MEETING THE MOB: A PARTY FOR THE GANGSTERS OF MEDIA – Garry Armstrong

MEETING THE MOB AT FLORIAN HALL

Once a year, we gather to catch up.  It’s time for the getting together and annual partaking of the M.O.B. party. It’s the Media Of Boston where everyone who used to be someone and more than a few people who still are someone, get together and remember news — the funny, the weird, the crazy, and the scary stuff they covered during Boston’s news history.

Garry and Harvey Leonard, famed meteorologist sharing old Dodger baseball memories

I usually don’t go to these things. Part of it is that we are out in the boonies and all these events are in Boston or Dorchester. It’s a long drive through heavy traffic. As a general rule, I can’t find my way anywhere anymore. I never really could, but now that we don’t live in or near the city, it’s worse.

Lots of pictures of “the old days”

Marilyn promised to come with me this year, acting as my ears (she just went around telling everyone to yell in my left ear and oddly, that worked), and as my navigator which mostly meant yelling out the directions from the GPS. It’s not loud enough. Almost nothing is loud enough.

Andy announced dinner about to be served!

In past years,  most of us were competitors at Boston’s major TV News Departments, radio stations, and newspapers. Unlike media elsewhere, we always had a sense of respect, camaraderie between us — even though we all chased the scoops in one of the most  competitive major news markets in the country.

Three guys hanging out!

Careers overlap the end of radio news dominance, the transition from film to electronic news gathering. Some of us began working with elders from the Murrow Boys’ days. Our careers included covering the assassinations of political and social legends,  the Vietnam War, volatile court ordered school busing and integration,  Anti-Nuclear Power demonstrations, Watergate, Three Mile Island and the AIDS epidemic. The end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st saw an explosion of news coverage to match events like 9/11 and beyond.

Birth twins! Garry with Delores Handy (Brown) – both born April 7th!

Many of those at our newsies gathering have put their lives on the line —  multiple times — in pursuit of the truth which is often ridiculed by some public officials.

Charlie and Irene Ballantine – caught off-guard at the table!

The faces are probably familiar to those who have turned to the Boston media for news coverage for the past half a century.  Critics who have questioned their ethics have faded from public view as new crises demand instant and intensive coverage 24/7.

Something to drink?

Some of these careers began with Dwight Eisenhower in the Oval House,  John F.Kennedy as the Junior Massachusetts Senator and Mayor Kevin Hagen White overseeing the transformation of Boston into a world-class city that would host celebrated Tall Ships festivals,  court ordered school integration and a mega-expensive architectural “do” known as “The Big Dig”.

Garry, Lester, and Harvey. Someone is really tall!

Those of a certain age will remember some of these faces as young reporters and photographers who spent the best years of their lives covering stories that are now archive material.

You may not know some of the faces.  Many are behind the cameras that bring you haunting images of the news that never stops. They are reporters who never get their due respect. They’re part of the reason that Boston News coverage is highly respected around the world.

Many of us were bright-eyed idealists when we began our Boston careers. The city and New England region are journalistic gold mines and have been well paved over the years by those seeking journalistic treasure.

You’re looking at many ink-stained wretches who’ve been recognized for their diligent work.  Pulitzer, Emmy and other prestigious awards dot the homes of many of these folks who have devoted their lives to finding the truth, a job that is harder than ever in today’s political climate.

Our stories get bigger with each passing year.  We remember the facts but, in many cases,  prefer to “print the legend”.  We tend to remember our gaffes, the “egg in our faces” stories that go with any lengthy career. We smile at the recollection of our youthful energy and pursuit of stories that would top the likes of Watergate.

Garry and Fred Ward sharing stories

Amid the laughter of shared adventures, we remember those colleagues we’ve lost in the past year. Their images linger in our collective and personal sense memories.

Most of all, we agree, bad times aside,  we’ve been lucky to have spent years pursuing one of the best jobs on the face of the earth.


NOTE: Marilyn took pictures. Not enough and not as good as they should be — but she says she had the wrong camera. And it was hard to get people to stay put long enough to get a good shot. Also, there were so many cameras everywhere (what a surprise! with all those camera people and there were a lot of cameras!), she figured there would plenty of pictures getting taken, even if she personally didn’t take them.

FOLLOWING CHAPPAQUIDDICK – Garry Armstrong

Chappaquiddick was one of the stories I covered in 1969, that memorable turn of the road year for so many people.

I first covered “Chappy”  for ABC News.  I was just a back up newsie for the network reporter.  Steve Bell, I think.  Tommy would remember him.  Bell introduced me to all the people we interviewed. I tried to keep the names with the faces.  Teddy, Rose, Ethel, Eunice, Sarge , as well as many of the young women Ellin Curley mentioned in her post.

I kept a low profile,  taking notes for Bell so he could move around more easily.  I didn’t say much of anything to anyone. Ted usually greeted me with “Hey, there!”  That was his normal greeting for most people.

He was bad with names. Years later, I would prank him about that.

There was an obvious “Kennedy line” between them and us.  Steve Bell was a gracious reporter, knowing when to not be pushy.  Steve also covered Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, so we had a bond. He trusted me — unlike some of his other ABC colleagues.  I (ironically) heard some of the Kennedys talking after Steve would wrap an interview.

Chappaquiddick Bridge (2007)

I was pretty much invisible to them.  They were nervous about some of the questions.  Sarge Shriver was always hovering, making sure our drinks were refilled.

ABC’s take on “Chappy”  left me with many unanswered questions.

The Kopechne family was guarded, suspicious of the media and its Kennedy bias.  Rumors flew about older reporters on the take from Daddy Joe Kennedy.  They were just rumors for me.  I never had any factual knowledge of hinky stuff.  I met old Joe once at a cocktail party on the Hyannisport compound.  He was distant but not rude.  Someone had apparently whispered to him about me. I never found out what.

I next met the Kennedys during my brief tenure as co-anchor at Ch-18 News in Hartford. Ch 18 was a small RKO-General station. I was the token Black guy and the first one to anchor in that market.  Whenever something “sensitive” came up,  I would be dispatched to cover it.

Kennedy compound – Hyannisport

There was a “Chappy” anniversary.  I was sent to the Hyannisport compound.  This time,  I wasn’t invisible. Many congratulated me on my promotion to co-anchor and said they liked my work.  I didn’t buy any of it so I just smiled.  They seemed to favor me out of the horde of reporters from around the world. Big names like Rather,  Brokaw,  Frank Reynolds, Donaldson, and so on.

Garry and Tip O’Neill

The stars were upset with the favoritism they thought I was getting from the Kennedys. I continued to smile.  In truth, the family was just re-wrapping the same stories I was told when I was with ABC.  They made me the “local favored TV newsie.” Newspapers ran with the same crap.  Ch-18 loved it and milked it for months until Channel 7 in Boston came beckoning for me.

Over the years, I did numerous Kennedy stories.  They always treated me with respect because I didn’t overtly push the line.  I used sources for that stuff and feigned ignorance when confronted about my involvement.

The Kennedy men

Ted Kennedy became one of those people I would describe as a “good acquaintance,” but not a friend.  We were on first name basis — when he could remember my name.  He sometimes frequented the same bar used by Tip O’Neill, myself, other pols and media.

Tip always assured Ted that I was a good guy, one you could trust.  I always bought the next round for Tip, and the next. Tip was the real deal.  I am flattered he thought well of me.

“Chappy” never came up in those social situations. Ted would sometimes bitch about media bias but always apologize to me.  I always smiled.

So,  that’s my “Chappy” back story.  It’ll be interesting to see what they’ve done with the film.  I have a friend who did background work for it.  I’ll have to hit him up for gossip.

JUST ANOTHER COUPLE OF THINGS – Garry Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: One of these things…


Photo: Garry Armstrong – Two posts, two mailboxes. Well, it’s almost a matched set.

Marilyn couldn’t find a mismatched set, unless you count she and I or the dogs. This was as close as we could get. Two posts — no boxes. And two very mismatched mailboxes.

FOR GARRY AT 76

As we get older, birthdays are less refreshing and less like a hope for the future. So I thought I might offer you a poem slightly more relevant than the usual love poem. Something to which we can both relate.

A little poem for our future. Together.



But on a good day, on a warm, dry day … suddenly, we feel downright peppy and we can move around just like we used to!

Think Arizona! Think summer without humidity! Thing young because you will always be young to me.

GARRY ARMSTRONG REVIEWS “THE TEN COMMANDMENTS”

We did our annual viewing of “The Ten Commandments” last night. It’s an annual rite of Spring and Easter Eve here.

We watched on our hinky DVD. The discs and the player are so hinky and old that we had glitches in the climactic scenes as Moses, Moses and the freed slaves begin their bigly Pilgrimage out of Egypt. We could have watched on ABC, but they have a gazillion commercials. Not in the mood for all that advertising time.

The movie

“Ten Commandments” really is a fun event thanks to Cecil B, beginning with his on-stage intro. The curtains seemed to open slower this year. Could be the hinky DVD or maybe the curtains open slower with each passing view. We always appreciate Cecil’s humility. I’m surprised he didn’t include himself as one of the on site contributors to the events in his bigly classic.

There is so much to appreciate if you just let yourself go and enjoy as a guilty pleasure. The humongous cast. Especially the featured players in very small size print as the open credits role. I never spot Clint Walker, who I suspect was one of Rameses’ body guards. Woodrow “Woody” Strode is obvious as the Nubian King who comes to pay tribute to Pharaoh (Sir Cedric Hardwicke). I don’t know who played the sexy Nubian Queen who obviously drew the scorn of Anne Baxter. She was clearly aware that once you go Black you never go back.

Lawrence Dobkin, with a wonderful toupee, has a lot of face time as one of Moses, Moses confidantes. Dobkin, you mavens surely know, was a busy chrome dome in 50’s television. Ditto Michael “Cochise” Ansara as an Egyptian Guard. I don’t think Ansara had any lines, just a few grunts and yells.

I scanned Anne Baxter’s cortege of scantily clad girl friends. No familiar faces but they were bigly bodacious. No “sisters” in Anne’s gang. No wonder she was jealous of the Nubian Queen.

Eddie G. Robinson probably had a blast as the nefarious Dathan, a toga and sandals version of Enrico Bandetti and Johnny Rocco. Eddie G “played” everyone with that smirky smile. He and Vinnie Price were a marvelous villainous duo. Vinnie was the syndicate “John” and Eddie, the pimp.

John Carradine always looks befuddled as Aaron who takes the fall for anything that Moses, Moses screws up.

Debra Paget, the central casting White Indian Princess, is the so fetching and vulnerable damsel who will do ANYTHING for John Derek’s Joshua. ANYTHING. Wonder if she did a Playboy spread for Derek? Debra preceded Ursula Andress, Linda Evans and Bo Derek in Joshua’s photography studio.

For all our jibes, Cecil B’s special effects are still impressive in our CGI era. The Red Sea parting alone is worth a rally of cheers.

Charlton Heston and the 10 commandments

A quickie question: Why weren’t Moses, Moses hands burned when he picked up the two ten commandments plaques after God just burned them into the rocks? Follow up question: Who did the voice of God? This was way before Morgan Freeman’s time.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

ODDBALLS AND STRANGENESS – GARRY & MARILYN ARMSTRONG

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: March 18, 2018

Snowy selfie – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Oddballs. I have been taking a lot of strange pictures in the house. The outside has been difficult to negotiates. Garry, though, has been out there, frozen fingers and all. Kudos to him!

Although a lot of snow has melted, especially on areas that get a lot of sun, there’s still plenty around elsewhere.

Two happy dogs! Photo: Garry Armstrong

The woods is full of snow and along the road, there are huge piles of it created by the plows.

Recycling only please! Photo Garry Armstrong
Gibbs fully enjoying snowstorm

It’s a good time to follow Gibbs’ lead: enjoy the sofa. Have another cup of coffee!

Warm inside, snow outside

 

BICYCLES IN BLACK & WHITE – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge:  Bikes of Any Kind

The Bike Show

It turned out that every picture we have that shows bicycles is a Garry Armstrong special. I know there are a few more, but Marilyn could only find one. The rest of the bicycle photographs seem to have vanished into the huge collection of photographs.