Thanks to my best friend Half-Pint, I had a great birthday celebration Friday night in Philly. Sorry you all could not be with me, but here is a slightly edited version of my address to partygoers.
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
Before we begin, some housekeeping remarks:
The karaoke competition…. Has been cancelled.
Mayor Kenney sent regrets. He’s in the hospital. He’s in surgery. First for a politician, having a spine implant.
So I am left with my Actual Friends, too many of whom couldn’t be here because of COVID or family conflict issues. My people told me I should not list them all.
It’s the Big Eight Oh. That mandates some remarks about aging.
Will Rogers said, “You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.”
Or busts. Like my knee.
He also said you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.
I have not reached that point.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be older.
This is not what I expected.
I get most of my healthy color from liver spots.
I don’t know how much time I have left, but my doctor told me not to buy green bananas.
When I was in my 60s, I felt like a pretty cool dude because I had friends in their 20s. Some are here tonight, and they’re all middle aged. Right, Dan Gross and Steve Esack?
It’s my birthday. A few weeks ago, it was the 80th for Martha Reeves, lead singer of the Vandellas. Martha is still working, and so am I. She gets paid for it, I do it for free on stubykofsky.com because I have something to say.
Half-Pint will tell you I always have something to say.
What I am saying now is a party needs a theme and this one is friendship
Thank you for being here, friends.
You don’t have to be close to someone to be close to them. Friendship is not conditional on proximity or constant contact. Some of you I don’t even see once a year, but we remain close because we each know if we are in trouble, the other will be there.
Some of you might have been a source, or a tipster. You might have had my back when I was under attack. You might feel that I had done something for you, but even in that case I am in your debt for allowing me to fulfill my mission as a journalist — to tell the truth as I see it, to help those who need it and to kick the butt of those who abuse authority.
While I tell a story, please fill your glasses. (My relationship with Jack Daniels is on the rocks.)
A few weeks ago, on LinkedIn, I accepted a connection from someone I didn’t know — but he knew me.
He was an ex-con — excuse me, returning citizen, whom I had written about because I believe after you pay your debt to society, you should be welcomed back. As a result of what I wrote, he got job offers and launched a new life. He wrote to thank me. Nothing could have made me feel better.
Some 40 years ago, I got one of my Temple students a summer intern job and introduced him to Tony Bennett for an interview. It was nothing to me, but everything to him and we are still in touch. He is now an anchor in Cleveland.
When a guy named Bill Mann ordered my book, he sent along a note: “I’ll never forget how you got me Frank Sinatra’s autographed photo those many years ago for my stepfather.”
Yes, back in the day I could do that. Nothing to me, everything to him.
Now, I want to propose a toast. There are blessings to old age, assuming your health is good, but one of the curses is you lose your friends. I have lost 3 close friends, one earlier this month. I will say their names: Jim Moran, Harry Jay Katz, Curt Block.
Say the names of your friends you have lost as we drink in their memory and take a moment of silence.
If I were an artist, someone writing about my life might talk about my periods — the Bronx period, the Brooklyn period, the projects, college, Philadelphia, itself subdivided into jobs before the Daily News, jobs at the Daily News — the Mummers, the Pen & Pencil Club, Wynnefield, South Philly, Center City. Many periods — some blue, some rose.
My notes say Wing it. Something Joe Biden never gets to do. (There followed extemporaneous remarks.)
So while my professional life closed after 60 years of paid employment, 47 at the Daily News, I launched my blog, but the big news is, I have published my first novel. It’s called Press Card and it’s about the newspaper business, of course. If you haven’t bought your copy already — and you all meant to — contact me through the address on the program. For those not here, the address is email@example.com
Before opening the floor to you, I must acknowledge the little package of love that came to me late in life.
I refer, of course, to my dog Chamorro.
But even BEFORE he came into my life I received the gift of Half-Pint — my best friend, my lover, my nurse, my tech person, my proofreader, my everything. She made this party happen, so you can thank her.
And I also thank her sister and my granddaughter for the setup and decorations, and my great friend Chris for all kinds of behind-the-scenes activity.
Finally, as I have for decades, I celebrate my birthday with my first office spouse, Mary, who shares my birthday.
In addition to Mary, there is someone else who shares our birthday, Marcus, who was incarcerated serving a wrong prison sentence and I spent a decade trying to get that reversed. During that period I found that we shared the same birthday and we vowed we would someday celebrate together.
That day has arrived.