Wednesday, May 16, 2012

1018 Remembering Mike McGrady

1018 Remembering Mike McGrady

Mike McGrady used to like to quote me.  I never could figure out why, because I never had much to say, didn’t say it all that well and was a relative kid and worked in radio, which at the time, most newspapermen deplored as superficial and sensationalist.

Mike was the Newsday columnist, creator of one of the great literary hoaxes of the last 50 years and a fairly conflicted guy.  But he was also a brilliant writer, perceptive observer and a quiet hellion.

His best known work was a parody compilation called “Naked Came the Stranger,” which was the story of a nymphomaniac woman from Long Island and her exploits with half the neighborhood.  Each chapter was written by a different Newsday reporter, editor or writer, with McGrady putting the whole thing together along with Harvey Aronson also of Newsday.   

It was a best seller.  It still is more than 40 years later.  Mike’s other books didn’t do as well.  There was one about how he became a house husband.  Neither the book nor the job lasted long.  And there were two books about Linda Lovlace, star of the porn movie “Deep Throat,” and the troubling life she had before, during and after her swing at stardom.

Mike went from columnist to food critic for the paper.  As such, he put on colossal weight.  And the accompanying brown bottle didn’t help.  He also put on some financial weight that some say came from writing good reviews -- or bad ones about someone’s competitor.  Didn’t happen.  But once that was in the air, Mike was washed up as a restaurant critic.  Didn’t exactly help that everyone knew what he looked like, either.  Can’t do much anonymous dining like that.

We saw eye to eye on a lot of important issues.  The fight for birth control rights, civil rights, opposition to the Viet Nam war, the gross stupidity and corruption of local officials.  And we traded notes.

Then one day, he vanished.  Gone.  No one knew where.  Well, almost no one.  He ended up in  Lilliwaup, Washington.  Huh? Where?  Strange place for a New Yorker and with a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard.
When Newsday finally got around to writing the obituary, it said he “retired” in 1990.  No writer retires at 57.  No writer retires, period.

McGrady had the talent to be in the same pantheon as Henican and Breslin Kempton and Earl Wilson and Paul Sann.  But he never made it that far, which is our loss and was his.

And dying at 78 as he did the other day, was too early.  Far too early.

Shrapnel:

----A Texas website called webuyjunk.com has linked these posts on its webpage and wants us to link to theirs in return, which won’t happen. In return for the additional exposure, they deserve a plug, which they now have.  But what does it say about this site that it interests places that deal in used car parts, broken down farm machinery and scrap metal?

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

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