My Dad died last week.
He loved martinis, women named Joan, a breaking news story, and books. In 1975, he had to give up the martinis, because, as it turned out, he loved them too much. Then, he loved God.
Which, I have discovered, can be just as intoxicating.
He was an over-the-top guy and made sure you knew it. He was not cool. He was hot. And like most non-cool, hot, over-the-top guys in this "too school for cool" era of phony understatement, he was teased for it.
We could use a little hot today. From a president, who is way too cool. And from a culture, which has turned cool into a synonym for smart.
Which it decidedly is not.
He had a high school education and about a year of college. He was what the old timers call a "newspaperman." Not a "journalist" or "broadcaster" or "personality" or, God forbid, "talking head." He worked for the Daily News, one of New York City's two remaining tabloid newspapers, for twelve years, from 1950 to 1962. And then for WNBC-TV in New York and NBC News for the next twenty-five.
He loved the news business. And it loved him back. He was the first newspaperman in NYC to report that Mafia kingpin Frank Costello had been killed. In the "if it bleeds, it leads" tabloids, this was a big deal. Most of us remember "Houston, we have a problem" because Tom Hanks said it in the movie Apollo 13. Daddy actually heard it late one night over the Mission Control radio as he covered that space shot from the Johnson Space Center outside Houston.
He never won a Pulitzer. In fact, he probably gave one up. He crossed a police line at a murder scene in the '50s one day because, as a beefy Irish guy, everyone at that time thought he was a cop. When the real cops kicked him out, he grabbed the wrong trench coat. It belonged to one of the Chiefs at the NYPD's Division of Internal Affairs. In the pocket was a list of all the corrupt cops the NYPD was then investigating.
He gave the list back.
So long Pulitzer.
He was also over the top in his imperfections. Because he loved those martinis for too long, he missed Cub Scouts, Little League, most of his first marriage (to my mom), and a good chunk of his paycheck.
But he conquered that demon as well.
And then was passionate about the conquest.
To a defrocked, alcoholic priest who he sponsored to recovery in "the program," as all the AA guys and gals affectionately call it, he was that guy's Jesus.
Which, all teasing aside, is pretty amazing when you consider the source.
In my teens, long before Tim Russert wrote any books, he was "Big Bob." Not because he was all that big. He just couldn't be missed. He wouldn't let you.
Now he is.