That's Why the Lady Was a Champ

12/29/2010 07:57 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

This is a special tale from long ago, when newspaper newsrooms were like giant ashtrays furnished with battered desks, creaky chairs and computers the size of Volkswagens. Some retired reporters are still glowing green from the rads generated by those early machines.

We're talking thirty years ago. The New York Post was at its noisiest and the cast of characters who put it together were just as loud. Cape-wearing Brits, flower-in-the-lapel Australians and side-of-the-mouth New Yorkers clashed in the world's lowest-rent newsroom down on South Street.

Everybody smoked - cigars, cigarettes, even a pipe smoker or two. The floor was springy underfoot from all those cigarette butts that nobody had bothered to sweep up since Alexander Hamilton was running the paper. You didn't have to be a smoker in that newsroom to develop lung trouble. All you had to do was breathe.

The language was every bit as foul as the air, and that's what made a reporter named Georgiana Pine so special. "Georgie," as we all knew her, had high cheekbones and a wonderful smile. She wrote like a dream and never stooped to vulgarity. She never even raised her voice.

Understand that keeping calm and cool in that newsroom was like trying to keep your First Holy Communion suit clean at a mud wrestling competition. Somehow, Georgie did it.

With her talent it was inevitable that Georgie would rise at the Post. Sure enough, she got the nod to edit the Friday afternoon paper. It was a big deal for a woman to land a gig like that at the Post, especially back then. Tabloid journalism reeks of testosterone. A little perfume was in order.

I take you now to a Friday afternoon at the New York Post, circa 1980. Georgie was on the desk, working alongside an ink-stained wretch I'll call Alan Whitney because, well, that was his name.

I sat directly in front of them, working the phones. That was my job - I was the ear of the New York Post, listening to anybody with a story, a complaint or a threat. What a job - but that's a tale for another time.

Anyway, Whitney had been writing headlines and laying out pages at the Post for years, a brilliant guy with a bullying streak. He could make a copyboy wish he'd never been born if the poor kid messed up his lunch order.

And as an old-school guy, Whitney was probably not overjoyed to be putting out the next day's paper with a woman.

It looked like it was going to be a quiet shift, but that's how it always looks when big things happen.

Suddenly, the police radio crackled with a bulletin - a cop had been shot! Reporters and photographers rushed to the scene. The phones rang like crazy.

Georgie was handling it beautifully, but Whitney was on a rampage. Apparently he didn't think Georgie was getting the job done fast enough. He turned to her and made some nasty, cutting remark.

I'll never forget what happened next. Georgie Pine absorbed Whitney's abuse, then looked him in the eye and responded with two words of her own. Words I'd never heard her speak before.

Now these two words refer to the reproductive act, but there was nothing loving about them. It's one thing to hear them screamed. Hearing them spoken softly was truly unique and amazingly effective. Boy, was it effective!

Whitney sat back as if he'd been hit in the chest with a medicine ball. The newsroom fell silent for a moment, and then the clacking of keyboards resumed.

We had a paper to get out, and that's why Georgie Pine said what she said. She was a pro who just wanted to do her job. And she did - it was a real hot-off-the-presses edition, right out of the movies.

When the shift was over I had to speak up. "Nice work, Georgie," I said. She winked at me. She knew what I was talking about.

It's one of my favorite newspaper memories. It's not a triumph for feminism, it's a triumph for decency, a David and Goliath story.

And I bring it up now because my good friend Georgie Pine died the other day after a long illness at the age of 83, in the arms of her beautiful daughter Leslie. I saw Georgie last summer and she was as lovely as ever.

By the way, Alan Whitney died a few years ago.

I don't know if there's a heaven, or if there's a set of Pearly Gates in front of heaven, but if there is a set of Pearly Gates and Alan Whitney happens to be standing near them, I say this to his spirit:

Open those gates, Alan. There's a lady coming through.

Charlie Carillo's latest novel is "One Hit Wonder." He's a TV producer at "Inside Edition."