Friday, March 27, 2009
Last night I went to a retirement party. Howard Smith, one of our managing editors, retired. It is wonderful to go to these parties because you hear all kinds of stories about the person retiring. And in the case of Howard Smith the stories were top quality.
Howard Smith may be retiring but he is not a retiring person!
Ha, ha! How is that for only 7 a.m. and on my first cup of coffee?
There is one story about Howard Smith that is legend. I remember hearing it when I was new at The Buffalo News. Someone passed it on to me then. It is like great oral tradition. And I have kept this story with me and told it here and there but I had not retained the name. Until last night I had not realized it was Howard Smith.
The story is that someone called the paper mad about something.
And this editor who I now find out was Howard Smith told the person: "I'm sorry, you leave me no choice but to cancel your subscription."
I say that is genius. That is why when Howard Smith made his speech and ended it with: "If anyone ever wants to finish off a bottle of Scotch, I'm around," I thought: Yes! I would love to drink Scotch sometime with Howard Smith. It is an honor to know the man who can claim that legendary quote. Plus Howard Smith has always been nice to me even though he is famous for being the paper's longtime sports editor and I do not know one team from another. I am serious. Whenever I am so unfortunate as to have to go to a game, it will be halfway through the game and I will whisper ashamedly to someone: "So, which team is ours? Are we the blue or the red?" But Howard Smith is nice to me anyway.
Another Howard Smith story. Bob Summers told this one. Bob Summers is our longtime horse racing columnist. I wish when Leonard Pennario was in Buffalo, that I could have introduced him to Bob. Because Pennario, he loved his horse racing. For years he crowned the winners at Del-Mar, did Leonard, which, you cannot say the same about Sviatoslav Richter.
Heck of a pianist, Richter. But you could not picture him crowning the winners at a horse race, is all I am saying.
Bob told this story about a caller who rang The News' sports department and asked, "When is the World Series?" He said probably the caller was planning his vacation or something.
Bob did not know the answer right off so he went to look it up.
Howard Smith said, "What are you doing?"
Bob said, "A caller wants to know when the World Series is."
Howard Smith said, "Tell him to go @8#@$(*@*."
I cannot write what Howard Smith said exactly because this is a refined blog about Leonard Pennario and let me tell you this, famous concert pianists read it.
But it was so out of bounds that you had to love Howard for saying it!
Former mayor Tony Masiello ...
... was at the party with his wife, Kate. You know how sometimes you have this thing going on when you are always underfoot? That was my situation lastnight with Tony Masiello. I kept bumping into him and stuff and once when he was blocking an aisle talking to someone I was trying to get past him with a huge plate of food.
Finally he said to me, "Who are you, anyway?"
He did not say it quite in those words but that was the gist of it. Because we had never been introduced. He was so graceful and I felt so clumsy! But now I am laughing about it.
Also at the party was our current Mayor, Byron Brown.
He said hello to me, by name! In front of our political reporter, Bob McCarthy! I gloried in that. Who matters in this town? The Leonard Pennario biographer, that is who.
That made me feel better.