I’m not sure I can write this yet.
I mean, I’m noticing I’ve got tears in my eyes.
Larry Cohen and I did our last gig together last year at the Aqua Turf in Southington. It was supposed to be some kind of onstage duel between a red meat conservative and creampuff liberal, but we were terrible at it because we enjoyed each other’s company. It doesn’t work the way you think it works. If you’ve both been covering this stuff for decades, if you have senses of humor, if you have shareable war stories, then what you have in common trumps your differences by an enormous factor.
I liked Larry Cohen. I could make a list of all the things about him that were irritating, but part of the fun of Larry was that he liked being irritating. When he took up cigars, you could still smoke in the office, and Larry made a point of pacing the hallways making sure all of us got a good snootful of his stinky (but doubtless expensive) cigars. He was a bit of a poseur in the non-pejorative sense. He liked playing an exaggerated version of himself. Rush Limbaugh, who seems to have influenced Larry a bit, always claims to be an entertainer, despite all evidence to the contrary. Larry really was, by contrast, quite entertaining.
There are two kinds of people, and they are not liberals and conservatives. Far more profound is the difference between people who think they’re living in a comedy and the people who regard life as unflinchingly serious drama. Larry thought it was the former, and his amusement — his deep amusement — at the whole pratfall-spackled pageant was what I liked about him. I bet most of his friends remember, most of all, that smile. A twist of the lips and a slight squint. It was there on his face a very high percentage of the time, as if there were some over-arching joke he saw that others didn’t.
We began working together in the same building in 1976. Larry trained me in at least one job. At a personal level, he was generous and friendly. If he knew something that would help you, he’d tell you. We were – this will strike you as odd — consecutive Religion Editors of the Hartford Courant. He was really good at it. And this was back in the day when I was young and urgent and maybe less inclined to see the humor in things. Inheriting the gig from Larry, with huge doses of his worldview attached, ensured that I saw the humor in things.
Stray fact: He had a stutter, and it was one of the things he, in his younger days, was quite sensitive about. He worried that people made fun of it.
Did I ever get pissed off at Larry? Countless times. If he didn’t piss you off, you weren’t paying attention.
His health was up and down a lot, through all the years. And I’m remembering now that, as we got ready for the gig last year, he was suddenly unreachable down in Florida for a conference call. And it turned out to be some health scare he brushed off with a joke.
I wish I had known. I would have said a few words about my gratitude and, against all odds, fondness for the man. Larry, please don’t edit this thing. I did the best I could. I wasn’t expecting this when I woke up today.
- -- ADVERTISEMENT --
- -- ADVERTISEMENT --