Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The joys of Liebling
Marcus: Questions of style aside, then, what did you take away from him as a young reporter?You can read the whole thing here. The conversation sent me straight back to Liebling's work, always a good thing. I read the first page of "The Earl of Louisiana," his 175-page portrait of Huey Long's kid brother, and just kept going. I defy anybody to turn away after this opening salvo:
Hamill: His delight in the raffish. My second year at the Post, I pulled the 8:00-to-3:00 shift, covering Broadway. I’d go to Lindy’s, where I would nurse a single cup of coffee because I was broke, and talk to the press agents and the flacks. These were the kind of characters that Liebling would write about. By 1962, of course, they had mostly disappeared. They had gone to Vegas to do legally what was illegal in New York.
Marcus: So you caught the tail end of that scene.
Hamill: I did. But it taught me to pay attention. Once I found a house detective at the Hotel Taft named Tiptoe Tannenbaum. If Liebling didn’t invent him, Runyon did.
Southern political personalities, like sweet corn, travel badly. They lose flavor with every hundred yards away from the patch. By the time they reach New York, they are like Golden Bantam that has been trucked up from Texas--stale and unprofitable. The consumer forgets that the corn tastes differently where it grows.