Former newspaperman Dick Feagler, a raspy longtime TV host, announced his retirement last week. A few days earlier, the national media reported the death of Jack Germond, whose prickly columns and broadcast commentary bounded around the political universe for more than a half-century.
In each instance, the loss of Feagler and Germond will reinforce the safety net under those blowhard politicians who never say what they mean nor mean what they say.
I will remember both of them best by raising a glass to our shared days at the national presidential conventions. These two guys had a lot in common. Cynical. Bored. Acidly reminding their informal after-hours gatherings that there should be a more humane way for political writers to make a living. A brief anecdotal account will suffice.
During the 1976 Democratic convention in New York City, Feagler, then a crabby columnist for the Cleveland Press, sat impatiently at the bar, fussing about the absence of anything to write about. Contrary to what many people might believe, there's usually very little news at these lavish reunions. Finally, Dick absently looked out to the street where he spotted a mounted policeman.
His mood brightened as he slammed an open hand on the counter. "That's it," he asserted as he whirled on the stool. "I will interview the horse." (I was only sorry that, also being column-less, I hadn't thought of it first!).
Feagler's strength was that he never professed to understand what the hell politics was all about, so he decorated it with his own satirical musings.
Germond was just as challenged in the later hours of a convention day when several of us gathered at the hotel lounge.
A round man with impish humor, whose clipped words burst from a bald head that tilted slightly toward his shoulder as he spoke, simply didn't take the day's proceedings seriously. He informed us that his frustration from another barren news day led to a "Dear Mom" column for his paper in which he advised her that everybody was at this event to "fool the public" because nothing of value had happened on the hall's vast stage that day - nor would it.
But his cutting wit softened on one occasion when he urged me to go to work at his paper, the Baltimore Sun. He thought it would be a good career move for a political writer. "Why don't you come to Baltimore?" he asked.
After digesting the flattering offer, I finally replied: "Why would I want to do that, Jack?"
He paused,and a thin-lipped grin crept onto his lips.
"You're absolutely right!" he snapped.
Meanwhile, now that Germond had confiscated the "Dear Mom," idea, I was left with even fewer intelligent options to send back to my paper. But Jack always made the insufferably dumb days at conventions seem a bit more bearable.
In a day of humorless button-down political writing at sinking newspapers, I'll miss these guys even more.