 

Contact:

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

Charlie Kafferman “A Dear Man” // An Appreciation by William O’Shaughnessy

Charlie Kafferman

“A Dear Man” 

An Appreciation

by 

William O’Shaughnessy

July 8, 2019

In my business we “warehouse” obits … so that when someone departs for another and, we are sure, a better world … we are ready with the details, minutiae and landmarks of a person’s life. No such trove or repository exists for Charlie Kafferman because everyone in Litchfield fully expected him to be around forever to feed us, to counsel us and to entertain and anchor us with his wisdom of 88 years.

But at 2:30 on the summer Saturday just past, the legendary Mr. Charles Kafferman (I know the word is overused, but he was that), proprietor of the West Street Grill, an iconic eatery which has existed for 25 years in his lovely Connecticut town, died in Danbury Hospital after 10 days in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.  The formal notices of his passing will mention the culprit as “congestive heart failure.”

But earlier, and for many years, Charlie had battled lung cancer with visits to Memorial Sloan-Kettering in the great City, so many that he was known among the doctors and nurses as “Lazarus Kafferman.”

He is survived by his shy, modest, retiring life and business partner James O’Shea who knew his genius and goodness for 42 years. They lived together in a Colonial era house in the historic district of Litchfield which was once owned by J.P. Morgan.

By day and on most nights, Charlie and James repaired to their labor of love known by locals as “The Grill” and was operated almost as a private club. But Charlie made everyone feel welcome … from the landed gentry and hilltoppers of Litchfield and residents of Morris, Bantam, Woodridge Lake, Washington Depot, Bethlehem, New Preston and even as far away as Newport … to the newest arrivals in town for whom Kafferman was a generous, benevolent and knowledgeable counsellor. He took great pleasure in personally welcoming these tentative young couples and providing them with his food and inexhaustible repository of wisdom and his love for the town and its colorful and influential inhabitants.

They loved his stories about Sinatra and Mia Farrow. “I was there the night they got engaged … and I told Frank I knew her before he did!”  (It’s quite remarkable that Frank let him live!) One night at the Grill … I asked Mia, who was with Philip Roth, if the story was true.  She swore it was … “but Frank did ask me where that guy lives!  I wouldn’t tell.” Or the night at the Latin Quarter where he was mistaken for William B. Williams, the famous “Make Believe Ballroom” disc jockey. He also regaled listeners with the tale told by the great writer Philip Roth that when President Obama presented him with an award at the White House … the president whispered “Where’s Charlie?” who, as a favor to his pal Roth, had picked up an earlier award for Roth from the governor of Connecticut.  (Roth swore it was true!)

He could also discuss the rock groups U2, Mumford and Sons and the Rolling Stones with the Millennials. And he once trooped all the way uptown to Harlem for a concert.

Day after day, in nice weather, Charlie would sit with his beloved labrador Cashel.  As both were somewhat aging and together battling the diminishments, Cashel and Charlie had a special bond. Everyone would stop to pet Cashel and greet the restaurant proprietor who one day told me “Cashel and I are ‘hookers.’  We tell them ‘The food is great … go on in.  You can pet him.”

His warm, agreeable and welcoming personality – as well as his canon of stories and jokes (many of which could not be told on the radio) helped transform the Grill from your usual, run-of-the-mill “country restaurant” to a dazzling mecca of influence and celebrity. 

Night after night actors, publishers, artists, newspaper and magazine editors, Wall Street types, merchant princes, famous authors, Broadway and television producers, food critics and wine aficionados and colorful townie characters repaired to the Grill.  Among them:  Henry Kissinger … William Styron … Philip Roth … Richard Widmark … Mia Farrow … Sheila Nevins and Sidney Koch … Daniel Glass … Milos Forman … Judge Anne Dranginis and Judge Charlie Gill … Arthur Hill Diedrick … Tara Stacom Diedrick … Rex Reed … Debra and Declan Murphy … Sirio Maccioni … Bill Plunkett, Esq. … Teno West … Richard Gere … Cathy and Greg Oneglia … Renate and Tom McKnight … Ellen and Ray Oneglia … Rod Oneglia and Michael Quadland … David Pecker … Melissa and Paul Bennett … Julian Niccolini … Lauren and Armand Della Monica … Danny Meyer … Brooke Hayward … Bob Summer … Norman Drubner … Nancy Kissinger … Kim and Bobby D’Andrea … Joe Cicio … Lou Amendola … Norman Sunshine … Douglas Clement … Jim Hoge … William vanden Heuvel … Gregorio Alvarez …  Ron Leal and Joseph Montebello … Alan Shayne … Daniel Day Lewis … Andrew Thompson and Bradley Stephens … Robin Johnson and his family … Gina and Alexander Duckworth … Ann Sutherland Fuchs … Francine du Plessix Gray … Margot Wick … Wendy and Royal Victor IV a/k/a “Mike” (I love the name!) But everyone was welcome except an occasional ill-educated “gavone” who insisted on wearing a baseball hat in the dining room!  That would never do.

Charlie was a class act in every season.  And there was a big, broad range to his life.  His patron, admirer and friend Daniel Glass, the music impresario and record producer, was also taken by the unique professional and personal relationship between Kafferman and his partner O’Shea.  “It was a merger of two cultures:  the Irish and the Jewish.  They were a perfect team!” I myself saw this for many years as Charlie and James covered for each other. They protected and sustained each other.  James was, shall we say, a little more “colorful,” ahem, “outspoken” and, if you will, a little more “dynamic.” But Charlie was always wonderful, calming and reassuring.  And it worked.  They worked together.

James attracted and mentored many young, talented chefs while Charlie “dressed” the dining room of an evening … moving people around like Nelson Riddle arranged notes and making them feel important. But he was much more than a skillful “maitre’d” or talented restaurateur.

He had an eye for the ladies, and he wasn’t at all happy when I called him a “babe magnet.”  But he got a lot of kisses of an evening from rich widows and pretty young girls.

He could sense when people at his tables were hurting and life turned sad and difficult. That was his genius. He just “knew.”  He would sit for hours trying to reconcile warring husbands and wives and help them sort out their marital problems. And he “adopted” their offspring and followed them and their exploits down through the years. 

He’d often trot out one of his marvelous stories (or a risqué joke). Daniel Glass, the record producer, had a lovely line, “He gave us the nourishment of his own life before he gave up the nourishment of his food.  His ability to deliver a punch line was flawless. I’d try to remember them … but they never worked for me.” Glass, the discoverer of Mumford and Sons, also admired Charlie’s attire and way of dressing … “dapper, with such flair … all casual elegance.”

I’ve run on too long.  But how do you distill a Life of 88 years that included his enthusiasm for Litchfield County … Florida … Ireland … and the fashion world in Manhattan. He especially loved Ireland and took his last trip over there all alone at the age of 88, leaving James home to watch over things at the Grill. He also loved to head south in Ray and Greg Oneglia’s jet which was acquired from Ted Turner.

Before becoming a celebrated restaurateur and country squire late in life, Charlie Kafferman had an earlier career in the world of merchandising and fashion. As a young man he teamed with John Pomerantz, the founder of Leslie Fay … becoming one of the youngest vice presidents in the history of the famous conglomerate which, to this day, still makes women’s dresses and apparel. And Charlie then went on to own his own dress factories in this country and abroad, the products of which were featured at Macy’s, Gimbels, J.C. Penney, Saks, Dillard’s, Belk’s and I. Magnin. 

He will be buried this week in a Catholic cemetery in his beloved Litchfield as a result of only the most recent gracious and thoughtful gesture of one absolutely unique Reverend Father Robert Tucker, the popular and charismatic Roman Catholic pastor for Litchfield and surrounding towns.

That black lab named Cashel, however, is just moping around today, feeling “few” … and missing his pal “The Hooker.”

So is most of the town Charlie so loved. 

He was a dear man.

We thought he’d be around forever.

 

 

Contact:

William O’Shaughnessy

914-235-3279

wfo@wvox.com

Steve Dunleavy: A Remembrance by William O’Shaughnessy

Steve Dunleavy was a newspaper guy and he did some television via A Current Affair.

But, little known was his ill-fated foray into Radio.

It happened like this. I idolized one Richard Neal Travis, the diminutive boulevardier who was one of the founders of Page Six. He was very good to me and mine and our Westchester radio stations.  And I learned early on that when he was not cavorting or swanning about the Hamptons, Neal Travis was often to be found with another legendary print journalist Stephen Francis Patrick Aloysius Dunleavy a/k/a Steve Dunleavy.  They often kept company with each other at Langan’s saloon on West 49th Street, about a half a block from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp empire and his beloved holding the influential New York Post.

One day I approached Travis and Dunleavy who were drinking their lunch at the far end of the bar.  When I introduced myself, Dunleavy, with eyes sparkling, looked up and said: “Oh, you’re Neal’s ‘Westchester Bureau Chief’!” It was an appellation and commissioning I’ve worn proudly for these many years.

A few drinks later Dunleavy said, “Why the hell don’t you put us on Radio?” Although I professed to know very little about national syndication, it occurred to me that the chairman of our Broadcasters Foundation of America Edward McLaughlin, former President of ABC Radio (Paul Harvey) and discoverer of the great Rush Hudson Limbaugh III, might be helpful. As chairman of the Foundation’s Guardian Fund, I was often exposed to McLaughlin’s perceptive genius at raising money while serving with him on the Board of our profession’s national charity.

We set up a “luncheon,” this time with food, at a real table at Langan’s with Travis, Dunleavy and McLaughlin. I watched with great satisfaction and considerable approval as the three took a great liking to each other. But as the drinks piled up and the afternoon wore on, I excused myself as the sun was now setting over Manhattan. And, clearly out of my league, I took my leave as my brilliant pronouncements began … I think … uh … slurring. I later learned that the three-way high council and “lemon squeeze” turned into an “early dinner” … all of which can be confirmed by Langan’s proprietor of the day Des O’Brien.

And so, next thing I know, McLaughlin had arranged for a “three-week” tryout for the dauntless duo on WABC. Their first radio guest was Liza Minnelli who was delightful.  But it became clear that Radio was not gonna work for Rupert’s guys. It was “bloody” this … “bloody” that … and about a hundred “Maties.” Although Travis was from New Zealand and Dunleavy, of course, hailed from Australia, the listener couldn’t discern who the hell was speaking at any given moment. There were more than a few “Don’t give up your day jobs” directed to them even after the first broadcast. (I’m afraid I was among the thumbs down crowd myself).

In recent years, Dunleavy toodled around in one of those red mobile scooters in the Florida Keys and at New York’s Island Park, colorful, spiffy and well-turned-out as always. And now he is gone.  And journalism loses another dazzling star, hard on the heels of the departure of James Earl Breslin of sainted memory.

And so this week as we sadly contemplate the loss of Dunleavy … I also think of his great pal Neal Travis. And I pulled up some pieces I did on him in my previous books (see attached). They were both wonderful.  And you have to put them together.

Dunleavy and Travis called Murdoch “The Boss.” And Rupert, who adored them both, called Steve “one of the greatest reporters of all time.”

Last word to Murdoch.

 

Steve Dunleavy from Previous Books

The Great Interpreters of the Great American Songbook

The Great Interpreters of the

Great American Songbook

Frank Sinatra …Fred Astaire … Nat King Cole … Mabel Mercer … Tony Bennett … Mel Torme … Chet Baker … Ella Fitzgerald … Doris Day … Bing Crosby … Louis Armstrong … Bobby Short … Hugh Shannon … Rosemary Clooney … Tony Perkins … Vic Damone … Skinnay Ennis … Charles Trenet … Norman Drubner …  Blossom Dearie … Jack Sheldon … Daryl Sherman … Ronny Whyte … Sylvia Syms … Noel Coward …  Richard Rodney Bennett … Robert Merrill … Chuck Castleberry … Dean Martin … Gianni Russo … David Allyn … Billie Holiday … Judy Garland … Murray Grand … Lady Gaga … Sarah Vaughan … Steve Ross … KT Sullivan … Edith Piaf … Matt Monroe … Mama Cass Elliot … Peggy Lee … Lena Horne … Eddy Sessa …  Billy Joel … Peter Mintun … Steve Lawrence … Eydie Gorme… Andrea Bocelli … Ted Straeter … Neil Diamond … Rod Stewart … Ethel Merman … Johnny Mercer … Matt Dennis … Charlie Cochran … Tierney Sutton … John Pizzarelli … Michael Feinstein …  Danny Nye …

However, I’m Less Than Enthused By …  

Some who look on Michael Bublé and really know music, like Egidiana Maccioni, a gifted singer in her own right, see Michael as the second coming of the Great Sinatra.  I don’t.

Harry Connick, Jr. is a good-looking guy who may be terrific on stage. But I’m not convinced he can sing.

Steve Tyrell often emotes in the legendary Café Carlyle where, for many years, the regal and magnificent Bobby Short, of sainted memory, dazzled the landed gentry.  Tyrell’s presence in that hallowed, exclusive venue is almost blasphemous. He’s admittedly got a lot of admirers for his scratchy, gravelly- voiced warbling. I’m not among them.

Jack Jones is a nice guy.  I knew and interviewed his father and mother, both great singers. Jack has pipes almost as good as Damone. But his choice of material, arrangements and orchestrations have always been wanting.

And one more: Barbara Streisand’s nasal, tonal, one – note voice is an “acquired taste” which I never acquired.

If Biden Runs, They’ll Tear Him Up

This Peggy Noonan column in the Wall Street Journal and the Post is so sad.

It could be the final takedown of a very decent guy.

I hope not. There’s a shrillness and outright nastiness to many/most of the other Democratic aspirants.

I’m probably for the President against all comers.  But Biden and/or Andrew would give me pause … and at least make me think about it.

(My forebearers are from around Scranton). 

(And Andrew is a son of Mario Cuomo).

I hope Joe Biden doesn’t let the loonies – or the Press – even someone we love like Peggy Noonan – yearning for the excitement of something new, drive him out.

He’s a politician the way the folks of our father’s time imagined them to be.

And that ain’t too bad …

If Biden Runs, They’ll Tear Him Up

The old Democratic Party was warm, like him. The new one rising is colder, less human and divisive.

Don’t do it, Joe.

Don’t run for president. It won’t work, you won’t get the nomination, your loss will cause pain and not only for you.

And your defeat will be worse than sudden, it will be poignant.

Right now operatives for the other candidates are trying to scare you out of jumping in. We all know that what you intended as warmth is now received as a boundary violation. You addressed this in a video that was crisp and friendly: You never meant to cause discomfort, you intend to change your ways.

But it’s not going away. It will linger, and more will come.

Democratic operatives do not fear you will win the nomination—they think you’re too old, your time has passed, you’re not where the energy of the base is, or the money. But they do not want you taking up oxygen the next six to 10 months as you sink in the polls. And they don’t want you swooping in to claim the middle lane. Others already have a stake there, or mean to.

In the past you were never really slimed and reviled by your party; you were mostly teased and patronized. But if you get in the race this time, it will be different. They will show none of the old respect for you, your vice presidency or your past fealty to the cause. And you are in the habit of receiving respect. Soon the topic will turn, in depth, to Anita Hill, the Clinton crime bill, your friendliness to big business. You have opposed partial-birth abortion. Also, the old plagiarism video will come back and be dissected. It was more than 30 years ago, and for a lot of reporters and voters it will be a riveting story, and brand new.

You backed the Iraq war. That question will be resurrected, as opposed to redebated. It is always fair to redebate it—to be asked, “Why did your generation of Democratic politicians back that war. Looking back what did you misunderstand?” But it will only be resurrected, and thrown in your face.

You will be judged to be old-school, and insufficiently doctrinaire. The current Democratic Party is different from the one you entered in the late 1960s, not only in policies but in mood, tone, style. Today’s rising young Democrats see no honor in accommodation, little virtue in collegiality.

In the old party of classic 20th-century Democratic liberalism, they wanted everyone to rise. Those who suffered impediments—minorities, women, working people trying to unionize—would be given a boost. There’s plenty to go around, America’s a rich country, let the government get in and help.

The direction, or at least the aspiration, was upward, for everybody.

The mood of the rising quadrants of the new party is more pinched—more abstractedly aggrieved, more theoretical. Less human. Now there’s a mood not of Everyone Can Rise but of Some Must Be Taken Down. White people in general, and white males in particular, are guilty of intractable privilege. It’s bitter, resentful, divisive.

And it is at odds with the spirit in which your political categories were formed. Actually, your politics always struck me as being like the World War II movies Americans of a certain age grew up on. The American soldiers are in the foxhole in Bataan, and there’s the working-class guy from Brooklyn, the tall Ivy League guy, the baker’s apprentice from Ohio. They’re all together and equal, like the country they represent. When the war’s over they’ll probably stay friends and the Brooklyn guy will be in the union and the Ivy League fancy-pants will be in management, but they’ll quickly forge the new contract and shake on the deal because back when it counted we were all in it together.

That is not the 2019 Democratic Party! This party would note, correctly, that there was little racial diversity in the foxhole, and would elaborate that its false unity was built on intersectional oppressions that render its utility as a unifying metaphor null.

The party’s young theorists are impatient with such gooey patriotic sentiment. America is not good guys in a foxhole to them, it’s crabs in a barrel with the one who gets to the top getting yanked down to the bottom—deservedly.

Your very strength—that you enjoy talking to both sides, that deep in your heart you see no one as deplorable—will be your weakness. You aren’t enough of a warrior. You’re sweet, you’re weak, you’re half-daffy. You’re meh.

At this point you’re not out of step, you’re out of place.

The press too will have certain biases, and not only because they’re 30 and 40 years younger than you and would like to see their careers associated with the rise of someone their age. Their bias is also toward drama, as you well know—toward pathos, and the end of something. They love that almost as much as the beginning of something. They can’t wait to write their Lion in Winter stories. “The Long Goodbye.” “The Last Campaign.” “Biden faltered for just a moment when a white-haired woman put her hand to his face and said, ‘I remember you from ’88, Joe. We all do, and we love you.”

And that is apart from those young reporters who consider themselves culture cops, and who enjoy beating people like you with the nightstick of their wokeness.

Why will it be painful to witness all this? Because it will mark the fall of a political figure who was normal. Who knew there was a left over here and a right over there and a big middle. Who went with the flow of cultural leftism but understood the other side’s reservations and signaled that in some way he had some sympathy for them. Who knew politics wasn’t always about absolutes.

This in contrast to the up-and-coming manipulators for whom it is second nature to feign warmth and outreach, but whose every hug is backed by the sharp and crooked finger of accusation. Their engine is resentment, their fuel is unearned self-esteem, their secret is lust for power.

You probably think they’re just girls who need a hug.

But their place is not your place.

It would be one thing if you wanted to enter the race to persuade the party on the merits of more-centrist approaches and working with the other side. But is that your intention? You’ve been apologizing for calling Mike Pence decent, and groveling over your “white man’s culture.” If you go with that flow, it will wash you away.

It is hard for the political personality to say no—to more fame, more power, more love. To the history books. It is hard for a man who’s always seen a president when he looked in the mirror to admit he’s an almost-president. It’s hard to get out of the habit of importance.

But you’ll never be unimportant. You’ll be Joe Biden, a liberal lion of the U.S. Senate at the turn of century. A man with a heart, unhated in an age of hate.

That’s not nothing, that’s a lot.

So don’t do it. Wisdom here dictates an Irish goodbye—a quiet departure, out the back door with a wave and a tip of the hat to whoever might be watching.