For most people life is short no matter how long you live. Hopefully, along the way you meet certain people who make your life better and will always remain in your memories.
I first met Kirby in 1978 when I was sitting at home with a cast up to my butt after having my Achilles tendon reattached from a racquetball injury. The best man at my wedding, John Premack, brought him by my Roslindale apartment while checking in on me. I remember Kirby telling me a few years later he saw this fat guy walking around on crutches and wondered how I could have ever won two Pulitzers.
Kirby began as a “lumper,” which meant working with the photographers and carrying their tripod and lights, basically the photographer’s bitch. He didn’t mind as he had big plans for himself. He was just working his way around to the front of the camera and he went onto become one of Boston’s premier reporters. I began working with him in 1983, when I switched from the newspaper to TV news.
Kirby became one of my favorite reporters to work with along Martha Raddatz (formerly Bradlee), Susan Wornick, and Jack Harper. There have been many others I enjoyed working with but if forced to choose those 4 were my favorites. Kirby was especially fun as he was smart and always willing to go with discovery as discovery is what made him as good as it got.
Although he did not like spot news the way I do, he learned to go with the flow. One day we were in Medford on a story when I heard on the scanner a child was shot in Lynn. The last place Kirby wanted to go to would be this story but he sucked it up and did a great job.
Another time when we were looking for something to cover we ended up in Revere for several hours as an armed man was barricaded behind a door in an apartment building. Those were the days when I knew most of the Revere cops and Kirby and I were on the 3rd floor just outside of the apartment where negotiations went on. My camera batteries did not last long and Kirby had to keep going down from the third floor to my car and get fresh batteries and tapes for me. He kept a straight face and ended up doing about a 4-minute piece of the incident. In the end Captain Bill Gannon got onto the man’s apartment from an outside deck by climbing from one apartment to the next and charging into the apartment and capturing the man. The suspect had a rifle, which could have taken us all out. The piece sang and was compelling from beginning to end.
Then there was the time Kirby had kidney stones and he researched procedures for treatment and we found ourselves with him in a tub of water at the MGH getting sonic blasts into his body while I filmed it all. Kirby was shy so getting in and out on camera in his bathing suit was probably harder to do then bare the pain of the stones.
He was so shy and when we would be in an elevator in a building I would go to work and introduce him to all the people in the elevator. Boy, did he hate that but I loved doing it.
He loved politics and especially loved going to Boston City Hall where he covered 3 Mayors of Boston (I have covered 4 as John Collins was still in office when I started).
He used the video of Kevin White running across the Boston Common so often it wore out the emulsion of the tape.
When Ray Flynn was resigning as Mayor to become Ambassador to the Vatican he stood on City Hall Plaza and said in his live shot “Elvis has left the building!” Oh, the bosses did not like that one.Flynn leaving office wasn’t a bad thing for his favorite Mayor, Mayor Forever, Tom Menino, with whom he had a special relationship. During one awful winter in the early 90s when people could not get out of their houses or drive down the streets of Boston we did a story on snow plowing in the City. It was the year the Globe compared the snow level to a Celtics basketball player’s height when measuring the inches of snow. We went to the Mayor’s home area in Readville and Kirby climbed up to the top of at least a 15-foot snow pile and did his stand-up. We then went to City hall to ask Mayor Menino what grade does the Mayor think he got that winter on clearing the streets of Boston. Mayor Menino looked at Kirby and gave his very humble opinion, “A minus,” with his great big smile.
In his own words he dared to call Dapper O’Neil a racist and to call Whacko Hurley, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Czar, a Whacko. Don’t think Dapper wouldn’t call him out every time he saw him after that, yelling “Hey Perkins” in his very loud obnoxious voice! Kirby smiled and ignored him.
When I was on my popcorn binge (one big bag a day) he would occasional buy me one just so he could poke fun at me. One day he went into a coffee shop to get himself a beverage and when he came back I had already finished the bag of popcorn. He could not believe I could have eaten this bag so quickly so I told him I spilled it by mistake. He believed me, I think. From then I was known as the popcorn man to his daughter Alexis.
Deep down, he was really a West Coast hippie from the ‘60s. He loved to tell people how he lived in his Volkswagen bus while going to school at UCLA. Boy, did he hate snowstorms and cold weather, but he loved the fact that snowstorms meant he could wear his college sweatshirt. His winter gloves came out as soon as the leaves began falling. Colored leaves meant warmer clothes for Kirby.
His father in-law Andy Rooney, a long time holder of New York Giants season tickets, would invite Kirby to a game every year and every year Kirby would dread how cold he was going to be. I took him to Hilton’s Tent City where he bought the warmest boots he could find but of course he left them home when he drove down to New York for the game.
He used to carry cash all the time going to the bank on Monday’s and filling his wallet with what he needed. You must remember it was already the late 80s and everyone had a debit card to get their cash out of a machine when needed. It took him a while but I showed him what he could do and he no longer needed to cash that check once a week.
He was a great barbeque man and got me sway from using lighter fluid to start my charcoals and bought me my first “kettle” for heating the coals. He told me he used to throw in different woods for flavor on top of his charcoals and even used to eat his salads after the meal, European style. I never could understand that.
Governor Mario Cuomo was rumored to be running for President of the U.S. and Kirby and I got on the road for a three-hour ride to Albany, NY. We walked in during the middle of a press conference the Governor was holding. Cuomo looked up and Kirby said “We are here from Boston to see if you are going to run for President!” Cuomo looked at him and started discussing the Red Sox of which Kirby was a big fan. All the other reporters just sat and watched. Cuomo, by the way, did not discuss anything doing with running for President. Kirby could talk to anyone intelligently.
A Red Sox fan he was and he loved Mo Vaughn. He was his favorite, knew all of his statistics and the statistics of most of everyone else on the team. He used to bet his colleague Jack Harper who was a big Baltimore fan every year on something to do with the two teams.
We had this gig called “Car Five,” it was about Kirby letting me drive where I wanted, listen to the radios and Kirby looking for interesting stuff. We were on Dudley Street in Roxbury when he saw an apartment complex with sneakers hanging from the power lines. Next thing I know we were out of the car talking with the neighbors, making a great story. Shortly after the story, the City cleaned up their junkyard back yard and we were off to the next one.
Another day he sees a hut in Dorchester and this man half clothed sort of drunk and the conversation begins. Another great story, another Car Five in the books.
Our best one though was Mrs. Penta. We took one of our many rides to my old haunts in Revere. We were driving around my old neighborhood and I see this woman, Mrs. Penta. Kirby says “stop the car” and the conversation begins. We walked around the neighborhood with her, came back to her house on another day and then we did this outstanding piece of where I grew up and what the neighborhood had become. It was everyone’s favorite Car Five.
We had a rhythm the way we worked. He had the mic in his hand and I could just circle him with the camera. I knew what he wanted and he knew what I was going to do. It was like magic and he took whatever I shot it made it wonderful TV. No matter whom he worked with he never complained about the video. He would just get into the editing booth and make it come together. His ego if he had one never got in the way.
Kirby loved to use compelling video multiple times in a story. If it was good he might use it two, even three times, something you don’t see anymore. He told me when he was in an editing booth he wanted to grab the audio pot away from the editor and blast the video so when it came into people’s homes and there was important sound their TVs would vibrate.
He tried to help me with my English and my eating habits. Sometimes the English lessons worked. He told me his father in-law Andy Rooney and I had one thing in common; we both ate fast. He would lecture me on eating slower so I would not be as hungry and I could lose weight. I am still trying both and losing the battle.
When he and the family moved to Connecticut he began living at Susan Wornick’s house several days during the week. He would not have her do his laundry so he brought it to a Laundromat near the station. Every so often he would call me and say “I cannot get there to take it out of the dryer.” So there I was grabbing his dried clothes for him to wear.
When his mother was in a nursing home late in her life Kirby would call her everyday, tell her how much he loved her. I loved hearing the conversation.
He loved doing homework with is daughter Alexis and having a barbeque dinner ready for Emily when she got home from work.
He was really about discovery, thus the A+ series was born. He loved going into schools and sharing the stories of high school seniors, who achieved in the midst of adversity. He brought out the best in them and they made him feel good about what he was doing. He would have been a great teacher and it is fitting that the A+ Scholarship Fund is his legacy.
The day he died, I had seen him as he was leaving work for another tennis match at a tournament he was in. He told me he was doing great and would be playing in a final.
The next morning I was walking my dogs on West Beach in Beverly and as usual carrying my two-way radio when my colleague Warren Doolin called me around 6am to tell me Kirby might be mortally ill. I went to the hospital to see him. He was lying on the bed on life support. Emily talked to him and told him his friend Stanley was here to see him and, unfortunately, there was no response we could see. I can only hope he got the message.
His father died when he was around 14 and his daughter Lexie was 14 when he died.
At his memorial, his mother in-law Marge said when Emily took him home for the first time she had never seen such a beautiful specimen of a man and not to let him get a way.
He was a wonderful man, friend, articulate, handsome, loving and never too big for his britches. He got me and I miss him and he will always be a part of my memories.
I loved that man.
A Note From Kirby’s Wife, Emily Rooney, who is host/executive editor of Greater Boston, WGBH-TV.
Kirby started A+ in the mid 90’s as a way of recognizing kids who overcame extreme odds to excel academically. While Kirby considered himself to be a “jock” he believed too much emphasis and credit was lavished upon kids who perform well in athletics as opposed to the classroom. It means a great deal to me that the scholarship was started and continues in his name now 15 years after his death. The kids are inspiring and I owe a debt of gratitude to all the CH5 people who have worked on this feature, especially David Brown.
To read more about The Kirby Perkins A+ Scholarship Fund please visit the website below:
A note from Mayor Thomas Menino:
Statement of Mayor Thomas M. Menino
Kirby Perkins A Plus Scholarship Fund Event
November 13, 2012
I want to thank all of the family and friends of the late Kirby Perkins for gathering tonight to support the scholarship fund that bears his name. In particular I want to thanks Emily Rooney and the entire Scholarship Committee for the good work you have already done awarding over 186 thousand dollars among 74 students since 1998. And thank you to Bill Fine and WCVB for hosting this event tonight and promoting the A Plus Scholarship and the student recipients on air.
Kirby was much more than a first class reporter; he was one of my closest friends. He loved politics just like I do. He was a “people person” much like I am. And his skills with email were the same as mine: nonexistent.
Seriously though, Kirby gave me some very good advice early on in my career. He told me to take the issues seriously, but not to take myself all that seriously. He told me that self-deprecation was often the best response for many situations especially at the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast. And he was right, on this and so much more.
I’m sure you all could tell similar stories of how Kirby helped you. Kirby meant so much to all of you and so much to this city. That is why we must build up the Kirby Perkins A Plus Scholarship Fund. So it can continue to help young people obtain that all important college degree, and so our city and the people living here always know what a special person Kirby was.
I thank you all for your generous contributions so far. But I ask you to dig a little deeper and to go a little further. That is what Kirby would have done for any of us, so let’s all do it for the scholarship that honors his legacy.
Yes, there it is my name is up in lights, daylights that is and don’t think I don’t love it.
I have always been a Red Sox fan. I probably went to my first game before I started remembering all that I remember. My father was a big sports fan and it trickled down to me. He used to love to go to Bruins and Red Sox games. The Celtics came to Boston long after he was a teenager so he did not see as many of those games. I remember him taking me to afternoon Celtics game; coming home and then he would take my mother and go back to the Garden to see the Bruins at night. Since he worked most weekends, it was a big deal if he was off on a Sunday. My parents especially liked when the Montreal Canadians were playing as the fans would sing French songs and the Garden would be in a festive mood.
We grew up with family all around our neighborhood and my Uncle Jack Burnim, a real Red Sox fan, would go to a Sox game every chance he had and many times offered to take me with him. The only problem with going with him is if you were with him you had to eat a hot dog almost every inning and lots of popcorn too (to mix in all the Fenway tastes). To hear his grandson, Judge David Lowy, tell the story, after a while it became torture to eat so much junk food.
Jack took us to many games; one being the Memorial Day game against the Yankees in 1961, the year Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. I just Googled the box score and although I remembered all the home runs by Mantle and Maris I did not remember Bill “Moose” Skowrun’s 2 homers along with Yogi Berra hitting one that day. Mantle had 2 home runs that game, his #12 and 13 of the still-early season, and Maris hit 2 home runs, bringing his total so-far to 11. Both were well on their way to challenge Ruth’s record of 60 home runs in one season. Since that season, my standard for judging whether someone was going to break Babe Ruth’s years’ record of 60 in a season has been if the person has reached 11 or 13 homers by Memorial Day like Mantle and Maris did that year.
When I think about how mesmerized I was by Mark McGuire’s quest to break Maris’ record only to find out it was tainted; it still pisses me off. Such a big deal breaking it, but really not a big deal. That is what asterisks are for. I think most people in 1961 were rooting for Mickey Mantle to beat out Maris for Ruth’s record but an injury late in the season took him out of the running. According to the movie “61” about the chase, Mantle was rooting for Maris to pull the feat off anyway.
Going to Fenway Park was an easy task when you grew up in Revere. When there was nothing to do you could always hop on the train at Revere Beach Station, ride to Government Center (it was called Scollay Square back then) transfer or walk to get to Park Street Station and then get the trolley to Kenmore Square. You had to make sure you got the right trolley otherwise you ended up in never, never land somewhere off of Huntington Avenue and no one from Revere would know where they were.
Of course you probably would not have walked from Scollay Square, as it would have been another fee of a nickel to get back on a train at a different stop. Those trolleys were great back then; you would rock and roll all the way there. The old cars were shaky, crowded and not air-conditioned. Can you imagine a non air-conditioned train after spending the day in the hot sun at Fenway, not fun! After a day game we would go to the Kenmore Hotel to the little ice cream parlor and get a delicious Sundae (and I mean delicious) costing a quarter.
Any night a crew of us hanging around in the 50s and 60s could go to Fenway watch Dick Raddatz mow them down along with the other 10,000 people who may be in attendance. Jim Piersal, a long time Red Sox center fielder, visited our local grocery store, Arthur’s Creamery, while endorsing a chocolate drink and, yes, I got his autograph.
Tom Yawkey was probably the only reason the Red Sox stayed in Boston with the small crowds in attendance. It all changed in 1967, the “Impossible Dream Year” when sellouts became normal business. Back then, there were no playoffs, you were the best team in baseball in your league or you ended your season when the season ended. With the two number one teams playing the World Series you got the best of the best, at least supposedly.
Dick Williams showed up as manager in 1967 and things just came together. I did not cover any of the games as a photographer but I had a press pass and could go to any game I wanted and sit in the photographer’s box. I did not take as much advantage of the perk as I should have. This was before the photographer’s box next to their dugout. Everything was shot from above or you floated around looking for an aisle seat. A big treat going to a game with the press pass was to be able to eat in the press lunchroom, where there was delicious food and it was free. A tip of $1.00 was the standard and where could you eat as much as you want of good food for a buck.
The weekend the Red Sox won the pennant in 1967 everyone was working. I was in the lab at the paper. We were playing the Minnesota Twins and had to win both Saturday and Sunday’s game while one of the other teams in the league lost. I was very busy with many rolls of film being shipped in to make our many editions. Then it was over, the Sox won and John Landers had a great photo of Jim Lonborg being carried off the field on his teammate’s shoulders after beating the great pitcher Dean Chance in what you could call a non-playoff, playoff game, winner take all.
I went with photographer Kevin Cole to St. Louis for the World Series that year. I never got to the park as I worked out of the St. Louis Post Dispatch doing all of Kevin’s lab work and transmitting over 60 photos back to Boston to be used in our editions. Kevin did his usual great job catching all the action.
Earlier in the season Lonborg got engaged and the hunt for his fiancé was on and I was on the chase. There I was at Fenway Park looking for his fiancé, not knowing where to look, all of a sudden a car pulls up by the player’s entrance, Lonborg gets out of the car and she was driving. Very graciously, she held up her hand to display her ring. I probably yelled out asking her to hold up her hand, thankfully I knew which hand the ring was on and if you were driving the left hand is on the window side. Lonborg did not marry this woman, and went on to be a South Shore area dentist. I have never seen him again in person.
When Ken “Hawk” Harrelson (now the Chicago White Sox announcer) had his cast removed from leg injury I was at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital and asked him to throw the cast away for the camera. He was a very media savvy athlete. Harrelson came to the Red Sox during their Pennant drive to replace the injured Tony Conigliaro.
In the Conigliaro era there was always something going on. Whatever he did we did. There was the night he got into a car accident in Somerville and was taken to the hospital. Then I was covering his younger brother Richie playing football for Swampscott High School and the whole Conigliaro family was there. I was assigned to show everyone. I was taking some photos of the family and Tony came playfully charging at me like he was going to tackle me. Of course, I wasn’t sure whether or not he would throw me to the ground so I moved out of the way. I met his brother Billy several times as he was in high school with a friend of mine from Swampscott, Susan Feldman.
In 1975, when Carleton Fisk hit is game winning home run against Cincinnati in the World Series I was in the photographer’s box shooting color film watching Fisk waving his home run ball fair. I ran out on the field with everyone else and it was fun. Still haven’t found those slides.
Bucky Dent hits his game winning 3 run homer and I was the floater for the one game playoff with the Yankees in 1978. I was walking around trying to get “different photos” for the later editions. I was behind the home plate screen taking photos of Mike Torrez pitching and keeping an eye on his wife Danielle who also behind the backstop. Dent came up to the plate and hit his blast and the Red Sox season was over. Danielle knew it also and I had this really good photo of her expression, which got a one column cut in the paper. The front-page headline the next day was this very, very, very small type, which said “Red Sox Lose” and you were not a baseball fan you would not have noticed. Sam Cohen our great sports editor always had great ideas to be different.
Of course there was Bill Lee, Red Sox pitcher; talk about someone who danced to his own drummer! Must have been a Wednesday night when he walked off the team or something like that as I was working and I was dispatched to his Belmont home to get a shot of him. I was in front of his house when he came jogging up the street. I stood there and took some photos of him arriving, followed him down the driveway and of course he knew I was taking his photo as he acknowledged my presence. Next week I heard from Jerry Buckley the Red Sox photographer back then that Lee had said he was stalked and I came out behind the bushes to get his photo. Two sides to a story, he was dancing as far as I was concerned.
When Oil Can Boyd (a Red Sox pitcher) flipped his lid so to speak reporter Ron Gollobin and I were sent to his Chelsea apartment trying to seek him out for whatever he wanted to say. It did not go to well. He came out the door, spotted us and took steps towards us. He was yelling at me flaying his arms and Gollobin stepped between us. He created a real photo opp. In that same era while honeymooning in Hawaii I bumped into the very friendly Dwight Evans and his wife vacationing there.
There were many sidebars through my years of Red Sox coverage. There were the 4 people murdered at Sammy White’s Bowling Alley, September 22, 1980 in Brighton. The former Red Sox catcher owned the alley. I was outside when the police investigation was taking place and got a photo of a distraught relative waiting for word from the Boston Police.
In 1986, Red Sox vs. the Mets for the World Series, everyone was excited. I was with reporter Susan Wornick, Neil Ungerlieder (now head of our internet site, “thebostonchannel.com) and Channel Five Berraneck Fellow, Rebecca Rowlings. We were doing a story about the prostitutes doing business in Boston. We pulled over on Washington Street near the former Wang Theatre to watch the end of the game, as my company car was equipped with a TV.
Neil who is a very big Red Sox fan commented, “the Red Sox are going to win a World Series!” We were very intent watching; knowing if they won our story would change to local celebrations. Then it happened, Bill Buckner missed the grounder to first in the tenth inning after the Red Sox were up 3 to 2 in games and everything unfolded. It was over, and all that was left was the Red Sox to try and recover the next night. We all know what happened after that, it took 18 more years to finally win a World Series bringing the total up to 86 years between championships.
I was at Fenway Park when the Red Sox came home in the early morning hours. In those days we were a welcome sight to the players and had good access to the bus and the players. Pitcher Bob “Steamer” Stanley one of the nicest athletics you could ever meet got off the bus and there was a fan yelling, “Bob you’re the best!” It was just after the ongoing controversy of whether he threw a wild pitch or the catcher Rich Gedman had a passed ball. Most think it was a passed ball but he took the hit graciously. A little name-dropping here, his daughter Kristin worked at Channel Five as a producer and I went to her wedding in 2010.
After that there was the time reporter Jack Harper and I went into the Red Sox dressing room, before yellow tape, when all you needed to do was show up at Fenway show your Fenway Pass and walk around including the locker room. We walked in and there were a couple of players sitting there (must have been after the “86” loss) including Jim Rice. Everyone knew Mr. Rice did not like the media back then. If looks could kill Jack and I would not be here now.
Today, I do very little Red Sox coverage although I was there in the 90s after they won the Pennant by beating the Angels in the playoffs, ran out on the field with everyone else to the pitcher’s mound for the celebration and got excellent video. I covered the local celebrations after they won the Series in 04 and 07 and hope they do it again while I am still working.
But my highlight of Fenway will always be getting my birthday wish up on the bleacher screen unless I ever get to throw out the first pitch and make a fool out of myself when I cannot reach the plate.
It took almost 45 years but I got to cover the Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup for the third time. There was almost 40 years in between the 2nd and 3rd championships; the first two happened when I was an avid fan and season ticket holder. I saw every game Bobby Orr played at Boston Garden and even drove down to watch the Bruins and the Rangers play in New York back in the days when hockey was very important to me.
The morning after the win was fun, got called into work early to go to Logan Airport for the team’s return from Vancouver and thought I might get to see them getting off the plane for their bus ride back to the Garden. Not to be, everything was secretive and the news crews were not sure which gate the bus would come off the tarmac through and they fooled us all as they went out an opening none of us realized would be used. Beat before I could even get into 2nd gear.
From Logan I went to Causeway Street and thinking the way I did 40 years ago I forgot the bus would pull into the front parking lot and we could see them getting into their cars and maybe even get to talk with them. I had thought they would drive into the Garden like they used to, inside via the long ramp in the back of the building and flee the news hounds. I guess sometimes I do live in the past. Had I known the great access we were going to have I would have gone a little faster and skipped the pit stop I made before I got there. When I did get there and realized what was going on I ran through the traffic to be where the action was.
The first player I spotted was Zdeno Chara, the big football player size defenseman, who was in the back seat of a limo but the guest with him was what made me take notice. He had the Stanley Cup sitting next to him and was the first of the players to take it home. He is the Captain so I guess he might decide who is first or maybe it is an automatic. After I tapped on his car window several times to see if he would open it for me I realized it just was not going to happen so I moved on to the bigger group which was slowly becoming smaller and smaller and only a few of the players were still there. I did stick my mic in one of the car windows but I don’t even know who it was being interviewed.
From there the day got better. Mike Dowling, a WCVB sports reporter, caught up with me and we went looking for the Bruins players who lived in the North End with no clue where that might be. This venture only lasted a few minutes as we got word we were going to interview Kevin and Lynn Marchand the parents of Brad, the Bruins star rookie who had three points in the 7th and deciding game and may have been one of the finalists for MVP.
Talk about a class act. They walked down to the Garden from Brad’s apartment and talked to us for quite awhile giving some insight into their wonderful adventure chasing the Stanley Cup with their son Brad. What fun. His father had gone to 20 playoff games and his mother only 16. They told us she was banned from the games after she attended two losing games. When they lost a game she wasn’t at she was then allowed to continue the run. Mike Dowling told me another parent of one of the players also suffered the same fate after she was at a couple of losing games. Superstition is superstition and being a lottery player I know what that word means.
Mrs. Marchand went on to tell us how she really disliked his beard and hoped he would be shaving it ASAP. They joked about what a mess his apartment was and she was hoping he would get someone to keep it clean. They also talked about their other athletic son and two daughters even letting us know Brad’s younger brother was a faster skater and tougher on the ice.
But the real fun began a few hours later when we found out the Cup was being wheeled down Commercial Street in the North End to Tia’s restaurant on the waterfront where many of the team would meet for cocktails. It was very crowded at the outside bar with patrons snapping photos or just gawking when they realized the stars of the day and the Stanley Cup were in plain view for everyone to see and all had their cell phones clicking away with some of the people manning real cameras. I showed one of the waitresses how to use the zoom on her newly bought IPad and made her day.
What a thrill to see today’s “heroes” out mixing with the regulars and enjoying every moment of it. I could have recited every player’s name in the NHL back in the 60s and 70s but to tell the truth today I have not a clue who is who. This year I watched all the playoff games and the players on the Bruins did not shave during the playoffs and all had playoff beards. It threw me for a loop on Thursday as they had almost all clipped their beards when I saw them and I had figure out who is who. I have not figured it out yet.
These players had muscles on muscles, 6 pack abs that people would die for and if I were to try to get them I probably would die. I don’t think the athletes of today are better athletes than those of the long gone era but they certainly are stronger and have more muscle. Then there is the tattoos; or as the kids call them “ink”. The only ink on my era’s athletes would have been from a leaking pen after signing an autograph.
My first rally was after the Celtics won one of their 18 championships and Boston finally honored them with a parade in the 60s. They were in convertibles driving through the Park Square area. I was so mesmerized by the John Havlicek’s beautiful wife Beth, (what a hottie and that word was not even invented back then) I don’t think I shot anything but photos of her.
On City Hall Plaza in the 80s there was another Celtics rally and Larry Bird told the tens of thousands, “Moses eats shit,” referring to Moses Malone after the Celtics beat the Houston Rockets. Did that set off a pound or two of letters and phone calls!
After one of the Bruins championships in the 70s, Phil Esposito had surgery at MGH and the Bruins were having their breakup dinner at a nearby restaurant. There was no way Phil wasn’t going to be there so some of his team members pushed his hospital bed with him in it to the restaurant. The story goes they broke the frame to a door or two getting out of the hospital and he was still hooked up to IVs. With that team the whole story could be true.
For their first Cup win at Boston Garden my seats section 73, seats 3 and 4 gave me a great view of Bobby Orr’s overtime goal and in 1972 I was at Logan Airport when the Bruins returned with the Stanley Cup after beating the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. We were allowed up to the exit ramp and I was taking photos of everybody when Bobby Orr appeared walking with a young woman, (he handed the young woman I was with a bottle of champagne from the celebration) I mistakenly identified as his girlfriend Peggy, his future wife, WRONG! The next day I was scrambling to figure out who she was. I went to Wellesley and knocked on the State Treasurer Bob Crane’s door with photo in hand to find out who she was and of course Bob knew it was a secretary from the Bruins’ office. He was buddies with Orr and knew all about the team.
Who can forget the Bruins first Stanley Cup Championship rally on Boston’s City Hall Plaza when Johnny “Pie” Mackenzie poured a pitcher of beer over Mayor Kevin White’s head and then the Mayor returned the deed after they won their 2nd cup in 1972.
In 1975 after Carleton Fisk hit his famous home run against the Cincinnati Reds I ran out on the field with all the other photographers as I was covering the game. In 1986 there I was again running out to home plate after the Red Sox beat the Angels in 1986 to go to the World Series.
Who can forget the 2004 Red Sox pre-rolling rally event at Fenway Park when I chose to not work and take my girls to the parade. We walked up to the gate at Fenway on a whim and there was a Boston Cop I have known forever at the door. A few moments later, we were inside enjoying the festivities, running on the field as the Duck Boats loaded. Our Christmas picture that year was my girls with Johnny Damon.
My scariest moment in sports came in January 1986 when the Patriots beat Miami for the right to face the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl. I was dispatched to Green Airport in Rhode Island for a 2am arrival of the team. Works out there must have been 10,000 people who also wanted to greet them. We were somehow in the middle of the tarmac after the plane landed waiting for the players to come down the walkway. All of a sudden these 10,000 people broke through whatever police lines were there and came charging out to the plane. I was with Jim Reddy a technician at the station who was sent with me to help. They came rushing, I thought it was over, Jim grabbed me and put this big bear hug on me and we just stood in the middle like a street pole and thankfully the crowd went around us. I bet $50.00 on the game and I think the Patriots lost by almost 50 points.
In 1986 after the Red Sox lost to the Mets in one of the games after the controversy that stemmed between a pitch by Bob Stanley being a wild pitch or it being a passed ball by catcher Rich Gedman, I was at Fenway when the heart broken team arrived home I heard one of the followers yelling out to Stanley, “You’re the best” and not many agreed at that point in time.
Today, June 18, was the big rally for the Bruins Championship. In all the rallies I have covered this was the biggest crowd pleaser. They had to be more than a million folks lining the streets of Boston for the rolling rally. It was great to be able to share it with those folks even if I was behind the camera.
So in my 45 years of news photography I have worked 3 Super Bowl celebrations, two World Series rallies, numerous Celtics celebrations and 3 Bruins Stanley Cup “parties.” Not bad for a man whose only athletic pursuit is reading the sports section of various publications.
My daughters at 21 and 22 have seen all of the hometown teams win a championship, a feat that took me 55 years.
Outside the garden the other day when the Bruins returned I bumped in Tom Farmer, former Herald reporter and long time friend. His question to me was “I bet you have covered all three of their cup wins?” My answer was “yes” and now I am wondering if he is trying to tell me I am old?
The only thing I do know if it takes another 40 years to win the cup again I will not be there for the celebration.
Wow, what a day, May 22, 2011 a day I will always remember as our oldest daughter Molly got her Bachelor of Science degree at Boston University’s 138th commencement. Yes I do play that number in the lottery as it was my first News Photographer’s license plate and my call “numbers” for all the news groups I am a member of. Several years ago I hit it two nights in a row as the number repeated itself. No I did not win a ton of money!
I guess it started in 1979 when I met my wife Debbie in the Arnold Arboretum while we were both walking our dogs. Hers was mutt named Abby and mine was a pedigree Golden Retriever called Glossy. Talk about a role reversal. The dogs fell in love right away and a few minutes later I guess we did also.
In 1989 we were blessed with two daughters 10 months apart and today was the culmination of what life is supposed to be if you are lucky and things go right. Molly graduated with her BS in health studies; She will continue for two more years for her doctorate in physical therapy.
Our other daughter Hannah will graduate next year with her nursing degree and then the next year Molly will get her doctorate so we will have had three commencements in three years.
Not bad for a high school graduate who at that time was not sure if I graduated with my class or not. It was a hot June day in 1963 when I had my cap (I still have that cap somewhere) and gown on at Harry Della Russo Stadium in Revere. In those days I had heard about kids who got blank diplomas as they did not pass their grades. I remember my name being called, walking up, getting my diploma, going back to my seat and squeezing the folder open to see if I had a winning hand, yup I did it.
For the last 45 years in the news business I have covered scores of graduations and commencements but none meant as much to me as Molly’s day. It was a long day which began when we left home at 7:30 in the morning for a 9am ceremony at BU’s Sargent College. I was overwhelmed with joy as I watched Molly get her degree and realized Debbie and I had done well, very well. How did we ever pull this off? Debbie did a great job and I guess I supplied support.
Some of the commencements I cover in the past were memorable, like when Richard Cardinal Cushing walked down the center aisle of the Boston College commencement in all his splendor with his red robes flowing and the audience at Boston College was mesmerized by his presence.
Another year at BC there was a graduate wearing a Mickey Mouse tee shirt and the picture I took ended up on Page One in the Record American. At MIT there was Lee Iacocca best known for the revival of the Chrysler Corporation from near bankruptcy telling the students to “start your engines” as his closing remark.
I think I have covered most of the college commencements in the area at least once but I have never covered Harvard’s commencement. Don’t know why it worked out that way but maybe because they always graduate on Thursdays and for many years at the newspaper I had Sunday and Thursday off? Maybe I will go my whole career without that one. Back in the 60s when there were great demonstrations I had wished I was covering it.
Today we listened to Katie Couric, a network standout give a great speech about the future for these graduates. Talking about her rise to the top and how low she was on the totem pole when she began. Just trying to get in the door for her was tough.
I think her best story was when she first took the anchor desk for the CBS nightly news in “06” and how harsh the critics were on her. From the clothes she was wearing to her hair style, makeup and finally they said she lacked “gravitas.” Not being sure what the word meant she decided the word gravitas really meant she had no testicles. What a roar went up from all of us on that one.
It was a wonderful day for Debbie and I and the more I think about it the more I realize we did do something right, in our old age we will have someone to help us get out of bed and another daughter to give us our medication.
Spike Lee a giant in his industry has used my photo “The Soiling Of Old Glory” in at least two of his movies, one of them being Malcolm X and I have an autographed hat from him. A couple of weeks ago I got an email from my website which asked for my phone number as the telephone number on my website was incorrect. The only catch to me from this email was it said the number that is on the site when dialed got them to a packing company.
My radar went up and I thought it was some kind of sexual reference. I sent a reply asking “who are you?” Their reply said Spike Lee wants to talk to you. Of course I sent the correct number back immediately I would have run to New York if needed.
I was outside Ted’s Mobil in Methuen, Massachusetts doing the 390 million plus Megamillions story for my station. I thought I might not be buying the winning ticket but I will be talking with Spike Lee almost as good.
I was thinking when he called I would get to know his personal phone number from caller ID but of course all it said was incoming. The voice on the other end introduced himself as Spike Lee and I immediately said “before we talk about business I want to ask you about the Celtics/Knicks game from last month?”
I ask him if he ever saw the video of the game and his answer was “you mean the night we got robbed?” I said you did not get robbed and he told me “Paul Pierce’s shot was made with .7 seconds left and the Knicks had .4 seconds left. I insisted they did not get robbed, they lost, then told him about the announces talking about him and his love of the Knicks but sort of poking fun at him.
He said “you mean Tommy Heinsohn or Cedric Maxwell? I said no it was a national game and they were not the announcers and he immediately said “it must be Van Gundy and company?” I told him I was not sure but they were all over the fact that his old friend who now played for the Celtics whose name I had to ask him by asking him who it was that went from the Knicks to the Celtics. He answered “Nate Robinson” and he was having a great night against the Knicks which I think the announcers were enjoying as the cameras played on Spike Lee. My last remark was “you got more face time than Jack Nicholson gets at Lakers’ games.”
What a thrill I got to talk about basketball with Spike Lee and even better the Celtics won that night. Of course I have been at a couple of Celtics’ winning championship games. The best one was in 1962 when Frank Selvy of the Lakers missed an 8 footer with the score tied at 100 and seconds ticking down, Bill Russell pulled down the rebound, went to his knees and held on till regulation time ended.
In that game the Lakers’ great Elgin Baylor fouled out in overtime. The Celtics starters ran over to the visiting bench to shake Baylor’s hand after he sat down and then the Celtics won the championship in the overtime.
I was at the Bruins Stanley Cup victory in 1970 when they beat St. Louis at Boston Garden sitting in my season ticket seats section 73 row C seat 3 or 4. I saw every game Bobby Orr played at Boston Garden including when he played with the Oshawa Generals as they would play a game or two every year in Boston. I gave up my seats after Orr left for the Chicago Blackhawks.
When the Bruins beat the Rangers for the Stanley Cup in 1972 I was at Logan Airport at the gate when the Bruins returned with the Cup in hand. Of course I messed the caption for the photo up by misidentifying the woman getting off the plane as Bobby Orr’s girlfriend Peggy who eventually became his wife. The young woman in the photo was one of the assistants in the Bruins office. I think I was more upset than the editors when they made the correction.
In the 1976 playoffs the Celtics beat Phoenix in the 5th game but it took three overtimes and the last overtime and the victory came at the end of the court where I was sitting. Celtics went on to win the Championship in seven games.
In 1975 I ran out onto the field as a still cameraman covering the game for the Herald American after Carleton Fisk hit his famous 12 inning 6th game of the World Series winning home run against the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. Fisk was waving it fair as he watched it going out of the park as he rounded first base.
In 1986 I was on the field for the Red Sox victory that sent them to the World Series against the Mets and outside Fenway Park after they lost the championship to the Mets in part due to Bill Buckner’s error when they came back home. It was 3: am or so and there was a fan yelling to Bob Stanley “you are the best!”
I sat in Red Auerbach’s box at a home game once with my good friend Alan Gorin as the paper’s sports editor Sam Cohen who was always there with Red saw us and invited us into two empty seats. No Red did not engage in a conversation with me other than saying hello.
And now I got to talk with Spike Lee, not bad!!!
It all began for me in May of 1966. I was finishing up a one year course in photography at the “Franklin Institute of Boston” in Boston’s South End. I had been chasing fires and accidents for many years and a couple of years before this my father said to me “you are there why not take photos” and he got me a camera.
I had a great experience at the school and my instructor would be Morris Miller a wonderful knowledgeable photographer from Revere who just happened to be a contemporary of my parent’s, one of my Cub Scout leaders and I went to school with his children. This was an unexpected plus when I reported to class the first day as we had no idea he had signed on to teach.
He nurtured a class full of great people through the fundamentals of photography and I finally learned what depth of field was and how to stop action. Before this course I hate to think about how much I did not know.
In May of 1966 a representative (I only remember his first name, Bob) of the advertising agency working with Attorney General Edward Brooke’s campaign to win the US Senate seat being vacated by retiring long time US Senator Leverett Saltonstall. He came to the school looking for a photographer to travel with then Attorney General Edward Brooke taking pictures of him wherever he went and whatever he was doing.
After several interviews with many of my classmates I got the job. It helped I had a darkroom at home and I told Bob I was used to getting up in the middle of the night and keeping weird hours. I am sure there were a lot of other influences like knowing the right people and having great potential.
My first day on the job in May of “66” I went to a meeting of Republican Women at a hotel in Boston. I took many rolls of film and my main assignment was to be there when Mr. Brooke shook hands with anyone and whoever was traveling with me would take their name and I would give them the roll of film number and negative number.
I went home after a long day of several events, stayed up most of the night into the early morning hours and had 100 or so pictures ready to be signed at the Brooke Campaign Headquarters the next morning. They were very impressed.
I knew nothing about politics but knew how to take pictures, keep my mouth shut and do whatever was requested. It was a great 8 months. I traveled the state from east to west, north and south and met people who really believed in Brooke and his campaign. I had my first legal drink at age 21 with staffers at a Holiday Inn somewhere in the State and I ordered a Tom Collins. I also had my first Martini with the group.
It was a great time for a naïve 21 year old. I saw how the real news photographers worked and met many national network correspondents. In the Fall of 66 my immediate boss Joe McMahon and another Assistant Attorney General Bill Hayden drove down to Washington. We met at midnight at the Beacon Hill Headquarters and I drove Joe’s Mustang for the next 8 hours to the Capitol of the United States. I think we had the top down all the way.
During that visit which as an endorsement and fund raising event the future Senator met with Richard Nixon, who was in-between an elected office, eventually becoming the President of the United States, Everett Dirksen, US Senator from Illinois, Howard Baker a US Senator from Tennessee and eventual Chief Of Staff for President Ronald Reagan. Baker it turned out was a real camera buff although I did not know it at the time and I met several other elected officials whose names I forget. These were the news makers and I got to take photos of them and shake their hands.
It was a great beginning, exciting, adventurous and the chance to meet folks I would have never met without this opportunity.
Mr. Brooke was a warm, charismatic man whose personality and smile were all winners. He was the man of the hour and defeated his opponent Endicott “Chubb” Peabody a former Governor of Massachusetts by hundreds of thousands of votes. In an unofficial pool amongst the staff it was Mr. Brooke’s wife Remigia who won the pool.
After the campaign was over his public relations person Gerry Sadow got me interviews at the three Boston papers, The Boston Herald-Traveler, Boston Globe and the Record American. I met with the chief photographers at the three newspapers and only Myer Ostroff the Record American’s Chief saw my potential and hired me.
I had a year’s probationary period and my first day on the job 44 years ago as of this writing, November 22, 1966 I wore a suit and tie. I walked into the Record American at their original office at 5 Winthrop Square in Downtown Boston and waited outside the photo lab on the third floor for someone to let me into the labs.
Morris Ostroff, the Chief Photographer’s older brother let me in. He was a short man who always was smoking a long cigar. He introduced himself to me and said follow me. We went down the corridor to the printing labs there were 5 of them, handed me a sponge and an apron and told me to please clean up the lab, the start of my illustrious career.
In September of 1981 reporter Bob Keeley and I were sent to the Brimfield, Massachusetts to find the Rolling Stones. We had gotten word that the group was practicing out there for an upcoming tour. It took a day or two to find where the farm studio they were working at was located.
We spent the week hanging around the outskirts of the farm just waiting for a glimpse of the members. We did see some of the female companions horseback riding on a couple of those days but no sighting of the musicians.
On Friday of that week word was out they would be flying out of Worcester Airport. We all waited with many more of the Boston Media showing up. I only knew Mick Jagger but was lucky enough to get images of everyone in the group. Of course I had to rely on my good friend, fellow photographer and rock and roll expert Ted Gartland to ID the other members in my photos.
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