“A Death in the Family” re: Tim Russert

“A Death in the Family”

A Whitney Media Commentary

Broadcast on WVOX and WVIP

by William O’Shaughnessy

June 16, 2008

 

His father, immortalized in an endearing and best-selling book, collected garbage and trash from the hard, bleak streets of south Buffalo.  And if you came out of that dwindling city in western New York as I did, you will recognize Tim Russert as a child of the neighborhood.

If you’re listening to this in Yonkers (where true love conquers), the Bronx or even in Peekskill or Mamaroneck, you will also feel a kinship with the television journalist who collapsed and died in a studio in Washington Friday afternoon.  Timothy John Russert, Jr. was the best of what we are as broadcasters.  But he did not resemble anyone who ever lived in Scarsdale, Bronxville, Rye, Bedford or Litchfield. 

He was a reassuring, comforting presence you thought would always be there in our lives.  And my own tribe, our entire profession, took this hard.  Anyone who ever sat in front of a microphone or peered into a television camera feels an awful sadness which is deep and personal.  Russert’s passing, so unexpected and so sudden, was like a death in the family.

I knew him when he worked for Mario Cuomo.  But I am entitled, if not entirely qualified, to get on the radio to tell you about Tim Russert because we also went to the same Canisius High School on Delaware Avenue, the big, broad boulevard that runs through one of the remaining nice sections of Buffalo even to this day.

And although we were in the care and keeping of the German Jesuits some ten  years apart, Russert and I both got whacked upside the head by the same worn old leather prayer book belonging to the Reverend John Sturm, S.J., who took most seriously his title and high estate:  Prefect of Discipline.

Father John was built like a fireplug.  And although an equal opportunity disciplinarian, he made Timmy Russert his favorite charge almost from the minute he first encountered the personable Irish youngster from South Buffalo with the bright eyes and easy smile.  That was back in the 60’s and they have been friends ever since.  Canisius has turned out federal judges named Crotty and Arcara, political power brokers like Joe Crangle, big car dealers, stellar athletes including a few Holy Cross and Notre Dame quarterbacks, and doctors and lawyers of great renown.  The Jesuits spotted Russert’s beguiling potential early on.  Even then they knew.

He would go back to Buffalo over the years to see his father and during summers better than this one Tim Russert would sit at Cole’s bar in the Elmwood section to talk sports over a beer and a “beef on weck,” Buffalo’s legendary version of roast beef, a steamship round of which was personally carved by the bartender and then piled on a Kimmelweck roll covered with salt to be dipped in Heinz Ketchup.  The music in the air on those nights was provided by ancient tapes of Fred Klestine’s old radio programs from the 50’s and 60’s which survive to this day at Cole’s.

They would order another Simon Pure beer or a Carling’s ale and talk about the rich girls who went to “The Mount,” a boarding school, and about Johnny Barnes, the old Canisius High football coach and sometimes about Cornelius MacGillicudy, a favorite teacher who owned a bar in the Parkside section over near Delaware Park.

He never lost touch with the Jesuits.  And just a few weeks ago, Father Sturm, now in his 90’s, sent out invitations to a scholarship luncheon in his own honor with the obligatory picture of his protégé Tim Russert on the cover.

Before his dazzling work on television which made him famous, Tim labored in the service of the two brightest minds in public life during our time:  Daniel Patrick Moynihan and the estimable Mario M. Cuomo.

Someone said yesterday on television:  “He wasn’t exactly a pretty boy.”  With his cheeks and jowls, Russert was the complete antithesis of all the hyper, vacuous “talking heads” and all the bimbos –   male as well as female – who sit each day in those anchor chairs praying the teleprompter doesn’t fail lest they be forced to utter something more profound than “absolutely!”

Only Chris Matthews was his equal in terms of depth and intelligence.  And maybe Jon Meacham or Lawrence O’Donnell or Peggy Noonan.  George Stephanopoulos can hold his own in front of a camera (and in front of George Will).  And classy Deborah Norville has a brain.  While among the youngsters coming up – William “Billy” Bush and Chris Cuomo are bursting with intelligence and promise.  Ditto Bill Geist’s kid Willie.  And David Gregory and Tucker Carlson are easy to take.  Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer are class acts in any season. 

We’ve always liked Bob Scheiffer and Judy Woodruff.  And how can you not like Mike Barnicle and Joe Scarborough (but not the girl with him, the one with the famous father, who talks over everybody).  And I hope Larry King, like Paul Harvey on the radio, goes on forever.  Plus I still take pleasure in our infrequent sightings of Rather and Brokaw.

Russert, however, operated on a level far beyond most of them.  And he didn’t need high tech production values or fancy overhead lighting in an ultra-modern studio to enhance and amplify his unique genius.  He was to network news what Mario Cuomo is to public discourse.  And as the great Cuomo himself reminded us, “Tim never forgot where he came from and he never let us forget it either … and we loved him for it.”

He would summer on Nantucket and go to parties at Sally Quinn’s in Washington.  But Russert never denied his roots in Buffalo.  There was a realness about him, a genuineness, on and off the air.

A few summers ago, Russert was the main speaker at an important conference of the New York State Broadcasters Association up at Bolton Landing on Lake George.  After his talk he was persuaded by our mutual friend Joe Reilly, the head of the broadcasters in the Empire State, to linger and give out the Association’s Awards for Excellence … even as an NBC plane waited on the tarmac at the nearby Glens Falls airport to rush him back to Washington.

There were many awards and citations in every category.  But Russert was his usual generous self and so he stayed late into the night as the awards presentations wore on.  And when it was announced that your own WVOX had won the designation for “Best Editorials in New York State” (which we clearly did not deserve), Russert arched his eyebrows and the Irish eyes twinkled as my son David and I advanced to the front of the ballroom to receive our award.

As we posed for the cameras and the flashbulbs popped, Tim asked, sotto voce, “How’s Mario? … how’s Nancy? … how are the kids? … how’s the station?”  And now as my mind drifts back on this weekend after he died, I wonder if I remembered to inquire about his own welfare?  I hope so, but I doubt it, given that heady moment in the spotlights.  But he remembered.

Russert then thoughtfully pulled away my son David for a shot with just the two of them … and said, again on the QT, while still smiling for the cameras, “How the hell did your old man win this damn thing … it must have been by shear guile!  Or did Cuomo write it for him?”  As the two of them cracked up with laughter, no one in the audience of more than 500 had a clue what they were chuckling about.

James O’Shea, who owns The West Street Grill, a high class saloon in Litchfield, Connecticut (he much prefers the designation “fine dining establishment”) called while I was thinking about all this.  According to O’Shea, “Russert possessed the genius of the Irish.  Just say he was Irish.  People will know what that means. He was Irish!”  As O’Shea provides libation and sustenance for the likes of Philip Roth, Rex Reed, Jim Hoge, Bill vandenHeuvel, Rose Styron, George Clooney, Peter Duchin and Brooke Hayward … I will bow to his wisdom.  Russert did indeed have the genius of the Irish.

Nancy and I would see him around town of an evening, when he would come up from Washington to do some business at the NBC Universal mother ship at Rockefeller Center or if one of us had to emcee a dinner.   And no matter how late the hour or how tired and rumpled he appeared, it was always the same:  “How are the kids? … how are the stations doing? … how’s the gov?”

NBC delayed the news of his passing and actually got scooped by the New York Post and the Times until someone from their shop was retrieved to go and inform his wife Maureen Orth, their son Luke and his beloved father Big Russ.  But who, I wonder had to knock on the door of the old priest in the Jesuit retirement house on Washington Street up in Buffalo to tell Father John Sturm, S.J. Timmy Russert was gone?

I always thought Russert would have made a wonderful politician himself or a great teacher.  Or even a priest.  And with his sudden, untimely departure at 58, he probably taught us one more lesson learned from the old Jesuits:  “You know not the hour … or the moment.”

The newsman-journalist known as Tim Russert has been mourned by millions and eulogized in all the journals and periodicals in the land.  But the most exquisite tribute, and probably the one he would have liked the most came from Michelle Spuck, a waitress at Bantam Pizza in the Litchfield hills, who told a customer over the weekend, “I’m so sad about this …  I never met him … but I knew him.”

He died in front of a microphone.

This is Bill O’Shaughnessy.

 

Contact:

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

 

 

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

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

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

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) and “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001), collections of his radio commentaries, essays and interviews, published by Fordham University Press.  “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” was released in April, 2004.  He also edited “Serving Their Communities,” a 230-page history of the New York State Broadcasters Association and has just started his fourth volume “AGAIN!  Run That By Me One More Time.”

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Philip Roth – Out and About of an Evening

Philip Roth

Out and About of an Evening

by

William O’Shaughnessy

WVOX and WVIP

May 23, 2018

 

Philip Roth has died. He was 85, tall, trim, an attractive man who carried broad shoulders and a smoldering genius for the English language. And in his 85 years he wrote some 32 books that caused him to be accused by the New York Times of being “a giant of American letters” and “a pre-eminent figure in 20th century literature.”

I bought and collected a few of his books, but I never read one of them.  I much prefer non-fiction and, as Roth himself once confessed, he did too.

I “knew” him mostly through our mutual patronage and affection for the West Street Grill, the estimable country restaurant on the Village Green in tony Litchfield which has been lovingly operated for almost 30 years by two marvelous and dear souls Charlie Kafferman and James O’Shea.  Philip Roth got there long before I darkened the door of the eatery.  For years he was a member in-good-standing of “The Roundtable,” a weekly private luncheon and lemon squeeze featuring the writers William Styron, John Updike, Arthur Miller and the actor Richard Widmark.

In recent years Roth would dine at the Grill on Sunday nights with Mia Farrow, still a knockout at 73.  She would drive over from her Frog Hollow Farm in Bridgewater. And the great writer would journey down from his farmhouse in the woods of Warren, Ct. 

And on one of these agreeable nights the proprietor Charlie Kafferman, as I was about to sit at table 21, steered me over to the adjacent table #22.  My compadre Gregorio Alvarez and I were at table 21.

Here is a snippet of dialogue from that evening:

Kafferman: “Philip … Bill writes books too.”

O’Shaughnessy: “Charlie, don’t do this to me.  I am not worth to loose the strap of his sandal …”

Roth: “I know him, Charlie …we talk baseball.  You know Mia (Farrow).  We thought you were in Radio.  What kind of books do you write?”

O’Shaughnessy: “Anthologies … but my new one is about Mario Cuomo and our friendship … I admired him.”

Roth: “Well … so you do anthologies … about whom?  Who do you write about …?”

O’Shaughnessy: “Oh, New York characters … Toots Shor … Nelson Rockefeller … Sirio Maccioni … John Lindsay … Cardinal O’Connor … characters …”

Roth: “Oh, I see … you really write about all your friends!” (laughter)

Here’s another marvelous anecdote that comes out of our favorite restaurant in the Litchfield hills …

The great writer couldn’t count the number or frequency of the literary awards bestowed on him or the encomiums showered on the canon of his prolific works.  So one day Roth called his friend Charlie to beg a favor. “Charlie … I’m being given some big award up in Hartford by the governor and I just don’t feel like schlepping up there. Could you ‘represent’ me and accept on my behalf …?”  So Kafferman and his partner James O’Shea journeyed to Hartford to accept the award, a two-foot tall bronze with outstretched hands in a “winged victory” stance, from the Governor’s hands and lugged  it back to the Grill where it sits to this day.

But the story doesn’t end there. A few weeks later Roth was summoned to Washington to be honored as “America’s Greatest Living Novelist” by President Barack Obama.

When Mr. Roth came in for dinner the next week, his friends at the restaurant inquired how the Presidential Award ceremony went: “It went fine … but when I went up to receive the award … the president whispered, ‘Where’s Charlie’?” He was really disappointed!  (Roth swore it was a true story).

Someone once said he could have been a stand-up comic. When he wasn’t out and about of an evening making people laugh, Philip Milton Roth published almost 90 books including Hispanic and foreign editions of his American classics among which were Goodbye Columbus … American Pastoral … Portnoy’s Complaint … My Life as a Man.  And then in 2012 he closed down his computer and put a lid on his genius for all time to come

I was by this time no longer in possession of the mental vitality or the physical fitness needed to mount and sustain a large creative attack of any duration.”  He actually put a Post-it note on his computer: “The struggle with writing is done.”

He also said: “Old age isn’t a battle, old age is a massacre.” 

He inveighed against the “diminishments” which assault us as we confront old age. It’s a marvelous word often used by Mario Cuomo and Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the brilliant Jesuit philosopher-paleontologist. 

And,

When I write, I’m alone.  It’s filled with fear and loneliness and anxiety and I never needed religion to save me.” 

He was a Jew, to be sure.  But he hated to be called a “Jewish writer.”  “I am an American writer, if nothing else …”  he once said.  And like Mario Cuomo, he was denounced by his own. Mr. Cuomo was criticized and censured by auxiliary bishops.  Roth was assailed by influential rabbis.

He was also a self-professed “atheist” who had a deep and abiding distrust of Organized Religion.  But despite his strong feelings on the subject, he was a nice man in every season with an altogether attractive persona who in his 85 years entertained millions and made them think … while causing some of us to laugh of an evening at his favorite watering hole.

He left us earlier this week with all those books I never read … his great good nature … and that marvelous sense of humor. 

I was not worthy to loose the strap of his sandal.

 

Charlie Kafferman & Philip Roth

 

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 for Fordham University Press, another anthology.

 

 

 

Contact:
Cindy Gallagher
914-235-3279
cindy@wvox.com

 

WVOX Endorses Julie Killian

Julie Killian for State Senate
A WVOX Editorial of the Air
broadcast April 18, 2018
by William O’Shaughnessy, President & Editorial Director

Julie Killian vs. Shelley Mayer.  Someone on Facebook said this week that they’re both nice women.  Of that we have no doubt. But how then to explain the catfight between Julie Killian and Shelley Mayer? Granted the race to succeed the estimable George Latimer in the State Senate is a matter of considerable importance, not alone here in Westchester, but in New York State as well.  But it’s gotten downright nasty.

Here’s how we see it shaping up:  First, let’s take a look at the Democrat candidate Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer of Yonkers.  We tried hard to like her … but Shelley Mayer doesn’t have any of the grace notes of George Latimer who she seeks to replace in the State Senate.

During her brief, but undistinguished tenure in the Assembly, the Legislature’s lower house, Shelley Mayer has been almost invisible in our Sound Shore communities and in Southern Westchester in general, save her home base in Yonkers to which she clings.

In this current shouting match, she has predictably trotted out the old Democrat war horses for their obligatory blessing and imprimatur.  But her campaign is completely controlled by paid hired guns from Brooklyn, some of whom labored on behalf of such Democrat “all-stars” as the hapless David Paterson, who succeeded the “stunningly magnificent” Eliot Spitzer for another brief, chaotic interlude before Andrew Mark Cuomo restored some professionalism, intelligence and ability to the governance of our State. And we’re reminded that one of Shelley Mayer’s current handlers at one time also touted the charms of two other stellar candidates:  the disgraced state senator Malcolm Smith … and comptroller Alan Hevesi, another star in that troubled Democrat firmament in Albany.  As the distinguished Senator Smith currently resides in the Federal Penitentiary in Lewisburg, PA, he was temporarily unable to join the long list of Mayer boosters who are now speaking for her.

As you know, this seat in the State Senate, which is really your seat in the State Senate, was held for many years by “Senator Suzi” – Suzi Oppenheimer.  And no Republican, no matter how gifted or possessed of purse and resources, was able to break the Democratic Party’s grip on your Senate seat.  Over the years, the fading GOP here in the Golden Apple did field some pretty attractive and even extraordinary candidates like John Verni of Mamaroneck, an absolutely terrific fellow … and the well-intentioned (and well-heeled) Bob Cohen from Scarsdale who impressed a lot of people but could not overcome the Democratic majority in Westchester. The Republicans also put up a couple of rich guys from Rye who weren’t ready for prime time. 

Which brings us to Now.  And we’re tasked with finding someone to take the place of the graceful and articulate Mr. Latimer, our county executive, and in whom we are so well pleased. 

The choice you make could also affect the Balance of Power in Albany.

We’re for Julie Killian … who really proved her mettle during that debate staged last week by our Journal News friends at the College of New Rochelle.  The lady from Rye did very well indeed … while Shelley Mayer was scripted and predictable as she recited from the Democratic Playbook, never once straying from its ultra-liberal orthodoxy.  Clearly Ms. Mayer is one lady who paints by the numbers.

Mrs. Killian, on the other hand, showed herself to be eminently and refreshingly “Real” by bringing genuine conviction and passion to the discussion.

Listen to what this brave lady – the Republican candidate – had to say on the critical, fundamental Abortion issue.

I don’t support partial birth abortion and abortion up to the ninth month performed by non-doctors … or ‘infanticide’ abortion. It’s hard to even think of this … but if a baby is born live, they’re able to kill it.  There’s a reason that has not passed yet in our State government.  And I think it’s horrible … it’s horrible.  I do not support those things.  I am for access to quality healthcare for everybody.  But I am not for these things.  I don’t even want to talk about it because I find it reprehensible …”

Boom!    Good for you, Julie Killian!

Listen now to her Democrat opponent Shelley Mayer:

 

“Well, I’m not sure what Bill my opponent is talking about. The Reproductive Health Act takes the provisions guaranteed under Roe v. Wade.  Nothing more, nothing greater than the current constitutional protections that apply to abortion.  We don’t have an ‘Abortion Law.’  We have a Law, the Criminal Law.  And it moves the relevant provisions that ‘mirror’ Roe v. Wade (again Roe v. Wade!) into the Public Health Law. Just like any other health procedure, it is defined under the Public Health Law.”

Brilliant. Spoken like a lawyer! But never once did Assemblywoman Mayer add to her enthusiasm and embrace of Roe v. Wade, a cruel finding that elevated lethal violence against the most vulnerable of human bodies.  Its bi-product is vulgar, violent and, as a growing number of people are now beginning to realize, really akin to permission for Murder.  The Slaughter … of the Innocents.

It’s fine to wave the banner and wax enthusiastic about Roe v. Wade if you wish… but then, we think, you’ve got to pause, reflect, take a deep breath and say – straight out – just how horrible and absolutely terrible Abortion really is.

Julie Killian did that … bravely and powerfully and sincerely. We admire her guts and courage.

Why do we focus now on the awful and unsettling Abortion issue?  Only because that exchange during the recent debate, which was completely missed by our colleagues in the public press, captures … in the case of Julie Killian … how a candidate thinks and feels.  Or in the case of Shelley Mayer: how she recites … devoid of feeling.  Or compassion.

For over 50 years we’ve covered both sides of the Abortion question … letting countless individuals get on the Radio and have at you with their sad pro-Abortion views.  (But as I approach senility, I’m’ wondering if there exists any more important issue than Life itself). 

Life in every instance.

Julie Killian gets it …

Then there was the bombshell story last week in the Daily News by respected veteran Albany Bureau Chief Ken Lovett covering two full pages and revealing that while serving as counsel to the Senate Democrats Shelley Mayer did little beyond “passing on” harassment complaints from at least two female workers in the Legislature.  Even Mayer said, “I should have done more.”  We can’t resist the observation that Killian would have raised holy hell in that situation.

Shelley Mayer’s Brooklyn handlers are also laboring mightily to tarnish Killian with President Trump. (We think the President is a lot more popular than the polls suggest). But this race to succeed George Latimer is not for a seat in the House of Representatives. It’s all about Albany.  And our State government.  And it’s all about our own backyard.

Much has been written about the “Good Old Boys” culture in Albany, at the headwaters of the Hudson.  What we’re saying today, perhaps inartfully, awkwardly and imprecisely … is that we don’t think Westchester wants to send, with all due respect, a “Good Old Girl” who has been around the tainted and tarnished corridors of power back up to Albany yet again to accommodate those “good old boys” in the State Senate.

But we do want, we urgently suggest, a woman of independence, bravery and good common sense who thinks for herself.

It’s clear that Julie Killian is the enlightened choice for the Latimer seat. 

She’s fresh, fearless and altogether very “Real” and not at all afraid to say what she thinks and believes in her heart of hearts. 

The Republican candidate doesn’t need Talking Points crafted by political handlers in Brooklyn.  She’s got a real mind.  And we’d much prefer Mrs. Killian than someone slavishly devoted to that Democrat Playbook.

In this contentious race, the Republican thinks for herself … while the Democrat paints by the numbers.

We’re for Killian.

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

 

 

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 for Fordham University Press, another anthology.

 

Contact:

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

Latimer for Westchester County Executive

Latimer for Westchester County Executive
A Whitney Global Media Editorial of the Air: WVOX & WVIP
by William O’Shaughnessy, President
broadcast November 2, 2017

 

Our colleagues at Gannett’s Journal News, Westchester’s important daily newspaper, have found in favor of George Latimer to be our next county executive. 

Their editorial endorsement is a well-constructed and exquisitely reasoned treatise on both candidates in the contentious and nasty county race. 

The paper argues that with all his mistakes and flaws – and they are considerable – Senator Latimer, the Democrat, is much to be preferred over the incumbent Rob Astorino, the Republican, who also has the endorsement of the Conservative Party.  As you know, if you’ve been reading the public press and listening to WVOX … the Astorino machine has hit George Latimer with everything but the proverbial kitchen sink.  Some of it justified. 

Our take, however, on Senator Latimer is that he is one of the hardest-working and most dedicated public servants we’ve encountered in over 50 years as your local station. Only Greenburgh’s peripatetic Paul Feiner can match Mr. Latimer for being everywhere apparent and constantly at the People’s Business, 24/7.

At the risk of being Biblical, Latimer reminds us often of Saint Paul in the Bible who, it is said, advised converts to the early Christian faith “What doth it matter if everyone else is fine … and you are not alright …?” Paul’s instruction was clearly a message to ancient Latimer-types who are driven to do good for all the other people, their neighbors … but often neglect themselves. Which brings us to the present day George Latimer. It is obvious he needs to spend some time tending to himself.  In other words, Senator George needs to, every once in a while, take some time out from doing the mitzvahs and kindnesses of his public life to tend to his own damn household (no pun intended). 

Much has been made of Latimer’s transportation problems.  It’s no excuse … but he doesn’t have drivers and bodyguards to convey him here and there as Astorino commands in abundance, (after vowing to cut back on “security” read “perks.”)

Gannett is right. Latimer is a rumpled, but hard-working and altogether dedicated fellow. 

Having been a former chairman of the County Board, and, in every telling and account, a very good one, he knows the levers and potential of County government.  And when we speak of superior county board chairmen … the great and estimable Herman Geist is in that class with Latimer and so too was Andy O’Rourke and New Rochelle’s brilliant Stephen Tenore. 

In this mean-spirited race, Mr. Latimer is also up against an ultra-conservative billionaire, and his daughter’s purse, who are reported to have put $1 million bucks on the line to re-elect Mr. Astorino and defeat the Democrat.

It’s no secret abroad in the land that Rob Astorino wants to be governor and his heart and soul is clearly in another run for Albany. 

We don’t always agree with the local Gannett elders.  But in this important race, we are in 100% agreement with The Journal News and their thoughtful editorial. George Latimer is much to be preferred as our next county executive.

Rob Astorino, in his best moments, is a nice, agreeable and affable fellow and we were proud to endorse him over our own New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson, the stunningly brilliant and precocious, but tone-deaf Mayor of New Rochelle who is ultra-fluent in the jargon and municipal-speak of government rules and regs, but you wouldn’t want to ask him for a favor for your brother-in-law or a neighbor who is hurting. You may recall, we “endorsed” Noam for the US Congress  in the last county exec’s race because that’s where Bramson has his sights set, still to this day. 

On the occasion of the last county executive contest, we opted for Astorino.  He has many good qualities.  And very much to his credit is his relationship with the Plunketts.  The estimable William Plunkett is an advisor as he is to many.  And his brother Kevin is Rob’s hard-working Deputy County Executive. He also found something for the highly regarded former Supreme Court Justice Daniel Angiolillo when the Cuomo Office cut him loose after a distinguished career on the Appellate bench. He’s also been loyal, many think to a fault, to his former colleagues at the dearly departed White Plains radio station before it gave up the ghost and mantle of a community station.

He also enjoys, as we do, the friendship of Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Cardinal Archbishop of New York.  But, make no mistake, Senator Latimer is the better choice in this race.

Nobody quite knows where Astorino is on Playland, Westchester Parks or the County Airport.

It really is a question of priorities, instincts and inclination.  While Rob Astorino spends a lot of time “auditioning” for New York City radio stations, here every morning without fail for the past 30-something years, has been the voice of George Latimer calling attention to community meetings and local events.  It tells you something.

Incidentally, we’ve also learned just this week that Mr. Astorino’s campaign quietly slipped over $21-thousand dollars to WOR for “advertising” which means that somebody at least knows the meaning of the Latin phrase “Quid Pro Quo.”

During the 50-plus years of our stewardship, WVOX has usually found our way to the side of gifted and able local Republican candidates: the incomparable Nelson Rockefeller, Malcolm Wilson, Andy O’Rourke, Edwin Gilbert Michaelian, Anthony J. Colavita, Alvin Richard Ruskin, et al … while saving our enthusiasm on the State and National scene for Jack and Robert Kennedy, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Mario Matthew Cuomo of sainted memory and his dynamic son and heir Andrew Mark Cuomo, the “Energizer Governor.”

We’ve clearly favored Republicans on the local scene close to home. But in this critical county election of 2017, we confidently endorse the Democrat:  Senator George Latimer for County Executive. 

We believe he’ll make a great one with his accessibility, stamina, willingness to listen to ordinary people and a very good and generous heart. 

Plus, when it comes to government and governance: he’s damn smart. 

We suggest he begin to apply those smarts to his personal life and the minutiae of everyday living that we all have to deal with. 

This is an Editorial of the Air.  This is Bill O’Shaughnessy.

 

Contact:

Cindy Gallagher
cindy@wvox.com

Saloon Songs (EXCERPTS)

Saloon Songs (EXCERPTS)

From Toots Shor to Sirio Maccioni

(Originally Published in 1999 in

AirWAVES,’ Fordham University Press)

I have always found great wisdom in saloons. As a young man I first knew the beguiling haze of an evening in Bernard “Toots” Shor’s glorious establishment on 52nd Street in Manhattan. Toots had his “kids” back then. Frank Gifford and Kyle Rote were his favorites. But he also had a soft spot for an Irish radio time salesman from Westchester.

At the Toots Shor bar one could learn many valuable lessons about times you never lived. The drinks were strong and the talk was of DiMaggio, Hemingway, Mark Hellinger, Runyon, Bill Corum, Eddie Arcaro and Grantland Rice.

The conversation was vivid and dazzling. And on a good night you would encounter Howard Cosell, William Pierce Rogers, who had a day job as a secretary of state, Bob Considine, James A. Farley and his tall, attractive son Jim, Paul Screvane, Jimmy Breslin, Jock Whitney, Walter Thayer, Hugh Carey, Howard Samuels, James Brady, John Lindsay, Sonny Werblin, Jack Whittaker, Jack O’Brien, Jackie Gleason, Edward Bennett Williams and Ford Frick, who would stop in on his way home to Bronxville. Also the great Hearst sportswriter Jimmy Cannon. I idolized him. And everyone who ever had to approach a typewriter for a living has tried to copy him. One night Omar Bradley, a general of the armies, walked in with a circular cluster of five stars on the epaulets of his dress blues.

You would see the legendary John “Shipwreck” Kelly eating apple pie on a barstool while Toots ate kosher pickles washed down with diet coke. On one such occasion, Toots paid Ship Kelly an extravagant compliment by identifying the two toughest guys he ever met … the ones you want next to you if you’re “trapped in an alley!” Shipwreck Kelly “with his bare fists” … or Sinatra “with a broken beer bottle in his right hand.”

Other barroom philosophers included classy Bruce Snyder, an enduring and endearing presence at the invincible “21” Club. Bruce is keeper of the flame for “21” and guards the heritage and tradition of this grand old Lorelei of a saloon with a fierce devotion. He understands about generations and in-laws and always has a marvelous story to divert you when you are hurting or just plain exhausted.

And surely there are no more endearing souls than one encounters at Mario’s of Arthur Avenue in the Little Italy-Belmont section of the Bronx. No matter how fast your world is spinning out of control … the Migliuccis – Mama Rose and her son Joseph – will restore your balance and equilibrium. The ingredient dispensed along with their drinks and Neapolitan food is called Love. Here you will see Lee Iacocca, Mario Biaggi, Bill Fugazy, some Yankees and, maybe, Steinbrenner. Also a lot of Fordham professors and their students … plus a group of Westchester high rollers in Jaguars, BMW’s and Range Rovers.

Maestro Sirio

But the greatest of all barroom poets is Sirio Maccioni. Now when I recently encountered Billy Cunningham, the Times’ brilliant lensman, on his favorite corner, 57th and Fifth, the great society photographer who is Manhattan’s pre-eminent chronicler of the rich, the famous and stylish, advised me against comparing Toots Shor and Sirio Maccioni or even putting them in the same breath. Cunningham is a beloved icon of New York … and it may be a far stretch … but I still believe a saloon is a saloon, no matter the trappings or neighborhood. Thus Sirio.

Sitting on a barstool with Maestro Sirio at the Le Cirque restaurant is a thrilling adventure. Maccioni is a wise man, provocative, charming and absolutely accurate in his marvelous commentary about life and people. Here then are some late-night pronouncements from the Magnificent Maccioni … who is America’s greatest restaurateur. And barkeep. They were flung out into an empty dining room … late at night … when all the swells had gone home. Here then, retrieved from my notebook, are mementos of delightful evenings spent with the greatest of all contemporary saloonkeepers …

 

The Gospel According to Sirio

“I think there should be a moment in life when you do what you want to do.”

“You should show that you respect people … but also show you can do without them.”

“I resent stupidity. One must have rules. I have rules. One must always be ‘correct’.”

“90% of the people are nice … too nice. If I would follow my instinct, I would be sued … I would open a restaurant for only attractive people … make that nice people.”

“Donald Trump is a very nice person. I call him and within one minute he calls me back. I don’t care about his problems with other people …”

“When you ask someone to build you a $3 million-dollar kitchen … they ask are you sure you need it. I never did all this to prove I am better than the other people in my business. We did it because it was something we had to do. We are working people. Physical work. Mental work. And not to be intrusive. That is what we are about.”

“If something happens to me … just say: ‘Sirio has said it all.’ One life is not enough to prove yourself.”

“I like women who are fun … who don’t try to save the world … and men who are ‘correct’.”

“There is an Italian saying: If you wake up in the morning and have no pain … you’re dead!”

“When anybody can criticize a king or a president … then they are not a king. Or a president.”

“In my short life, I have seen a fellow open a bottle of Dom Perignon when they killed Kennedy. Stupidity … just stupid.”

“They say I put pressure on my sons to achieve. But I would never force anybody to be great in life.”

“They ask me if I’m religious. Of course I am. But I hate people who only pray when they need something.”

“When I was maitre’d at the Colony … people didn’t understand why I gave Warren Avis and Yanna the best table. They’re attractive.”

“My wife Egidiana tells me when she came here she didn’t know anybody. The only thing that mattered is she wanted to be with me.”

“When I hear today that only 12 civilians were killed in the bombing in Iraq I got sick. I remember the bombs falling on us in my town. I have been under the bombs. My father, a civilian, died on his bicycle under the bombs. My grandfather saw it. He said let’s go to church. He had unlimited respect for authority and uniforms. When he saw a uniform of any kind, he would bend. 27% had the courage to say we should not bomb. The Moroccans and the English ‘liberated’ us. They only raped 1500. The Germans no one. They might shoot you!”

“My wife always says: If everybody takes care of their own little spot … everything would be O.K.”

“I’m always scared. But for me to be scared is a point of strength. I don’t believe in luck. If someone shoots you … you’re unlucky.”

“I tell my sons: Concentrate on the people. Don’t spend time talking to the coat check girl or the bartender. Don’t look outside on a day like this to see if it’s raining or snowing. I tell them to look inside. The time you spend talking to the coat check girl is wasted forever.”

“I’m reading a book Europa Vivente.” It means Europe is still alive. A Florentine wrote it … a Florentine with a German father. He is trying to show the stupidity of Democracy. The only problem with Mussolini is he was trying to please everybody. The greatness of Italy was in the Medici, the Borgias. They were assassins! But they alone created and encouraged Art. But they were against the Italians. You put two Italians together and they can destroy anything!”

“The Italians always seem to need a tyrant to become great.”

“The other night I was with the Cardinal at the Knights of Malta dinner. I did not wear my sword and certainly not the cape because I look like Dracula. I was the only one at my table who was not Irish. They sang Danny Boy. I said you are discriminating at this table. What about O, Solo Mio? I hate that song! I didn’t tell them that the first gift to me in America was given by Morton Downey. It was a record of Danny Boy.

“My sons lecture to me. You are in America, they say. You have to adjust. What is going to be with the next generation? There is no class, no style.”

“Clinton is not the exception. There are so many stupid men.”

“I am going to be one of the three voting judges of the Miss Universe Contest in Martinique the first week of May. Donald Trump asked me to take his place because he is so busy. He is also so smart. The first thing he did was ask my wife. She said it was very nice. It would be good for Sirio. And then she went off to Atlantic City with her Uncle Renato for the day and came home after midnight and woke me up to show me the 300 quarters she won!”

“I blame the basketball season on the players. My wife agrees. She went after Patrick Ewing at the restaurant. He is very nice, but she told him he was wrong and she will never to go another game. And she never will.”

“New York has been very good to us … the press … Donald Trump … Mayor Giuliani … everybody. I never did all this to say I’m better than the others. It’s something we had to do. We’re working people. There is no such thing to be an artist. We work … the thing happens. It is about having an understanding of what people want when they come to your restaurant.”

“When we fed the Pope there were 16 cardinals at the table. It was on 72nd Street at the Papal Nuncio’s house. The Pope is a good eater. He likes fish, he likes rice, he likes pasta. Archbishop Martino, a great, intelligent man, is the Pope’s ambassador and so he can only be intelligent, was the host. We

went, we cooked … with security from the United States, from Italy, from the Vatican. He is a good eater, the Holy Father. He ate risotto with porcini and he ate fish. My pastry chef Jacques Torres made a replica of the Vatican’s Saint Peter’s Basilica. The Pope asked me if it was true we had a three month wait list for a reservation. I said, ‘Holy Father … why don’t you come tonight.’ The Pope laughed and said tonight he was not going to have such a good dinner. Since the Holy Father was talking about ‘reservations,’ I asked Archbishop Martino what about a ‘reservation’ up in Heaven. So the Archbishop asked the Holy Father … don’t you think it would be very nice to have a great restaurant in Heaven? And the Holy Father looked at me and Cardinal O’Connor and said: ‘Are we sure … are we sure we go up there?’ The Pope is amazing. He spoke to me in Italian, to my son in English, to the pastry chef in French and to my executive chef Sottha Kuhnn in Thai. Then the Holy Father asked me if I was a good Christian … or just another Italian who only gets religious when he gets sick? You know in Italy we think because we have the Pope … and it’s a local call, we sometimes get a little casual and complacent.”

“The philosophy of a restaurant is to make a place pleasant. Sometimes it is the people who create the problems. I think people should look correct. I’m not talking black tie. But in the middle of summer these people go out in a t-shirt that looks like they have come out of a shower … and then it is not right that they come to Le Cirque and want to sit next to a lady. New Yorkers are elegant people. We should teach the rest of the people. We should teach the world.”

“I don’t know why I have been chosen as one of the 30 most important men in New York. It is ridiculous. I just sell soup. I’m glad I’m well known in my country because everybody has to be what he is. You never talk bad about your country, your mother, your brother, your family. Here, I’m a guest. But in Italy I can have my say. Most of the political group there is a disgrace. A Communist could be good, but it’s bad when applied in the wrong way. Communism was bad in Eastern Europe, so why try it in Italy? Thank God the Italians are not with anybody. They’re against everybody!”

“They say I feed their egos as well as their stomach. But why do you buy a Versace suit instead of one that costs 60% less? It’s a question of ego. Why do you go to your hairdresser who knows you? It’s ego. It’s also quality of life.”

“Everybody should be equal when we start, when we are born. But then I don’t believe in egalitarian any more. Everybody should start and go up. I tell my three sons if one gets up at eight and one at 10 and one at 12 … the first one up should do better. It’s a simple philosophy.”

“People can’t eat caviar and foie gras all the time. Sometimes they need hamburger … vulgar food … the things we grew up with … pig feet, tripe, boiled beef, lamb chop cooked with potato – lamb stew – roast chicken. And especially me … I’m not easy to please in a restaurant. But I will go when they have those dishes. We invented pasta primavera. In 1975. We were invited by the Canadian government to try new recipes for pigeon, lobster and wild boar. But after three days, all this got boring. So it came my turn to cook. And I took everything I could find in the kitchen … all the vegetables … and we created pasta primavera.”

“I notice that man is looking at your wife … but don’t worry. He has had a lot of wine. But he is a gentleman and he is always correct. He has manners. But he can’t help himself from looking.”

“You’re a man and automatically you’re stupid. As a young boy in Italy I was crazy. I have always been stupid.”

Q: But your greatness, a part of it, is that you’re Italian.

A: Yes, but I’m alone!

More “Saloon Songs …”

(An Update)

2017

ALEX & JULIAN

JULIAN NICCOLINI and his courtly, taciturn partner ALEX VON BIDDER have relinquished the iconic and timeless space which once housed the FOUR SEASONS restaurant in the Seagram Building. And all New York now hopefully awaits the Four Seasons’ new incarnation a few blocks south at 280 Park Avenue.

And speaking of “legends” in the culinary firmament: admirers and aficionados of the stately “21” rejoice in its recent rebirth and renewal. The ageless “Numbers” has been restored to its former glory by general manager TEDDY SURIC and all is once again quite right with the world at “21” … thanks to Suric, a brilliant young restaurateur who brings his own great respect for the traditions of the hallowed New York landmark to our beloved “21.”

PRIMOLA, a very agreeable place on the East Side, is presided over by GIULIANO ZULIANI, whose spectacular food and warm personality attracts A-listers night after night.

THE OUTER BOROUGH

I should also acknowledge that I’ve discovered quite late in life, a marvelous place in what locals call the “outer” borough of Queens. We’ve had a lot of really wonderful evenings in the care and keeping of TONY FEDERICI at PARKSIDE in Corona. Its interior and customers are right out of the mind of Scorsese or Mario Puzo. And Tony’s charisma and magic is always applauded and appreciated by a room full of good fellows, attractive ladies and assorted “Goodfellas.” You gotta love it … if ya know what I mean. It’s a favorite of GIANNI RUSSO, MATTHEW MARI, ABRAMO DeSPIRITO and RALPH CAMPAGNONE. Also yours truly.

CIPRIANI

HARRY CIPRIANI, in the stately old Sherry Netherland at Fifth and 59th, traces its lineage right back to ARRIGO CIPRIANI’s original HARRY’s BAR on the Venice waterfront near San Marco Square. The New York version is a magnet for society dames and an upscale Euro crowd. I go for late lunches or an occasional nightcap after black tie charity dinners. No matter the hour, maitre’d SERGIO VACCA, who moves around the dining room like a Nijinsky or a Nureyev, makes sure all is right with your world as he escorts you to the care and keeping of star waiter Fernando or primo barman LUCA. And occasionally you’re also greeted by Maestro Arrigo’s attractive grandsons MAGGIO and IGNAZIO. Cipriani is great fun at any hour and in any season.

At CIRCO, Le CIRQUE’s West Side sibling, you’ll be greeted and dazzled by BRUNO DUSSIN, the diminutive and graceful long-time compadre of the MACCIONI family. The Tuscan food and European service is as good as the Sicilian wines on offer. And the pasta primavera is even better than at the Mother Ship, but don’t tell SIRIO.

Le CIRQUE (today)

When you’re putting together an evening for a client or a “friend” and it’s just gotta be right, I still head for the mighty Le CIRQUE in the courtyard of the Bloomberg building off 58th Street between Lex and Third. The incomparable and ageless MARIO WAINER “Your Excellency … welcome back!” (Is he talking to me …? Yes, and what’s not to like!) still runs the dining room for SIRIO and his attractive sons MAURO and MARCO. And the legendary chef TOM VALENTI now presides in the kitchen as well. PRESIDENT TRUMP and billionaire RON PERELMAN are regulars. And so is ANDREA BOCELLLI and his wife VERONICA BERTI, friends of Sirio’s.

 

 

“VOX POPULI” – Comments from “The Deplorables” 

“VOX POPULI”

Comments from “The Deplorables 

Compiled by William O’Shaughnessy

Early morning notes and jottings taken in a coffee shop up in the country (Connecticut) over a three-month period in the summer and early fall of 2017.  There was actually very little criticism of the President to be heard … except from occasional disgruntled folks who predictably called him “crazy, Hitler-like” etc. But these direct comments reflect the vast body of sentiment and approval that exists among ordinary citizens for the President. Everybody knows I’m a fan … but even I was surprised!  Again, I ask the Question: Is it possible they know something we don’t … ?

 

  • “The Dems pick on everything he does … They just hate the guy.  I think it’s jealousy.”
  • “Sometimes his mouth gets him in trouble.  But I think he’s of good heart and trying to do the right thing.  He’s trying, damn it!”
  • “Ya know, I think I understand what they mean about that ‘Deep State’ stuff.  It’s just another word for the Washington Establishment.  They’re all against him and protecting their asses. They ain’t foolin’ anybody.” 
  • “He ought to think a little before he speaks – or tweets – but he’s done more down there than any other president.”
  • “The Congress shouldn’t just be opposing him.  They should try to make it easy for him to do what he’s gotta do.”
  • “I can’t watch MSNBC anymore.  Rush calls it ‘PMSNBC.’  Even Chris Matthews has signed on the Bash Trump Bandwagon.  He used to be an O.K. guy.  Now … forget it!”
  • “Every time I think the New York Times will run out of ways to attack and say bad things about Trump … they prove me wrong.  I mean, I know the Times is important and a big f—cking deal.  But they’re not being fair to this President at all.”
  • “Every one of my friends is for the guy.  Is it possible the People, the ‘normal,’ human people, know more about this than the elite, know-it-alls.  I always say:  Trust the People.  Doesn’t that make sense to you?”
  • “He’s shaking things up … and it’s about time.  It had gone too far with Obama, although he was not a bad guy.  Just not such a dynamic president.”
  • “You got CNN, MSNBC, the mighty New York Times and, I guess, the Washington Post, saying shitty things about the President. They should ask every cop, every soldier, every plumber, every fireman, every electrician … the normal, regular people.  They ‘get it.’  They like him.  The big muckey mucks are missing something.”
  • “The guy is shaking up both the Republicans and the Democrats … and who can blame him. They both stink.”
  • “I can’t really explain it.  I just like the President.  What he said about North Korea is so true.  We’ve been slipping them money and kisses behind the scenes for years.”
  • “What they say about him is really disgusting. I mean, c’mon … gimme a break!  Give him a break!”
  • “It’s a tough job.  You couldn’t pay me to take the job.  But I’ll tell you what:  they ought to just shut the fuck up … and let him do his job.”
  • “I like the Mara family.  But I’m very much with Trump on the NFL.  The Dallas Cowboys guy got it right.  These players are spoiled rotten!”
  • “He’s reaching out to the Democrats. If you recall, Obama had no time for the Republicans.  Proves that Trump is smart.  You’ll see …”
  • “There are too many yahoos in the Republican Party.  Donald is right to chart his own course.  Who needs this sorry bunch of Republicans!”
  • “Look at the markets, the economy.  The “Smart Money” knows. The Trumpster or somebody around him must be doin’ somethin’ right.”
  • “If they are dumb enough to try to impeach or indict this guy … there will be rioting in the streets.  Mark my words!”
  • “They’re wasting my money – and yours – with this Russia crap. Who cares? He didn’t beat Hillary because of Putin!”
  • “And I’ll tell you somethin’ else, Mr. O … the guy Mark Simone on WOR (oops, sometimes I listen to them) calls the Clintons a ‘Criminal Enterprise’ … a very big one … I mean international.  Donald called them to task on that.  Damn straight he did!  And he’s right on.”

Statement re: Corporate Censorship

William O’Shaughnessy
wfo@wvox.com

Statement

Re:
Corporate Censorship

May 25, 2017

Organized coercion and intimidation of corporations, networks, news media, and educational institutions which is often clandestinely and stealthily subsidized is just as dangerous and chilling to Free Speech as censorship by government fiat, directive, decree, mandate or dictum.

And it matters not if it’s directed at Bill O’Reilly, Don Imus, Rush Limbaugh, Opie & Anthony, Howard Stern, Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Billy Bush … or Donald J. Trump, president of the United States.