I could run for elective office if I so chose. Even in retirement, after more than 40 years as a TV and radio news reporter I’m sufficiently recognizable that I could put my name up for election. I don’t have a lot of skeletons in my closet. Certainly none scandalous enough to draw attention.

Nonetheless, I felt it was time to come clean about the addiction I have not been able to shed. I steal pens.

I am a pen thief.

My reputation precedes me into the offices of public officials, religious leaders, doctors, lawyers, business, and law enforcement. I am welcome with smiles and handshakes — but the pens are locked away.

My pen thievery is the stuff of legend, admired by icons like “Tip” O’Neill, the late Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. “Tip” and I once swapped anecdotes about the quality of watches and pens on “The Hill”. He actually once double dared me.


Having swiped pens from Scotland Yard, the Vatican, Buckingham Palace, state houses, city halls, and other high-profile venues, I set my sites on the biggest of all: The Oval Office.

I’d already established a rapport with then-President Clinton. He knew and liked me. I had it planned. A one-on-one interview with no one else in the big room. I diverted the President’s attention and reached for one of his elegant pens — only to find him staring at me. Smiling.

“We know all about you, Garry”, President Clinton smiled cheerily.

Garry and Marilyn at President Clinton’s party on Martha’s Vineyard

Turns out the good pens had been stashed and replaced by cheap, discount ones that dried up after a few uses. I later found out some of my best political contacts — on both sides of the aisle in DC — had joined in a bi-partisan move to warn the President about the notorious pen thief from Boston.

Being a legend isn’t as easy as it looks.

Categories: Anecdote, Garry Armstrong, Humor

Tags: , , ,

39 replies

  1. Awesome! Loved the post and can’t wait to ‘see’ you pen collection. 🙂


  2. When you and Marilyn get here, in January, I’m gonna put all the “pen cups” out in plain sight so you can have your way with them. Or, is part of the game the stealth factor? We could do it like an Easter Egg hunt if that’s preferable. Just let me know one way or the other?

    All, I’m saying’ is PULEEEZE take some of the damn things as I’ve had my own problems with “pen pilfering”. Then again, maybe I don’t possess enough personal celebrity and my pens just don’t do it for you?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just a warning. Garry will automatically steal ANY pen. But he covets high quality pens. Recently, we finally ran out of stolen ones and had to buy a box of bics. It was humiliating.

      Liked by 2 people

    • It’s not the same with an old friend. For instance, I had to summon up courage to ask for that “legends” cap that you so kindly gave me on our last visit.
      I could extend professional courtesy if I see something in your pen collection I like.
      You should, however, keep your eyes on Marilyn.
      I won’t take the fall for her. She’s counting on that. She’s good. very good.
      Yes, I love her. But it’s not good for pen thieves anywhere.
      I’ll be waiting in 20 years when she gets out.


  3. Wow, you’re a pen thief legend! We’re not worthy, we’re not worthy… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was the worlds biggest lighter thief, no lighter was ever safe. Gold, silver, plastic…I took them all. Never on purpose, it was something I just did. Never knew how my own lighter actually looked like, had a different one every day, they had no meaning to me. Now I can’t find a lighter in the house nowhere. Should have kept one when I gave up smoking.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Congratulations. I am sure you have a good collection. I am a spoon thief, but only from airlines. They look quite good and it is so easy to let one fall into your bag. I have never been caught.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I guess they must like a trophy? Do you keep them in a special box with all the details about them?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have no famous pens (sniffle) and I’d tend to use them anyway. And if I don’t use them I lose them. We’re big Bic fans around here.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I know what a reputation can do to you. I was unbeatable at table tennis while in the Air Force. My reputation preceded me when I’d go to a new base. It got so bad they started cancelling tournaments if they heard I was heading their way. I hated the mentality that had players give up before ever seeing me play. Cowardly!

    I’ll bet your pen collection is mighty! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I figured all of the pens in the Oval Office were already cheap and dried up after a few uses given how many it takes for the President just to put his signature on a single bill. They probably cost a fortune in taxpayer money as well. Now I feel it was a lost opportunity to not try swiping a pen from Regis when I was on Millionaire back in 2001…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Squirrel, sounds like you passed on a good opportunity. Regis would’ve probably posed with you and given you a Kathy Lee Gifford souvenir as a bonus.


  10. You must have been notorious if the President knew all about you :). Have you got them all in a collection or was it just about the theft?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tas, I was notorious and proud of it. I still have some of them but notice a few are missing. You think we have a thief in the house? There’s a line from Eli “Calvera” Wallach in “The Magnificent Seven”.
      ‘A thief who steals from a thief is pardoned a thousand times’.
      It’s always about the heist.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. What did Tip O’Neill say? All pen stealing is local.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi, my name is Garry and I’m a pen thief. Crowd responds {{Hi Garry!}} Is there a Pen Thief Anonymous locally you could attend? Never to late to attempt change.

    On the other hand… do you keep them in a display cabinet? If so, I presume pictures will be forthcoming? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I am often amazed at the poor quality pens presidents use to sign various pieces of legislation. It seems that after every letter they give the pen to someone and use another!!! They must be buying them at the dollar store. Oh … they’re souvenir pens used for the signing and then given to folks you say … now i get it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Go, ahead, DC. Do what all the others did for years. Blame it on me. Once there were quality pens on the desks of the high and the mighty. Now, no more. This post was inspired by an episode of “House of Cards” in which presidential pens were involved in a high stakes gambit. Art imitates life.

      Liked by 1 person

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