Friday, April 30, 2010

696 The Rockies

696 The Rockies

Elisha "June" Barrett served in the New York State Senate for what seemed an eternity, though on and off. When he died in 1965 a cub reporter for local radio was sent to cover his funeral at a Protestant church in East Islip, New York. A lot of luminaries were there. One of them was Nelson Rockefeller, Governor. After the service, the reporter went across the street to a candy shop/luncheonette and used the pay phone to file his first report . On leaving, he crossed paths with the governor, one of the richest men in America. And Mr. Rockefeller stopped him and asked to borrow a nickel or a dime -- the memory is dim -- to make a call from that same pay phone.

A few steps behind was an aide. And the aide stopped the reporter and said "the Governor never carries cash, how much did he 'borrow?'" as he reached into his pocket. The reporter said "don't even think about re-paying. I want to go to my grave knowing a Rockefeller owes me money." And that's how we left it.

Fast forward a few decades and the reporter now is a writer/producer for NBC News, now working in Rockefeller Centre. He is standing on the sidewalk smoking with some of the other union guys. Pete's there. So's Al. And Mike. And walking up the street from 6th Avenue, here's David Rockefeller. Shabby raincoat. Ancient. But walking with a steady pace to the door which we're polluting with Kools and Camels and Marlboros. And Rocky says "I sure wish I could do that with you, boys." And it sounded like he meant it. The Rockefeller family had long ago abandoned its financial interest in 30 Rock. But, hey. This was David Rockefeller, chairman of the Chase National Bank, heir to the throne of John D. Rock. The reigning patriarch. And here was American Royalty talking to us peasants.

It didn't matter that he wasn't nearly as rich as Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. He was David - freakin' - Rockefeller, in the flesh. Some days, he'd ask about the morning news. Some days, he'd say he had a sleepless night. Some days he'd just wave "hi," and continue up into his office. But the whole thing was he was talking to us about the stuff that mattered to him -- and to us.

"Pete, your kid feeling better?" "Wes, you get that awful car repaired?" The guy had a memory, alright. Names and little stuff.

NBC's ties to the Rockies were practically non-existent. The Royalty had nothing to do with guys like Sarnoff and later Jack Welch and Bob Wright. But here we were, squatters in Rockyland. And the landlord stopped to chat with us by name and by topic. At the time, he was a mere 75-ish. Now at 95-ish, that kind of thing doesn't happen anymore.

You think Bill Gates knows your name?

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

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