There are endless quotes. But this probably was his best: “You want to know the secret of success in show business? Easy. Sincerity. Once you’ve learned to fake that, you’ve got it made.”
Joe was sincere. It wasn’t fake. Neither was that Broadway Character persona. He could have walked out of the pages of Damon Runyan.
The king of show biz nostalgia. The designer and builder of Memory Lane. The man who knew everyone who was anyone and also knew the rest of us nobodies, hangers on, co-workers, and guys on the street. Who lived in a world where the sun was always shining. Who saw at least some good in everyone, even those who weren’t.
Everyone took his calls. Didn’t matter if you were the head of a studio, an A-list star or the dry cleaner down the block.
You can’t count the careers he helped launch… or relaunch.
And he never missed a gig or even a cue. Until recently when he didn’t report for duty at Bloomberg.
And the stories. The young Marilyn Monroe, the old vaudevillians or early radio stars: Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson, Burns and Allen. The same with Broadway and film and television… and with authors and health gurus. And dry cleaners.
He was in striking distance of his 89th birthday when he died this weekend of prostate cancer.
He and I were ships passing in the night at WOR Radio. But later, we were co-anchors at Bloomberg. He would wander in before he had to… a brisk wander. Carried an attache case that had long outlived its usefulness and its shape. Schmoozed with his colleagues… made a friend or five each week on his trip from the company coffee bar to the radio studio one floor down.
A small man with a huge heart.
And an office that would be the envy of the Collier Brothers.
When he was forced to move that office from one Times Square building to another, all that stuff went with him.
Rumors that his original building was condemned because of his clutter are untrue. But it helped.
A self-admitted slob… No. That’s wrong. A self-proclaimed slob, he said among his greatest joys was stumbling over something that he thought he had lost decades ago. It was a feeling, he said, that neat people could never experience.
His radio and TV shows never made the networks. It was always New York local. But he played the part of himself in a movie or two. His name came up on “The Simpsons,” and he’s in the Guinness Book for having the longest running TV talk show in history. That record stands.
Showbiz to the core: Just a few weeks ago, he told me “don’t tell people I’m sick. I’m not sick.” But he was.
And now as the obituaries and the tributes cascade in, there’ll be five hundred people saying he and Joe were best friends.
They’re not exaggerating. That’s the way he made everyone feel. Everyone.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015