Wednesday, August 01, 2007

#275 Chet Currier

Chet Currier was the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he hid that – although not too well.

There was the shambling walk, the shock of unkempt hair always falling over his forehead, the soft, throaty “aw shucks” kind of speech, a little bit of confusion. Until he sat down behind a microphone or a computer keyboard. What came out was not only sheer brilliance, but sheer brilliance you could understand even if you didn’t know thing-one about his subject, mutual funds.

And behind that farm-boy facade, he was almost always right.

We’d kid each other, thus: he was the new Norman Vincent Peale, I was the emotional grandson of Dostoevsky. He was free marketer, I was the commie. And he liked to say that Marx would be shocked to learn that through mutual funds, American workers now own the means of production – and they did it without a single drop of blood being shed.

Good times. Fun journalism. We shared the microphone for five years. One day, out of the blue, and off the air, he said “…you know I’m a dead man.” Huh? Cancer. Not likely to survive.

And then he turned on the recording apparatus, spoke for the allotted 6 minutes and 19 seconds, about exchange traded funds. Got up, walked out, waved.

“Wait a minute. What about that dead man stuff?”

“Oh, things are more or less okay now. But I have maybe five or six years left.”

That was maybe in 2003. He was pretty close to right when he closed his eyes for the last time in that hospice in Southern California the other day.

He was almost right.

What do we make of all this, a 62 year old guy who knows he’s going, but keeps on going? That may have been the Norman Vincent Peale thing – get it done while you still can.

Two columns a week for Bloomberg News, which was less work than he had to do as a financial news grunt at the Associated Press – which made him write three a week, plus cover Wall Street. Probably for much less money.

In between all that, he wrote a bunch of books. And he wrote crossword puzzles. Wrote them. We mere mortals consider ourselves lucky and smart when we solve one. Chet made them up and sold them. If they hadn’t sold, he’d still make them up, he said.

The day after his death was announced, there were long obituaries on the Bloomberg website and the AP wire. They ran everywhere. The New York Times, Newsday, all the chain papers where his column appeared. Dozens of them. Maybe hundreds.

The outpouring would have made him uncomfortable.

He wanted to call attention to the subject, not to himself. But, of course, he DID call attention to himself, if only because millions of readers and listeners knew that what went on the page or on the air was almost always right.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

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