You could walk down the gymnasium from the sports dialect in those years at the Daily News, and there was Jimmy Breslin in one bureau and Pete Hamill in the other, and all this cigar smoke and cigarette smoke in between them, and genius, and all the sorcery that done all of us wish to write for newspapers in the first place. The soundtrack, always, was the stately sound of their typewriters.
“If you don’t blow your horn,” Jimmy favourite to say, “there is no music.”
But Jimmy Breslin never compulsory self-promotion, as much as he favourite to broadcast himself “JB, Number One” in his path voice, with all his big-city strut and brio. All you ever indispensable to do was review him, really from the time he got a mainstay at the old New York Herald Tribune and changed the business perpetually with the force of his talent and stating and humor; and his ability, as he once told me, in as contemplative a moment as we can remember from him, as he tried to report what it was he did, to find “eloquence in simplicity.”
There was never anyone like him. There will never be anyone like him, now that he is gone at 88.
“You know, it’s just an respect for me to do this,” Clifton Pollard told Breslin at the finish of the many famous journal mainstay ever written, the one about Pollard digging the grave for President John F. Kennedy in Nov of 1963, one now taught in broadcasting schools.
But the loyal honor, always, was reading Breslin, at the Herald Tribune and at The News and New York Newsday, and in all his books, starting with his first big one, “Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?”
When they finally got around to awarding him the Pulitzer Prize, it was since Breslin, some-more than anyone else at that indicate in America, had finally put names and faces to AIDS patients. More importantly, he did something else: Jimmy gave them a voice. His.
There has never been a voice utterly like it in newspapers. It was perfectly his own. He was the producer of his city who climbed stairs and knocked on doors and found ways to take the biggest stories and tell them by such as Clifton Pollard; who could tell you with one judgment about the loyal definition of a singular comfortless death in New York, as if he had delivered a white paper on crime with these 6 words:
“Dies the victim, dies the city.”
But Jimmy Breslin was some-more than just New York, as much as he was New York. He went to London when Churchill was failing and to Vietnam and to Selma, where he wrote from marches and from churches and done you feel as if you were there. As shining as the mainstay on Clifton Pollard is, go back currently and review “A Death in Emergency Room One,” about a alloy named Malcolm Perry treating John Kennedy when Kennedy was first brought to the Dallas hospital that day.
Here are just a few paragraphs of that, in the business that Hamill has always described as “history in a hurry”:
“John Kennedy had already been nude of his jacket, shirt, and T-shirt, and a staff alloy was starting to place a tube called an endotracht down the throat. Oxygen would be forced down the endotracht. Breathing was the first thing to attack. The boss was not breathing.
“Malcolm Perry unbuttoned his dim blue glen-plaid coupler and threw it onto the floor. He held out his hands while the helper helped him put on gloves.
“The president, Perry thought. He’s bigger than we suspicion he was.”
I knew Jimmy Breslin from the time we was 20 years old. we can contend that he done me wish to do this kind of work for a vital and all that does is put me in a bar about as tiny as the U.S. Marine Corps. But he did. we met him in Cambridge, Mass., when we was at Boston College, at the home of my crony Michael Daly’s father. His old boss James Bellows was using the Washington Star, and indispensable a immature columnist. But we didn’t wish to go to Washington. we wanted to go to New York. Breslin and Hamill were there.
Then we was operative with him at the Daily News, on 42nd St., between Second and Third, past the hulk creation in the lobby, the one you saw in the “Superman” movies, and then up to the seventh floor. Suddenly all I’d ever wanted to be was just down that hall.
“I suspicion he would just go on and on forever,” Pete Hamill pronounced on Sunday morning after he got the news. And Jimmy’s widow, Ronnie Eldridge, a former member of the City Council and a New Yorker of the top arrange herself, said, “He was a presence, wasn’t he?”
In his last years, he was still essay away. You’d call him on the write and ask what he was doing and he’d yell, “Working!” If he called you, the conversation, on his end, would always start the same way:
And so mostly it would finish with this:
He was Jimmy Breslin, who wrote waggish books about the Mets, and the mob, but who knew such pain in his own life; who buried his first wife, Rosemary, and a daughter named Rosemary, a smashing author herself, and his other daughter Kelly. Somehow he kept going and kept coming. They chased him out of Crown Heights one night when things were bad there. Still he kept coming. And kept writing, even in the late rounds.
“It is a day,” Pete Hamill said, “to both weep and celebrate.”
The columns come rushing out of the past on this day, out of memory: A mainstay he wrote once about the good show thespian Marian Anderson, and her farewell concert, and a note using around Carnegie Hall that let everybody know who was singing.
The night he wrote about his dear crony Mario Cuomo’s keynote residence at the Democratic Convention in 1984, and Cuomo reaching out to the country with his ballplayer’s hands. And the pretentious mainstay he wrote, on deadline, by the eyes of cops, about the night John Lennon died.
A lifetime of work like that, from the path up. A voice, silenced now, that is as famous, and as much his own, as any his city has ever produced. So go back and review him today. Celebrate that way, with a book or an old column. It is the best way to respect the good Jimmy Breslin. The only way. Yeah. He was here.