NEWS NEWS AND MORE NEWS I am going to get all of my memories down, before I forget what I remember!. . . . quote from Stanley Forman

22Nov/123

Kirby Perkins an A+ Type of Guy

Kirby, 1990s,
Carol Fatta photo

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.

Kirby and Me, mid 1990s.

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:

http://www.wcvb.com/community/aplus

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.

 

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. What a beau­ti­ful trib­ute. I remem­ber Kirby so well and how intim­i­dated I felt by him in the WCVB mews­room I also remem­ber how he put me at ease on the occa­sional vis­its to their home. He even hit with me on their ten­nis court, though he was a far bet­ter player. I miss him too, and Emily and Lexi. Thanks for the great memories.

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