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Archive for December, 2012|Monthly archive page

A Newsroom Night Before Christmas

In Uncategorized on December 25, 2012 at 1:29 am

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and wouldn’t you know

We were hard at work on the five o’clock show;

Reporters sent to locations picked with care,

In hopes that a news story soon would be there;

Producers all nestled snug in Control A,

While they wondered why they were working that day;

And the EP was pacing, and I at the desk,

What would make this show better than all the rest?

When over the scanners there arose such a clatter,

I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.

Maybe maybe I was hearing it all wrong

But if I was right it wouldn’t be long.

 

I had a hunch from the level of screaming

that my instincts were right. I started scheming

When, what to my wondering ears should I hear,

But a cop shout he just shot at a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer,

With an old driver, not so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment the cops shot St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles came cries for back-up,

Dispatchers whistled, and shouted, screaming to hurry-up;

“Now, captains! now, sergeants! Get me an ambulance!

Clear things before the press can be a nuisance!”

I called for every shooter; I needed them all

“Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So to the scene a dozen cameras flew,

Hoping to get there before the cops were through

 

And then, in a twinkling, I heard an oy vey!

It was bad for Ol’ Saint Nick – he was DOA.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

I called the booth – BREAKING NEWS was all I could sound

We stayed on the air for days, or it might have been weeks,

Talking to all, from little kids to the Santa Freaks;

With bundles of toys they had flung on their backs,

They kept protesting, wanting the cops to get their whacks

 

Stories – there were many! Sidebars by the score!

Kids, toys, parents. There was always one more!

 

What did it mean for the future of the holiday?

There was always someone with something to say

 

The cops investigated and, not surprisingly

said the officers had all acted reasonably,

 

There would be no trial, no charges to air

 

Mrs Claus stayed secluded, you know where

Things moved forward and Christmas came again

I was sad Santa was gone, the story was over and then

 

At the desk. chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

I was shocked when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He wasn’t a ghost, and went straight to his work,

and telling me that I wasn’t going berserk.

 

 The events of the past year had all been staged,

for an assignment editor for whom news he had prayed

 

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

“Some breaking news to all, and to all a good-night.”

Belting Torch Songs in a Red Dress Myrlie Evers-Williams at Carnegie Hall

In Uncategorized on December 15, 2012 at 5:33 am

Two weeks ago I did a piece for the Times about Myrlie Evers-Williams and how her dream of playing Carnegie Hall was about to come true. That performance, with Pink Martini, came true Friday night. Given the events of the past week, I thought an uplifting story might be in order. This is an expanded version of that piece based on further interviews.

“Forever. For as long as I can remember.”

That’s Myrlie Evers-Williams, 79, talking about how long she has dreamed of playing at Carnegie Hall.

On December 14 and 15, with Portland-based Pink Martini, Ms. Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, will see that dream come true.

“It was the dream of my grandmother and then it became my dream,” Ms. Evers-Williams said by phone. “Baby, I want you to play at Carnegie Hall when you grow up, she would say to me.”

Ms. Evers-Williams said that her grandmother, who raised her, had once dreamed of being a concert pianist.

“She passed along to me all of her hopes and dreams of being a concert pianist,” Ms. Evers-Williams said.

Twice a week, she paid 25 cents to get her piano lessons.

“And on days when I did not have lessons she would sit beside me for one hour, sometimes two, until I finished practicing. She explained what Carnegie Hall was, why it was so important, but my full understanding of that did not come until much later in life.”

Ms. Evers-Williams said that under grandmother’s eye, her lessons were focused on classical music, something that eventually started to take away from the pleasure of playing.

“I started to not particularly enjoy music anymore because she only wanted me to play the classics,” Ms. Evers-Williams said.

But once she entered high school, she made a discovery.

“I discovered jazz, which my grandmother would never let me play or sing. I would have to sneak away with high school band members to even listen to that music, which I really fell in love with.”

After high school, she enrolled at Alcorn University planning to study music but something happened that changed the direction of her life.

“It was the first hour of my first day on campus when the football team came over to check out the new crop of freshman girls,” she remembered. “ Medgar Evers was on the football team and things were never the same.”

After two years, she had married Medgar and left school. Her grandmother’s dream of playing piano at Carnegie Hall, which had evolved into her own dream of being at Carnegie Hall in a red dress singing torch songs while lying in the curve of a baby grand, was put on hold.

“It was a necessity,” she said. “Two days before Medgar was assassinated, I had told him I couldn’t survive without him and he told me that I am strong and I would move on and I have tried to keep moving ever since.”

She said that while she is honored to be his widow, she is so much more and has lived a life full of challenges that she has met head on.

“But I never fully let go of the dream of me in a red dress.”

Enter Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini whom Ms. Evers-Williams met when she was living in Bend, Oregon.

“Talk one day turned to dreams and I told him about the red dress and he said that when they play Carnegie Hall again, I would have to join them. I said, no. no. no. He said, yes, yes, yes.

“Thomas Lauderdale is a very persistent man.”

Ms. Evers-Williams said it took Mr. Lauderdale months  to convince her.

“I eventually said yes. So here I am delighted, frightened about the upcoming performance, trying to find something that will bring joy to the audience and hopefully not leave them in tears of embarrassment.”

Ms. Evers-Williams said that whatever her performance entails, it will likely not include much time at the piano.

“Time has not been kind to my fingers, which are now more than a little arthritic.”

The shows will include some discussion of the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute, which has long existed in name but Ms. Evers-Williams would like to see have a permanent home. While in New York, she will likely be attending some meetings Mr. Lauderdale is trying to set up to promote the institute.

“I have always been proud of being married to Medgar and helping promote him and his work over the years,” she said.

She said that one thing that the performances will definitely be will be a tribute to her grandmother.

“I want to make this woman who believed in me proud. I keep thinking of the words she said to me constantly: Baby. Ask God to make you a blessing.

“And that is what I hope will happen.”

32 years Ago Today – Breslin on Deadline

In Uncategorized on December 8, 2012 at 11:20 pm

The night of December 8th, Jimmy Breslin was at home when he got the call that John Lennon had been shot. This is the column he wrote on deadline.

ARE YOU JOHN LENNON?

That summer in Breezy Point, when he was eighteen and out of Madison High in Brooklyn, there was the Beatles on the radio at the beach through the hot days and on the jukebox through the nights in the Sugar Bowl and Kennedys. He was young and he let his hair grow and there were girls and it was the important part of life.

Last year, Tony Palma even went to see Beatlemania.

And now, last night, a thirty-four-year-old man, he sat in a patrol car at Eighty-second Street and Columbus Avenue and the call came over the radio: “Man shot, One West Seventy-second Street.”

Palma and his partner, Herb Frauenberger, rushed through the Manhattan streets to an address they knew as one of the most famous living places in the country, the Dakota apartments.

Another patrol car was there ahead of them, and as Palma got out he saw the officers had a man up against the building and were handcuffing him.

“Where’s the guy shot?” Palma said.

“In the back,” one of the cops said.

Palma went through the gates into the Dakota courtyard and up into the office, where a guy in a red shirt and jeans was on his face on the floor. Palma rolled the guy over. Blood was coming out of the mouth and covering the face. The chest was wet with blood.

Palma took the arms and Frauenberger took the legs. They carried the guy out to the street. Somebody told them to put the body in another patrol car.

Jim Moran’s patrol car was waiting. Moran is from the South Bronx, from Williams Avenue, and he was brought up on Tony Bennett records in the jukeboxes. When he became a cop in 1964, he was put on patrol guarding the Beatles at their hotel. Girls screamed and pushed and Moran laughed. Once, it was all fun.

Now responding to the call, “Man shot, One West Seventy-second,” Jim Moran, a forty-five-year-old policeman, pulled up in front of the Dakota and Tony Palma and Herb Frauenberger put this guy with blood all over him in the backseat.

As Moran started driving away, he heard people in the street shouting, “That’s John Lennon!”

Moran was driving with Bill Gamble. As they went through the streets to Roosevelt Hospital, Moran looked in the backseat and said, “Are you John Lennon?” The guy in the back nodded and groaned.

Back on Seventy-second Street, somebody told Palma, “Take the woman.” And a shaking woman, another victim’s wife, crumpled into the backseat as Palma started for Roosevelt Hospital. She said nothing to the two cops and they said nothing to her. Homicide is not a talking matter.

Jim Moran, with John Lennon in the backseat, was on the radio as he drove to the hospital. “Have paramedics meet us at the emergency entrance,” he called. When he pulled up to the hospital, they were waiting for him with a cart. As Lennon was being wheeled through the doors into the emergency room, the doctors were on him.

“John Lennon,” somebody said.

“Yes, it is,” Moran said.

Now Tony Palma pulled up to the emergency entrance. He let the woman out and she ran to the doors. Somebody called to Palma, “That’s Yoko Ono.”

“Yeah?” Palma said.

“They just took John Lennon in,” the guy said.

Palma walked into the emergency room. Moran was there already. The doctors had John Lennon on a table in a trauma room, working on the chest, inserting tubes.

Tony Palma said to himself, I don’t think so. Moran shook his head. He thought about his two kids, who know every one of the Beatles’ big tunes. And Jim Moran and Tony Palma, older now, cops in a world with no fun, stood in the emergency room as John Lennon, whose music they knew, whose music was known everywhere on earth, became another person who died after being shot with a gun on the streets of New York.