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. Maybe, given the way times have changed, I don’t have enough skeletons, but that’s a conversation for another day.
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.
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.